FFIX: Worlds Apart Review, Disc 4

Hello, and welcome to my review/listening guide of the fourth and final disc of Final Fantasy IX: Worlds Apart, the remix album from the sonic wizards over at OverClocked ReMix!

I’ll be going through, track-by-track, and rating them on a 1-5 “Dagger Scale”, along with giving a few thoughts on why I rated them so.  You can listen along on SoundCloud or download the album yourself at ff9.ocremix.org!

Inritus Bellum (The War to Nothingness) [Guardians]
Mikeaudio

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Okay, Trent Reznor, when did you sneak into this album?

In a word: epic.

In three words: epic as fuck.

In… more words: A perfect remix of “Guardians”.  Great build, great sense of… urgency, I guess?  I dunno.  It’s just super badass.

Ghosts (Terra)
LuIzA, Level 99

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I really wish I could rate this remix higher – I really like the music, and I think that the lyricism is some of the best on the album (far better than “Memories of Dali”, for example)… but… I didn’t like the singers.  Kind of a dealbreaker.  If I had enjoyed the voices themselves more, then this song would be a four, at the very least.

Ground Zero (Bran Bal, the Soulless Village)
halc

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There was nothing about this remix that really blew me away.  It seemed relatively conservative, relatively uninspired.  There were no risks taken to really get this remix to “the next level”, as it were, but it was good nonetheless.  I quite enjoyed it.

The Fallen Savior (Pandemonium)
Darangen

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First off, badass name for a Pandemonium remix.  Really shows that the artist knew what was going on in the plot of the game at this point.  Definitely enjoyed how the melody was introduced by some super-badass guitar, and punctuated by a nice drumbeat.  Reminds me of how badass Zidane really is.

You and I (We’re Not Alone) [Not Alone]
Poolside feat. Amanda Appiarius

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You know, I really liked this song on its own.  I enjoyed the vocals (they’re probably the best on the album), it had a nice, driving beat, and the lyrics were… acceptable.

All this is rating the song itself, however.  As a remix, it falls flat on its face.

Okay, so: “You’re Not Alone” isn’t a romantic song.  It’s not, like, Dagger going “omg zidane ur zooooo hawt will u date me y/n?”.  It’s an inspirational-as-fuck song during which, at Zidane’s lowest point, his friends refuse to leave him.  He had helped them realize that they all had priceless life experiences, and that they all had something worth living (and, indeed, thriving) for, and now they finally return the favor.  It’s about saving the savior when he can no longer carry the weight of the world on his own.

This remix completely missed that, and that’s unacceptable.  The strength of the song alone brings it up to a 3.  As a remix of one of the marquee songs in FFIX, I’m very disappointed.

Viking Funeral for the Damned (Silver Dragon)
Knight of the Round, Adam Higgins

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“Silver Dragon” gets the metal mix it richly deserves here.  This isn’t something I’d personally listen to (I find double bass fucking obnoxious (because it is)), but for “Silver Dragon”?  I’ll allow it.  Damn good remix.  The opposite of the remix above, basically: the song isn’t close to my favorite, but it’s damn faithful.

Filtering Through the Memories (Memoria)
sephfire

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Oooooh, here we go.  A fantastic remix for the nostalgically, creepily spacey Memoria theme.  I’m a huge fan of this remix.  When I hear this, though, I know I’m approaching the end, which is an excitingly scary prospect…

Crystalline Tempest (Crystal World)
Archangel

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All right, I’m calling it, it’s official – Archangel is the MVP of this damn album.  He, katethegreat, and umlaut-man all absolutely killed it, but… man.  Archangel knew the tone he wanted to strike in every song, and executed them all to perfection.  Well done, yo.

Arxidopita (The Darkness of Eternity)
SnappleMan, finbeard, norg

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DUDE.  I LOVE how badass people have made Kuja’s themes in this album.  As I’ve said before, I think Kuja is criminally underrated, but this album sonically draws him up to be the badass he really is.  Like, if you’re not intimidated when you listen to this shit, you need to check your amygdala (or whatever the part of the brain that handles intimidation is.  I’m no surgeon, fuck off).  The breakdown in the middle is great – it takes us back to a better time in the game, a less-intense, less-“existence-is-on-the-line” time, as if the artist is trying to escape the reality of the battle themselves.

Zero World (The Final Battle)
Fishy feat. Ludiotic

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FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKTHISSHITWASINCREDIBLE.  I love how the actual FFIX lines were uttered in the beginning and end; so epic.  I’ve always thought of Necron’s voice to be an… “anti-voice”, a sonic nothingness, greater than the deepest silence, cutting through the noise of the world around it… but I don’t blame the mixers for, y’know, not being able to do that.  That’s kinda tough.

FIVE.

EPIC.

DAGGERS.

Prelude to Fantasy (Prelude)
Archangel

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I mean, there’s honestly not much to say – here we are at the end of the album, and who’s here to punctuate it but our man, Archangel.

Do I even need to tell you that he earned a five?

This is another song, like “You’re Not Alone”, like “Melodies of Life”, that if you fuck it up, that’s some bad news.  Luckily, Archangel was on the job and up to the task, putting together the BEST “Prelude” mix I’ve ever heard.

It’s amazing.  It’s transcendent.  I wept in my office at work.  It was worth it.

Worlds Apart, OverClocked ReMix’s incredible FFIX album, five years in the making, doesn’t go out with a whimper.  It doesn’t go out with a bang.

It goes out… with a Prelude.  As it was always destined to.

Thanks for joining me through the greatest remix album ever to be released.

God, I fucking love Final Fantasy IX.

FFIX: Worlds Apart Review, Disc 3

Hello, and welcome to my review/listening guide of the third disc of Final Fantasy IX: Worlds Apart, the remix album from the sonic wizards over at OverClocked ReMix!

I’ll be going through, track-by-track, and rating them on a 1-5 “Steiner Scale”, along with giving a few thoughts on why I rated them so.  You can listen along on SoundCloud or download the album yourself at ff9.ocremix.org!

A Rose in the Storm (Roses of May)
Natalya Zarraga feat. Seth Tallman

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Man.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad “Roses of May” remix (and trust me, I have sought out many).  This mix is no exception – methodical, cathartic, with a nice little breakdown in the middle.  Nice use of harp.  Fuckin’ love harp.

Dig This Fossil (Fossil Roo)
Mazedude

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Y’know, out of the entire OST, Fossil Roo is one of the few I’m relatively “meh” on (it’s still Uematsu, so it is still, by definition, perfect… but you know what I mean).  This remix is definitely an interesting take, but it doesn’t really have the “wow” factor, nor does it make me look at the original song in a new way.  Still good enough for three Steiners, though.

Rally-ho! (Conde Petit)
Moomba feat. Fishy

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Dude.  Fishy rules.  I don’t look at the artists before I write these, but color me unsurprised that he (along with Moomba) took this remix and kicked its ass.  I thought I was going to fall asleep in the beginning, but they came back strong with some grade-A remixing starting about a minute in.

