Disorder Reviews: Ryota Kozuka - Shin Megami Tensei V (2022)

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Martintox

Mister Disorder
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Apr 3, 2020
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Martintox Presents: Disorder Reviews

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I have recently released a Shin Megami Tensei mashup album. Instead of posting reviews on the Disorder Reviews blog, I generally upload playthrough videos on the Mr. Disorder YouTube channel. I'm doing better in regards to the stroke and the debt, thank you for your concern.

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SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI V


Artist: Ryota Kozuka (with Toshiki Konishi and Kenichi Tsuchiya)
Released: 30 March 2022
Genre: Video Game Music — elements of Ambient (dark ambient, tribal ambient), Industrial (electro-industrial, industrial metal), Alternative Rock
Label: Mastard Records
Producer: Hirohito Shindo
Length: 5:22:33
Best Track: there are too many good songs to decide, but Battle -dancing crazy murder- and Da’at: tennozu are up there

TRACKS: [CD 1:] 1) Ephemeral; 2) Circle; 3) Daily Life; 4) Jouin High School; 5) Tokyo -Daybreak-; 6) Takanawa Tunnel; 7) Spiral; 8) Another World; 9) If You Wish to Live, Take My Hand; 10) Nahobino; 11) Battle -humans, demons, and…-; 12) It Seems the Knowledge is in Control; 13) Da’at: takanawa; 14) Cadaver’s Hollow; 15) Leyline Fount; 16) Talk -Da’at-; 17) Battle -Da’at-; 18) A Rain of Light and Shadow; 19) Tension; 20) Amanozako; 21) World of Shadows; 22) Thou Shalt Play; 23) Battle -Magatsuka-; 24) Doubt; 25) Da’at: tamachi; 26) Quest -gentle-; 27) Quest -oasis-; 28) Lord of Chaos

[CD 2:] 1) Those With Power; 2) Battle -ferocity-; 3) Zen; 4) Da’at: west shinbashi; 5) Quest -blindly-; 6) Quest -elegy-; 7) Quest -raid-; 8) Battle -clash of the mighty-; 9) Quest -fate-; 10) Da’at: tokyo diet building; 11) Yakumo; 12) Reunion and Encounter; 13) Archangel Abdiel; 14) Koshimizu; 15) Ordinary Life; 16) Tokyo -Impatience-; 17) Battle -strength-; 18) Jouin High School -Other World-: Front Gate; 19) Jouin High School -Other World-: Inside; 20) Hayataro; 21) Sahori

[CD 3:] 1) Da’at: tennozu; 2) Quest -surreal-; 3) Quest -suspicious-; 4) Battle -droll-; 5) Da’at: konan; 6) Battle -origin-; 7) Da’at: shinagawa station; 8) Quest -grave-; 9) Imminent Threat; 10) Battle -seeker-; 11) Quest -LMs-; 12) Quest -fertility-; 13) Fairy Village; 14) Tremble as You Face Doom; 15) Tao; 16) Those Who Weren’t Saved; 17) Da’at: ginza; 18) Quest -queen-; 19) Quest -archaic-; 20) Quest -dainty-; 21) World of Shadows -Shining Bright, or Death’s Shadow-; 22) Da’at: kanda; 23) Da’at: tokyo station; 24) Battle -dancing crazy murder-

[CD 4:] 1) Demon King’s Castle; 2) Battle -edifice-; 3) Talk -edifice-; 4) Da’at: obaiba; 5) Battle -Mitama-; 6) Tsukuyomi; 7) Pandemonic Summit; 8) Collapse of Order; 9) Those With Knowledge; 10) Abdiel and Ichiro; 11) Tokyo -Twilight-; 12) Goddess; 13) Da’at: ueno; 14) Quest -order-; 15) Quest -disorder-; 16) Battle -destruction-; 17) The Only Righteous Path; 18) Temple of Eternity; 19) Battle -seraph-; 20) Falling From Grace; 21) He Who Fought the Forces of Chaos and Order

[CD 5:] 1) Empyrean; 2) Unavoidable Battle I; 3) Yakumo’s End; 4) Battle -Abdiel-; 5) Unavoidable Battle II; 6) Abdiel’s End; 7) Battle -Tsukuyomi-; 8) Tsukuyomi’s End; 9) Incompatible Beings; 10) Battle -Nuwa-; 11) Dissipation; 12) New Ruler; 13) Battle -eon-; 14) I Entrust the World to You; 15) Shin Megami Tensei V Main Theme; 16) The World of Humanity; 17) Quest -tension-; 18) Battle -addition-; 19) Quest -Fiend-; 20) Battle -Fiend-; 21) Hall of Chaos (Shin Megami Tensei III-Nocturne “Title Loop 1”); 22) Quest -Demi-fiend; 23) Battle -Demi-fiend-

Megami Tensei (known overseas as Shin Megami Tensei) is a long-running Japanese RPG franchise known in part for its mature content and exploration of the metaphysical hierarchy in which godly forces have placed humanity. Whereas mainline titles focus on a conflict between the alignments of Law and Chaos (i.e. the forces of God and Lucifer), a variety of spin-offs have allowed the core gameplay and thematic ideas of the series to take multiple forms over the years. One of those spin-offs, Persona, has by and large become its own thing. Shin Megami Tensei V came out in November 2021 on the Nintendo Switch, about eight years after the release of IV.


