Imagine my surprise, fans and friends alike, to wake up Tuesday morning, my coffee fresh and my mind groggy, expecting to write this review in continuation of my Final Fantasy series, only to be absolutely bombarded with emails about the announcement of a Final Fantasy 7 remake. Some may say it’s coincidence, some may say divine providence, but I’m a little bit more optimistic, and I would like to say that it’s destiny, so, while you’re waiting for that tiny ounce of perfect to be release, let me enchant you with the sights and sounds of Final Fantasy 7: Voices of the Lifestream.
Final Fantasy: Voices of The Lifestream is a combined total of 45 tracks, spanning the length of four discs! There’s never a dull moment with our boys over at OC ReMix, they produce so much content It’s absolutely awe inspiring. Project director Andrew Aversa (Better known as Zircon), had this to say about this overwhelming collection of musical splendor:
“There is no question that Voices has been a massive undertaking, far beyond what I could have ever imagined. I had anticipated six months – at most – and a mere 20 or 30 mixes. I could not have expected the motivation and enthusiasm of all the remixers who had accepted my invitation, nor could I have expected the countless people asking me to come on board to help complete tracks that no one else had taken. I admit that at first, I was unsure of taking on some remixers who I had never heard of and who had not even been posted on OCR yet. But as it turns out, these individuals have been vital to the project and produced some fantastic arrangements. “ – http://ff7.ocremix.org/about/
I could not have said it better myself, Andrew. To quote one of my favorite musicians of all time, “You took the words right out of my mouth.”
Before we start this, I’d like to say thank you to my readers. I don’t know if you know this, but writing and talking to you guys and gals, and getting to do this as a job, has been a blessing that, I cannot stress enough, is the light of my life. I value each and everyone one of you, along with my colleagues, with an appreciation that makes getting out of bed something I look forward to.
For those who read further, this one’s for you.
We start the whole shebang off appropriate with a barrage of beautiful vocals from the lovely Jillian Aversa in the first track, “Deliverance of the Heart (Heart of Anxiety).” She does a wicked job here, meshing with the calming, electronic tone of the track very nicely, very reminiscent of the talented Anneke Van Giersbergen. Again, we have a nice bit of work with “Every Story Begins with a Name (Opening – Bombing Mission),” the artists absolutely nailing the Opening Theme, only to come up short on the second part, Bombing Mission. Here’s the deal, kids; Music is really fickle, sometimes it’s hit and miss, but one of the most crucial things you must never mess up is the pacing of the original track. The idea here with Bombing Mission is interesting, but the lead parts are muddled under the overly complicated drum track. Everything sounds meshed up and not entirely all there. Another example of this is “(No Such Thing As the Promised Land (Mako Reactor),” there’s too much going on at once, and if you don’t give your individuals parts room to breathe when doing so, you muddy the composition. Still, these tracks were labored on extensively and you should give these artists the respect they deserve. We continue on with “Full Frontal Assault (Let the Battles Begin!),” and I praise the composition and in particular, I love the keys in this very heavy rendition of the Battle theme, however, as always, I have a particular criticism in regards to the rhythm section of guitars. The lead parts are fine, the drum sections also, but the guitars that sit in the background feel like they have too much gain and they’re being pushed out of a little beater amplifier. Speaking of fantastic keyboard work (Or sample work with a keyboard), we have “Nomura Limit (Fight On!),” a very interesting take on the original, but the keyboard work is really good, I certainly suggest giving this a listen if you’re partial to The Black Mages.
Do you remember how I said that sometimes when you don’t give the individual parts room to breathe in a composition, things become muddled? Here’s a good example of what happens when you do a track like that right. “Son of Chaos (Shinra, Inc)” is a very good example of that. Nothing is muddled, and I quite happen to like it considering it’s an electronic track. Kudos to the artist, Xaleph, for banging this one out with style. I know of another artist who bangs out his tracks with style very well, our man Sixto Sounds and his track “Lunatic Moon (Red XIII’s Theme ~ Cosmo Canyon).” Yet again, we’re confronted to the problem of pacing. This track starts out in a hectic race to the finish with blazing guitars, then slows down into something beautiful, then does it yet again. I don’t know what the problem here is exactly, the combination of themes or the combination of pacing. Sometimes two good things go together, but most of the time it doesn’t. You might be thinking that I don’t like this track, well, you would be wrong, as Sixto Sounds really shines in the ending. If you’ve come to expect great things, the ending is where you will find it.
Let’s move on to Disc 2.
