As you may or may not know I have released several thousand albums over the past few years, although I think nobody noticed the last couple. I am here today to let you know I have a new Sefiros album out on the internets called Stop Becoming.
In spring 2007 xbox.com had a little competition where you had to choose between 8 or so different videogame intro sequences and come up with a fitting soundtrack.
My choice fell on Forza Motorsport 2. I've always been a fan of the Ridge Racer videogame series and their great high energy techno/drum 'n' bass soundtracks, so I thought I'd come up with something in similar style.
I'm particularly satisfied with the break in the middle. The cars leave ground in slow motion, music fades away, and then as they touch down... BLAM the music gets back sooo nicely! :-D
The Machinarium soundtrack is an extraordinary work, it has just appeared but it has already become classics. It’s like Peter McConnell’s music from the best games by LucasArts, like Terry Taylor’s immortal projects for The Neverhood and Skullmonkeys, like sound illustrations by Daniel Pemberton for Little Big Planet. The distinctive feature of Machinarium is not just in the fact that with all the variety of music sub-genres these tracks never disharmonize but also in providing a full immersion in the game world – you start to believe irrevocably in a musical world created by Dvorak as a part of a graphic universe of Dvorsky.
Video game music concerts have become a bit of a tradition in Sweden. Stockholm's Konserthuset venue has repeatedly hosted the PLAY! A Video Game Symphony and Distant Worlds - Music from Fantasy concerts, has witnessed the recording of the orchestral Distant Worlds CD, and has welcomed game music celebrities like Nobuo Uematsu, Akira Yamaoka, and Chris Hülsbeck.
On August 4th, this legacy continued. Yoko Shimomura, whose visit to the Swedish capital was part of her first official trip to Europe, joined the ranks of legendary Konserthuset guests; Chris Hülsbeck, a composer who has made a huge impact on the Commodore 64 and Amiga music scene, also arrived in Stockholm the same day. Both composers had good reason to be in Sweden this evening — the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, the Ensemblen & Stockholm Singers, and the famed conductor Arnie Roth joined forces, once again, to play a one-of-a-kind show. Entitled 'Sinfonia Drammatica', this event was created to connect Eastern and Western game music styles together, and promote both genres in a single show. The show's creators decided that presenting Shimomura's and Hülsbeck's creations was the best way to achieve this goal. This proved to be a good decision, as the composers' works play off of each other nicely, and their great fame in the game music world means a built-in audience of interested fans.
Sinfonia Drammatica was an experiment built on the worldwide success of two orchestral game music albums: Drammatica - The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura and Symphonic Shades - Hülsbeck in Concert. Both CDs summed up the decades-long game music careers of Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts, Legend of Mana, Live a Live) and Hülsbeck (Great Giana Sisters, Turrican, Apidya). Their most beloved tracks were reimagined through full orchestral arrangements, recorded by top musicians, and released on these memorial albums. We probably wouldn't have received such high quality compilations if producer Thomas Böcker hadn't infected classically-trained Finnish arranger Jonne Valtonen with a strong passion for game music, and recruited Arnie Roth (aka Maestro Video Game Music), who's always ready for new challenges.
As a result of this collaboration, a large amount of material was written. So when Konserthuset's director Stefan Forsberg suggested a new game music show this year in Sweden, the choice of repertoire was a formality. Open-minded about new arrangements and styles, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra agreed to take this challenge. Arnie Roth reprised his role as musical director, and the project began. Initial information about the concert was released to the media in March, and the concert programme was even published. This setlist was arranged to alternate catchy Western game melodies with atmospheric, magical Japanese game music tracks. Additionally, musicians prepared a surprise encore — a track that had never been performed live in Europe before. Which track was this? Don't worry — you'll find out soon enough!
