Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Original Soundtrack 2 – Review

Album Title: FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST Original Soundtrack 2
Anime Title: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Artist: Akira Senju, Sukima Switch, Lil’B, Chemistry, SCANDAL
Catalog Number: SVWC-7680
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: August 18, 2010
Purchase at: CDJapan, Play-Asia


Tracklist

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Track Title Artist Time
1. Golden Time Lover (TV Size) / Sukima Switch Sukima Switch 1:34
2. Mount Briggs ~Overture~ Akira Senju 2:27
3. Pride Akira Senju 1:55
4. Envy Revealed Akira Senju 1:59
5. The Plot Thickens Akira Senju 1:41
6. Xing Symphony ~Overture~ Akira Senju 1:30
7. Anticipation Akira Senju 1:26
8. Nightmares Akira Senju 1:38
9. Desolation Akira Senju 2:16
10. The Fullmetal Alchemist ~Legato~ Akira Senju 2:26
11. Nocturne of Amestris ~Duet~ Akira Senju 1:38
12. Daylight in Amestris Akira Senju 1:26
13. Nocturne of Amestris Akira Senju 1:51
14. Tsunaida Te (TV size) / Lil’B Lil’B 1:33
15. T.B.C. Akira Senju 1:22
16. Entr’acte Akira Senju 1:27
17. Period (TV Size) / Chemistry Chemistry 1:33
18. No Answer Akira Senju 1:23
19. Crisis in the North Akira Senju 1:36
20. The Land of Ishvala Akira Senju 1:46
21. Lapis Philosophorum ~Piano Solo~ Akira Senju 1:37
22. Mount Briggs ~Undulation~ Akira Senju 1:32
23. What Lies Beneath Akira Senju 1:03
24. Versus Homonculus Akira Senju 1:47
25. Battle Scherzo Akira Senju 2:06
26. Far East Suite ~Pizzikato~ Akira Senju 1:31
27. Pastorale Rondo Akira Senju 1:22
28. Stepping along Akira Senju 1:34
29. Shunkan Sentimental (TV size) / SCANDAL SCANDAL 1:33
30. To Be King Akira Senju 2:02
31. Brotherhood ~Postlude~ Akira Senju 1:23

Review: In an ideal world, Howard Shore would be scoring Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Though I haven’t heard his other works beyond the magnificent soundtrack to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, whenever I listen to Akira Senju’s efforts for FMA:B, I feel as though Senju is trying to evoke the atmosphere contained in Shore’s music. Trying, being the key word here because a critical component seems to be missing, thereby keeping this soundtrack from being on par with his previous works. Whether Senju’s just overworked or the demands that the producer or director placed on him didn’t give him much wiggle room, the soundtrack does not inspire. It simply does its job. No more, and no less.

As I went through the second soundtrack for FMA:B, the same standard litany of complaints that arose when I reviewed FMA:B’s first soundtrack comes up once more. The ambience continues to make up a large portion of the album and all too often, pieces build up in a repetitive fashion and peter out without ending conclusively. It’s not as overbearing as it was in the first soundtrack, but it’s still there.

The Plot Thickens

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Part of the problem lies in the lack of development. For a soundtrack to become an engaging experience, the music needs to be more than just a collection of cues. It needs to ebb, tease, shift, and flow together in a cohesive fashion. So when Senju serves up something that is rhythmically and melodically repetitive like “Xing Symphony ~Overture~,” he’s not going to win me over without developing it so as to capture more facets of the piece’s titular land because there looks to be a lot of territory left unexplored. The same can be said for “Mount Briggs ~Undulation~,” which should have been combined with the “Mount Briggs ~Overture~” so as to yield a track that immerses you into the cold, bleak mountain and deliver a commanding aura akin to the music that played in Lord of the Rings as the Fellowship is going through the mines of Moria. As is, all “~Undulation~” does is reflect a grim atmosphere without giving me any melodic hook to grab my attention.

Xing Symphony ~Overture~

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Mount Briggs ~Undulation~

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If there’s one positive that can be wrung out of FMA:B’s OST 2, it’s that the music is a notch better overall than in OST 1. My preferences have always leaned towards some of the quieter fare like the “Resembool” tracks, and here, the “Amestris” tracks radiate a calming aura that complements the image one gets of a home. “Nocturne of Amestris” does well in setting the balmy mood through the strings and clarinets, creating a bubble that encloses the characters in a comforting sanctum far from the tumult of the main plot, allowing them to relax and unwind. It is a tad repetitive, but the melody is more enjoyable though.

Nocturne of Amestris

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The other strong set of tracks is in the pairing of “Versus Homonculus” and “Battle Scherzo” which, together, depict the flow and intensity of combat well. “Versus Homonculus” starts off by weaving a grandiose fabric by using the strings and percussion to lay down the foundation. Once that’s set, the brass comes in with its ominous airs, interrupted by moments in which the strings lay down the tension really thick. “Battle Scherzo” picks up from there with its energetic introduction that builds up the grand struggle nicely. The brass fanfares weave in and out with the frenetic violin melody and together, those two components evoke a duel that will decide which destiny shall prevail.