This disc didn’t start off the way I thought it would. “Short Skirts (Tifa’s Theme)” is a great track, in fact I think that in certain moments it’s damn near beautiful, but it has the same muddled feel to it as the other tracks did. Our next track however, “Valse Aeris (Flowers Blooming in the Church ~ Aerith’s Theme),” is a beautiful waltz that compared to the original, I thought, would have major pacing problems, as a waltz at this tempo is a tad bit too quick for the original version and it’s cue times to match up and sound well with. Instead, they revamped the track and blasted it with a breeze full of fresh air. Absolutely mesmerizing work by our artist Jeremy Robson. Another to mention in regards to fantastic work is “A Life Without Parole (Desert Wasteland),” a very foreboding piano piece filled with tones of sorrow. Something to really give a listen. Sixto Sounds is up for round two, along with Suzumebachi and Zircon in their track “Scenes from a Memory (On That Day, Five Years Ago).” They have interestingly turned what initially was not a battle theme, into a bloody battle theme! I’m all for it, oddly enough the pacing here really works well. Certainly a listen is needed if this sounds like it’s your cup of tea. Another couple of good examples in regards to stuff that isn’t my cup of tea, and might be yours are “Chasing the Storm (In Search of the Man in Black)” and “Crystal Sermon (The Prelude),” both are great tracks in the electronic department, though they fall very far below on my radar as impressive, with the exception of the string sections and piano sections in Crystal Sermon, they are very impressive. Moving on!
As we roll on through into this disc, we have a very nice rendition of Costa del Sol in “Suco de Melancia (Costa del Sol).” It’s very charming and very pleasant on the ears, with a good bit of keyboard work reminiscent of The Doors. What really shines to me is “Stone Eyes (The Great Warrior),” a excellent piano piece that gives off a feeling of both beauty and sorrow all at once, yet still being so ridiculously complex in places. “Daydreaming Again (Words Drowned by Fireworks)” does this as well, with a very lovely and impressive duet of acoustic guitar work. Oddly enough, this is all that stands out to me on this disc, and that seems to be the common theme with this collection. I’m sadly unimpressed by abundance of Electronic tracks that pace either very weirdly, or at best decently, except for “Alien Exploration (Gold Saucer ~ Cid’s Theme),” which is very charming and very, very well done. Now, I know, I know, there are more tracks to this disc and to some, yes, they would be good tracks, but they don’t stick out as really good tracks and so I am going to, as always, skip over those and highlight only the cream of the crop or the worst of the worst in my opinion, alright? Don’t get so flustered, it does not mean those tracks are at all unworthy inherently; I just don’t think they’re particularly fantastic. Last disc, gents and gals!
You know, artist Pot Hocket really has impressed me, and only in two songs no doubt. That’s a quite a feat, and so is his track “Sleep, My Sephy (Judgment Day),” another beautiful acoustic guitar duet. Speaking of guitar, holy crap, Omnislash (Hurry Up!) blows it out of the water! If you’re partial to progressive metal tracks, this one is for you. I’d be surprised if they didn’t use this for the Final Fantasy 7 remake as part of it’s OST, that’s how much stock I put in this. “Jenova Returns (J‑E-N-O-V‑A ~ Jenova Complete)” and “Black Wing Metamorphosis (One-Winged Angel)” are also both pacing scores that I’m surprised wouldn’t be a part of the remake either, as both have the charm of a Tim Burton score, and the sense of wonder we come to find in Pixar flicks. Good job, you two, I am thoroughly impressed! And, at last, we end on a bit of a sad note, but a beautiful one at that, with the piano piece “The Golden Ivories of Gaia (Medley).” It’s funny, you come to me to tell you what the lay of the land is, in a manner of speaking, but sometimes I’m a little speechless. This one, ladies and gentlemen, you’ll have to enjoy and listen to all on your own to really understand.
And there we have it, in the end there were some tracks that really stood out as something special, but sadly there were a lot of tracks that I just could not appreciate. Now, I wouldn’t avoid this album, heavens no, I encourage you to get it for free on Oc ReMix right now. It’s a free album for crying out loud, and one of surprisingly high quality and a lot of talent, but most of it isn’t my thing. If electronic stuff is your cup of tea, then you’ll be delightfully enchanted, but if it’s not, you’re going to feel like it’s got a lot of filler and just some killer
We’re not done yet! Next Friday I will be here as usual, and “Trigger Warning”: We’ll continue this train of Squaresoft insanity with another fantastic album.
You know the drill, cue the fanfare!