Friday, March 08, 2013
REVIEW - SEIKEN DENSETSU 2 / SECRET OF MANA "FLOURISH" (2004)
I managed to get this amazing album from Surugaya-a-too at the Rakuten Market! That place has become my destination for rare and hard to find Doujin Albums. "Flourish" is presented by Ebox/DustStar with contributions from 11 musicians, and features 12 tracks arranged in various styles from, but not limited to, orchestral, jazz, piano, and even a little hip hop.
The artists involved have done a superb job of staying true to the melodies of composer Hiroki Kikuta while expanding greatly upon the lush tapestry of sound he created.
The length of the album, released in 2004, is approximately 48:30.
I've listened to this album several times now, and it's so well done, I have to dissect it track by track.
1. Sweet Memories (By Ebox) 3:24
Piano, orchestration, and new age ethereality. I was shocked by the beauty! The best way to describe this is to compare it to a painting. It starts with a few very subtle notes, or brush strokes, but soon after you're fully transported into the canvas that is the World of Mana. Run on, with no boundaries, that's what I get from this. Absolutely wonderful, and somewhat reminiscent of Falcom's Legend of Heroes IV Electric Orchestra album.
Listen to "Sweet Memories"!
2. Tell a Strange Tale (By Gimlet) 4:19
Very soothing. The tempo is slowed down somewhat from the game version, and you'll relax to the sounds of flutes, drums, and more sweeping orchestrations. I'd prefer it to be a little faster, but that's really kind of nitpicking, it's still fantastic.
3. Meridian Dance (By Dynastess) 3:43
Changing things up a little bit from the previous two tracks, with a little tech-infused Celtic flair!
That might sound like a weird combination, but it really works here. I like this version more than the original, I think, because of the variety in instruments.
4. The Boy Aims for Wild Fields (By ミュー) 3:28
First of all, the original music is downright legendary. Mr. Kikuta absolutely nailed the feeling of traversing through lush fields and forests. Here on the Flourish Album, it's one of the few that really sticks closely to the sound of the original. They're pretty identical in many respects, but that's not a bad thing! The sound quality is greatly improved, the flute is captivating, and there's a little added percussion. PERFECT.
Listen to "The Boy Aims for Wild Fields"!
5. Danger (By Snow) 1:58
The main boss theme of the game is here! It begins sounding a little like a midi, then just keeps getting better as it goes on. It's pretty intense, and even a somewhat frightening at the 45 second mark! When the main chorus kicks in, it becomes heroic, just like the original! After the chorus, the song takes a turn to the retro, and you realize there's a lot of levels to this arrangement, it's quite amazing! It gets pretty quiet towards the end with a some bass, and it closes out rather abruptly. I wish it looped, though that's only a minor complaint. At a length of 1:58, it's the shortest track on the album.
6. Roses and Spirits (By 草原翼) 4:17
This has to be my favorite on the album, due to it's unique arrangement. The track opens on a very subtle note with just a few drum beats, and continues on a calmly enough. At around 1:34 this thing becomes a new creature altogether when a late 80's or early 90's style hip hop drum sample kicks in. It adds such a new dimension to this piece! I never thought I would hear something like this! It's phenomenal!
"Listen to Roses and Spirits"!
7. Prophecy (By Supply) 4:15
This is one of those arrangements that takes a drastically different approach and calms things down quite a bit. Light piano and orchestrations are aided by a much slower tempo, resulting in something that resembles a completely new piece rather than the "Prophecy" you know and love. It's almost unrecognizable, but undenyingly beautiful.
8. Spirit of the Night (By AD794) 5:49
Taking the sad, melodic theme of "realizing you just pulled a sword from the water, made a monumental mistake, and now you gotta fix it," and turning it into a ballad. That's exactly what this feels like. Now that I think about it, the original piece does sound like a ballad too! Only here a guitar solo throughout really brings it home. I remember the moment from the game fondly, being upset at getting kicked out of the village and this extremely sad music playing. The original fit the scene perfectly, and this version by AD794 intensifies the feeling of isolation caused by curiosity. I love it!
9. What the Forest Taught Me (By Ebox) 2:29
Kikuta's original piece presented a somewhat playful melody, and it's amplified here in the form of a jazzfest, and nicely done! The sax isn't all that realistic, but it doesn't need to be really. It still sounds great, and doesn't diminish the interpretation in the least. It closes out sounding more like a lullaby than anything else.
10. Give Love it's Rightful Time (By 大臣) 4:22
Combining "Steel and Snare" along with it, we have a nice medley here that echoes the jazz brought in by the previous track, only merged together with a touch of tech. The bass is awesome, as are the drums. It really captures the essence of being on a grand adventure, and I really like the trumpet, which brings a Latin vibe to the piece.
11. Did you See the Sea (By 矢鴇つかさ) 3:58
I absolutely love this! New Age, Subterranean, Techno, Fusion, it's all here and it's fantastic! It's hard to describe, it just works so well.
12. Meridian Dance (By RIO) 6:19
The track list says Meridian Dance, but it's more than that. Not at all the same as the arrangement as track 3. Peppered throughout you'll hear the main theme of Seiken Densetsu 2/Secret of Mana, "Fear of the Heavens." There's a lot of weight here, you get the feeling the fate of the world really is at stake. It's a strong interpretation, and epic. Sound-wise, it's more techno-infused orchestrations, and man, do I love that sound. It reminds me heavily of Growlanser I - IV. If you listen close you can hear a hint of "Whisper and Mantra," from the Water Palace area in the game. The arrangement closes out with the game over theme "I closed My Eyes," done acoustic style.
I highly recommend tracking down this album if you can find it. Even though it comes on a CD-R, don't be fooled by that, it's phenomenal, and a breath of fresh air. If you were let down that the latest official Seiken Densetsu 2 Arrange Album wasn't really arranged at all, but instead just somewhat improved, this is the Arrange Album you've wanted. I only wish more material was covered (Star of Darkness next time please). I always check out the shops at the Rakuten Market where I found it, and a lot of albums I see there sell out and pop up again later. If I come across it again I'll be sure to tweet about it and send out links on where it is. I would love to hear a follow up album from the same crew, they have truly created something special with this album.