Four Gods: Volume 1

Joe Hisaishi

" One of his finest! "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

It has been some while since I deepened myself into Joe Hisaishi's material. After his breakthrough years I kinda lost track of him again. However that is until now. Because I'm glad to see one of Japan's most legendary composers back at the helm of various staggering productions. The Story of the Great King and the Four Gods (Legend) is obviously one of his finest.

A Korean television series, the story is loosely based on the legend of Dangun and Gwanggaeto the Great of Goguryeo. The story also adds mythical elements of the Four Symbols depicted in fantasy form as the four guardians who serve the king of Jyushin. And in that fantasy element comes the magical voice of Hisaishi at hand. The show ran in the final months of 2007 and unfortunately the score itself is only available on the Eastern market. But it's obvious that Hisaishi is back after hearing this simply staggering piece of magnificence.

I've always been a fan of Hisaishi's voice and personal style. Alongside Spirited Away, his style is best presented in scores like this. From the very start the melodic strings delve you back in the magic of the composer's voice. "Opening" is a short but wonderful trip back to memory lane. That main theme used in the first track gets a more emotional meaning in "Sacred War" where percussion and choir lift it even higher than the magical opening of the first track.

The main theme gets probably its most beautiful version in "Damdeok / Main Theme" where the grace is felt through the flute. That is until Hisaishi's familiar rhythmic structure takes the theme to another winning level. It gets a deeper feeling of love and respect when we hear a small variation during "Sujini / Solitude". The score goes further on the emotional level with "Kiha / Destiny", one of the moments where the emotional level is strengthened through the use of Hisaishi's piano and an additional cello. The rhythmic voice goes again on a little magical tour in "Destiny" where it uses the Kiha theme to become a waltz of beauty and power.

"Hwacheonhwe" is slightly sinister, the brass tries to set up an emotional battle against the strings. And this battle is exploited to the fullest in "Battle of the Gods", an innovative choral aided affair where the brass is beginning to win the fight. And my god is it wonderful how Hisaishi returns to his rhythmic voice in another endearing version of the main theme, this time in "Damdeok / Brave".

The brass is then finally emerging in the victorious side in "Hostile Attack", a track that tries to go for a more darkish unnerving feel. The melody of track 9 is strengthened by trumpets and the blazing feel of Hisaishi is again all over the place. And in "Victory" the strings and brass are let loose like cows in a stampede. It literally flourishes towards the victorious final note. This track is simply awesome and breathtaking, and it is one of the best Hisaishi has ever written so far.

Of course it is not surprising as well to discover it is a song that closes the album. Luckily this one is based on one of the actual melodies of the score. "Forgive Me" is a lounge piece based on the main theme. The various concert pieces make for a fluent final experience of the disc, like "As Time Passes" where the main theme gets a small beat attached to it. While "Tragic Love" is a solo piano oriented version of the main theme, it is the rather beautiful and fragile "The First Love" that stuns the most. This due to the simply gorgeous melody. The piano laden "Sujini (Piano Solo Version)" and the more pop based "Eternal Love (Dongbangsinki)" are the final tracks.

I've missed Joe Hisaishi's brilliance for a while. Yet it is hard to stay mad when a winner like The Story of the Great King and the Four Gods (Legend) restores our faith. This piece of work has surely all the makings of becoming one of his ever best. The melody, the charm, the grace, the splendour, the power and the magic bring us back to a composer who's Eastern voice has once again captured my European heart. It is truly one of his most staggering albums.


1. Opening (1.25) Excellent track
2. Sacred War (2.47) Excellent track
3. Damdeok / Main Theme (4.04) Excellent track
4. Sujini / Solitude (4.29)
5. Kiha / Destiny (3.27)
6. Destiny (4.30) Excellent track
7. Hwacheonhwe (2.45)
8. Battle of the Gods (3.54) Excellent track
9. Damdeok / Brave (2.59) Excellent track
10. Gomulchon (2.38)
11. Hostile Attack (4.01)
12. Union (4.14)
13. Victory (4.04) Excellent track
14. Forgive Me (5.07)
15. As Time Passes (2.14)
16. Tragic Love (4.15)
17. The First Love (4.14) Excellent track
18. Sujini (Piano Solo Version) (2.04)
19. Eternal Love (Dongbangsinki) (3.59)

Total Length: 67.10
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 21 votes - average 4.45/5)

Released by

Universal B0011WJIR2 (regular release 2008)