Earlier this year, the Nier Gestalt & Nier Replicant Original Soundtrack was released featuring the music of Keiichi Okabe, Keigo Hoashi, and Kakeru Ishihama, with lead vocals by Emi Evans. It seemed to be universally praised and my favorite soundtrack of 2010. So, of course, I was excited when I heard that Nier Gestalt & Nier Replicant -15 Nightmares & Arrange Tracks was to be released. Containing the remixed music for the 15 Nightmares downloadable content portion of the game as well as new arrangements, how does the final product stand? Does it live up to its highly popular original soundtrack?
Before moving onto my favorite tracks of the album, the "15 Nightmares" related remixes, I want to touch on the remixes more akin to the music heard on the original soundtrack. Primary arranger takes the original versions of the songs and brings to a more romantic feel to them. "Emil / Piano Ver.," in particular, really manages to accentuate the sorrow heard in the original, but at the same time, the elaborations on the piano bring additional warmth to Emil's theme. The other piano arrangement, "Song of the Ancients / Piano Ver.," has more of a jazzy atmosphere with a slight impressionist touch as well. The overall mood manages to be more mysterious and darker than the original, and I really like syncopated rhythm compared to the original vocal themes. In addition, I find the jazzy improvisational sections to be quite exquisite.
That said, while the piano arrangements are exceptional, the other arrangements are somewhat less inspiring. "Kaine / Duet Ver." is a very somber strings arrangement of the original theme. I find it to be very brooding and melancholy but I do like the ensemble performance and I think that the violin does bring a nice delicate touch to the original melody. "Shadowlord / Music Box Ver." takes the extremely haunting and powerful original and transforms it into a beautiful, yet still haunting, music box piece. Of all the arrangements, I find this to be the weakest overall.
Lastly, Keiichi Okabe contributes "The Wretched Automatons / a cappella." This version of the original drops out all the accompaniment of the original and focuses solely, for the most part, on the original Emi Evans line. Okabe adds some vocal accompaniment to the mix to help bring a bit of dynamics to the melody and I think it pays off as it kind of adds a bit of a mysterious nature to the mix. Originally, since Emi Evans was on holiday when the recording for this album was being done, the producers were going to go with a different singer, however, in the end, they just used data from the original recordings and manipulated to create the final product. This was done due to the Nier voice being synonymous with Emi Evans and the producers not wanting to disappoint the fans.
Now, while I do find the more traditional arrangements to be a great listen, I find the 15 Nightmares remixes to be more adventurous and, depending on who you ask, more likely to upset fans of the originals. However, I'm not one of those fans as I find these remixes to be the best things on the album. Handled by Keiichi Okabe, they bring a Tekken-influenced sound to the originals. Opening with "Song of the Ancients - Lost Androids Mixuxux," the listener is immediately greeted with Emi Evan's airy vocals with some ambient wind-like accompaniment before moving into the electronic dance fest that ensues. What I really enjoy about this remix is the vocal manipulation. It really helps give it a club-like persona and really fits with the electronic beats. Rather than just foregoing the theme's originals, Okabe also throws them into the mix to create a nice hybrid of orchestra harmonies, Emi Evans, both with her normal voice and her voice processed through a vocoder, and an intoxicating blend of electronic elements.
"Shadowlord's Castle - Iron Fist mix feat. DJ-BKO," is probably the theme with the most explicit drum 'n bass sound. Although the choral work that makes the original so moving is featured, it takes a backseat to the electronic mix that is incorporated into the accompaniment. It almost seems subdued, but at the same time, you can definitely feel its presence. It's a very strong electronic track that really gives off a fighting game vibe. My second favorite arrangement from the 15 Nightmares section has to be "Emil - The Ultimate Weapon No. 7." It's a beautiful blend of vocal manipulation, rock, and electronica. The boys' choir samples still manage to retain that pureness heard in the original, but at the same time, when they are manipulated, they really mesh with the electronic components of the remix. It's an extremely intense theme that really captures the original and transforms it into something with an innate ability to get your body moving, especially if you are a fan of the electronic/rock type of music.
While the original "Blu-bird" features some ominous electronic work and choral work, the remix "Blu-bird - Hansel und Gretel" takes the original and definitely gives it a heavy metal sound. Powerful guitar riffs and percussion, guttural vocal work, sexy bass guitar, and some vocal manipulation of the female vocal sections all combine to create an extremely intense theme that truly surpasses the original. I find that the harmonies between the vocally manipulated female vocal work and the guttural male vocals to be quite exhilarating. Out of all the remixes, this is probably my favorite. The last theme, "Shadowlord - Crying Yonah Version," takes the final boss theme and transforms it into something quite beautiful. While I do appreciate the music box version heard later on the album, I find this version to be much more to my liking. The ominous choral work combines well with the techno beats and electronic manipulation. Overall, it's a very powerful take on the original and, although it doesn't do a lot of flashy things, I do find it to be a tasteful interpretation of one of the most impressive themes on the original.
There is a bonus track at the end of the soundtrack for chiptune lovers. Hidekazu Tanaka, who didn't participate in the original soundtrack, arranges a variety of themes such as "Kaine," "Emil," "Song of the Ancients," and "Ashes of Dreams" into an 8-bit medley. Despite the humble synth, Tanaka manages to capture the mood and atmospheres of the originals and the last part of the medley, "Ashes of Dreams", even features chiptuned Emi Evans vocals to help accentuate the retro sound of the arrangement. At eight minutes, it's a nice bonus but somewhat underwhelming at points.
I find that the Nier Gestalt & Nier Replicant -15 Nightmares & Arrange Tracks- to be an accomplished arrange album, but at the same time, I feel left wanting for more. The arrangements, both of the electronic and classical variety, all bring to the table a varied look at how the originals can be interpreted, but at the same time, I find that there could be more room for arrangements in terms of track selection, given the disc is only about an hour long. While I find the piano versions of the originals and the 15 Nightmares remixes to be quite wonderful, I think that the music box arrangement of "Shadowlord" and the chiptune medley, while nice, left a bit to be desired. I don't find this album as impressive as the original, but it is still a wonderful listen overall. The electronic remixes may not be to everyone's liking, especially if they aren't a fan of the genre, but I do believe there is definitely a remix on here for everyone. It's worth a purchase, for sure, but I truly believe the original is superior in every aspect.