The music of the Final Fantasy series has been, and will continue to be, a favorite of mine. I grew up playing the early SNES games day after day after day; I think it’s fair to say my brother and I lived and breathed Final Fantasy for a long time. Last year I found, and wrote about, the band Knight of the Round, the instrumental groove metal band that performs songs inspired by the series that I loved so much. Right after I wrote a review for Fate’s Delusion the band released an EP based on the music from Final Fantasy Ten. I immediately threw them back on the list, eager to get at the new album despite the fact that I had never actually played that particular game. I did my research into the game and recalled watching my brother play the game (I’m a master at the SNES games but the newer ones have become more fun to watch). I listened to the music of Knight of the Round against the original Nobuo Uemetsu, intent on analyzing Sin by compare and contrast, but after doing so I came up with a lot more than something so simple.
The reason I loved Uemetsu’s original soundtracks so much is the emotional background he puts into each song. The music is synthy, yet organic and symphonic. What Knight of the Round is able to do with the music is nothing short of brilliant. They are not merely performing a cover; they are essentially recreating the entire song to fit their image while making sure it maintains the same emotional impact that its creator gave it. It’s no easy task but it’s what Knight of the Round has been doing for years. Sin is different though. Sin is a short, four song EP that focuses solely on Final Fantasy X (one of the better storylines in recent yours in my opinion) rather than on a random selection of songs. Sin is a dramatic retelling of the story but it adds more to the story. We know that we can tell stories with music and the story that Nobuo Uemetsu tells with his orchestral synth masterpiece tells a beautiful and tragic story. How can Knight of the Round top that? The answer is simply they can’t. They know this, so they doing even try to be better than the original. Instead they try to tell the same story with new twists, exploring new avenues of storytelling to make it their own.
I would say they succeeded in the short amount of time they had. Recreating the entire story (over three albums worth of music, mind you) would have been foolish and damn near impossible. Again, they knew this and so they went for the songs they could use to tell the most complete story. Seymour’s Ambition, the Battle Theme, Silence Before the Storm, and The Trials were the songs that won out and they were perfect.
In their original form, these songs form the backbone of the story, they are very important thematically. Seymour’s Theme helps create the tension, the problem of story that has to be solved. The Battle Theme is what ties the world together, it’s a theme that is going to get played over and over and over again. It’s the piece of music that the listeners will most recognize. It grounds the storyline. Silence Before the Storm moves the story along, adds the myriad cultures into the mix and matures the characters and story. Finally, The Trials puts the characters, and the listeners, to the test, it forces them to decide if they can continue or if they are too weak.
In the hands of Knight of the Round, the songs are given a much sharper edge. They were already excellent songs but given a thrashier and groovier sound (not that kind of groovy) they hit harder, their meaning is driven home deeper. Each song tells the same story as it does in the original format buy layers have been added to the story.
The fundamentals aren’t altered but they are given new life, the story of Final Fantasy X is revitalized. Knight of the Round makes it wilder, angrier, and more entertaining. Knight of the Round knows exactly what they are doing and how to pull off what they want. Not being overly familiar with Final Fantasy X made me worried I wouldn’t like this album that much but I was wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed it. This album reminds me that no video game series has better music or a better soundtrack, something you can’t just come up with out of the blue. It takes work to create something like this. I thank Knight of the Round for reminding me of that.
Highlights: Rise, Shape Your Story
If you enjoyed this try: Gojira, Soulfly, Hemlock
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