FFVI Remix Album – Balance and Ruin Review – Disc 1

In case you didn’t know, in addition to Final Fantasy IX, I’m also a huge fan of Final Fantasy VI.  In case you haven’t heard, OCRemix came out with a free-to-download remix album of Final Fantasy VI.  Comprised of five discs, It’s been in the works for months, and after a lot of Kickstarter drama, it was finally released yesterday.  I’ve been keeping my eye on this project, and now that it’s been released, I’m going to do a disc-by-disc, track-by-track review of the whole thing (don’t worry, Let’s Play fans – this won’t delay the editing process, and we are still on schedule to have the first episode released this weekend!).

I put them in the order of track number, followed by the title of the remixed song, the title of the original (in parentheses), and the artist’s name.  I’ve rated each song on a scale from one to five Kefkas.

Track 1 – Prologue (Opening Theme) by bustatunez

At the risk of every FFVI fan stopping reading right now, I have a confession to make:  I’ve never really liked the first half of the opening to FFVI – it’s too scary for me.  Too foreboding.  I mean, it’s a very intense game, but I feel like I’m about to start a Silent Hill or something.  That said, bustatunez did a great job;  it sounds amazing, especially when the music transitions about halfway through the song from the creepy-ish music to the more welcoming, epic, Final Fantasy-like introduction that I know and love.

Track 2 – Now is the Winter (The Mines of Narshe) by Mustin

This track reminds me of a mixture of Cowboy Bebop-esque jazz.  I’m a sucker for anything with a saxophone, so naturally, this track was for me.  This definitely had a different tone than the original version – the original version is much more…  Sullen.  This one’s more upbeat.  Definitely doesn’t carry the same message, but still great.  I love it.

Track 3 – Remember (Awakening) by Joshua Morse

Let me start by saying that this song deifnitely has a different tone than the original.

Y’know those softcore porno flicks that show up on HBO at ridiculous hours of the morning?  If not, let me describe them to you, as 15-year-old Casey (who had just gotten HBO) remembers them vividly:  they’re filled with terrible actors, terrible dialogue, terrible scene transitions, no character development, and some of the most over-the-top music during the sexy scenes that you will ever encounter.

Let me tell you that this track reminds me of those scenes.  It would totally fit.

Let me also tell you that I think that’s great.

It’s soft.  It’s soothing.  It’s lilting.  It brings me back to  younger, less complicated days.  Takes me away from the here and now and brings me to a totally foreign, yet welcoming, place.  That’s exactly what music is about for me, and this song does it perfectly.  Well done.

Track 4 – Smoke and Clouds (Locke) by Jeff Ball ft. Laura Intravia

WHOA.  Okay.  As soon as this song starts, you know it’s going in a different direction than the album has gone so far.  Lots of syncopated tones, melting into techno-y drum-and-bass-type stuff.  Jeff Ball’s really goin’ for it on this one.

One thing I don’t understand is the dipping tones, the slowing down of the music towards the end of certain measures.  It kinda makes my brain dizzy but AWWW SHIT!  It gets pretty awesome real quick.  Drum-and-Bass-and-chanting-woman-voice at its best.  There was some nice violin in there, and this track wound up being pretty sweet.  I wasn’t sure about it at first, but the second half made up for a less-than-stellar first half.

Track 5 – Polemos (Battle Theme) by SnappleMan, norg, Captain Finbeard

Final Fantasy has been known for its battle themes since…  well, since I can remember, at least.  It’s always been a trademark in the series for me.  That said, this track needed to blow me out of the water to live up to expectations.

It didn’t blow me out of the water.

That’s not to say it wasn’t good – it was definitely good.  I just think it’s really hard to remix something like a FF battle theme and not have people compare it to the original.  Indeed, that’s half the fun of a remix album – you can listen to your favorite tracks and see how the remixed versions stack up.  It was a challenge from the start.  Add that to the fact that my metal days are years behind me and I’m not much a fan of 10-minute-jam-sessions (which is what this sounded like to me), and I was bound to be a little disappointed.  Looks like these guys have some more tracks coming up, though, so we’ll see how they do then.

Track 6 – Tastes Like Victory (Fanfare) by Leitbur

…  “Tastes Like Victory”?  Really?  Guess so.  Well, whatever.

Anyway, again, this track wasn’t bad – I think it’s just my adherence to the original, amazing, perfect “Fanfare” that probably gives me a bit of aversion to this one.  That, and I do think the voices/lyrics were over the top.  I really enjoyed the music itself, actually.  It was beautiful.  Take out the voice track, and I think this song’s stock goes up significantly.  Two Kefkas.

Track 7 – Castles in the Sand (Edgar & Sabin) by Nutritious

I enjoyed this.  It kept the epic regality of Edgar intact (uh…  if he ever had this.  The epic regality he liked to pretend he had, at least).  This, I think, was a great example of not trying to do too much, which I think is important when you’re remixing.  Actually, I think there are two ways of going about it – you can either simply enhance the already-existing sound and make it your own, or you can go in a completely different direction;  this followed the philosophy of the former.

