Monthly Soundtrack Reviews - Final Symphony

Soundtrack: Final Symphony
Year: 2015
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu (Arranged by Jonne Valtonen and Roger Wanamo)
Stand Out Track: Final Fantasy VII: Drowned by Fireworks (Part of the Second Movement)
Works Well With: Writing. That's it. Just writing. ALL the writing. 

After the wonder that was this month's Final Symphony II concert, I had to go back and review the first concert's album. Right now, this is still my album of the year. Will anything top it? Hard to say. I've had it since February, and I still feel every emotion when I listen to it. That's how powerful this music is.

Final Symphony is a symphonic arrangement of music from three Final Fantasy games - VI, VII and X. This is the greatest videogame album of all time. For people who've never played the games, you're in for a real orchestral treat because the London Symphony Orchestra are outstanding. For those of us who have played the games, not only will you love these renditions of classics, but you'll keep hearing cues from some of each game's greatest and most popular themes.

This music is perfect for writing with because it takes you through every emotion. It has beauty, tension, greatness, sorrow, loss, and triumph. Every track has something to offer a writer to work with. The thing I love about the Final Symphony albums is how every piece of music contains its own story.
The Final Fantasy VI Symphonic Poem: Born with the Gift of Magic has such an grand opening. I adore how it goes from Terra's Theme, a really beautiful piece of music, to a waltz with Kefka. The character's madness is utterly ingrained in the piece. From those contrasting but magnificent themes we go into a soft, delicate harp section. Slowly, the sense of mystery and wonder takes hold, only for it to build and build into the battle theme. It really encompasses the game's mid-point and quite astonishing plot twist... which I can't spoil here. From there, hints of earlier themes wind around the huge bass and brass notes until the music reaches its explosive peak. With the battle won, the music slowly winds down, reminding us maybe we've lost people on the way to our ultimate victory. Nevertheless, the world is safe again.

Next up is the Final Fantasy X piano concerto. It was arranged by Masashi Hamauzu, one of the soundtrack's composers. It's split into three tracks - Zanarkand, Inori and Kessen. To Zanarkand is put to beautiful use here. Even with the more upbeat tunes surrounding it, the theme's melancholy edge slips out from time to time. In Inori, you'll hear a stunning piano rendition of Hum of the Fayth, underpinned perfectly by the rest of the orchestra. It starts so softly, builds up to quite a jaunty melody, before the orchestra drowns it all out, like we're heading for battle ourselves, leading into the third and final piece, Kessen. This is a combination of the game's more action-packed moments. You might have a chance to catch your breath halfway through before the piece builds to its finale.

The Final Fantasy X section also features an encore performance of Suteki Da Ne (Isn't it Wonderful?). I love how the piano flows through this piece. It's romantic, passionate, and just a tiny bit heartbreaking.

The second half of this album is dedicated to Final Fantasy VII. After the beautiful lightness of the previous piano concertos, Final Fantasy VII's opening movement, Nibelheim Incident, really changes the mood of the album. It's deliciously ominous. Snatches of One Winged Angel taunt us throughout. And just listen to how Bombing Mission is entwined with the game's main theme. Even Jenova comes in on strings. Don't be lulled by the pauses or the diminuendos. The first movement is the game's darkest themes in musical form.

The second movement, Words Drowned in Fireworks is a complete change in tone. Gone is the menacing threat of Sephiroth, Jenova, and Meteor. The opening swell of strings is simply beautiful. It's a magical piece. It's that moment of sunshine amid the chaos and terror. The percussion transitions us from the fireworks to the Main Theme again, blended seamlessly with hints of Aerith's Theme. The strings in this piece are so moving. The cellos and double basses swirl from below the melody, adding such warmth and depth to an already emotive piece of music. We descend to the lowest notes as Aerith's Theme becomes a threat, an attack on the senses, because the world is in terrible danger.

We move into the third movement and the bombastic conclusion. Calm bleeds into the panic thanks to Cosmo Canyon's woodwind and percussion. The string section returns with the soaring Highwind theme. Then we descend into Jenova. It is so epic. And after the battle is done, the music floats through one of my favourite melodies of the game's conclusion. Hope is restored. The music gathers into a triumphant and uplifting finale. And listen as they even sneak the Main Theme in as the drums boom out and the orchestra gives one united crescendo before the music falls away to a tranquil fade.

But wait! There are two more encores. Continue? from Final Fantasy VII  was just the icing on the cake because I finally have an orchestral version of one of my all time videogame favourites, Anxious Heart. I adore it because I find it so soothing, and this rendition is wondrous. Like a hug made out of music.

The final encore - because sadly this album did have to end - Fight, Fight, Fight! is a medley of battle themes from the games. If you have an epic fight to write, this will get you through.

If you love Final Fantasy, or if you're in need of some truly spectacular music to write with, this album is a must own. I really hope you all hear it and love it. It makes me so happy.

Will we get a Final Symphony III? I certainly hope so <3


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