Never a series to go for the subtle approach, Final Fantasy’s music has a life of its own and shines in the hands of the Distant Worlds team. I’ll be seeing them in November, and with this the fourth volume of tracks, we continue to see the anthems and battle cries brought to life.
Opening with the superb “Jenova Complete”, the choir and orchestra are at full beam. the track feels faster and grander that the original and the synth pulses are replaced with brass bursts instead. At times it feels like the track is slightly too fast for its own good but the middle section allows the unfurling of the finale to breathe and then explode into your ears. “Battle with the Four Fiends” is an excellent re-imagining of the Final Fantasy IV track and to hear the (in my opinion) Spanish flair given the full orchestral treatment makes this version of favourite to date. Being the fourth instalment, it’s nice to see some more interesting arrangements popping out – one of them being “The Dalmasca Estersand” which is one of my favourite pieces from Final Fantasy XII. It has always made me think of Star Wars and this flamboyant and rich arrangement continues that nod.
“Phantom Forest” is an interesting track to be arranged into a slow waltzing ballad. The piano version I believe has more evil in its character, but this has a royal beauty to it and feels like a cold kiss. The harp being placed in the centre of the arrangement is key. “The Oath” on the other hand is all about the brass with its regal flair and militant overtones as it reaches for its euphoric finale. It’s never quite been in my top tracks from the series, but this version is beautiful. “Apocalypsis Noctis” is the shortest track and its galloping rhythm lets the choir shine and the pace feels like a Cowboy showdown piece. It’s lovely to see the newer games in the franchise being included and still feeling like they stand their ground too.
“Festival of the Hunt” is one of my all time favourite battle tracks and this version gives it a kooky twist. It’s restrained at times verses give it an off kilter edge but the sinister edge to the track grows over each transition. Breaking the battle tracks is “Dragonsong” – a lovely ballad expertly sung from Susan Calloway who has epic Final Fantasy XIV ballads her own. Whilst its not the most immediately catchy, it’s sincere and elegant – and grows upon each listen. Elegant is also how I’d describe the middle of “Main Theme From Final Fantasy V” as the strings sweep across your ears and drown out the sailing chug of the background strings. It’s a rich and empowered arrangement and stands out too.
“Zephr Memories – Legend of the Eternal Wind” is one of the few slower tracks on this album, but even then it swells and bellows out its finale. However, its’ the quieter moments that work the best where the harp gently taps out those arpeggios, or the woodwind reflect on a passage. The daring arrangement of this album goes to “Cosmo Canyon” as it converts a desert march into a big orchestral piece. It has a wonderful timbre to it that straddles North American and Asian influences and the track really feels like a new piece altogether. It’s this kind of daring and creative re-imagining that I long for – and this hits it on the head. Another excellent piece is “Fang’s Theme” where militant drums, rich piano and soaring strings and brass collide to create a magical fanfare. Whilst its very close to its source material, it’s create to hear the ebb and flow fleshed out into a single piece. “Somnus” is an instrumental version of the vocal track and works nicely as a jazzy interplay between pianist and orchestra before “Torn from the Heavens” returns to the drama of battle that expect for a rousing finale that’s neatly tied off with the Final Fantasy theme.
It’s huge, bombastic, full of life and grandeur. Whilst it’s not as daring or original as the piano collections, each arrangement strives to rip emotion out of you and they all succeed. Distant Worlds continues to succeed in providing high quality orchestral arrangements and long may it continue. I hope that the future holds some really obscure arrangements in future though.
Recommended Track : Battle with the Four Fiends