Chrono Trigger is a game that is etched in RPG legend. A race across the fringes of time itself; with catastrophe and calamity, magic and technology, all swirling and cascading around the singular question: “What can change the nature of a Nu?”
Wait, sorry! Wrong one!
“Can you defy destiny?”
Defy destiny, you say? Lord, I couldn’t defy my urge to drink four pots of coffee, let alone destiny. That aside, this album defies all preconceptions I ever had of it. When I heard of this album I thought, “Dear lord, this is going to be one of those 400 artist, seventy disc things, isn’t it?” I mean, it’s an orchestral album, for crying out loud. You can’t skimp on that. But imagine my surprise when I found out that 15 people — mind the word — orchestrated this monstrosity! Now if that’s not impressive, I don’t know what it is. Many more have done less — or worse — in a single album, so it’s safe to say that we have an all-star cast on our hands. More surprisingly, it’s only two discs. But as they say, quality over quantity. Let’s dig into some of the highlights, shall we?
This disc starts in spectacular fashion with the opening track “Inciting Incident.” I have heard the intro to Chrono Trigger done many ways, but this has to be one of my favorites. The way the track just easily glides into the powerful blows of the strings and the percussion makes my head spin, it’s handled with such grace. Speaking of grace, there is no better track to emphasize this than “Morning Sunlight.” I’m at a loss, this track is really beautiful.
One of the best tracks on the disc happens to be the last one, “Door to the End of Time,” one that surprisingly paces well, despite having very subtle, beautiful parts that slow down and other parts that are bombastic and fast. This album is a great example of someone getting this right because the transitions between those two contrasting factors are almost always perfect here. The key changes, the build up, the easing into and out of tracks is really important with all music (Unless you’re into spastic nonsensical stuff) and it is especially important with orchestral pieces. This album is very fluid, even in pieces that take small liberties with the original composition, like “Blue Skies Over Guardia.” There’s very little change besides changing the timing with some of the notes, but my oh my, do they ever get this right. The piano and brass sections here light this thing up. The next track, “Frog’s Intervention,” is slightly different however. While the introduction is spastic and alarming, the second half is a work of beauty. It’s a beautiful callback to nostalgia that builds into a heroic theme of legends which, I would like to believe, extends into the score “The Masamune,” doing it a lovely bit of justice, both appropriately complimenting each other.
“To Lands Unknown” is another track that’s quite powerful, while also remaining quiet in the places it needs to be. It almost reminds me of a mixture of the overworld theme for Terranigma’s Dark World, while also being influenced with a slight bit of devilish mischievery only our friend Kefka could pull off.
Now, before we end Disc 1, I’d like to mention two songs of unparalleled skill and beauty. “Denadoro Climb” and “Darkness Dueling.” “Denadoro Climb” is a beautiful piece of work that should be included in any and all Chrono Trigger reiterations or remakes. It’s so charming and peaceful that it’s given high praise above it’s original. This single song stands on it’s own as a piece, and I think there’s something to be said for that.
“Darkness Dueling” is a pacing piece that features some very impressive piano work that ultimately compliments everything else. Now, complication can sometimes, to the untrained, muddle a track up and become overbearing to the listener; not with this. It’s timing is perfect, it’s complexity is sensitive and placed where it needs to be — instead of being everywhere and all over the place like an 80’s Thrash Metal guitarist.
What is it with this album and it’s awesome introductions? “Manifest Destiny” is the first track here and it pulls no punches. It’s a beautiful little diddy that leads with strings, which in turn complements the rest of the instrumental rather nicely, but it seems as if the composer here didn’t exactly know what to do with the ending, as it comes to a very short slow down and then abruptly stops. It’s a tad bit of an oddity, but it can be overlooked with the overall quality with the track. We continue on to “The Chrono Trigger,” which is one of the more melancholy pieces on the album. As the song advances, it becoming slightly menacing, then flourishing into what seems to be a peaceful resolution. It’s really a beautiful track, much in the same way “The New Beginning” is a racing piece that takes its time to be calming and sometimes sounding like the track is imperilling the listener with menacing tones — another nod, yet again, to this album and it’s ability to pull that off really well with transitions. Other pieces that do really well on this disc are “To Lands Unknown,” “The Last Stand” and “A Parting of Ways.”
Now, those three songs do deserve a paragraph of their own, right?
Wrong, but not in the way you think. See, this album does all the right things, and it’s hard for me to repeat myself over and over. I won’t fill up an article by reiterating too much, that’s not very fair to you. Those three tracks do everything I’ve already said any other track has done, I just don’t like to repeat myself.
All in all, this album is a stroke of genius. Often it shows that not only does this album belong in your collection, it belongs in the an actual remake of Chrono Trigger, without question. My hat goes off to the project lead Andrew Lee Triplett and everybody involved, and that….is not something I do quite often.
Join me this Saturday where I interview Canadian headbangers Killborn, where we talk about their new E.P, their upcoming winter tour, and of course….video games. Tah Tah!