Distant Worlds IV: more music from FINAL FANTASY
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Distant Worlds IV: More Music from Final Fantasy
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Distant Worlds IV boasts one of the strongest track lists of any of our recordings with brilliant new classics from the latest game release FINAL FANTASY XV: APOCALYPSIS NOCTIS and Somnus, new orchestral arrangements from FINAL FANTASY VII: Cosmo Canyon and JENOVA COMPLETE, FINAL FANTASY VIII: The Oath and FINAL FANTASY IX: Festival of the Hunt, and Nobuo Uematsu's FINAL FANTASY XIV: Dragonsong featuring the inimitable voice of Susan Calloway. Recorded in March 2017 at the famed Dvorak Hall of the Rudolfinum in Prague (Czech Republic) and at AWR Music Studio in Chicago (USA), the Distant Worlds Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, under the direction of GRAMMY Award-winning conductor Arnie Roth, delivers the precision and richness that are the hallmark of this monumental series of recordings. Distant Worlds IV is recorded in high resolution at 88.2khz/24bit.
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Will await Distant Worlds V. I'm almost certain they will make another and I am definitely certain I will buy that too!
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With that said, I must say that I thought the 3rd album of DW was a tad disappointing. The tempo on a number of pieces was too slow, the post-production mixing process and layering did not finish well on a number of tracks, and the track selection was my least favorite so far (Not Alone was undoubtedly spectacular, but I didn't care much for Primal Judgement, the HotF/Sending montage, Balance is Restored, Blinded by Light, or Roses of May). When I go back and listen to it, I really only listen to a handful of tracks.
That will not be the case with this 4th entry. I've listened to it twice through so far, and it really is stellar. The mixing and sound quality is the most immediately noticeable improvement, as the sound is truly fantastic. Just as important, however, is the track selection and arrangements, and almost all are stellar. Here goes:
Jenova Complete - FF7. The disc really opens with a bang. I love the choir's participation here providing one of the background melodies that was played by an instrument in the original version. It's very faithful to the original melody, while being its own piece as well. The tempo is blistering, but the orchestra keeps up with it beautifully and it sounds fantastic. One of the disc's highlights for sure.
Battle with the Four Fiends - FF4. I heard this played for the first time at the 25th anniversary concert, and was blown away, as FF4 is among my favorite games in the series (one of the only ones I've played more than once). It's finally been put to disc. This really is a terrific arrangement of this piece, and songs like this is why Distant Worlds is so great - hearing orchestra renditions of songs that were originally hampered by the Nintendo or Super Nintendo's sound output capabilities. This is a fast paced battle theme, with a nice variety of instruments to take the lead, and never lets up until the end.
The Dalmasca Estersand - FF12. Another song from the 25th anniversary tour. This is a nice song that is very faithful to the original from Final Fantasy 12. It plays twice through with some subtle differences between iterations, and is a joy for anyone who enjoyed the 12th game in the series.
Phantom Forest - FF6. Yep, another from that same tour. And that is perfectly fine, because that 25th anniversary tour added a ton of new songs, some of which were on the 3rd album, so there was plenty left to occupy another. This is one of the things that makes Distant Worlds so great, is that there is a near perfect balance of tracks. You start with aggressive battle themes like Jenova and Four Fiends, go to a very peppy overworld theme in Dalmasca, and end up with a haunting, slow-burn track with the Phantom Forest, which is FF6's dungeon theme. There's a good variety in the instrumental takes on this theme throughout the song, and a nice interlude between the loops. I'm a big fan.
The Oath - FF8. This is the most disposable track on the disc for me personally, but please take that with a huge grain of salt. As noted earlier, FF8 is one of the only games I haven't played all the way through, so I never heard this song in context. It seems like a perfectly lovely song, but doesn't have much of an arc, or refrain that it comes back to, so there wasn't much to latch onto from someone who hasn't played the game. FF8 veterans might enjoy this a lot more.
Apocalypsis Noctis - FF15. The newest entry in the series is represented twice on the new album. This is pretty much identical to the version used in the game, and rather lazy if I'm being honest. It plays once through and then ends. Most Distant Worlds arrangements will have an interlude of some kind, and then a repeat with perhaps some different instrumentation, but this song clocks in at a brisk 2 minutes. It's still a very memorable tune, but if you've played FF15 or have it's soundtrack, there's nothing new here.
Festival of the Hunt - FF9. Ah, here we go!I just love the opening with just the trumpets, as I feel it fits the theme of this section of FF9 perfectly. An ominous opening, with the hunt about to commence, trumpets solemnly declaring the battlefield open for the hunt. After this intro, the theme kicks in full force and is very aggressive. Definitely one of the album's highlights, and fantastic for anyone who enjoyed this section of Final Fantasy 9.