Versus Homonculus

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Battle Scherzo

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With “Brotherhood ~Postlude~” the xylophones close out yet another chapter in the ongoing saga, beckoning for us to take in all that’s happened and to provide the dab of hope that things will turn out right in the end. I hope that it portends well for the third OST. The more I listen to FMA:B’s soundtracks, the more suspicions I have about Akira Senju’s contribution to this franchise. I just won’t verbalize them until I give OST 3 a go.

Brotherhood ~Postlude~

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Rating: Decent

zzeroparticle

Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

7 thoughts on “Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Original Soundtrack 2 – Review

  • September 19, 2010 at 3:10 pm
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    My favorite track out of this disc would probably be Far East Suite -Pizzicato-. The melody is catchy and I always enjoy some pitz.

    I hate to deflate your hopes, but the third disc contains a great deal of ambiance too. It covers most of the music covering the finale of the show and so has a lot of battle themes. We all know how those are handled in the first two discs. >_>; There are still some other decent tracks.

    Senju isn’t consistently good at the regal battle stuff. He’s much better at writing soppy melodies. Even then he still doesn’t squeeze the most out of his music. I know you love his work with Red Garden, but I hear some of the same problems in it as I do in the FMAB soundtrack. His formula consists of something like: Create beautiful melody for violins, make rest of orchestra make harmonizing background hum, repeat, crescendo into climax, end piece by slowing down and cutting off melody. Sometimes he’ll even cut it off just by letting the last note of the melody fade into silence. The problem with this formula is repetitiveness and the “abrupt” endings it creates. Nothing sets the climax apart other than volume; nothing sets the ending apart other than volume.

    I realize I’m making sound much worse when I describe it this way. Senju is not a bad composer by any means, he just has areas which he could improve on. Some of his TV drama work is very nice.

    Senju rant aside, the FMAB music sounds better if you’ve watched the series because you can imagine a direction for the music even if it doesn’t have one itself (I suppose that goes for any series). I can forgive the show for having mediocre music because it was a great series, but I can’t forgive Senju for passing up such a great opportunity. Such a pity. We could have had three discs of awesome music.

    Reply
  • September 20, 2010 at 12:08 am
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    @Yu
    I thought about mentioning that piece because it was rather enjoyable, but I figured that because it’s an arrangement of the “Far East” theme, I’ll just let it fly by. The “Far East” tracks carry some of the better themes that Senju’s composed for this series, so that’s not a total surprise.

    I admittedly wasn’t expecting any huge jumps in quality to be honest since the first OST pretty much primed my expectations, and the only thing I can hope for is that OST 3 is better than OST 2 in the way that OST 2 is better than OST 1. Oh well.

    Based on the Senju tracks that I’ve listened to thus far, I see his style more suitable for dramas (no surprise to either of us I think because of his background) and it’s plainly evident that battle music is beyond what he’s good at. I’ve yet to listen to Victory Gundam’s score, but it’s certainly something to be keeping in mind when I do get around to it.

    I also wonder if it’s fair to say that the depths of the emotions that he plumbs is enough for Senju to cover for those shortcomings. The strength in Red Garden is in the way it clicks in making those emotional associations, and for someone who has seen the series, I think one can feel the sort of quiet desperations and the upwellings of hope depicted within strike that chord really strongly. So strongly that I can overlook some of those faults :p

    Just a thought anyhow….

    And yes, from what I’ve heard, watching the show makes listening to the FMA:B soundtrack more tolerable because of the reason you stated. Also agree that Senju passed on a great opportunity. I’ll just use this chance to invoke Howard Shore once more and praise him for giving us three discs of awesome music to Lord of the Rings, which is where FMA:B could have easily been. I’ll never forget the bouncy Shire theme or the theme that he used for Rohan.

    Reply
  • September 20, 2010 at 8:21 am
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    lol this isn’t too related to the music but that album picture of Ed is fabulous. :)
    But yeah from what I remember from watching the anime, I didn’t think much of the music. It easily flowed in and out. I guess that could be good for certain shows and it worked in FMA where dialogue is pretty important and there are tons of sound effects in the fights. But I like to be sidetracked by the background music too. FMA didn’t really do that for me.

    Reply
    • September 21, 2010 at 7:40 pm
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      @Twilightshiva
      Wait until you see the album artwork for the 3rd FMA:B OST. If you do the comparisons from 1, 2, and 3, you’ll see a nice progression. Also, more fabulousness! :p

      Beyond that, I remember the music sounded good while I watched the early parts of FMA:B, but it just doesn’t transition too well to a full soundtrack because of some repetition problems. Probably, like Yu said, it sounds a bit more enjoyable when you’re watching the series and are distracted by some awesome fight sequences or whatnot.

      Reply
  • September 23, 2010 at 5:53 am
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    Nocturne of Amestris is pretty good. I like Postlude as well… Maybe that does indeed soome hope for the third soundtrack.

    Reply
  • September 24, 2010 at 11:08 pm
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    @Yi
    Yu says otherwise, and she (most likely based on Yu’s writing thus far) has good ears for catching this stuff. Not that it’ll dissuade me from giving it a shot or anything…

    Reply
  • October 1, 2010 at 7:18 pm
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    I love everything about LOTR, so its soundtrack is way up there for me. Unfortunately, I find this OST pales in comparison to it. :(

    “Battle Scherzo” sounds like it came out of a Final Fantasy game. Especially the opening to the song.

    Reply

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