Fate/Zero Original Soundtrack I – Review

Album Title: Fate/Zero Original Soundtrack I
Anime Title: Fate/Zero
Artist: Yuki Kajiura
Catalog Number: ANZX-9437
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: March 07, 2012
Purchase at: CDJapan, Play-Asia


Tracklist

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Track Title Artist Time
01. Point Zero Yuki Kajiura 3:47
02. let the stars fall down Yuki Kajiura 2:03
03. grief Yuki Kajiura 1:53
04. nervous Yuki Kajiura 1:17
05. confrontation Yuki Kajiura 1:44
06. the battle is to the strong Yuki Kajiura 3:04
07. evacuation Yuki Kajiura 2:00
08. the legend Yuki Kajiura 2:05
09. little drop of peace Yuki Kajiura 1:58
10. the beginning of the end Yuki Kajiura 3:05
11. if you leave Yuki Kajiura 2:11
12. rabble-rousers Yuki Kajiura 1:36
13. strategy Yuki Kajiura 1:52
14. unrest Yuki Kajiura 1:23
15. back to the wall Yuki Kajiura 1:34
16. secret maneuvers Yuki Kajiura 1:58
17. an eerie enemy Yuki Kajiura 1:36
18. assassin Yuki Kajiura 2:38
19. a chaser Yuki Kajiura 1:42
20. to be continued Yuki Kajiura 0:17
21. painful Yuki Kajiura 1:53
22. rule the battlefield Yuki Kajiura 3:16
23. forebodings Yuki Kajiura 0:45
24. tragedy and fate Yuki Kajiura 1:50

Review: In the past, the anime releases of the Fate franchise have never quite lived to their potential, with hammy lines, a loathable main character in Shirou Emiya, and a dull narrative causing much of the damage. But with the release of Fate/Zero, the Nasuverse has gotten a second wind (the first wind being Kara no Kyoukai). The anime’s presentation, so steeped in the atrocities resulting from the Holy Grail War, demands a dark soundtrack to match its mood. On this point, Yuki Kajiura’s haunting choruses back the tragic atmosphere surrounding the anime and her ominous melodies capture the tension the series doles out in spades. By focusing so much on mood and atmosphere however, Fate/Zero’s soundtrack is merely serviceable on a standalone basis, without the knockout punch that her soundtrack for Kara no Kyoukai and Puella Magi Madoka Magica were able to deliver.

Nevertheless, one cannot deny how well the opening track encapsulates all that Fate/Zero brings to the table. “Point Zero” serves as an overview for what is to come, as it first sculpts an atmosphere that leaves the listener feeling unsettled, before leading to a steady string rhythm that is as methodical as the characters’ ruthless machinations. Amidst the rhythm, one finds well-placed choral snippets which foreshadow the tragedies and heighten the tension all the way up to the climaxing lilt. The string melody that follows to close it out is epic, conveying the extent of the action and the struggles the Masters and Servants must endure as they fight it out to obtain the Holy Grail.

Point Zero

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The next track, “let the stars fall down,” picks up right where “Point Zero” leaves off by immersing the listener into the action, first with a sense of urgency from the violins, then with the chorus. The serene beauty the chorus evokes is at odds with the whole notion of the conflict in Fate/Zero, but the image it conjures fits the gracefulness of the combatants’ form and their high-minded ideals struggling to maintain their place amidst the brutality. More action can be had in “the battle is to the strong,” with its use of a steady percussive rhythm, an intense string melody, and later, an electric guitar riff to dictate the flow of battle. Here, the strings weave an elaborate, entrancing dance while the guitar engages the listener with a ferocity that’s fitting of Fate/Zero’s battles.

let the stars fall down

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the battle is to the strong

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Though the first half of the disc is marked with a healthy dose of action, there are a few tracks to relieve the listener from the constant onslaught like “the legend’s” odyssey-like nature and the mellower “little drop of peace.” Some of the better tracks come in the sorrowful aftermath of the battles. Few Kajiura tracks are more effective at conveying tragedy better than “grief,” which sheds light on the loss of life and innocence in the face of pragmatic, but ruthless measures through a poignant piano melody. “The beginning of the end” takes a cue from “grief,” working the motif to build up to a hopeful, but tentative note, suggesting that some good may come out of the Holy Grail War after all, even if the tone isn’t wholly convincing in this belief.

the beginning of the end

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Given all that has come so far, it’s safe to say that the first half of the soundtrack features a good mix of atmosphere and melodic delights to savor and set the foundation for the conflict. It’s a shame, then, that the middle tracks don’t advance the epic conflicts further, turning instead to ambient tracks that make sense within the context of the anime, but are hardly memorable outside of it. Tracks like “rabble-rousers,” with its hollow synth-y sound accompanied by the occasional bell, and “an eerie enemy,” with its synth to draw forth an ominous mood, exemplify this trend towards pieces which clearly serve a purpose, but carry little enjoyment.

rabble-rousers

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In short, I’ve heard this song and dance before. At her best, Kajiura’s atmospheric tracks are evocative and engaging, especially when the melody shifts in a way that lets you explore the many facets of a given mood, scene, or character. But when faced with the likes of “back to the wall” and its dull, unresolved energy and “secret maneuvers,” which offers an outflow of melancholia with no real resolution (see a pattern here?), that’s when Fate/Zero’s score leaves me fidgeting and impatient for something more interesting to come along. It’s annoying when a track like “assassin,” which has the potential to wow me with exotic Middle Eastern influences, turns into a disjointed affair, making it less engaging a work overall.

secret maneuvers

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At the end of the day, I’ll keep to Fate/Zero’s melody-heavy tracks that display a modicum of development. “Rule the battlefield” works in this regard even if the melody doesn’t change all that much, starting with a regal air that conjures images of a king descending from the heavens, switching to a more tragic-sounding version of the regal theme, and ending on a somber, but determined note. But more than that, its grandiose aura separates itself from other Kajiura tracks, making it uniquely identifiable to something from Fate/Zero.

rule the battlefield

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Given her style, Yuki Kajiura is going to garner critics for her anime works sounding similar. The key to being more enjoyable across the board is to write music that is identifiable with an anime series. Many of the earlier melodically-heavy tracks carry what I’d call the Fate/Zero flavor of action tempered by tragedy and despair. But the atmospheric, ambient tracks? Those could have come from other Kajiura score. And because there are so many in this particular disc, Fate/Zero’s soundtrack, while good in selective doses, is very much a flawed gem.

Rating: Good

Note: Those who wish to check out our Spanish translations can go to our affiliated site at BSOSpirit.

About the author

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.

4 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. random says:

    I, too, felt this Kajiura soundtrack was lacking. There were too many dull ambient and atmospheric tracks, so I didn’t find it very enjoyable. “Point Zero” was a standout though – it’s a pretty “epic” track.

    I wonder if the second soundtrack will be any better? I’m not watching the anime so I don’t know if the music has improved at all for the 2nd half. If it hasn’t, hopefully she will deliver a more memorable score for Sword Art Online this summer.

  2. Mushyrulez says:

    I guess there’s the difference between composing music for an anime and composing background music. The former is music first and foremost, while the latter is background foremost…

  3. Philip Spann says:

    I love Kajiura’s work, but it admittedly isn’t always consistent. Yet, her highlight reel shines so bright I can’t help but listen to everything she makes with bated breath. Been in love with her music since .hack//SIGN

    • @Philip Spann
      Yup, my experience of her music has gone back since Noir. Her best highlights have been from My-HiME though, mostly on account because the range of emotional expression was just that much better.

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