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OCRemix – “FF4 Echoes of Betrayal, Light of Redemption” Album Review

overclockedremixOverClocked Remix is something of a stamp of quality assurance. The community that continues to grow from strength to strength has been embraced by music and game lovers alike for its sublime remixing skills. “FF4 Echoes of Betrayal, Light of Redemption” is the latest project which has spanned over thirty remixers and three discs of music.

Disc 1 is entitled “Act I Betrayal” and opens with “Full of Courage” by Nutritious as a rousing opening track. Both regal and militant, this track seeps with pride and the arrangement breathes 21st Century life into the original “Red Wing”. “The Might of Baron” from audio fidelity takes it to the stadium rock level with a great marching boots samples and a great vein of tension that is given a real pay off with its interesting use of different instrumentation to make a fantastic track.

AeroZ’s “Overture~Tellah’s Prophecy” is an electronica medley that crafts many of the signature themes into a great heavy bass orientated track with seamless transitions. “Journey to Solace” from Avaris is eerie as it is compellingly beautiful. The song continues to move and shape shift into a more dramatic piece but its the quieter moments that make this track more effective. “Ana(pro)logue” from Another Soundscape has a retro/new age feel to it taking an older synth sound, cleaning it up and then turning it into summer breeze party track. The change of pace and tone is very welcome and its unabashed joy is infectious.

“The Flying Machine” by John Revoredo has some of the most realistic samples I’ve heard in a free remix soundtrack. It’s an orchestral arrangement of the Main Theme and could possibly be my most favourite arrangement of it to date. In contrast, Mazedude’s “Welcome to Our Town” has gone for the low-fi route and it works. The gently blips and burps give it a relaxing potion feel that’s quite unique like an alien symphony.

Cyril the Wolf’s interpretation of Rydia is well gauged. Using an acoustic guitar and then building on it into a nice jazzy band, “Emerald Beauty” is the first band version of the theme that actually sounds right and that’s a tribute to the arranger for knowing exactly where to go with it. “RDX Necklace” by Children of the Monkey Machine and audio fidelity has a long ambient build up while the main tune (Ring of Bomb) is only barely heard in the background. It’s an interesting concept but as it builds up and up it only really comes to life in the final minute and you’ve already had three minutes of distorted guitars. However on repeated listens you do begin to appreciate it more and spot the subtle changes going on behind the mask of noise.

Tweek’s “Of Fiend and Man” is a real rock out of titanic proportions. Like a neo gothic finale, this is an absolute stonker of a track. Followed by a nice brass arrangement by DragonAvenger, “Interlude-Yay!” makes winning worth while! “The Skies Hold No Angels For Us” from Level 99 and audio fidelity follows as an excellent track. Starting off as a full on rock track the arrangement is spot on and then suddenly in the middle is a piano solo segment. Of course its back to manic guitar solos again for a bit but the different segments of this track make it one of the most accomplished arrangements as it completely transforms the track into an original.

The collaboration of Adadoss and James GeorgeĀ  give us “Edward’s Dream Quartet”, a seven minute string quartet arrangement of Melody of Lute. The arrangement is elegantly done and the sound of turning pages is a great little touch. Who knew there were so many ways to play the song! “Golbez ‘n Goblins” from bLiNd is a dance floor filler. I love the cross over of what should be an orchestral track being given high heels and a disco ball and these kind of dark wave dance tracks always get me going and this is top notch. The final track from disc 1 is “Fighting for Tomorrow” OA, Nutritious and The Fabul Men’s Choir. This is a stunning track for its otherwordly feel. It reminded me of bands such as Faun, Omnia and such at the beginning with a harsh choir. Then out pops all the electronic gizmo’s for a riot and when the vocals kick back in again its simply one of the best things I’ve heard in 2009.

overclockedremixlogo2Disc 2 is “Act 2 Strife”. AeroZ kicks things off with “Mystic Variations”, an early 90’s throwback to electro jazz beat and works well as quirky happy-go-lucky introduction. Cyril the Wolf and OA’s “Metal Mage” is possibly the most deranged version of Palom and Porom and is all the more fun and silly for it. Heavy Metal with over the top voice acting? Yes please! In contrast “Smiling Hilltop for Four Hands” from Long Dao is a nice piano led track. The arrangement is great and isn’t hindered much by the poor midi sound quality at all (which says a lot!). “Step Into the Light” from Nutritious is spacious and airy. It’s large scope is portrayed well and its reverb really gives it an extra layer.

The Prophet of Mephisto’s “Long Time Gone” is a sublime arrangement that’s full of life and soul. Adding the electric guitars onto what is a lazy but fast tempo track is a great mash-up and works perfectly. “Rhymes with Elixer” from The Scuba Divers featuring Liontamer takes the Chocobo theme and turns it into a rap track. Liontamer can definitely MC well and the female chorus line is absolutely hilarious “Chocobo-Chocobo you’re so fine, you’ve got more bling than all of those guys!” Cue mental images of a pimped up Chocobo… Normally I’m not into these kind of remixes as they can be really hit and miss but this is so tongue in cheek over a really dark angsty arrangement it just makes you smile without realising. DragonAvenger returns with a short but sweet brass arrangement of Big Chocobo entitled “Interlude~ Nom!”