We (Kamil Rojek and Mariusz Borkowski) arrived in Stockholm as a two person squad, intent on representing the only Polish media outlet — GameMusic.pl. On the day of the concert, the Konserthuset Philharmonic was decorated by sponsors' banners and a big poster that promoted the impending event. Outside the venue's main doors, tracks from the Drammatica and Symphonic Shades albums played through a set of speakers. Inside the building, we found promo leaflets about the evening's special guests (prepared and edited by our colleague Johan Köhn, from spelmusik.net) and poster displays, the same designs as the ones that blanketed the city.
We spent a few hours inside the venue before the concert began, where we conducted a few short interviews with the show's big names — Yoko Shimumora, Chris Hülsbeck, and Arnie Roth. To our pleasure, our subjects found our prepared questions interesting, and drew attention to their uniqueness. Because we had limited time, though, we had to skip many of our questions. However, the artists asked us to send the rest of the questions via email, so that we could create a more complete chat transcript for GameMusic.pl. After three interesting and congenial meetings, we joined the crowd that was forming in front of the Konserthuset. We then entered the lobby, where we gathered and waited for the concert hall's doors to open. Any fan waiting here had the opportunity to purchase Drammatica, Symphonic Shades, or Distant Worlds at a very affordable price of 150 SEK.
Finally, the door to the concert hall was unlocked and opened, and the public — hungry for musical rapture — poured inside. The ravenous fans filled the venue, taking all of the seats, in only a couple of minutes. In the meantime, Yoko Shimomura, Chris Hülsbeck, Thomas Böcker, and Mrs. Böcker sneaked inside, unnoticed, and took their seats in the center of the room. The orchestra and choir then walked onto the stage. Stefan Forsberg followed, and announced maestro Arnie Roth. After this activity, the first part of the concert began. From time to time, between the suites, Arnie exhorted the audience for applause to honour the special guests.
During the first half of the show, Roth conducted eight arrangements. These performances, due to the vibrancy of the instruments, invoked a full array of colors, spreading throughout the sumptuous hall of the Swedish Philharmony. The orchestra put a great deal of effort into performing the X-Out and Gem'X suites as similarly to the Symphonic Shades recordings as possible. X-Out featured the familiar ambient sounds inspired by submarines, while Gem'X's minimalist arrangement was truly captivating. "The Other Promise," from Kingdom Hearts, was another remarkable arrangement, as Stefan Lindrgen's subtle grand piano melodies skillfully built a nostalgic fantasy vibe. However, the strongest point of the concert's first half was definitely the dynamic "Colored Earth," from the Legend of Mana soundtrack. The whole orchestra, especially Joakim Svenheden — who played the first violin — did all they could do to make this theme memorable, especially for Yoko Shimomura fans. Even Yoko herself seemed to be satisfied with such an expressive and rousing performance of her work.
After the 15 minute intermission, it was time for the second part of the concert. The show's last half was packed with the evening's most famous melodies. It's hard to find the right words to express the feelings that The Great Giana Sisters evokes in a Commodore 64 player. 16 years ago, I played this title constantly, even mastering it to the point where I could finish the entire game without losing a single 'life'. Back then, I never would've imagined that I would someday listen to its music at a professional concert, and hear the tunes played by a full orchestra. The game itself was unremarkable — just another Super Mario Bros clone — but the soundtrack was the game's true attraction. Today, not only was I able to witness the revival of this great melody, but I had been able to speak with its creator Chris Hülsbeck before the show.
Another strong point of the concert, the regal "Destati", was full of spectacular choral renditions by the Ensemblen & Stockholm Singers. After this track, the first notes of "Hometown Domina" resounded. The pieces composed as background music for J-RPG game locations are usually relaxing tunes, and those meant to accompany the exploration of a character's homeland often have particularly soothing undertones. The performance of "Hometown Domina" painted a colorful picture of the Legend of Mana homeworld in listeners' minds, and the feeling of carefreeness and safety seemed to hang in the air. Suddenly, I realized there was only one track left in the concert. It was the renderings of the main theme for Turrican II The Final Fight, a piano concertino spanning almost 10 minutes. Stefan Lindrgen fully demonstrated his virtuosity, faultlessly performing the track's numerous piano segments. But the final showdown was yet to come...