Fixations (Before the Altar)
RiverSound

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LOVED IT.  Made me feel like I was at the (fake?) wedding in Conde Petit.  Great take on a song which, had they fucked it up, I would’ve been quite saddened indeed.  This one tugs at the nostalgic heartstrings.

Blakk Majik (Black Mage Village)
Brandon Strader, Jeff Ball

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Another song that, while well-executed, doesn’t seem to allow the true tone of the original song to shine through.

OH WAIT WUBUBUUWBUWUWUWUUBUBBIIES

+1 for dubby-wubbies.  They’re used to great effect, adding a layer of quirkiness that would have been lost had they gone with the more-aggressive guitar sound for the whole song.

+1 for having a Wicker Man reference.  WELP, I started this review at a 3, now it’s a 5.  Whoops.

I Am Gonna Stop Eventually (Unforgettable Sorrow)
Brandon Strader

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Utterly fantastic.  It really packs that “I just realized that I’m going to die one day” emotional punch.  Very sad, as it should be.

Plus, I’m a sucker for solo piano.  Sue me.

I’ll Always Be There (Eiko’s Theme)
Flexstyle

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Aside from the creepy whispers that sound more serial killer-y than like friendly reassurance, I thought this was a great remix.  Relatively light and bouncy, but with a tone of sadness, just like the character.  Flexstyle did a great job.  Highly recommended.

Iifa, the Super Tree of Death (Iifa, the Ancient Tree of Life)
ch4rl33

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You can tell that this one’s by ch4rl33 immediately – sounds just like Knight-wit.  And, if you remember my review of that remix, that’s not a bad thing.

ch4rl33 does a great job of keeping the foreboding of the Iifa Tree, while adding his own dubby-wubby, constantly-morphing flavor to the music.  Another ch4rl33 remix, another 5/5 on my board.

Assassimander (Amarant’s Theme)
ch4rl33

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OH NO, CH4RL33 GOT SOMETHING LESS THAN A FIVE!  GASP!

Don’t get me wrong – Assassimander.  In fact, the more I listen to it, the more it grows on me; hell, it might be a five in my book sometime soon.  I don’t think it carries the same glorious epicene that his previous two offerings provide, however.  It may look like I just give out fives willy-nilly, and sometimes I do, but I can be picky; I expect a lot from ch4rl33 now, and with that comes higher expectations.  Four out of five.

Four Score and Six-Eight (Tetra Master)
djpretzel

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Speaking of high expectations, I have them for djpretzel.  On a lesser album, perhaps I’d give this a four, but surrounded by the other stellar offerings, “Four Score and Six-Eight” musters no more than a three.  It’s definitely good; it’s definitely worth multiple listens; it’s not as good as many of the other songs on this album.

Miles and Miles Away (Esto Gaza)
XPRTNovice

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Man.  After my FFVI reviews, if you had told me that XPRTNovice wouldn’t get a 5/5 on this album, I would’ve said you were crazy.  But, hey, here we are.

This remix was quite close, actually – I looooooove smooth jazz, and this shit is smooth as a baby’s bottom wrapped in silk and dipped into a vat of liquid velvet.  Unfortunately, it didn’t have the “wow” factor; it never blew me away.  It worked great with the tone of Esto Gaza, but it’s squarely in the 4/5 range.

When Love Must Be Saved (Broken Spell, Healed Hearts)
Bluelighter

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It took a few minutes, but this remix came into its own… eventually.  Kinda.  Before the halfway point, this thing was headed straight for Onesville.  Honestly, I was just bored to tears.  It picks up a bit towards the end, however, and earns a bump in my rating.  Nothing special, but okay.

The Final Melody (Melodies of Life)
Jovette Rivera feat. ISAO

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There are a few things you need to know about me: one, I’ve been looking forward to this album for years; two, the FFIX OST is quite possibly my favorite musical piece of all time; three, if you fuck up a remix of Melodies of Life, there will be hell to pay.

Luckily, Jovette Rivera knocks it out of the park, yo.  5/5.  Listen.  Love.  Listen again.  Love more.  Repeat.

Through Sun-drenched Skies (Aboard the Hilda Garde)
Archangel

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Dude, Archangel is really fucking good.  The whimsy and glory of the original song is balanced and mirrored perfectly in this remix, while the artist definitely makes it their own.  That dude with all the umlauts in his name from Disc 1 may just have a competition in the MVP discussion for this album.

Bibliotheca ~ Dreamer in the Library (Daguerreo, the Hermit’s Library)
katethegreat19, Chaeley

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So remember that time (read: those many, many times) I called katethegreat19’s voice gorgeous?  Yeah, well, it is.  And it remains so throughout this song.  The music is perfect for Daguerreo, one of my personal favorite locations in the entire game.  A fuckin’ library city thing built into a mountain?  How fuckin’ cool is that?

Anyway, yeah, five.  A fantastic run of songs to end the third of four discs.

FFIX: Worlds Apart Review/Listening Guide, Disc 2

Oh… Oh shit.  Is this two posts… in two days?!

You bet your ass it is, my adoring fans!

Welcome to my review/listening guide of the first disc of Final Fantasy IX: Worlds Apart, the remix album from the sonic wizards over at OverClocked ReMix!

I’ll be going through, track-by-track, and rating them on a 1-5 “Vivi Scale”, along with giving a few thoughts on why I rated them so.  You can listen along on SoundCloud or download the album yourself at ff9.ocremix.org!

Craic in the Castle Walls (Cid’s Theme)
XPRTNovice

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Another strong showing from XPRTNovice.  I interviewed this guy a while back, and I’ve always been impressed by how he can tie in seemingly-disparate styles and songs to make a super-cohesive, great remix.

Late Night Lindblum (Lindblum)
Mattias Häggström Gerdt

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Mattias, I am unconvinced that you are not Deadmau5 in disguise.  This song was funkalicious, fun, and had some great builds.  Very, very, very enjoyable.  Everyone listen to this shit.

As Long As We Remember (Garnet’s Theme)
Archangel, Claire Yaxley

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This was the only acceptable way to remix Garnet’s theme, and it was perfect.  God, ouch, the feels.  The feels make my cold, deadened heart feel things.  Such goodness.  Loved it.

Zaghnol Comes (Festival of the Hunt)
Sixto Sounds

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ZAGHNOL COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMES

Yummy-yummies (Quina’s Theme, Qu’s Marsh)
Mattias Häggström Gerdt

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Mattias, you might be the goddamned MVP of this album.  Loving your stuff so far.  Another great song by this umlaut-ridden homie.

The Knight of Woeful Sorrow (Freya’s Theme)
Abadoss, AndyP, Fishy

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Yep, I’m giving out 5’s like they’re candy on this disc.  Well, guess what?  I fucking love candy, and I fucking love all these songs.  They’re all really good.  Abadoss and friends, you killed it, well done.