Dragonsong - FF14. As mentioned above, I have not partaken in the online Final Fantasies. That said, this is a very lovely song, sung by the absolutely incredible Susan Calloway, who is a regular on the Distant Worlds tour. I am likely in the minority, but I prefer this song to the other FF14 theme "Answers", which has overstayed its welcome for me at this point. Susan's vocals are very powerful on this track, and she is joined roughly halfway through by the choir, and it blends together well perfectly. A great track.
Final Fantasy 5 Main Theme - FF5. This song is the best track on the disc for my money. I was a huge fan of FF5 when I played it, and the soundtrack is among the series' best. This song is another perfect example of a simple catchy melody in the 16 bit days, extended to a beautiful orchestral arrangement in the 21st century. The song goes in a number of surprising directions after playing through the theme once, and I just loved it, as well as the finale. Just a terrific song all around.
Legend of the Eternal Wind - FF3. Finally, Final Fantasy 3 gets some love!! This is an orchestral arrangement of the song that played during the intro movie of the DS version of FF3. Since this intro movie is basically a trailer of sorts, it encompasses a few different songs, most notably the main theme of the game, as well as the water maiden's theme. The main theme of FF3 is among the strongest of any game in the series, and I got chills and misty-eyed hearing it here. I am not a huge fan of the direction this song heads in the second half with the water maiden's theme getting spliced in certain spots, but this is still an outstanding piece.
Cosmo Canyon - FF7. Another stellar offering! Don't get me wrong - I love FF7, but there's only so many times you can hear One Winged Angel, the opening movie Bombing Mission song, and Aerith's theme. I love how this album branched out with this and Jenova Complete. This is a really, really good arrangement of Cosmo Canyon's theme. A very haunting beginning, as the strings join the bass for the intro, leading into the main melody. The various instruments are all used to blend together to create something truly special. Another of the disc's highlights.
Fang's Theme - FF13. I'd put this with Dalmasca Estersand from earlier, in that it's very faithful to the original version from FF13. It's a very enjoyable song and plays twice (well, one and a half) through, though if you have it on the FF13 soundtrack, not much will stick out. You'll probably notice the trend with me by now that I find these tracks almost unnecessary, if they're going to stick so closely to the original, since game music had evolved to orchestra-quality levels by the time we reached FF12 and 13. But don't get me wrong, this is a fine track.
Somnus - FF15. The main menu music from Final Fantasy 15. Really a very nice piece, with a haunting violin solo that is joined by the piano, and later more strings. I always enjoy analyzing each composer's style. FF15 shares its composer, Yoko Shimomura, with the Kingdom Hearts series, and I can't help but feel when listening to this song's mix of strings and piano, that it would be right at home in the KH universe. That is not a knock on the song or the games, as it's a fine song, and a pretty good soundtrack overall.
Torn from the Heavens - FF14. Even having never played FF14, I find this to be an immenely enjoyable battle theme, with it's clever use of the choir, and its various differences when it goes through the second time. I find myself humming this song around the house a fair amount, which only works in its favor. Great song.
Main theme of Final Fantasy - It's amazing that it took 4 albums to get an orchestra version of this! The main theme that was used in no less than 10 Final Fantasies finally gets its own arrangement, and it's just about perfect. It plays twice through, building through it's second act, and culminates in a finale that can bring a tear to your eye. This song closes the main set of every Distant Worlds show now, and for good reason - it's a genuine classic, and this album nails it.
A bit wordy I know, but I needed to say how satisfied I am with this disc, after being a bit let down by the third installment. Of the 15 tracks on the album, when I go to re-listen to this down the road, I will undoubtedly listen to almost every one again, save one or two, which is a testament to the album and track selection's strength, as I only listen to 4 or 5 songs when I go back to listen to Volume 3.
This album is highly recommended if you are a fan of Final Fantasy, video game music, or orchestral scores in general, as there is a tremendous variety of material here, and the sound quality on the disc is fantastic. Get it.
Dragon Song has been out for a while but it's a perfect compliment to the album with Susan Calloway's vocals bringing it home!
Apocolypsis Noctis (XV) and Torn From the Hevens (XIV) are treasures with a powerful pulse of music.
All of the songs are good on this album but I personally LOVE LOVE LOVE this arrangement of Cosmo Canyon from Final Fantasy VII. The strings here bring in an entire new dimension to the song giving it depth that I would never have imagined. I sincerly hope they use this symphonic arrangement in the FF VII remake.