|Album Title:||Death Note Original Soundtrack|
|Anime Title:||Death Note|
|Artist:||Hideki Taniuchi, Yoshihisa Hirano, Nightmare|
|Release Date:||December 21, 2006|
|Purchase at:||CDJapan, Play-Asia|
|1. Death Note||Hideki Taniuchi||3:10|
|2. Incident||Hideki Taniuchi||2:49|
|3. Light’s Theme||Hideki Taniuchi||3:24|
|4. L’s Theme||Hideki Taniuchi||3:04|
|5. Tension||Hideki Taniuchi||3:53|
|6. Shudder||Hideki Taniuchi||3:04|
|7. Loneliness||Hideki Taniuchi||3:18|
|8. Sympathy||Hideki Taniuchi||3:35|
|9. Hope||Hideki Taniuchi||3:00|
|10. The Kira Special Investigation Unit||Hideki Taniuchi||2:08|
|11. L’s Theme B||Hideki Taniuchi||2:54|
|12. Hesitation||Hideki Taniuchi||3:33|
|13. Pursuit||Hideki Taniuchi||2:56|
|14. L’s Colleagues||Hideki Taniuchi||2:29|
|15. Special Investigation||Hideki Taniuchi||3:06|
|16. Death God World||Hideki Taniuchi||3:26|
|17. Boredom||Hideki Taniuchi||2:07|
|18. Rem||Hideki Taniuchi||2:07|
|19. Death Note Theme||Hideki Taniuchi||2:24|
|20. Kyrie||Yoshihisa Hirano||1:23|
|21. Domine Kira||Yoshihisa Hirano||2:15|
|22. Theology of Death||Yoshihisa Hirano||1:04|
|23. Low of Solipsism||Yoshihisa Hirano||2:24|
|24. Requiem||Yoshihisa Hirano||1:20|
|25. Immanence||Yoshihisa Hirano||1:14|
|26. Dirge||Yoshihisa Hirano||1:27|
|27. Light Lights up Light||Yoshihisa Hirano||2:01|
|28. Alert||Yoshihisa Hirano||0:50|
|29. the WORLD ~TV Size~||Nightmare||1:23|
|30. Alumina ~TV Size~||Nightmare||1:13|
Review: Death Note is not an anime known for its cheerful attitude or its positive outlook on the human condition. Following that line of thinking, if you’ve ever wanted to know what it feels like to have your soul crushed by music, look no further than Death Note’s soundtrack.
A curious amalgamation of electronica rock and orchestral pieces, it nonetheless beautifully depicts the slow descent of a brilliant young mind into the abyss of power-obsessed madness. A two-man job between relative unknowns Yoshihisa Hirano and Hideki Taniuchi, the album is predictably divided into two main sections, one for each composer (the opener and closer aside). Overall, the OST is filled with exceptional orchestration and brilliant texturing on Hirano’s part and a surprising level of rhythmic sophistication on Taniuchi’s. Though each section is tonally and thematically a tad homogeneous, the result is a soundtrack that brims with moody energy and dark complexity which ultimately is a resounding success as both an effective OST and a work that can stand on its own.
I’ll begin chronologically with Taniuchi’s contributions, which comprise tracks 1 through 18. On the whole, these songs are moody, expertly scored, and wouldn’t sound out of place on an American rock album from a professional label. With instrumentation ranging from lightly overdriven guitar to piano to synthesizer voices to heavy distortion guitar, the tracks are as well-crafted for setting atmosphere as they are for pleasure listening due to the thoughtful intricacy put into each one. Especially notable in this regard is “L’s Theme,” which is one of the boldest experimentations in time and meter I’ve ever seen in any type of music, ever. Written in the unheard of meter of 25/16 (I dare you to try to tap your foot to it), I was at first baffled when I sat down to really listen to it and then had a musical nerd-gasm at Taniuchi’s bald-faced subversion of all traditional conventions of rhythm when I finally figured it out. It seems a lot of thought went into crafting a song that defined L’s complex character, and I’d say Taniuchi succeeded soundly. Like his song, L is a character that you can’t quite figure out at first glance. He’s not random; you know there is a method to his madness and an arcane logic behind his actions. You just don’t know what those are, or just quite how he ticks.
“Light’s Theme” is also a carefully assembled character study. The song is triumphant, but, at the same time, it is a lamentation, an elegy for a promising young man corrupted by power whose idealism and ambition twisted him into committing acts of unspeakable evil. The song is prodigious from a songwriting standpoint as well, featuring an impressive three-guitar climax and an ending that seems to ask “Who knows?,” as Light’s final fate is yet to be decided.
Tracks 19-28 is where Yoshihisa Hirano gets to flex his Julliard-trained musical muscles. This set is made up of the notorious orchestral pieces with the Latin choral chanting that became famously associated with Death Note. Not only does this fit perfectly with the show’s pseudo-religious overtones, it also provides an appropriately “epic” backdrop for the tense intellectual cat-and-mouse game that Light and L play throughout the first half. The orchestration is simply superb, with brass glissandos and percussion flourishes used to great effect. “Kyrie” will bring you goose bumps every time, with the ominous dronings of “ky-ri-eeeee….,” the piercing chimes, and weeping tremolo violin creating an atmosphere that will make your hair stand on end. Especially impressive is “Domine Kira,” translating roughly to “Pastor Kira” or “Clergyman Kira.” The deftness of the orchestration here impresses deeply, with rapidly-sequenced glissandos in the strings and horns punctuated by percussion crashes and fierce choral exclamations of “Kira!” It vividly portrays a character’s worsening condition as events are quickly spiraling out of control. The use of audaciously brassy bellows as in “Theology of Death” and luscious string chorales like “Light Lights up Light” is simply masterful throughout this section. They must be heard to be believed.
Theology of Death
Light Lights up Light
The final tracks on this disc are the first opener and closer from the series in their edited form, “the WORLD” and “Alumina,” respectively. Their inclusion feels like an afterthought and doesn’t leave much of an impression, mostly because we got to hear these songs in the exact same edited state in the series multiple times. The vocalist still sounds like he’s singing through clenched teeth while chewing gum, and his constant vibrato is stifling if not simply tiresome. They are both excellent in their own right but feel out of place, especially after being edited down to 90-second bite-sized bits. It’s a shame some petty record label bureaucracy kept them from including the full versions.
the WORLD ~Aftershok’s Edit~
Overall, the album is great fun and will bring a knowing smile to your face when familiar themes spark a sudden recollection of scenes from the series. Unlike many OSTs, these tracks have surprising depth, waiting for those who are brave enough to dive past the murky surface, and will reward those who stick around long enough to appreciate what’s there.
I can’t help but feel that this album is a sort of music nerd’s feast. If you are an anime fan who enjoys music, consider this OST excellent. If you are an anime fan that is also a music nerd, consider it a masterpiece.
I happen to be the latter.