4 out of 5
Label: Pony Canyon
Produced by: Hiroyuki Sawano
Hiroyuki Sawano’s two different projects – his “vocal” works under SawanoHiroyuki[nZk] and his score work – while clearly composed by the same man, produce two variations on his industrial orchestral music that, at least to my ears, appeal to different tastes; they register differently. And on a previous soundtrack I went through, Kill la Kill, his inclusion of his usual vocalists scattered throughout the score effected something similar, and I didn’t care for the nZk-esque work; not only because it wasn’t to my tastes, but I also felt it negatively fractured the experience of the album.
Attack On Titan’s score also has vocalists, but, this time, is not a split performance. Sawano’s style is in sync with Titan’s full-on-aggression throughout, and leans more on drumming and strings than industrial chugga to emulate the post-technology setting of the show, and it’s very often a fist-pumping, stimulating listen as a result.
The openers – a title track and The Reluctant Heroes – do include some repeated themes, but actually set an underwhelming precedent for what’s to follow, sort of coasting on predictable cinematic flourish in the former or generic rock with those fallback industrial touches in the latter, but immediately after this, something more distinct overrides the compositions: interesting additions of strings, and deviations in to a more orchestral sensibility and tribal drumming. With Counter Attack-mankind, things arrive in full-force, Sawano combining more organic elements with a rock backing to hit some peaks that sit well with the title, and would effectively score any battle sequence from the show. Vocal tracks from here on out also get on board, building with the music to powerful and emotive conclusions. Occasionally, electronics get the better of Sawano and take away from the impact – like a questionable dubstep touch later on – but on the whole, the emphasis here is on something very Earthy and human – certainly fitting for the show – given Titan grit with pounding beats and blasts of guitar or swells of horns and strings.
While the score still has a sort of “processed” sound that I think is common for Sawano, it’s a very satisfactory complement to the show, and hits a stride of memoral themes and moments after a couple of warm up tracks to make it a very worthwhile listen on its own.