You Don’t Know Me (Unforgettable Silhouette)
katethegreat19

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It kinda sounds like she says “Through Ice and Dragon-Fart” at one point, which is kinda funny.  But on the real side, katethegreat19 is a fantastic singer, and I’m super biased – I’m a big fan of… basically everything she’s done.  Her take on Rose of May is incredible.

FIVE.  VIVIS.

Spirits of Gaia (Faerie Battle)
Brandon Strader

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Strader, as usual, fucking slays it.  I love the little wooshy-wooshy woo-woo ghosty sounds, and it’s called Spirits of Gaia, and… yeah.  Jesus.  Disc 2 of this album is… one of the best discs of any album.  In general.  Seriously, listen to the entire thing.  It’s incredible.

You know what, I’m just going to tell you now: the next three songs are all five-Vivi songs as well.  So I’m just going to put them up here so you don’t have to keep looking at them:

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Terraforming Gaia (Kuja’s Theme)
Gario

Remember that cyber/steampunk Steiner spinoff I mentioned on Disc 1?  Yeah, if Kuja were in that, this would be his theme song, and it would be amazing.  Yep, another 5 Vivis, get over it.

March of Robbers in Treno City (Dark City Treno)
Bluelighter

Encapsulates Treno perfectly.  Just the right balance of goofy pomp, light harp/flute, and bass.

In the Hall of the Gangster King (Tantalus’ Theme)
Verdegrand

I like how faithful this stayed to the original, while still giving it a new, distinct flavor.  A little solo piano action to get your Tantalus on.  Delicious.

Ambitious Whispers, Immoral Chants (Wicked Melody, Devil’s Ambition)
Archangel

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The five-star run has ended… because this song was worth SIX out of five stars.  Holy hell.  This is easily the best song on the disc, and quite possibly nails it better than any other song on the album (that’s REALLY hard to say, but it’s definitely top-tier).  Drop what you’re doing and listen to it.  Seriously.  Unless you’re holding, like, a baby or something, in which case, please don’t drop it.

Into the Sandstorm (Cleyra’s Trunk)
jnWake, Argle

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Into the Sandstorm was… creepy.  It was good.  Had a nice sense of foreboding to it, but I didn’t think it was anything special.  The RIDICULOUS run of INCREDIBLE songs ends here.

Tribe of the Sandy Treehouse (Cleyra Settlement)
katethegreat19

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Again, my bias shows.  I’ve been listening to this song for years, and I think it’s absolutely gorgeous.  I can’t bring myself to give it any less than five stars.  Love the drums in the background, and, again, katethegreat’s voice is incredible.

Save the Queen (The Wavering Blade)
IanFitC

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I don’t feel like this remix went far enough.  It was good, don’t get me wrong, but it never really brought in that tension, that intensity that I’m looking for in a Wavering Blade remix.  It had a nice breakdown, but… yeah.  Maybe it’s because it’s surrounded with stellar mixes all over the disc, but it wasn’t impressive to me.

To Be Forgotten (Eternal Harvest)
Fishy, Chris | Amaterasu

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Another song I didn’t particularly care for myself, but I definitely think it was well done.  At about 2:35 it brings in some metally-guitar-stuff that I found completely over-the-top and unnecessary; I would’ve much preferred the acoustic deliciousness from before to continue.

Agree? Disagree?  Comment below and we can talk about this glorious homage to FFIX!

FFIX: Worlds Apart Review/Listening Guide, Disc 1

Hello, and welcome to my review/listening guide of the first disc of Final Fantasy IX: Worlds Apart, the remix album from the sonic wizards over at OverClocked ReMix!

I’ll be going through, track-by-track, and rating them on a 1-5 “Zidane Scale”, along with giving a few thoughts on why I rated them so.  You can listen along on SoundCloud or download the album yourself at ff9.ocremix.org!

Moguo’s Knife Party (Over the Hill)
Benjamin Briggs

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BEAST start to the album.  So funky, with some delicious little ska influences towards the middle…  Guh.  Glorious.  5 ZIDANES.

Sjá, Minn Heim (A Place to Call Home)
M-H

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Before I begin, let me mention that I used to be super into hard rock/metal, and these days I’ve come to start feeling the opposite.  However, I enjoyed this remix.  I liked how it’s not super overwhelming with the intense guitar, and stays true to the melody throughout.

Black Mage Master (Vivi’s Theme)
The Dual Dragons

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Oh jeez, more metal.  Again, I actually enjoyed this music, but… it didn’t sound very Vivi to me, y’know?  The tone was all wrong.  Even at his angriest, I don’t see Vivi in the light I felt this song was portraying.  Good music overall, but I think you need to keep the tone of the song, and the character the song is about, in mind when you remix.

Canaries and Hurricanes (Swords of Fury, Behind the Door)
Fishy

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Remember when I was talking about tone before?  THIS song is perfect for some super-sweet metal guitar, and I think Fishy nailed it.  It’s dramatic.  It’s epic.  It captured the tone, along with being a damn good song in general.

Vamo alla Django (Vamo alla Flamenco)
AndyP, Fishy feat. Dan Bryant

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Hahaha.  I don’t even know how to begin describing this song, except it was three great guitarists just chillin’ and bangin’ out some Vamo alla Flamenco.  I’m going to contradict myself here, and say, regardless of tone, listen to this one.

Lunar Rebellion (Court Jesters)
IanFitC

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Damn.  Yum.  This song was deliciously creepy, and fit Zorn and Thorn perfectly.  I felt the foreboding.  The faithfulness to the source material earns this baby a sweet 5 Zidanes.

Knight-wit (Steiner’s Theme)
ch4rl33

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KNIGHT-WIT IS AMAZING DON’T EVEN WAIT FOR ME TO FINISH THIS SENTENCE LISTEN TO IT NOW SIX ZIDAAAAAAAAAAAAANES ON A 1-5 SCALE

In case you’re still reading, this is so perfect Steiner; plodding, yet the remix makes it super upbeat and danceable.  I’m picturing a cyber/steampunk FFIX spinoff with Steiner as the main character and this as the title music.  Get on it, Squeenix.

Prima Variations (Prima Vista Orchestra)
Calum Bowen

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Damn.  This song… definitely had some variation in it.  It was all over the map, but I enjoyed it.  Not a must-listen (who am I kidding, they’re all must-listens; it’s Worlds Apart, for Christ’s sake), but it’s… good.

Doomed Lovers (Tragic Love)
Brandon Strader

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Another song where the epic power metal is completely appropriate, in my opinion.  Super tragic, super intense.  Loved it.

t.r.e.e. (Danger in the Forest)
Ross Kmet

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I like the direction that Ross Kmet took this song.  I’m no musician, so I can’t speak to the intricacies of composition, but I thought it sounded good, and it kept that creepy, somewhat dangerous feel that the Evil Forest is supposed to have.

Exploda (Battle 1)
Cyril the Wolf, Fishy

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Like the battle music itself, it’s repetitive, epic to a fault, and is ingrained in the mind of anyone who’s played this game.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.  FIVE ZIDANES.

