One thing I really enjoy about the soundtrack for Shadow Hearts: Covenant(composed mainly by Yoshitaka Hirota) is how much attention is given to the overall “sound” in his effort to portray the characters and add to the game’s unique mood. I’ve noticed that in music for JRPGs traditional instruments or simple synths rule the world and even when something other’s featured (like the ethnic instruments in Ar Tonelico) it’s just used as is.
What Yoshitaka Hirota does on the Shadow Hearts soundtracks is taking his music further by often electronically treating his instruments and using rather unconventional pallets of sound. For all examples I will provide YouTube-links, just click the name of the track.
In the track Death is the Great Leveller the rather mysterious mood is greatly enhanced by the production. To begin with the initial harp sound is quite muffled which makes it be more in the background, just adding to the harmony and not working as the main melodic line. The drums and bass are in the front of the soundscape, working together. The heavily compressed and a bit reverbed acoustic bass adds to the rather ominous mood of the track. The filtered part synthetic, part real drums drives the track forward and some distortion adds a dirty sound that works incredibly well with Shadow Hearts: Covenant’s darker visuals and environments. The mix of traditional sounds like harp, strings and bass with the synthetic drums and overall daring production certainly gives this track an edge that wouldn’t be achievable if it sounded more “clean”.