Tag Archives: Vocals

Review: WORLD OF FINAL FANTASY Original Soundtrack

I haven’t been keeping close tabs on World of Final Fantasy as a game, but I have been greatly looking forward to the soundtrack, particularly after learning Final Fantasy XIII composer Masashi Hamauzu would be at the helm and after hearing the samples from the Tokyo Game Show sampler this year. The album doesn’t disappoint. There are wonderful melodies throughout, fantastic arrangements of songs from across the Final Fantasy series, and great production values.

It’s hard to call out just a handful of songs, but I’ll do my best here. The opening theme, “Innocent²,” is a beautiful vocal ballad with strong Celtic and pop vibes, reminding me of the infectiously upbeat Genki Rockets. It’s actually by Ryo Yamazaki, and it’s incredibly well done. “World of Beauty,” one of my favorite tracks, sports swelling strings and contemplative piano before moving into a triumphant and uplifting section that screams adventure. There’s Hamauzu’s signature strings and piano throughout with the playful “Lann’s Melody,” the glitchy futuristic electronic track “World of Nine Wood Hills” which sounds like an IMERUAT song complete with vocals presumably by Mina, and an upbeat orchestral rock tune with chugging bass and dancing piano called “World of Battle” which was previewed on the aforementioned TGS sampler. Other favorites include the dreamy lullaby, “Refreshing Melody,” the mesmerizing “Labyrinth of Dragons” with its repetitive layers, twirling piano, and Mina’s voice once again, the slow night variation of the main theme, “Moonlight Melody,” the tense espionage music in “Confrontation Melody,” the upbeat and folksy “World of Sunshine,” the spooky and ethereal “Labyrinth of Trees,” and the closing vocal track, “World Parade.”

And those arrangements I mentioned? They’re many in number, and some of my favorites include “Snow -F,” a very contemplative and slowed down version of the iconic Final Fantasy XIII theme, a lovely regal strings and harpsichord version of “Castle Cornelia” and a killer rock performance of “The Scene of Battle” from the original Final Fantasy, a super hero version of “Edgar” from Final Fantasy VI with rockin’ guitar, string stabs, and big brass, “Don’t be Afraid” from Final Fantasy VIII with a heavy electronic bass and surfer rock guitar, and “The Sending” from Final Fantasy X with its Japanese instrumentation worked in with glitchy electronics.

In all, this is one of the best Final Fantasy albums I’ve heard in some time. Hamauzu and team have done a wonderful job with the original tunes and the arrangements alike. I could even go for some arrangements of the original themes! Piano Collections, anyone?

Pick it up at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Metal Saga: The Ark of Wastes Original Soundtrack (BSPE-1056)

Basiscape Records has released the soundtrack to the fifth game in the Metal Max series titled Metal Saga: The Ark of Wastes (Metal Saga: Kouya no Hakobune in Japan). The Android/iOS title once again features RPG combat on foot or via vehicles, and Basiscape composer Yoshimi Kudo (Tekken 6, Muramasa, Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir) provides an impressive metal-infused orchestral score. It’s always surprising just how well the team at Basiscape can incorporate Hitoshi Sakimoto’s signature sound into their work, so fans of his should also be pleased with this soundtrack.

The opening track, “Crack down!,” is pure metal with high productions values and English vocals. From there, “Mortal Engines” brings big brass and percussion to this upbeat Sakimoto-esque march, “Workaholics Jam” sports funky bass and rock organ, and “The Earth and the Wind” features a gritty Western sound with twangy electric guitar. Theres the playful “March of 65536 Steps” which incorporates Celtic instruments, “No Bullets, No Life” which is a cool spin on electronic-infused metal, and “Rhythm Show,” a loungy funk tune. There are ethereal pads in “Into the Silence,” drum ‘n’ bass in “On the Edge,” playful and silly dubstep in “Elegant Resuscitated Person’s Dance,” and industrial glitch rock in “Bolt and Nut Girl.” Finally, there’s the desperate “Moment of Truth,” the cheery electric pop tune, “Don’t Stop the Heartbeat,” the smooth electronic “Fragment 2 Fragment,” the explosive electronic “Giant Killer” with its massive choir and tension, and the upbeat and funky “Yesterday’s Friend is Today’s Enemy” with its lightning-fast rock.