Then again, I’m in no way musically inclined, so maybe that doesn’t make any sense.  Just goin’ by what I hear, what I’ve experienced, and that one Classical Music class I took in college.  3.5 Kefkas.

Track 8 – Ascension of a Madman (Kefka) by Steffan Andrews

There are some tracks up to this point that I’ve really enjoyed.  Some that I’ve thought were really, really good.

This track…  Was FUCKING.  AWESOME.

Brilliant.  Captures Kefka’s madness perfectly.  At a minute-thirty in, it really starts rockin’ and rollin’, and it doesn’t stop until the end.  Amazing.  Don’t read what I have to say about it any more – just go listen to it.  It’s that good.  Worth the download just for this track (although others are great, too).  This is the first track on the album to receive the coveted FIVE KEFKAS.

Y’know what?  I’ll give it six.  It’s that good.  Get over it.

Track 9 – La Montaña de los Caballos Jóvenes (Mt. Koltz) by XPRTNovice

Ooh, I loved this one.  Great guitar, great breakdown around 3-4 minutes in, building it back up to a rampant, festive finish at the end.  A nice stylization of this song, overall.  Still reeling from Ascension of a Madman, though.  Have you listened to it yet?  It’s pretty good, from what I hear.

Track 10 – On the Run (The Returners) by Leitbur

Another very solid musical offering by Leitbur.  It really does sound great, and I think the vocals in this one are much better used than they were in “Tastes Like Victory” (I still can’t get over that name).

However, this track has one fatal flaw…

I can’t see any relation to the original FFVI track.  At all.

Maybe I’m just deaf, but it sounds completely different, to the point where I had to look up the original just to make sure I had the title right.

Overall, was this a better song than “Tastes Like Victory”?  Yes.  However, this is a FFVI remix album, and I want to hear FFVI remixes.  I’ll give it an extra half-Kefka, just because I really did enjoy the song as a musical piece.

Eh, maybe just a quarter-Kefka.

Track 11 – A Fistful of Nickels (Shadow) by zircon, XPRTNovice, Jillian Aversa, Jeff Ball

I loved pretty much everything about this track.  The old-west feel, the whistling…  A great example of completely changing the theme of the music while keeping the soul intact.  This also reminds me that I need to watch more Clint Eastwood westerns.

Track 12 – Camp Kefka (Troops March On) by Joshua Morse

An interesting take on “Troops March On”.  The heartbeats at the beginning were a great stage-setter for the heaviness that came in later, and I think that the dubby-wubbyness towards the end added a bit of character to the track.  I’m not a fan of dubstep, but when its stylings are used with prudence and care, it can sound great.  This track was a success.

I still liked Joshua’s first offering (Awakening) better, but that’s only because of my penchant for HBO-softcore music, as I mentioned above.

Track 13 – Stone Drum (Cyan) by Radiowar

Great music in this track.  Very listenable. I love the heavy, marching beat.  I didn’t much enjoy the samples that were put into the middle of the song – they sounded random, didn’t flow, and didn’t jive with my perceived theme of the song.  Overall, good enough for an average rating of two-and-a-half Kefkas.

Track 14 – Toxic (The Unforgiven) by Beatdrop

This is the sort of “classic techno” I grew up listening to.  It reminds me a lot of the Mortal Kombat theme that I used to dance to in Dance Dance Revolution.

Anyway, I’m glad to see this sort of genre represented by this song.  It was great fun to listen to.  It’s different from the original, but at least I can see where this one is coming from.  A worthwhile interpretation.

Track 15 – De Nuit (The Phantom Forest) by mv feat. Jeff Ball

Another great, techno-y interpretation.  the xylophonic notes in the background are a great addition to the nicely layered strings and a drum line that doesn’t try to do too much.  FOUR WHOLE KEFKAS.

Track 16 – Gobble, Snarf, Snap (Phantom Train) by XPRTNovice

Nice whistling at the beginning, much like “Fistful of Nickels”.  I like how it slowly builds in intensity and eventually turns very ghostly, almost surreal with about a minute to go.  I feel like I’m in a creepy, ghostly version of a 1920’s nightclub when I listen to this.  Another impressive offering by XPRTNovice.

Track 17 – Savage Triumph (Wild West) by Flexstyle, OA, Nutritious

Wow.  These guys pulled out all the stops on this track.  It was fast, furious, and full of techno-dub-goodness.  It did a great job of retaining its roots while simultaneously branching out, making bold moves and doing well at every turn.  I’d say that this was the second-best track on the album, and a very strong end to the first disc.

Overall

I’ve been following this project for a while, and I was really hoping that it would come out well.  OCRemix has been doin’ their thing for quite some time now, and they have a thriving community of very talented artists.  These artists took on a huge challenge, and I definitely think they did quite well.  It’s an uphill battle when you’re trying to cover Final Fantasy songs, since Uematsu is, in my opinion (again, I’ve only taken one semester of Classical Music), one of the greatest composers of the past century, if not ever.  Those are mighty big shoes to fill, and I think the OCRemix crew did a more-than-admirable job.  I can’t wait to review the next disc!

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