The standing ovations seemed to be endless. After a few minutes of applause, Arnie Roth came back on the stage and announced an encore, stressing that it would definitely be the last theme of the evening. He then said he had always wanted to conduct an orchestra in performing "Fantasia alla Marcia for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra," a piece known simply as "Fantasia". This medley, which combines the most significant tracks from Kingdom Hearts series, fit into the Sinfonia Drammatica's musical frame well, and its strong melodic character summed up the entire video game music evening in Konserthuset Hall. Soon after this last track ended, Yoko Shimomura and Chris Hülsbeck appeared onstage and received a bouquet of flowers, while the audience continued applauding. They left the stage, but a couple of minutes later, they were forced to reemerge — this large group of video game music fans were not going to leave the building without seeing more than a fleeting glimpse of the composers!
When both composers finally disappeared behind curtains, and the lights switched off, some concert attendees purchased tickets for the post-show meet and greet event, while the rest left the venue in a sparkling mood. It was well after 10 PM, so we headed toward the exit as well. While leaving the venue, we received leaflets inviting us to the upcoming Symphonic Fantasies show, scheduled for September 12th in Cologne. This show is slated to be the biggest video game music fest in Europe ever. We'll definitely attend and review the event, simultaneously at SEMO and GameMusic.pl.
Videos and images published with the permission of Thomas Böcker. Special thanks to Ronnie Schmidt for all his priceless help that led to our trip to Stockholm.
The intro to this article can be found here while the text itself has been published here.
I've got a pretty strong recommendation for all of those familiar with The Black Mages' and Hellion Sounds' music, as well as those who are simply Nobuo Uematsu fans (and artists similar to him, like: Hitoshi Sakimoto, Yasunori Mitsuda, Masaharu Iwata etc.). The “Final Fantasy Heavy Metal Arrange”, downloadable below, is a medley of heavy metal / hard rock covers of music from the Final Fantasy video games . I know nothing about the SHΛDE group who recorded that longplay, but it sounds plain awesome.
-Album Details- Title: Final Fantasy Heavy Metal Arrange Album ~ GUARVAIL Title in JP: ///略 Catalog Number: RYTH-0007 Publisher: best of shape Release Date: 2007.04.01 Composition: Nobuo Uematsu (植松伸夫) Arrangement: SHΛDE
1. FF 8 - The Legendary Beast 2. FF 8 - The Extreme 3. FF 5 - Clash on the Big Bridge 4. FF 3 - Opening Theme 5. FF 2 - Battle Scene A 6. FF 6 - Decisive Battle 7. FF 7 - The Birth of God 8. FF 6 - Dancing Mad - 1st movement 9. FF 6 - Dancing Mad - 2nd movement 10. FF 6 - Dancing Mad - 3rd movement 11. FF 6 - Dancing Mad - 4th movement 12. FF 4 - Red Wings 13. FF 6 - Tina's Theme
"The Legendary Beast" is the 7th track from the 4th CD of Final Fantasy 8 OST. Originally a 5 minute piece, here it's been truncated and rearranged into a 1 minute intro. Now it's much more dark and pompus, mainly because a choir is introduced.
"The Extreme" is another FF8 song from the 4th OST CD, where it is listed as 9th on the tracklist. Compared to the original track, the sound lifting is extremely evident. As a result of the faster tempo, more prominent drums, and guitar-paralleling keyboards, the song becomes far more heavy and electronic. And listen to that piano theme being played through the whole track. Nice rev up.
