Soma Saito ties up his last 1 year and half of music with the spine-chilling ballad, Epilogue.
Title: エピローグ Label: SACRA/Sony Music Japan Release date: 22/03/2020 Genre: Alternative Rock / Ballad
1 – Epilogue
Originally released as the hidden track on Soma Saito’s EP my blue vacation, Epilogue has been the object of a massive revamp from its lonely and raw demo state to this full-fledged rock ballad.
Those that have listened to Soma Saito’s songs, delved a bit into the hidden meanings, and double entendres, and are aware of how heavily powered by a mix of literature and personal experiences his music is, will not be surprised by how deep and powerful Epilogue is.
At the same time, if you are a music production buff, Epilogue is a good case study, showing how a great arrangement and emphasis on quality can really elevate a song.
Releasing the demo as a hidden track in my blue vacation was meant as a treat from Saito however, this time around he pull off something incredibly clever. By releasing a demo and then, on a later date, removing the finished version, he got to show his fans how he turns his ideas into music. He, somehow, showed his fans how he composes music which is a cool thing to do.
The demo was raw in its very essence and that was noticeable from how the concept and lyrics were supported only by a piano, and how raw Soma Saito’s vocals sounded – giving away that the song was just a demo, a template for something bigger – and even to the emotions it made you feel. It was a simplistic song. Its concept was clearly defined and the performance matched it. It tugged into our emotions. It was a bittersweet goodbye.
Now, this final version is clearly longer, adding a new verse, a bridge, and outro that weren’t featured in the demo. It is also a song highly influenced by Brit-rock’s trademark melancholy, something that has marked Saito’s music since he took over composition duties.
The addition of these elements made the dynamics in the song change yet not dramatically to the point that you can’t recognize the demo in it. The intro is comfortably long, resting at 20 seconds, with a strings quartet painting a melancholic picture. Solemn guitar riffs serve as the backdrop to the first couple of seconds of vocals, enhancing the loneliness that lies in those.
Up until the chorus, emotions were contained but that changes with the chorus. The tension rises up, the dynamics change, and, all of a sudden, all those bottled, contained emotions, start pouring out, making Epilogue bloom into a full-fledged rock ballad.
One thing I particularly enjoyed in this song was its bridge with a long strings solo that did not feel like a drag or a lazy loop playing just to fill time. It had a purpose, set the stage for the raw outro and heart-wrenching last chorus that follow it.
The outro deserves to be highlighted for bringing back the rawness we found in the demo but playing around with it while also staying very textbook Brit-rock in its approach (Oasis-esque).
Let’s talk a bit about production quality. I know this might not be something that most people reading this review might be interested in however, I hope you’re open to exploring a bit of what I write below.
Regardless of any personal preferences we might have, one thing is for certain, Epilogue is, undoubtedly, the best-sounding song in Soma Saito’s repertoire.
From a production standpoint, it is flawless. The clean, close vocals. The clean, distinct instrumentals. No overlaps. No crowded sections of the song. A nice structure. The lack of post-production tricks. At its core, this song is pretty straightforward and raw although it tries to sound deliberate and flawless.
Although Soma Saito’s music is not produced in a sloppy way, there are times in which some arrangements end up sounding a bit off or rather questionable, which is part of the learning curve for Saito as a composer and for Saku as an arranger for most of his songs.
Epilogue got a clean, tasteful 4-piece rock band sound overflowing with life as if it was a live performance.
We can enjoy its punchy bass line, the lovely, warm snare sound we get from the drums, the delicate piano melodies, and the raw, muffled guitar riffs. Why is that? Because this song’s arrangement is perfect – kudos to Saku.
On the vocal end, it is as if you are in the studio with Soma Saito himself.
If you noticed, especially while listening to this song with headphones, Soma Saito was particularly close to the microphone while recording the verses. Adding to the sense of “closeness” you get from his performance is the fact that Saito went for his low register to perform the 1st verse, reverbing in the listeners’ ears which might result, to some, in his performance sounding closer than usual. Mixing may have also helped make him sound closer than usual as well.
Saito makes excellent use of his vocal range throughout the song, delivering crystalline high notes, clear mid tones, stable low notes, a robust falsetto, and even adding a gentle vibrato – something that is not common in his performances. All of that and his technique contributed to delivering a highly emotional performance in which every single line leaves a mark.
Epilogue is the kind of ballad that only Soma Saito could pull off. The best-sounding song in his repertoire flaunting an absolutely fantastic arrangement.