Wolf's Rain OST 2
Wolf's Rain OST 2 is the second album of the acclaimed Wolf's Rain series. For me, the series was a sight to behold, the music even greater to listen to. Once again, composer Yoko Kanno's unique blend of style and variety strikes gold, bringing together so many elements to create music that are emotionally-involving.
What a better way to begin the journey than with a song by Steve Conte. "Heaven's not Enough" is a stunningly emotional song and I'm not ashamed to say that the track was placed on repeat for a number of days. While not overwhelmingly angst-wrought, this ballad is still rather sad and sufficiently poignant. Steve Conte's raspy vocals hit the mark and his performance here rivals one of his best songs, "Call me Call me" of Cowboy Bebop fame. And the lyrics! Suffice to say, the words that lyricist Tim Jensen (part of Kanno's entourage) writes really do touch me in many different ways. Definitely a keeper here.
"Shiro, Long Tail's" is next and is a longer rendition of "Shiro" in the first album. A moving tune, the violins sing the story of loss and anguish. It plays on the melodramatic, while still managing not to be over-sentimental. "Cycle" follows as merging of light funk and Gabriela Robin's child-like, whispering vocals. An energetic song, to me it sometimes seems as if the song is trying to convey a deeper meaning. The fourth song "Beyond Me" is the calmer guitar/string ensemble that brings forth images of tranquility. Imagine grass fields and bright sun rays.
"Mouth on Fire" has an electrifying pulse to it. With congo drums, bangles, a Spanish guitar, an accordian and a fiddle, the song switches from a tribal style to a totally different blend. It sounds like a whole mix of music, Meditarranean, African, mayhaps even Celtic! "Hounds" retains a blues beat and a classic Western style, letting the various guitars to do their job. The tune repeats for a while and would be boring if not for the flute that comes in, changing the song to something much more interesting. "Rain of Blossoms" is a short piece, beginning with sweeping violins that carry the song to new heights before quieting down and ending. It doesn't really end properly as the next song "Separation" comes in flawlessly. another orchestral piece. It had strings accompanying a guitar solo before their own singular performance. It is an emotional trip that is both calming and yet, pains the heart in some way.
The tone fast-forwards the pace with "Escape." Driving rhythms for both strings and drums, coupled with an electrifying guitar accompaniment add to the tension of this short piece. "Face On" follows immediately, also another pulsing piece of drums and strings, and ends magnificently with a multi-layered offering of instruments. "Tsume no Suna" is next, an electric guitar heralding a tune that repeats many times, gaining more momentum as it goes. While not a bad song, I didn't really enjoy the repetition.
The change in tone takes a break with "Flying to You," a short melody by Iilaria Graziano that slows down my world for two minutes. Her voice is both light and innocent, and for some reason, makes me sleepy. Team that up with strong bass plucking and your world will cease to move for a while. Which is a good thing. "Night Owl" is almost playful, the main instrument being a horn that begins the song. But I don't like it. The horn annoys me for a reason. "Shi no Mori" comes next. A dark marching theme, it reminds me of the "Imperial March" of Star Wars. While not as great as that one, "Shi no Mori" manages to impress, evoking images of an army bringing about death and destruction. It even includes actual marching SFX inside! "Indiana" follows, beginning with a flute solo before the other woodwinds come in to produce a rather odd mix of sounds.
Franco Sansalone sings "Amore Amoro." Accompanied only by a piano, he sings a dark ballad of love that is covered in despair but I suppose, most love songs are somehow depressing. A piano/orchestral piece follows in "Friends," which I find is a song true to its name. It is heart-breaking to a point, and yet manages to speak of the bonds between people that fuel their lives. Probably one of the simplest, most touching melodies I have heard. It can actually bring a tear to your eye if you aren't careful. "Tell Me What the Rain Knows" is a short vocal by Maaya Sakamoto. While not as well-arranged as "Gravity," this song similarly sings of the journey people must make, hinting of a deeper meaning behind it.
"Float" follows, a flowing piece of clashing sounds that aims at some form of cohesion, but ends up simply being another wonderfully-mixed song. There are layers upon layers in this one-minute song and that short time frame really does hurt the song greatly. "Trace" is another tune of sadness, where the strings try their best to bring the tears out. However, it ends with a hint of tension and drama, promising stranger, sadder things to come. This promise comes in the form of the next song "Sad Moon," that sounds like the perfect end to any epic movie/series/thing. Poignant and lyrical, it ends well and that's what I most enjoy of a song or an album. Maaya Sakamoto sings the final song, "Cloud Nine." A vocal song more joyous than most of the other pieces here.
It is here I set down my woes about this album. Small woes so not to worry. It namely centres on some missing songs. I had hoped the second album would include several songs in the series which I really enjoyed. Like the female version of "Heaven's Not Enough," which I believe is sung by Iilaria Graziano as well. The same song, sung in a different language, with a different tone. That would have been smashing. And I really liked the battle arrangement of "Shiro," with the guitar and frenzied rhythm. But alas, I find those songs lacking.
That being said, there is one other part of the album that makes it so special. "Cloud Nine," with its happy look at life would have been a good close to an already great album. But no. They had to include more. After the Maaya's voice fades away and the instruments play their final notes, a familiar piano introduction begins. If you have watched the series, or have even heard the first album, this song will instantly catch your attention. It is an additional song, a longer full version of "Rakuen" and is the piece that truely ends Wolf's Rain. It can be best-described as one of the most beautifully-crafted arrangements I have ever had my pleasure to hear. It starts off like "Rakuen," slow and steady, calm and strong, and builds and builds and builds, before this fusion of strings,harps, horns and choirs bring it to a climax of all climaxes, with the piano steadily remaining the main actor. And you know the series has ended. Everything has ended, when the piano whispers to you and tells you that it is time to go.
That it is the end to an album that is filled with heart and emotion. One that will touch you forever.