In all, Metal Saga: The Ark of Wastes offers an eclectic mix of songs, but it’s all well produced and shows of Kudo’s versatility and talent. Pick it up at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: Xenoblade Chronicles X Original Soundtrack

The announcement that anime and film composer Hiroyuki Sawano would be working on Xenoblade Chronicles X was met with a lot of excitement. The team was going all out with the score, and for anyone who’s played the game, the vast landscapes that are at the same time primeval and futuristic are captured perfectly in Sawano’s blend of epic orchestral, electronic, rock, hip-hop, vocal and piano ballads, and more. There are sleek production values throughout, and while the track titles are often unreadable (presented as alpha-numeric gibberish), making it hard to find your favorite moments, listening from start to finish will present numerous outstanding moments.

Many of the in-game themes have been spliced together and shift pretty dramatically in mood over the course of a single track, so it’s hard to describe individual tracks, but the variety is pretty staggering. The four-disc collection begins with a bang, with the epic choir and strings of “CODENAMEZ” and the uplifting main theme, “THEMEX.” “LP” presents a soundscape that’s exotic and alien, complete with pretty bell tones, while “MONOX” sports a smooth electronic vibe before hitting the powerful main theme again. The ethereal “Nemousu” is beautiful yet melancholy with its use of choir and bells, while the tracks from the central hub city, New LA, include hip hop elements mixed with rock and electronica. The battle themes, “Black Tar” and “Uncontrollable” are both great at building tension and getting you pumped with their heavy electronics and hip hop vocals in the former and male/female duet in the latter. Other areas of the game feature funk, blues, and even tread on Celtic territory. One track even makes use of phone noises and scary screeches to create a tense atmosphere, while another brings in ethnic instruments that are perfect accompaniments for an arid desert. Anyone who’s played the game will also know the music featured in Primordia, which has a distinctly prehistoric sound with rock elements, heavy string stabs and a driving melody that will leave you wanting to explore every nook and cranny of this foreign world. There are also some nice solo piano tracks tucked away on the last disc.

I mentioned vocals earlier, but in addition to the battle and New LA themes, there are a number of other vocal tracks. “You Voice” is a grungy pop rock track, “Wir fliegen” is a pumping electronic piece with German vocals, and “By my side” is a sweet pop rock ballad with cheesy lyrics reminiscent of the GENKI ROCKETS. “Don’t Worry” also stands out with its 80s synths and sticky sweet electronic synth pop vibe. The star, however, is “In the forest,” which is featured three separate times on the album, featuring an epic orchestral and choir backing alongside spoken narration-style singing.

In all, fans of the game should enjoy what’s on offer here. While it’s not organized in a way to find your favorite tracks, you’ll be right at home with all of the music here. It’s epic, it’s well produced, and it’s memorable. Grab the four-disc set at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: To Far Away Times: Chrono Trigger & Chrono Cross Arrangement Album

This album has been a long time in the making. Over the years I’ve talked to Yasunori Mitsuda about his progress, and it always seemed to be right around the corner. It attained something of a myth-like status, as fans started thinking it’d never see the light of day, but it’s finally here.

It’s hard to live up to nearly ten years (or more?) of hype, but I think Chrono fans will be pleased not only with the music, but also the presentation and Mitsuda’s attempt to tie together Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross musically. The offerings are actually somewhat eclectic in presentation with a heavy emphasis on orchestral arrangement and vocals throughout, which may initially put some people off, but I can promise you that all the performances are top notch.

Plants vs. Zombies composer Laura Shigihara, who I imagine was invited to participate because her brilliant and beautiful arrangement of “Corridors of Time” on YouTube (which is recorded with glorious orchestra and live instruments on this album), is also featured on “Schala’s Theme,” for which she sings in a made up language that fits the vibe of the piece perfectly, and “On the Other Side,” a heartwarming take on the “Crono & Marle” theme. In contrast to Shigihara’s sweet and lighthearted voice, vocalist Sarah Alainn offers a heavier ballad-based style with both “Raidcal Dreamers” and “To Far Away Times,” the latter of which reminds me a bit of the Xenogears vocal theme, “SMALL OF TWO PIECES.”