“Clash on the Big Bridge” (also known as “Battle with Gilgamesh”) was originally released on Final Fantasy 5 OST (2nd disc, 3rd track). Other bands (like The Black Mages or Hellion Sounds) have also found that track interesting and worthy of covering. But compare The Black Mages’ version of “Clash on the Big Bridge” (on their 1st album) or Hellion Sounds’ “Big Bridge no Shitou” (from “The Sentence of Death” LP) to SHΛDE’s arrangement. This is not just another cover - at last, the track is infused with heavy clear guitar riffs.
Final Fantasy 3 was developed and published in 1990 for the 8-bit NES console, so the original “Opening Theme” (5th song on the soundtrack) sounds pretty archaic. It’s a standard track which was released on almost every further FF soundtrack (the title was changed many times, simply to “Final Fantasy” or “Loop Demo”). Anyway, this is definitely one of the best covers on the album, featuring a brisk tempo, harp-like sounds and acoustic guitar.
“Battle Scene A” is surely the oldest track covered on the album, as it premiered in 1988 with Final Fantasy 2 :o It was originally composed by Tsuyoshi Sekito – now a member of The Black Mages band. SHΛDE’s interpretaion of the song sounds rather progressive and far more dynamic than the original release, and is an absolute must-listen after hearing the FF 1 & 2 Origin OST (specifically, the 26th track on the 2nd CD).
Final Fantasy 6’s “Decisive Battle” is one of the most famous Uematsu tracks. So once again, it can be found on both: The Black Mages’ and Hellion Sounds’ albums; however, this time I recommend their renditions instead. SHΛDE’s version appears to be the way too chaotic at times and the refrain seems to be out of tune – an intentional act, but it didn’t convince me. If you wanna compare those covers to the original, dust off your FF 6 OST and launch the 24th track.
When Nobuo Uematsu was asked to point out his most successful albums, he mentioned FF IX and FF VI. Although fans rarely rank these works among their favorites, FF VII OST is obviously his most recognizable soundtrack - simply check Nobuo Uematsu’s last.fm profile. The top 3 played tracks are all from FF VII and FF VIII. However, track number 7 - “The Birth of God” on the Heavy Metal Arrange Album (placed 15th on 4th CD of FF VII OST) - is not even in the top 50 on last.fm. It simply isn’t unique in any way. But although the track itself may be average, its cover is decent, and any album of rearranged FF music without a FF VII theme would be kinda crippled :>
I’ve never been fond of “Dancing Mad” (14th track from FF VI OST’s 3rd CD). I haven’t played that game yet, so I have no idea where Uematsu put such a long instrumental (lasting 18 minutes) in the game. SHΛDE’s musicians simply split it into 4 pieces, which turns out to be the best solution. The result is good enough to own The Black Mages’ cover of the track. Now we can hear organs mixed with a shy rock guitar, enriched with violin melodies. The 3rd movement literally touches the soul, while part 4 strikes with enormous impact. However, I didn’t find the first 2 parts particularly compelling.
Thanks to SHΛDE, I encountered “Red Wings” – FF IV OST, 2nd track – for the first time ever. The combination of trumpets, heavy guitar riffs, violin and female vocals is fabulous. And all in just 2 and a half minutes. Looks like another remarkable piece of music, highly recommended for Uematsu enthusiasts.
Finally, the last track on the album! My 2nd favorite track on the CD (after “Opening Theme” from FF 3) “Tina’s Theme” is the 1st track on the 2nd album of FF 6 OST. It contains some ambient noises (like sea waves), catchy guitar riffs, ripped solos, piano interludes and some other keyboard tunes which definately build a calm, fantasy vibe around the song.
In conclusion, I strongly recommend this album for all the FF music freaks that have a liking for tracks heavier than traditional video game music or its remixes. As there is currently a lack of such releases on the market, this LP is a must-have for everyone who is familiar with Nobuo Uematsu’s creative activity.
Additional info: All credits go to rpgmm (the ripper) and pavel-kun (for this recommendation). Remember to retag those mp3s correctly. Notify me if you find any internet shops offering that album, so I can import it. There's nothing better than the original release.