Bossa de Victory (Fanfare)
Calum Bowen

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This was a bold move, and one I didn’t think would work when I first listened.  A minute in, though, I was sold.  Calum Bowen pulled it off.  Well done.  This one gets me groovin’.

The Throes of Death(guise) [Battle 2]
Gario

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Really interesting how Gario would carry the melody with this slow… weird… tone… thing (again, not a musician), but there was always that frantic shizz goin’ on in the background, a reminder that you’re never safe when you’re listening to this boss music.

Corra! (Run!)
Dr. Manhattan

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A perfectly good remix.  It didn’t blow my socks off, and was a liiiiiiiiittle slow and laborious at times for something that’s called “Run!”, but yeah.  It was good.

Memories of Dali (Village of Dali)
Jean Of mArc, Solveig Giffin, Christine MacIsaac

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When I first heard lyrics, I gasped and was ready to ruffle the shit out of my feathers.  “Hurr durr I’m a purist fuck this stupid singing shit SHE PRONOUNCED CHOCOBO WRONG god damn these lyrics suck ass”

And, y’know, the lyrics… weren’t great.  But they told a story.  And the story meshed with the story of Dali, and added a layer of underlying sadness in the music that I had never noticed before.  In the end, I think they added something that, without them, would have been sorely missed.

Birth Under a Blue Light (Zidane’s Theme)
Knight of the Round

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… Well, there had to be one clunker, right?

It took me 3 listens to even tease out the melody of Zidane’s Theme in this remix.  It was far too heavy-handed, and I just didn’t get it.  If there’s one track to skip on this disc, it’d be this one.  End with the super-sad “Memories of Dali” instead.

FFIX OverClocked ReMix Album, Worlds Apart, Drops Today!

SFKHASOIFDHOAIFNEJVNBSAIUOGVCBLKANGLJKAHHFD YESSSSS CLICK THE IMAGE TO GO TO THE DOWNLOAD PAGE NOW

IT’S OUT!  Five years in the making, Worlds Apart has been released!

Like I did with OCR’s FFVI album, Balance and Ruin, I’m going to do a track-by-track review of this I’m-sure-will-be-amazing album.  This pushes the Gaming Inspirations posts back a bit, but I’m going to continue to do at least 2 posts a week, so it won’t be long ’til I’m babbling about how inspiring and amazing FFIX is!

Gaming Inspirations V: Interview: Joe Zieja (Author, Voiceover Artist, Musician)

See the rest of the Gaming Inspirations posts here!

BONUS POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOST!

I had the great opportunity to interview one of my biggest inspirations, Joe Zieja, last week.  He’s a professional voiceover artist, a fantastic musician, and just sold his first novel, Mechanical Failure, coming out June 7th, 2016 from Saga Press, the new speculative fiction imprint of Simon and Schuster!  He also composed two remixes for the OverClocked ReMix FFIX album, Worlds Apart, coming out tomorrow, 9/9!

On to the interview:

Joe Zieja.  A self-described “Renaissance man without all the lace and tights”.  Ex-Military.  Author.  Composer.  Voiceover Virtuoso.  Is there anything you don’t do?

Absolutely.  I don’t dance, and I can’t even draw a straight line. My handwriting is atrocious, and I tend to screw up house projects that involve anything complicated. I’ve also played  Ticket to Ride exactly once and scored an 8.  Really.  An 8.

I’ll get to all these points, but let’s start with your military experience: you describe your new book, Mechanical Failure, as a “Space Opera Military Science Fiction” book.  Reading back on some of your blog posts, it seems like your time in the military has heavily influenced your writing.  Could you elaborate on how it’s done so?

I think it’s hard for anyone to say that the military doesn’t influence absolutely everything about your life experience. Not only has it altered my writing, it’s altered my worldview.  More specifically,  I guess you could say it’s enabled me to describe the military culture in a way that is accurate and relevant.

Could you explain what a “Space Opera” is, for those readers who may not know?  (Not me, though.  I definitely know what a “Space Opera” is.  Definitely…)

Sure. There are two broad sub genres that fall under neat science fiction. One of them is hard science fiction and the other is space opera. Hard science fiction relies on existing science and extrapolates upon it to come to a fantastical or speculative conclusion. In many cases hard science fiction focuses on a lot of technical detail that is interesting to people who are interested in science in general. Space opera, on the other hand, really is just about having fun in space. I don’t say that to say that space opera can’t be serious, but that it doesn’t overly focus on the science, and you can get away with a little bit more.  Star Wars, for example is a good example of space opera.  Nobody is sitting there explaining to you that lightsabers are a result of positively charged ions reacting in a vacuum.

You’ve remixed a number of songs over at OverClocked ReMix under the alias XPRTNovice, including tracks on the Final Fantasy VI remix album, Balance and Ruin, and on the upcoming Final Fantasy IX album, Worlds Apart.  Which tracks do you remix on Worlds Apart?  

I have two tracks that I did on that album. One of them is Cid’s theme from Lindblum Castle, and the other is Esto Gaza.

Do you have a specific style?  

Haha that’s funny.  the only thing I can really say that’s consistent about my style is that I generally stick pretty closely to the source.  Nostalgia is a big factor for me. Other than that, I’ve done everything from a Bon Jovi style thing to klezmer to bluegrass.

What can people expect when you’re remixing or composing?

Live instruments. I have a lot at my disposal, and I almost always make them the focus.

Before I say anything about your voice work, I gotta congratulate you – you’re the highest-ranked male voice on Voices.com over the past week, and 15th all-time.  

Thanks!

How long have you been doing voice work?

It kind of depends.  when I was a kid at the Air Force Academy I would be official Academy announcer for football games and parades and all sorts of other events, so I’ve been doing something like voice over for a while. If you really mean voice over work like I’m doing it today, I really only been doing it for the last two and a half years.

On your blog, you’ve mentioned that voice work is “the big moneymaker” for you, and that it’s basically your job at this point.  

yep. After I got out of the military in 2012, I worked for the government for a little while. But by time the end of 2014 rolled around, I was ready to quit everything and be a full time voice over artist, which I am now.

What are the biggest pros and cons of being self-employed?

While the military has its exciting moments, it really is basically a desk job for most of the time. It was the same thing with the government. I absolutely love not having a boss, not having set hours, being able to work from home, and being responsible for my own success without having to cater to some arbitrarily organized corporate or military promotion ladder.  I get to express myself creatively every day of my life, which is a privilege that not many people can say they enjoy. As far as the downsides, sometimes it’s a little hard to keep organized, and to keep boundaries on my work time versus my free time.  and now of course I have to pay for my own health insurance and worry about my own retirement if there is such a thing.

It’s clear that you do a ton of creating in many different ways – how do you manage the time between writing, composing, voice work, and… y’know, everything else you do on a day-to-day basis?  

