Maglam Lord Soundtrack, Chiaki Fujita / Nobuo Kiyota / Kyouko Nakamura / Kiyoto Ohtani, 2021
For its most recent game, developer Felistella didn’t stray too from what worked for them in the past. Mixing elements of visual novels with strategy and action RPGs in their Summon Night and Hyperdimension Neptunia titles, Felistella delivered a similar experience with 2021’s Maglam Lord. In tune with those earlier games’ humorous tone, Maglam Lord follows Killrizark, an all-mighty demon lord sealed away after an epic battle. Every RPG fan worth their salt will be able to guess what happens next – at least up to a point. After many years, Killrizark awakens – weakened and ready to regain his strength by eating as many innocent souls as possible. That is, until he is told he’s been declared an endangered species by the government.
This kind of self-consciously silly scenario required a particular musical approach – enthusiastic but avoiding outright parody or wackiness. Thankfully, it’s a tone that the composers behind the Maglam Lord soundtrack absolutely nail. The composing trio of Nobuo Kiyota, Kyouko Nakamura and Kiyoto Ohtani – working for storied game music production company Pure Sound – had collaborated previously on many projects, including several Summon Night games (in the case of Nakamura, his career reaches back all the way to 2001’s The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Age and Oracle of Seasons). Another familiar face was Chiaki Fujita, member of rock band Sing Like Talking and theme song writer for several Summon Night titles. For Maglam Lord, he would once more provide the opening song.
Stylistically, the Maglam Lord soundtrack is another entry in the long line of JRPGs that don’t worry too much about coherence, but instead merrily jump from one genre to the next. What makes Maglam Lord special is just how amazingly well the composers manage to pull off every single genre exercise they undertake. No matter which musical style they tackle, they arrange their pieces in admirably varied and colourful orchestrations – and they definitely know how to write melodies that range from punchy and catchy to classically-inspired and slowly unfolding.
Just how much fun the Maglam Lord soundtrack has in store is clear from the word “go”. “Track 01” presents the score’s most prominent strain: cheerful power/pop-metal, full of upbeat energy and densely-packed arrangements. It’s the guitar that first establishes the empowering, sing-along lead melody, but soon synths take over the tune and remain prominent even while the guitar keeps soloing. The drumming never draws attention to itself, but is just technical enough to add some depth to the cue, whose full-tilt approach joyfully throws everything and the kitchen sink at the listener.
“Track 02” similarly is a constant rush of endorphins, developing its melody more than “Track 01” while still breathlessly rushing forward. “Track 04” heralds a more dramatic approach, adding orchestral elements and female vocals to the mix, while the double bass drumming cranks up the music’s intensity further. It all comes to a head on “Track 05”, the Maglam Lord soundtrack’s most bombastic metal cue. A surprisingly extensive organ intro and ornate piano material show off the composers’ classical chops before the cue turns into a raging showdown between guitar, piano, voices and solo violin. Scaling heights very few other game scores attain, “Track 05”’s tempestuously presented material flows marvellously well, with perfectly judged breakdowns into piano soli. This is the kind of ambitious orchestral/metal hybrid that achieves such a deliciously over-the-top delivery, it’s impossible not to listen to it with a massive grin on your face.
But the composers apply their maximalist formula to much more than just metal. “Track 03”’s sped-up take on Latin dances ties in with the energetic nature of the rocking cues that have preceded it, but the composition transposes such liveliness into a new musical environment. The solo violin’s more longing character contrasts beautifully with the snappy nature of the Spanish guitar accompaniment, piano flourishes and lively castanets. Equally well-developed and melodically convincing is “Track 10”, a 1970s blues rock-inspired groover with some delicious Hammond organ and guitar duelling, while the drumming once more keeps the track agile with non-showy virtuosity. “Track 11” and “Track 13” make lounge jazz and easy listening as enjoyable as the rest of the album, filled with charming melodies and delightfully airy instrumental colours. No matter which genre the composers approach, they always do so with the same care and sophistication.
Other tracks on the Maglam Lord soundtrack take more surprising approaches still. “Track 8” builds on clanging electronic rhythms pitted against languid strings and wordless female vocals that feel all the more calmly majestic when contrasted with the gritty industrial pulses. Several well-placed piano breakdowns and the addition of dance-floor ready beats carry the soundtrack’s most experimental composition. More playful and humorous is “Track 14”, which sounds like a trip through a dwarf mine – full of syncopated metal percussion, anvils, bells and capped off with shouted, rhythmic male vocals. Meanwhile, a wooden xylophone line that constantly runs in the background subtly provides counterpoint.
The final building block in the mosaic that is the Maglam Lord soundtrack are its orchestrally-minded compositions, which deliver the score’s most expansive melodies. “Track 09” begins as a hopeful piano ballad before a solo flute carries the romantic lead melody for a whole minute, while strings and percolating piano provide the appropriately dreamy backdrop. The cue’s careful jazz shadings – like the plucked acoustic bass accompaniment and the flute’s melody progression after the two-minute mark – are a welcome surprise. “Track 15” proceeds along similar lines but gives a more significant role to its glowingly beautiful strings, feeling grander and more overtly swooning than “Track 09”. The ravishingly glowing string melodies meld classical and pop inspirations to perfection, moving elegantly from one relatively short but ingratiating phrase to the next. Elsewhere, “Track 06” and “Track 16” present as tumultuous Gothic vignettes, while “Track 12” endears as an upbeat, aspiring march.
The score concludes with “Track 17” – a piece of perfectly arranged pop-metal that seals the Maglam Lord soundtrack’s fate as 2021’s superior alternative to Bravely Default II, achieving the same deliciously overblown grandeur as “Uroboros, the Serpent That Devours the Horizon”. Couched in luxuriant synth orchestrations and driven forward by energetic trumpet inserts, “Track 17”’s star is the fantastic lead guitar work. The guitar melodies churn out one soaring tune after the other while constantly – but never obnoxiously – returning to the same insistent, supremely catchy chorus hook. It’s the kind of joyful, spectacularly exuberant conclusion that this kind of score so richly deserves.
- 01 - Track 01 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 2:47
- 02 - Track 02 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 2:48
- 03 - Track 03 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 2:49
- 04 - Track 04 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 2:55
- 05 - Track 05 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 4:47
- 06 - Track 06 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 2:25
- 07 - Track 07 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 3:26
- 08 - Track 08 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 5:42
- 09 - Track 09 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 5:12
- 10 - Track 10 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 3:30
- 11 - Track 11 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 3:15
- 12 - Track 12 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 2:09
- 13 - Track 13 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 2:29
- 14 - Track 14 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 3:44
- 15 - Track 15 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 4:55
- 16 - Track 16 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 2:13
- 17 - Track 17 Fujita / Kiyota / Nakamura / Ohtani 6:52