Nathan Rich’s “Blue Planet in Mode 7” is a really nice transitional track. From its intricate quiet sections to its bouncy bridges and big chorus’ the track is always on the move and is a fabulous arrangement. “Goodbye Cid…” from Wiesty, audio fidelity, OA is a come down track. It’s acoustic edge and space bar synth that leads the theme wistfully floats around you until the half way mark where things turn more electric. This is another great example of track and arrangement evolution. Ilp0’s “Almost Fell for the Trojan” is another ballad track that’s been given the band treatment and this one waltzes bitter-sweetly into the horizon with another beautiful arrangment.

“Somewhere to Hide” from Hy Bound and Loka Lafevre is a heavy dance floor track and doesn’t do subtle. It’s pounding beats and embellishments make this track, along with the great vocals. AeroZ’s “Fallen Dragoon” has a very short sombre section before turning the arrangement into a Sonic level music track which is great as its not where I’d have thought the track would go. “Fallen Ascent” (got to love some of these arrangement titles) from Children of the Monkey Machine follows the same pattern as his previous arrangement – a lot of noise and ambience while the theme swirls around just out of general ear shot. These tracks will be either loved or hated but this track is more accessible than the previous one. Audix’s “Survival Instinct” starts off like a girl-band song but then goes trance’d and never looks back. A faultless arrangement.

Cyril the Wolf’s “OMFG! GET OUT OF THERE!!!” wins best track title award while keeping tension as high as possible with a clever arrangement. Rozovian’s “Lacrima” is an ethereal piece with lots of tuned glasses and the slow gradual change into a more electric track bring implemented well. I think this will be a hidden gem many will uncover after a few listens. The final track of disc 2 is “Theme of Love for Guitar Duet” frmo Pot Hocket which is tender, beautiful, emotive and all kinds of wonderful. So far being the only real ballad of the arrangement it wins you over hands down and instantly became my favourite Theme of Love arrangement.

The final disc is entitled “Act 3 Redemption”. Long Dao starts off with “Tundra of Dwarves” and uses his piano expertise to make a cute wintry track with some nice string sections. Ilp0’s “In the Land of Dwarves” is a smokey jazz turned humorous four piece band take of Giott. The electric guitars work really well here., as do the brass to convey a silly its-all-gone-wrong tone. bLiNd’s “Path of Deception” seals the arrangers pedigree as a damn fine dance arranger. Again this is one of those dark wave techno trance arrangements that I think just works perfectly.

“Treason” from Kidd Cabbage is heavy metal to the point of thrash metal taking over. The tempo of the track is so fast the percussion alone has about 10 beats a second at times! The arrangement is a good one and will go down well with Black Mage fans who are looking for more evil. “Evoking the Dawn” from BogusRed is a gorgeous and sumptuous version of Prelude which speeds up the process and is more grande than the piano collection versions. There aren’t many quiet tracks on this arrangement but each one is worth its weight in gold. Vampire Hunter Dan’s “A Saviour Ascends” is an interesting track that spans all kinds of moods and genres in its seven minutes. From chirpy to dramatic and back again, the variety and constant tempo changes really make this symphonic suite come alive.

James George’s “The Land Still” is a space odyssey and its strength lies in its ambience and little flairs that float around in the background. It’s anti dramatic nature (apart from it ending) makes it more daunting in the run. “Bridge to Eternity” from bLiNd is another boogie woogie fest dark Ibiza style and rounds off an excellent trilogy from the talented arranger.

“Finale Part One ~Eminence Gris” from OA and DragonAvenger takes the unusual approach of making a tense atmospheric track and turning it into a vocal one and surprisingly it really works. The vocals are suitably haunting and coupled with the discordant piano and dramatic percussion it all hits the right spots for a great piece. “Finale Part 2 ~ Genesis of Destruction” is a mega arrangement from audio fidelity, Nutritious, OA, lisabela and Cyril the Wolf and continues the final battle vocal track approach. The vocals are bigger and more dramatic to match the music here. It’s a bizarre duet between a female singing like Sarah Brightman had joined Metalica and a male who is busy feasting on people and making death metal! However as strange as it sounds it works – absolutely 100 per cent works. It’s artistic arrangements like these that really show exactly how far game music and its followers and arrangers have come in the last fifteen years.

“Facing” from Fishy is a great arrangement of the Epilogue and goes from nice ambient swirls to full on electro-rock that Team Sonic would be gagging for. Finally “King of Green” is a bossa nova rendition of Rydia from Abadoss, audio fidelity, bustatunez and theultravisitor. It works a treat and feels like the credits are rolling in front of your ears.

There’s also a selection of bonus tracks but I’ll leave that for you to discover!

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Quite simply, this collection is fantastic. Most of us know the tracks, many of us will be amazed at the arrangements. There is a lot of rock and guitar but there’s enough dance and the occasional slow track to keep everyone happy and just as I said about Summoning of Spirits back in March – how can something this good be free? Life may not be great on Planet Earth at the moment but OverClocked Remix once again shows us that sometimes the best things in life really are free!

FF4 Echoes of Betrayal, Light of Redemption is available to download Saturday (the 18th) and we will have interviews with the arrangers and project leaders all next week as part of the celebration!

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