I don’t have a very structured organization for how I split the time between all of that. Basically I know that being a voice over artist is what’s making most of my money at this point in time, so that’s what gets my priorities.  After that comes writing, because I have a book contract and I have deadlines to worry about now.  Lastly unfortunately comes music, because all the way to make money with it from time to time, sometimes I need to just put it aside and focus on the things that let me put food on the table.

What does a day in the life look like for Joe Zieja?

The timing changes every day, but I generally do about four to five hours of voice work. That can be anything from actual microphone time to managing my business to talking to agents and managers. I try to write for about an hour or two every day, but I don’t always get there. I hang out with my daughter and my wife and try to relax as well as get some physical activity in.  The blank spots I fill in with reading or playing video games or playing an instrument.

This interview is a part of my “Gaming Inspirations” series – do you play many video games?  I can’t see where you’d have the time!

I’d be a pretty poor excuse for a nerd if I didn’t play any video games!  I get a couple of hours a week in nowadays, but when I was younger I could binge with the best of them.

Do you find games inspiring?  If so, which ones, and how?

If there’s one common theme in my life, it’s that I love a good story. In order for a video game to inspire me, it has to be very story focused. I generally don’t like to play games that don’t have stories, or don’t focus on them, or don’t have an end like MMOs.  I really loved watching video games develop into a fantastic storytelling mechanism from its roots.  I just finished playing The Last of Us a few weeks ago, & I haven’t played a game in a long time like that that made me put down the controller and stare at the screen in disbelief at what I had just experienced.

What inspires you to create?

What inspires you to breathe? after a while, if I don’t create, I start to feel hypoxic.

What do you do when you don’t feel like creating?  You must feel uninspired, or just feel like being lazy and vegging out, at times – do you have any techniques to help you stay motivated?

My real trick to staying motivated and active is having so many things to cycle through. If I’m feeling particularly uninspired by the novel and writing, I go write some music for a couple of hours. Or I’ll go do some character work for voice acting. Or I’ll go employ creative movement as a parkour practitioner.

What’s one specific action that people could take, right now, to get closer to:

Selling their first book?

Write it. you’d be surprised how many people I talk to who have been writing chapter one of their novel for the past 10 years. Finish the damn thing.

Contributing to their first album?

This may sound redundant, but start writing music. If you don’t write music, you’re never going to get on an album. If you’ve never written music before, start getting educated. Do something ridiculously basic and celebrate because to you it’s something new. Then keep doing new things.

Becoming a kickass voice actor?

People think there’s some kind of magic that has to happen with the voice that God gave you, but I’m not so sure about that. I have well over 15,000 auditions behind me. Yes that’s 15,000.  In between that, I’ve managed my business so that clients come back to me so I don’t have to audition anymore. And when I’m not doing that, I’m taking classes and workshops from the most experienced people I can find. They always say that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.

Since this is FinalFantasyIX.com, after all, a few FFIX-specific questions:

Who’s your favorite character?

Freya, maybe.  Aside from Final Fantasy X-2, when girls got different powers by changing into different skimpy outfits, I always thought Final Fantasy had a great edge on the strong female character front. Freya has a great backstory and a great attitude. More importantly, she’s not Steiner, who I hate.

What do you enjoy most about the game?

I think I’d have to choose Vivi’s story. The whole idea of artificial beings and their humanity or lack thereof may be kind of an overused theme, but there’s a reason for it. We haven’t really figured it out yet, primarily because we haven’t gotten technology far enough to force us to do so.

Do you find FFIX inspiring?  If so, how?

If I’m being completely honest, Final Fantasy IX wasn’t my favorite FF by any stretch. While FF8 was a little teenage-angsty, FF9 was on the childish side in multiple ways for me. There are definitely gems in there, though – I love Vivi’s arc, particularly, like I just said.

Thanks so much to Joe for allowing me to interview him – it was a great experience to be able to talk with one of my biggest creative inspirations!  Follow Joe on Twitter @JoeZieja, his musical alias XPRTNovice @XPRTNovice, and give him a like on Facebook.  Keep an eye out for his new book, Mechanical Failure, published by Saga Press!

OH AND HERE’S A LINK TO THE NEXT CHARACTER PROFILE

FFVI Remix Album – Balance and Ruin Review – Disc 5

Howdy y’all, and welcome to the review of the LAST DISC of “Balance and Ruin”.  I’m super excited;  this is a bonus disc, so it’s basically just other remixes of some of the songs that have already been done.  Since I think we went through the entire soundtrack.  Which is effin’ boss.

Anyway, on to the music!  We’ll be using a rating scale of 1-5 Sabins.

Track 1 – Omen: I. Black Dawn (Opening Theme) by SnappleMan, norg, Captain Finbeard

Have you ever heard of the word “lugubrious”?  It’s one of my favorite words.  “Lugubrious”, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online, means “exaggeratedly or affectively mournful”.  That’s basically how I feel about this first track, and not in a very good way.

The song takes its sweet time getting started, and I feel like it’s playing up its own importance.  This is the first time these guys have done a track since Disc 1, and I feel much the same way towards this one that I did their first effort – it just seems like they’re trying way too hard to make something a dark, glorious epic.  Like, it was okay, pretty badass, I guess, but it was just way too slow-moving for me.

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Track 2 – Omen: II. Terror March (Opening Theme) by SnappleMan, norg, Captain Finbeard

Impressive!  It’s like they heard me and took my advice or something!  :p

But seriously, this song has a different energy from the start.  It kicks right off and rocks on out throughout.  The song goes through many different movements throughout the 8 minutes, getting increasingly intense and double-bass-y as it progresses.

Towards the end (about 7:30), I started to lose it – it didn’t sound too terribly much besides anything but a jam-session, which was kind of annoying, but it worked out overall.  The last 10 seconds were great, transitioning into the next track.

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Track 3 – Omen: III. Daydream (Opening Theme, Battle Theme) by SnappleMan, norg, Captain Finbeard

Oh God, we’re right back to the lugubriousness again.  Look, I’m sorry, I understand what they’re trying to do, and yes, the original music is epic as fuck.  HOWEVER, you don’t make something MORE epic by simply slowing it down an absurd amount and using a guitar and double bass.  That’s just not how epic works.  I think the opening theme just ended, almost 6 minutes into this track.  Which means I’ve been listening to the opening theme for about 26, 27 minutes.  NO.

To make things worse, I’m almost a full minute into the “Battle Theme”, and literally the sound has changed once.  Is this supposed to build anticipation or bore me to death?

I’m sick of it.  One and one-half Sabins, just because I am, amazingly, still listening.

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Track 4 – Omen: IV. Polemos (Battle Theme) by SnappleMan, norg, Captain Finbeard

Great.  I’ve got a 10-and-a-half minute battle theme to listen to.  I’ll try to be objective.  Taking a deep breath…  Okay.  Here we go.

Okay.  Two minutes in, and it still sounds pretty badass.  It’s the “Battle Theme” we all know and love, with, of course, a bit of a metal twist.

