Xenogears Creid - Soundtrack Review

A Creed Worth Following

Track Listing
Disc 1
2.Two Wings
6.Stairs of Light
7.June Mermaid
8.Spring Lullaby
Total Playtime: 49:06
Yasunori Mitsuda
Yasunori Mitsuda

   One of the most critically acclaimed aspects of Squaresoft's 1998 cult hit Xenogears was its soundtrack. As composer Yasunori Mitsuda's first solo job scoring a video game, the soundtrack's success transformed the young musician into an overnight sensation among fans of game music. With such a big hit under his belt, it only seemed natural to follow it up with an album consisting of new arrangements of selected pieces from the Xenogears soundtrack. Thus, Xenogears Creid, accompanied by the blueprint after which all future arrange albums should be modeled, was born.

   Though the entire CD spans only ten tracks, they are some of the most beautifully arranged tracks this side of the Milky Way. In actuality, only seven of the tracks are orginial arrangements. One piece is an entirely new song, not taken from the original Xenogears soundtrack, while the other two pieces are merely the two vocal songs that were featured in the game, untouched. The linguistically astute should have discerned the genre of the arrangements from on the title of the album. For the rest of us, however, Creid is the Celtic word for belief. Thus, all of the new arrangements have been written in an old Irish or Celtic flavor. Harps, flutes, accordions, fiddles, bagpipes, and the like all contribute to the sounds of Creid.

   Anyone who's played Xenogears will be familiar with the melodies presented in Creid. Moreover, they'll love the new upbeat Celtic makeover most of them have received. The best track in the project, however, is arguably the title song, Creid. This is the one completely original song in the mix and is simply a pleasure to listen to. With a great blend of a celtic choir, flutes, and bagpipes, and an excellent accompanying percussion, there's no surprise that the entire album took its name from this one piece. The choral harmonies that Mitsuda produces using just the choir, and then the choir with the other instruments, are gorgeous.

   Other arranged tracks include the Yggdrasil theme, Balto, which is another fantastic rendition that begins subtley and ends with an exciting up-beat festival of music. The Lahan town theme, Lahan, makes a heart-pumping appearance, as well. On the more mellow end of the spectrum, June Mermaid has never sounded better. Arguably, some of the best and most memorable tracks from the Xenogears soundtrack were chosen for this mix, so it doesn't disappoint. One questionable track, however, is Stairs of Light, which is a rather childish happy-go-lucky theme that doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the CD. Despite this, Mitsuda still manages to pull off a worthy arrangement -- it'll just probably catch some people off guard at first.

   If it wasn't obvious by this point in the review, Mitsuda's craft is unparalleled. It's apparent how much time and effort was put into the melodies, arrangements, instrumentation, and everything that goes with them. The feat is nothing short of impressive. Even though most of the tunes have been heard before in Xenogears, its as though they have an entirely new life on the Creid CD. Although the tracks carry a similar melody from their Xenogears OST counterparts, there is now a lot more to them. They're not just a house that's been repainted; they're a house that's been demolished and recreated from the ground up, with additional rooms and a swimming pool. Mitsuda shows his mastery over the artform and bends it to his will every step of the way. The authentic Celtic feel that binds the entire project together, all the while revitalizing old music, is a testament to his ability.

   Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this album is the quality. All of the songs were recorded live using real instruments played by professional Celtic musicians. Quality doesn't get any better than with real instruments. This is certainly one of the more noticeable aspects of the album. All of the performers are spot-on, and the instruments and recordings sound flawless. In this area, however, Creid could use some improvement with the vocals that appear in select tracks. Though not particularly bad, it was obvious that some of the singers were performing on unfamiliar ground. A little more rehearsing time, or perhaps replacing some singers with those of a more appropriate vocal range, would have helped the problem. All of the vocal pieces are, not surprisingly, sung in Japanese. This isn't a problem since it has more to do with personal tastes, but the absence of the talented Joanne Hogg, who vocalized the English versions of two pieces in the original soundtrack, is disappointing.

   It's difficult to find a fault in a near-perfect production, but if there's one area that doesn't seem as though it's quite up to par with the rest, it's the mixing. It's not particularly bad, and in fact it is quite good, but a few volume tweaks here or there could have made the production perfect. There are a few instances where it seemed as if some instruments were too quiet or too loud, or two harmonious sounds contrasted too much. Just a slight adjustment in the mixing would have cleared up any of these inconsistencies. Though the issues are hardly noticeable, they become more apparent in front of a nearly flawless backdrop.

   For fans of Mitsuda, Xenogears, and Celtic music, Creid is a dream come true. Those who don't consider themselves fans of any of the above should prepare to have their minds changed. The album is rich with culture, power, energy, and brilliance. It is a worthy tribute to the Xenogears Original Soundtrack, while excelling on its own. Though most of the tracks are arranged pieces from the game, Creid can stand on its own feet without an umbilical cord. Despite the very few, easily overlooked hiccups, the amount of detail apparent in the production outshines any blemishes. Mitsuda is in top form, the Celtic instrumentalists are geniuses, and the way everything is brought together is remarkable. Worth every penny, Xenogears Creid is not to be missed.

Sound Quality
Production Value
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