Today’s topic of discussion is originality. We all love covers (unless you’re a cave troll who can’t comprehend what a cover is), in metal there is a pretty high level of saturation. Who doesn’t love Dissection’s cover of “Elisabeth Bathory,” SunnO))))’s version of “For Whom the Bells Toll,” or 1349’s cover of “Buried in Time and Dust”? Covers are a natural part of a band’s progression. They start out making covers and, if their fortune holds, their songs are turned into covers. But how important are covers? I’ve heard arguments that they are no better than the musical equivalent of fanfiction, that they stifle and kill creativity, and that they steal from the original artists. I’m in favor of covers, personally, but seeing as I could barely play “House of the Rising Sun” to save my life I don’t think my opinion holds a ton of weight here. I think that they are tributes to inspiration and they can help a band discover and refine their own sound. But where should the line be drawn? I found a band that I have absolutely loved a few months ago and have been wrestling with what and how to write a review of their latest album. Knights of the Round released “Fate’s Delusion” in 2015, their music is a reimagining of music found in the Final Fantasy RPG franchise.
I remember actively searching for a band or artist that made metal versions of the songs off and on for a few years (I personally think Final Fantasy 6 was the best all time in terms of story and music) and I found Knights of the Round, named after one of the most popular summoned monsters in the entire decade spanning franchise. Their music is quite literally exactly what I hoped it would be, metal versions of the classic video game music of the franchise. The metal itself is a curious blend of power, doom, djent, and death but I’ll get to that later (hint I really enjoyed it despite not being a fan of djent). My question would be “Is the music really original?”
In my opinion, as a listener-observer, I would say yes, the music, though composed by someone else, is original in this case because the original music is classical (with lots of synth influences) and the music of Knights of the Round is very rock based, using guitars, bass, drums, and keyboard rather than an entire orchestra. The music, while bearing a heavy resemblance to the original pieces they are meant to emulate, has a very distinct sound and progression. In a way, I think I can say it’s similar to SunnO))))’s version of For Whom the Bells Toll when they used the music as a template and instead of copying Metallica, they made it their own. Knights of the Round are no SunnO)))) of course but that does not mean that they are doing something very similar. Each track acknowledges the particular song that inspired it (and while over 15 games to choose from that’s a lot of options) while having a separate and original name. I think it toes the line but I also think the band has some very creative musicians in its fold.
I’m not a djent fan, it’s a weird fusion genre of death, thrash, and core music that simply doesn’t appeal to my ears. I don’t hate it or mock the people that do it’s just not my style. I’m sure there are some interesting projects under that umbrella and maybe one day my tastes will change but for now I think Knights of the Round are going to be the only band that I enjoy that plays it. And it’s not just djent that they play, I hear a lot of Dragonforce and Nightwish (a personal favorite of mine) influences with some very (I mean very) audible bass lines that I normally only hear in brutal death metal bands. There are no vocals, which I highly approve of because the music is able to speak for itself, the original music didn’t have vocals (save for a few that were sort of suspect to begin with). When a metal album has no vocals the music must be more vibrant, each riff and melody have to be stronger because they can’t just create a rhythm for the vocals to rest on. The music is the only focal point, no vocal juxtaposition or counterpoint to play off of. Knights of the Round are able to pull it off. Each song has a very familiar, in some cases nostalgic, feel to them but at the same time the musicians maintain a level of creativity and originality that make the songs fresh and new as well. You have to listen closes to them but you can hear the core melody that drives the songs and you can recognize it.
When I first found Knights of the Round I was tempted just to listen to their versions of the Final Fantasy 6 material. Thankfully I reconsidered by the time I actually started playing it and listened to the whole thing. I would encourage everyone else to do the same here. We all have favorite games, if you don’t you’re probably lying to yourself or you simply don’t give a rat’s ass about any of this in the first place (to which I would ask why are you still reading this), but because of the wealth of material when it comes to Final Fantasy our personal favorites might be few and far between. Listen to the whole thing, then find the original versions of the songs played on Fate’s Delusion. Compare them, enjoy them, learn from them, expand your musical mind!
Artist vision is a complicated, funny animal, that being said Fate’s Delusion is a fun, fast ride through your childhood favorites all the way up to your current obsession (Final Fantasy XV was released just a few days ago as of this review). It not only proves that you can make a metal version of just about anything, but that if you have the talent and the manpower you can make a good metal version of anything.
Some may hate it; some may love it. It’s not an album that’s for everyone, it appeals to a niche crowd (within a niche crowd) but to those who do find it and understand the concept will surely enjoy it. I certainly did so I highly recommend this album.
Listen and support!