Four minutes in, aaaaand I’m kind of losing it.  Oops, they brought it back at around 4:30, doing a little keyboard-y breakdown that isn’t bad, I guess.  I am wondering if all of this is necessary, however.  Especially after looking at the track list for the rest of the album (the next-longest song after these four is less than six minutes long…  Maybe they should take note of that?).

At around six minutes, it gets all right again.  I can tell where we are in the “Battle Theme”, at least.  Not much to comment on.

It sounded like it was about to stop abruptly around 8 minutes.  Excitedly, I look over, thinking that somehow, the full 10.5 minutes had passed.  I was wrong, and they just started “breakin’ it down” again.  Which I did not appreciate.

Long story short, if all of the songs above were less than five minutes, maybe I wouldn’t have a problem.  But they were all super long and pretty boring. Ick.  This one was…  better than the last one, but not my much.

Track 4 Rating:

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Rating as a cohesive piece, Tracks 1-4:

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Track 5 – Following Forgotten (The Mines of Narshe) by Patrick Burns

(NOTE:  I didn’t find this in my FLAC folder…  Is anyone else missing this track?  Anyway, it was in the MP3 folder, so I played that instead :D)

Sounds nice.  Peaceful and foreboding…  Yeah, I dunno, I think this one’s pretty weird.  I also think my speakers suck.

Anyway, I like the piano work.  However, I’m not sure if it was a super appropriate choice of style.  I know it’s “The Mines of Narshe”, but…  Again, too slow-moving for me.

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Track 6 – Royal Blood, Fraternal Love (Edgar & Sabin) by pu_freak

As a piece of music, I think this remix is great.  I mean, I think that about most of the tracks on this album, but anyway.

Even though I called the previous song “too slow”, I really like the pacing of this remix.  I don’t think it captured the same regal essence as the original, but overall it was pretty legit.  I also always love beautiful piano.

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Track 7 – Bass of the Returners (The Returners) by bLiNd

Worrrrrrrd.  I actually knew which song this was a remix of, as opposed to the previous “Returners” remix on Disc 1.  It sounds way different from anything else on this album so far, which really is a godsend.

It sounds like bLiNd had some fun creating this remix;  it shows in his music.  Wonderfully done.

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Track 8 – Dark Blue Substance (Cyan) by Mattias Häggström Gerdt

Ooooh…  Once you get halfway through the song, it starts getting very peaceful, techno-y, and awesome.  I love what he did with the original theme at that point.  However, for much of the rest of the song, I’m left wondering what’s going on.  The little breakdown in the middle is easily the best part, and that part is great.  Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of what it’s sandwiched by.

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Track 9 – Savage Dance (Wild West) by McVaffe

Word, this one is pretty sweet – not deviating too much from the original, giving it just enough so that it has its own voice.  About halfway through it stops being quite so flat, a heavier beat giving needed texture to a pretty good song overall.

AND HEY, GUESS WHAT!?! IT’S LESS THAN 8 MINUTES LONG.  Take note, SnappleMan.

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Track 10 – The 6th Kingdom (Terra) by Jovette Rivera

ROCK THE BASS BASS ROCK THE BASS BASS
bass
bass
BASS

Yeah, this song was pretty fun.  It was very ridiculous.  Very, very insane.  But you know what?  I enjoyed it.  It was about two and a half minutes too long, but eh, at this point, whatever.

ROCK THE BASS BASS ROCK ROCK THE BASS BASS

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Track 11 – Slam Shufflin’ (Slam Shuffle) by bLiNd

Oooh, a super-danceable “Slam Shuffle” remix.  Pretty ballllllerrrrr, yo.

Again, I think it could be shorter, it seems pretty repetitive, but it’s more fun to listen to than anything else so far, at least.

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Track 12 – Jidoorian Rhapsody (The Wedding) by sphexic

Very impressive piano work, for sure.  Not really sure what else to say…  It was fun?  I guess?  There really wasn’t much to it, but the piano really was great.  I think it would’ve been better if it were accompanied with something – then again, I kinda like the whole solo-piano thing.  Better than average, regardless.

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Track 13 – Strange World (Another World of Beasts) by WillRock

Ooh, I very much enjoyed this one.  Nice pacing, nice buildup, nice ambience. Foreboding, dark, delicious.

Halfway through, it takes a turn for the SUPER intense.  With almost no warning, the sound exploded out of my speakers into a crazy mess of awesome.  Just as I was getting ready to yell at this song for being too long, too.  Very well done, WillRock.

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Track 14 – Umaro’s New Groove (Umaro) by Archangel

Overall, an enjoyable track.  Umaro is a super fun character with a fun, bouncy theme, so I feel like it’s necessary to keep all that bounciness intact in any remixes.  Archangel did a great job with that, and it wrapped this album up well.

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Overall

Well, here we are.  Five days and five discs later, I have to say that I’m extremely impressed by the quality of the songs that have come off this remix album.  I think it’s great that OCRemix has such a diverse community, submitting all sorts of different music to these albums.  This is their 40th album since their inception, and although I’ve only heard bits and pieces of others (their Donkey Kong Country 2 album is amazing, too), it seems like what they’ve got going is quite impressive indeed.

This disc picked up towards the end, which is good, since I was afraid it’d be a flop.  It turned out okay, and the album itself turned out incredibly.  Great job, OCRemixers!

Disc 5 Rating:

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Overall Album Rating:

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FFVI Remix Album – Balance and Ruin Review – Disc 4

Track 1 – A Glimmer of Hope (Searching for Friends) by Joshua Morse feat. Jeff Ball, Laura Intravia

This is a beautiful song.  Not one of my favorites, but there’s definitely nothing wrong with it.  Beautiful piano at the beginning reminds me of Mushi-Shi, which is one of my favorite anime.  Some strings and wind instruments pick up a nice, peaceful beat to make this song more than solid.

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Track 2 – Go-Go Gadget Gonkulator (Gogo) by XPRTNovice

After the first minute, this song really picks up.  XPRTNovice does a great job capturing the heart of Gogo in the song, I think – Always shifting and moving, never knowing quite what’s going on.  Very interesting.  Lots of movements – in the middle, it turns into a plodding, thunderous beat, very reminiscent of Steiner’s theme.  It takes a bit of a break, then goes right back to it at around 3:25.  Lots of fun.

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Track 3 – Katabasis (Epitaph) by Forrest Powell feat. Laura Intravia

Around two minutes, this song takes a turn for the epic with some great, gospel-y vocals and elegant strings.  It sounds solemn, yet not in a depressing way, and transcendent at the same time, a great balance for a song to strike.

It kind of clashes with the previous song, but I’ll allow it.  They’re both great.

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Track 4 – 13th Floor Demonstration (The Magic House) by Flexstyle

Whew!  Extremely intense song.  It’s a lot of fun, driving beats, but again, I think it clashes with the song before it – I mean, I know they’re doing it in the order to which you listen to them in the game, basically, but I’m sure they can be switched around a bit.