Other tracks include a rather ambient Celtic take on “Marbule,” a lush and gorgeous “Wind Scene” (easily my favorite track on the album), a warm and lovely “The Bend of Time” (which has been released elsewhere in the past), a melancholy strings version of “The Frozen Flame,” and a surprising performance of “Time’s Scar” that gets an ascending guitar riff that sounds a lot like the iconic “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin. This is certainly my favorite version of “Time’s Scar.”

The music is fantastic and encompasses a lot of different ideas and styles, and the artwork and presentation in a slim cardboard case is all spot on. Any and all Chrono music fans will appreciate this album.

Grab it on CD Japan if you’re interested.

Review: Bayonetta 2 Original Soundtrack

Listening to a Bayonetta soundtrack is always a huge undertaking. The first game’s soundtrack was five discs, and not to be outdone, Bayonetta 2 also clocks in at five. Still, much with the games, there’s a lot of quirkiness and charm found within the eclectic mix of electronic, orchestral, and jazz themes presented.

To go along with this large collection of music, there’s also a number of contributing composers from Platinum games and elsewhere who make this soundtrack what it is.

Does the Bayonetta 2 soundtrack surpass the first game’s effort? Read more below. Continue reading Review: Bayonetta 2 Original Soundtrack

Review: X’mas Collections music from BRAVELY DEFAULT

I have a soft spot for Christmas music, and obviously game music. I generally break out the Christmas music on the ride home from Thanksgiving, and I have a playlist that contains lots of winter-themed game tracks to fit the mood. Square Enix has made finding game music to listen to for the holidays even easier with their annual X’mas albums, with two previous entries coming as compilations, and a surprise announcement this year: an entire album of remixes from Bravely Default arranged for the holidays.

The album is fantastic, and even more, Square Enix fans will appreciate guest arrangements by Junya Nakano, Motoi Sakuraba, and Yuzo Koshiro. The addition of bells, lots of reverb, and jingle bells could be viewed by some as gimmicky, but I certainly appreciate the effort. I particularly enjoy the bubbly opener, “Land of Beginnings,” the moving choir and piano in “Under a Hollow Moon,” and the majestic Christmas adventure, “Horizon of Light and Shadow.” There are a few picks that are more gamey and electronic in nature, such as “Baby Bird” with its quirky vocals, and overall, I couldn’t be more happy with this album and think it’s a perfect addition to any holiday play list. It’s out now on CD Japan, and here are links to the first and second X’mas albums from Square Enix if you want to dig deeper (Yuzo Koshiro’s arrangement of “Rydia” from Final Fantasy IV on the second album is my favorite).

Review: LIGHTNING RETURNS:FINAL FANTASY XIII OST PLUS

I quite enjoyed the Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII OST. While it didn’t feature the catchy pop music that made Final Fantasy XIII-2 so endearing, it did sport its own unique blend of electronic ambiance that provided for a great listen.

As has been customary for the Final Fantasy XIII soundtracks, Square Enix released an additional disc of trailer music, instrumental versions, cut tracks, and variations on themes presented on this PLUS album. Is it worth picking up?

Read our review below. Continue reading Review: LIGHTNING RETURNS:FINAL FANTASY XIII OST PLUS

Review and Unboxing: IMERUAT’s Propelled LIfe

I love IMERUAT. For the uninitiated, IMERUAT is a duo comprised of Masashi Hamauzu and vocalist Mina, who banded together after Hamauzu’s departure from Square Enix upon completing Final Fantasy XIII. The band combines Hamauzu’s signature compositions, heavy with piano and electronic soundscapes, with Mina’s whimsical singing style, and the result is nothing less of superb.

After an incredible debut with Black Ocean in 2012, Propelled Life comes as six-track EP, giving fans a much-needed fix of some IMERUAT goodness. But more about that below. Continue reading Review and Unboxing: IMERUAT’s Propelled LIfe