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The soundtracks for Shin Megami Tensei IV and its sequel Apocalypse set a high standard for a franchise that had already enjoyed over two decades of excellent music. However, now that we have a full release of V‘s OST, it’s become exceedingly clear that Ryota Kozuka’s style is now very distinct from what he had shown in the previous installment. Presumably as a consequence of the cyberpunk setting and the snappy presentation/gameplay, SMT IV was tight and economical in its songwriting: the area themes were clean and immediate, and the battle themes were quick to blare their punk or metal influences through the speakers. Only on ambient tracks such as “The White” did we get a glimpse of a more exploratory approach. Apocalypse inched further down that path with Dagda’s theme and the progressive build-up of the end credits song, but not much more than that.

To say SMT V is a logical progression from this idea is true, but it understates how different it is altogether. In addition to the electronic and rock elements at the core of the mainline series, Kozuka has established a whole new musical duality. On one hand, the industrial leanings are back and filthier than ever: if you loved the grime in the synths of “Deicide”, you’re going to feel right at home. On the other hand, the tight grooves of IV have made way for what I can only describe as a surreal mesh of new age and tribal ambient. As far-fetched as the comparison feels, I can’t help but recall the likes of James Ferraro or Oneohtrix Point Never. The sampled vocals and distorted bells, in conjunction with synths and piano, don’t seem that far off from what R Plus Seven tried to achieve: a “synthetic new age” aesthetic, like a natural landscape seen through a distorted lens. The general mood hearkens back to SMT III: Nocturne, the music of which added a mellow and “introspective” side to its post-apocalyptic setting — a far cry from the explosive material at the core of IV.

It’s important to mention that Kozuka isn’t alone here: Toshiki Konishi has composed a near third of the soundtrack himself. His role is much like the one he had when working on Persona 5. Along with helping Shoji Meguro elaborate on the game’s loungy jazz-funk sound, Konishi provided a couple of rock tracks so as to perpetuate the style that Meguro had established as a mainstay of Megami Tensei in the 2000s. Likewise, his songs here are the “conventional” counterpoint to Kozuka’s experimentation — most of the time, anyway. Between all the rock and electronic cuts, he allows himself to dabble in a bit of ambient (“Zen”) and throw a few curveballs of his own, like the downtempo mini-epic “Temple of Eternity”. His first few songs, “Jouin High School” and “Tokyo -Daybreak-“, could have fit in a Persona game, but they are decidedly more melancholic in tone. Where he shines the most, however, is in his battle tracks; his affinity for using guitars is evident, but he takes that style and goes all over the place with it. “-droll-” is a mid-tempo rocker straight from Digital Devil Saga; “-strength-” and “-seeker-” both have the guitars play alongside a keyboard lead; “-edifice-” is a thrash metal freakout that brings you all the way back to Megami Tensei 1 & 2‘s battle themes. If you ever wanted to hear a Megaten version of Foo Fighters’ “Everlong”, “-origin-” is precisely that. The best compliment I can give is that Konishi firmly holds his own alongside Kozuka, which is no mean feat considering the latter was free to flex his skills mostly on his own back in IV.

In any case, it’s a good thing Konishi is there to keep things down to earth stylistically, because Kozuka is off in an entirely different galaxy. “Battle -humans, demons, and…-” is about as normal as he gets, and even then, those synthesized vocals and that dense industrial sound are hard to ignore. When he really experiments, you get “Battle -destruction-“, an atypically mellow jazz-like groove that gets augmented with a dense array of tones and chaotic percussion. Another standout is “Battle -dancing crazy murder-“: just for that build-up and that ridiculous drop into a wild house beat, it earns its place as one of Megami Tensei‘s greatest boss themes. As fun as it is to talk about the battle tracks, mind you, his work on the exploration themes is just as commendable. It’s precisely with the “Da’at” songs that you hear the difference in Kozuka’s composing philosophy: songs weave themselves in and out of grooves, they give their melodies space to breathe and evolve. “Da’at -tennozu-” and “Da’at -ueno-” come off as immense, meditative monoliths for this reason. If Shin Megami Tensei IV‘s music was a facelift of classic SMT OSTs, this is Kozuka carving a sound that the franchise had never quite seen before.

I haven’t even begun scratching the surface of what SMT V has to offer, but this is the type of album with too many surprises to reasonably discuss anyway. As a quick aside, it’s worth noting that the direct references to older songs are visibly not as plentiful as in IV. You do get “Quest -LMs-“, which impressively calls back to the overworld themes of all four previous games at the same time(!). This soundtrack also contains my favorite version of the “Fiend” theme, as well as an astounding take on “Normal Battle” from Nocturne (“Battle -Demi-fiend-“). Konishi emphasizes the guitar side of the original version and turns it into a grinding metal stomper, with the iconic vocals and guitar solo serving as the cherry on top. For my part, there’s no doubt that this album lives up to the standard of IV, but the truth is that it’s a whole other type of listening experience, and that is a wonderful gift in its own right.

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PERSONAL RATING: *****
RECOMMENDATION RATING: ****
LETTERED RATING: Epsilon

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THE UNDERTALE REMINDER

Atlus’ composers are way better with leitmotifs than Toby Fox is, let’s be real here.​
 

Chimpzy

Professor of Monkey Business
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Apr 3, 2020
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I like the tune that plays on the level up screen. It's dope af. It's now my ringtone.