Then again, if their FFIX remix album were out yet, I’d probably say they should do it in the order which you find the music.   Ah well, I guess they can’t win.  Regardless, this song is sweet.

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Track 5 – The Narshemellow (Umaro) by XPRTNovice

XPRTNovice, I’m gonna be real with you right now – you can do no wrong in my book.  Every song that I’ve heard on this album by you, I have thoroughly enjoyed. You took another song, made it your own, but kept it close enough to the original.  You are really good at this.

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Track 6 – The Endless Stair (Fanatics) by Argle

Very creepy, very forboding.  Reminds me of Nine Inch Nails a bit, which makes my high-school self very happy.

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Track 7 – Trauermarsch (Last Dungeon) by Derek Oren, Jeremy Robson

I feel like this song tried too hard – again, the music itself was great, but it wasn’t very listenable to me.  I found it to get a bit boring;  I feel like it was rather similar throughout, which I couldn’t pay attention to for the full twelve minutes.  If it were shorter, it could definitely get a higher grade.

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Track 8 – Demon, Fiend & Goddess (Dancing Mad) by zircon, Sixto Sounds

… UUUUUGH.  Sweet LORD, was this good.  God, I swear, any song that has to do with Kefka has been remixed SO well throughout this album.

This was everything I could have hoped for in a remix.  Sixto Sounds and zircon treated this song perfectly.  Didn’t change the pace, didn’t try to do too much, but gave the song the perfect sound to fit in this album and make an amazing, amazing remix.

I’m extremely impressed.  It was gonna be hard to live up to my expectations for such a renowned song, but…  Six. Terras.

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Track 9 – Ending Suite (Ending Theme) by Shnabubula, Gabe Terracciano

I love strings, man.  I really do.  The violin in this suite was beautiful, graceful, and all-around awesome.  A great interpretation of the ending theme.  Reminds me of when I beat FFVI for the first time, and nostalgia is always a plus.

The piano picks it up very well and keeps it interesting and light.  Around the 8 minute mark, things start getting quite intense, and the mixture of the strings and piano is rather glorious, if I do say so myself.

… Which I do.

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Track 10 – Humble Beginnings, Great Expectations (The Prelude) by Disco Dan

I’m so happy that this one was done incredibly well.  One of the most popular tracks of the franchise, and it was done beautifully on this album.  Wraps up everything (except the bonus disc, of course) with a beautiful song.  Disco Dan, you haven’t done any tracks up ’til now, but very, very well done.

Overall:

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s the best disc on the album so far.  Great consistency mix with some pretty mindblowing works to make this the favorite.

I may not be able to finish up with disc 5 tomorrow – one of my buddies is getting married, and his bachelor party is tomorrow 🙂  rest assured that, if not tomorrow, the final installment of this review will be out on Sunday!

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FFVI Remix Album – Balance and Ruin Review – Disc 3

Disc 3?  Already?  Wow.  Word.  Awesome.  Let’s do this!

This Disc will be rated on a scale of 1-5 Mogs.  One of my favorite characters in both FFVI  and FFIX.

Track 1 – Flava de Chocobo (Techno de Chocobo) by Joshua Morse

A very groovy interpretation of Techno de Chocobo by Joshua Morse, who is now infamous in my mind for making the all-too-awesome “softcore-esque” “Awakening” on Disc 1.  Without a doubt, if you brought this song to a 70’s disco, people would be dancin’ the night away.  I can see their afros, fu manchus, and chest hair now…

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Track 2 – Johnny’s Got That Funk (Johnny C Bad) by Anti-Syne

Daaaaaamn, Anti-Syne.  You stepped up your game on this track.  Johnny does indeed have that funk on this eclectic mixture of of old and new.  Anti-Syne wasn’t afraid to go out on a limb, and it paid off.  He successfully branded this remix as his own while keeping enough of the original to create a beautiful homage to its predecessor.  The breakdown with about 45 seconds to go brings it home.

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Track 3 – Gestahlian Sonata (The Empire ‘Gestahl’) by Rexy

I’ll say that I don’t know much about Classical sonatas.  I’ll also say, again, that I don’t have much experience in the classical music world.  However, one thing I do know is that this song sounds damn good.  It changes the tone, but is still dark, depressing, and foreboding as ever while bringing down the tempo.  Awesome work by Rexy, and a strong start to the third disc.

Oooooh, and right at the end, there’s a little piano riff of the Final Fantasy Prelude!  Wow.  I had this at 4.5…  But I’m kicking it up to full marks for that.

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Track 4 – The Megiddo Brigade (Devil’s Lab) by djpretzel

Another intense, solid track.  It keeps the listener interested with slight variation throughout while keeping both the theme and tone of the song similar to the original.

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Track 5 – There’s Nothing Like Flying (Blackjack) by DDRKirby(ISQ)

Anything that can capture the feeling of flying in music is pretty darn great in my book, and DDRKirby(ISQ) does a great job of it in this track.  The lilting, bouncy tones along with the driving beat combine for a sense of wonder and exhilaration that are required when creating a song like this.  I can picture myself up in the great blue sky, wind whipping my hair as I pilot my airship to lands unknown…

…  Then, I realize I’m in Vermont, and I haven’t seen the sun in months.  Ah well, it was a nice daydream.

FIVE MOGS.  SO GOOD.

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Track 6 – Mogstradamus (Mog) by Brandon Strader

Y’know, I never really was that down with Mog’s theme, as much as I loved the character himself…  I dunno.  I think it sounded just a little bit too…  I dunno, silly, maybe?

Regardless, this remix is awesome.  A few dubby-wubbies, mixing in the original theme well.  It turned out wonderfully.

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Track 7 – Aggressive Blue Magic (Strago) by halc

I LOVE 8-BIT SOUNDS IN ANY REMIX EVER.  THEY SOUND SO GOOD.  WHEN YOU HAVE THEM THROUGHOUT THE SONG/AS A MAIN PART OF THE SONG, IT PROBABLY MAKES ME THE MOST HAPPY.  THIS SONG DOES THAT, AND IT MAKES ME THE MOST HAPPY.

AM I GOING TO USE CAPS LOCK THIS ENTIRE TIME?!

Nope.  Well done, halc.

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Track 8 – Pure Essence (Relm) by José the Bronx Rican

Chill.  A soothing melody, light, bright, and listenable.  José did a nice job making the song his own.  Nothing too flashy or mind-boggling, but solid.

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Track 9 – Illusionary (Another World of Beasts) by Sole Signal

An appropriate name for this track, “Illusionary” is ethereal and a little creepy.  It starts getting a little dub-funky about two minutes in, and I’m not complaining.  Nice use of strings to create more ambient creepiness.  Again, not my favorite track, but still solid.

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Track 10 – Black Genesis (New Continent) by Rexy, Brandon Strader

I was excited to sink my teeth into Rexy’s next track after her previous 5-Mog performance, and while it was very different from “Gestahlian Sonata”, I wasn’t disappointed.  In fact, it’s interesting – the ReMixer behind “Gestahlian Sonata” and the one behind “Mogstradamus” come together to create one of the more brutal, intense tracks on the album thus far.  Not really my style, but I can dig it.

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Track 11 – Meditations on an Apocalypse (Catastrophe) by zircon

Lovin’ the quick, staccatoed tones in the background.  Heavy beat with much lighter instrumental overtones.  Great mix of the two.  Solid.  No complaints.

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Track 12 – Evisceration (The Fierce Battle) by Flexstyle

This is certainly Fierce.  My brain felt like it was indeed being eviscerated by listening to this.  Gotta give it some props for being honest.

Nice use of dubs.  Better use of wubs.

I feel like if I listened to this too much, I might go a little crazy.  For now, though, I’m lovin’ it.

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Track 13 – A Tranquil Rest (Rest in Peace) by Forrest Powell

Aw.  This track made me sad.  Both because it sounds very depressing, the title is depressing, and because I don’t think it’s as tranquil as it should be, given the title.  There’s too much going on.  When I think “tranquil”, I think minimalist.

It’s just a difference of opinion, I guess, but I think it’s pretty average.

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Track 14 – Elegy for a Ruined World (Dark World) by Derek Oren, Jeremy Robson

Whoo.  Epic 10-minute song.  There’s never much of a pickup, and to be honest, I got a bit bored after the first five minutes or so.  I’m going to give it a bit of a better listen later.

Track 15 – Event Horizon (The Day After) by Palpable, OA

Great mixture of guitar and fun, Nightmare-Before-Christmasy tones make this tune quite awesome.  A fun, driving interpretation of the original.  Palpable for the win.

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Track 16 – Blackjack’s breakup Bossa (Blackjack) by Calum Bowen feat. Xarnax42

Hahahaha.  I LOVE the vocals in the beginning of this song.  Normally, I’m not down with them (as you can see from my previous reviews), but this song doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is exactly what you need for this sort of hotel-lobby remix.  Gah, I think it’s great.  Not for everyone, but a lot of fun.

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Overall

I’ll be honest – I think that the second disc blew me out of the water more than this one did.  However, the second disc fell flat on its face with the Opera, and this one was much more consistent.

Because it didn’t blow me out of the water, I’m going to give it a 4.5 Mogs, just because its consistency was great – it was just missing the X-Factor that would bring it up to a 5.  Very, very well done.

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FFVI Remix Album – Balance and Ruin Review – Disc 2

Allllllllrighty then, it’s time for the review of disc 2!  Let’s get right to it!

This time, the scale will be 1-5 Lockes, everyone’s favorite thie- erm, “Treasure Hunter”.

Track 1 – Wild Child Ballad (Gau) by bustatunez

Let me tell you something, readers of this review.  This guy, bustatunez, knows how to remix a FFVI ditty and get these discs off to a great start.

Gau’s theme has always confused me a bit, just because Gau seems so much more…  energetic?  Frantic?  Than his theme is.  Regardless, bustatunez serves up another home-run of a remix.  Beautiful use of flutes and piano. Four Lockes.

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(Also, a quick grammatical note – all of the song titles and artists use the capitalization [or lack thereof] that appears on the album.  That’s why, for example, “bustatunez” is not “Bustatunez”, etc.)

Track 2 – river of sine waves (The Serpent Trench) by posu yan

A slower, gentler, jazzier take on “The Serpent Trench” that makes me feel like I’m in the best elevator ever.  A very old-school beginning leads to some nice guitar, and it stays consistent throughout.  A great, relaxing interpretation on the song, even when it picks up a bit toward the end.

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Track 3 – Idle City Street (Kids Run Through the City) by Pot Hocket

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first Five-Locke song from the second disc.  Maybe “river of sine waves” got me ready for some relaxing music, because man, I almost fell asleep during this one (in the best of ways).  The tempo was amazing, the guitar was great, and I can’t see myself giving this song anything but full marks.  It’s really great.

On that note, I’ll be back.  Naptime.

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Track 4 – Courage, Failure, Rosebud (Under Martial Law) by DragonAvenger, OA

All right, I’m back from my nap.

Anyway, this song is definitely not nap-worthy.  It’s very intense.  Striking chimes collide with impressive synth work by DragonAvenger and OA to create a kaleidoscopic amalgam of old-school techno.  Good.  Stuff.

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Track 5 – Bad Octopus (Save Them!, Grand Finale) by Fishy feat. XPRTNovice

I tell ya, one of my favorite parts of Final Fantasy VI is fighting Ultros.  He’s hilarious.  Up there on my “Favorite ‘Bosses’ of All Time” list.  Freakin’ octopus, what’re you doing in the opera house?

Anyway.  You guessed it:  as usual, anything that XPRTNovice is associated with is awesome.  Super fun to listen to.  Love it.  Brings me back to Ultros-fighting days, and puts its own spin on it.

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Track 6 – Train Suplex (Decisive Battle) by Danny Baranowsky

I’ll be honest – I’ve been waiting for this one.  I saw it on the Track List and went wild with glee.  The comic that goes with this is hilarious:

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Y’know, I don’t think there’s much to be said, here.  This song was destined for a Five-Locke rating well before I pressed “Play”.  It actually being a really fun song to listen to only made it more clear.

Sometimes, if a cover is good enough, you can judge a book by it.

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Track 7 – There Will Be Blood (Metamorphosis) by Anti-Syne

I’ll say right off the bat that I’m normally not that into the sort of style that Anti-Syne employed in this song.  However, I’ll say that it was a lot of fun to listen to.  It was very fast-moving, and I liked the use of the lyrics in this one – they were simple, not over the top, and not in-your-face.  A very enjoyable listen, if you’re in the mood.

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Track 8 – Terra’s Resolve (Terra) by Chad Seiter

This is another one of those songs that is really, really hard to live up to.  It’s just got so much history behind it.  When you step up to the plate to one of these songs, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Fortunately, Chad Seiter did a great job.

It takes all the epic awesomeness of the original track, and gives it a push toward the epic.  Very, very well done.

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Track 9 – A Simple Flip Can Change Fate (Coin Song) by Level 99

The original is one of my favorite songs in all of FFVI.  Like what Chad Seiter did with “Terra”, Level 99 doesn’t try to fix what ain’t broke – the acoustic guitar strumming in the background complements the style of the song well, and this was another more-than-solid performance.  I liked this one even a bit more than I did “Terra’s Resolve”.  FIVE LOCKES.

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Track 10 – Electro de Choco (Techno de Chocobo) by Tepid

Anytime there’s the word “Chocobo” in a track, I get excited.  It’s up there with the battle themes in terms of memorability and epicness.

Unfortunately for remixers, that also means that expectations go up, too.  Then again, if they pull it off, it’s great.

Tepid pulled it off.  About 45 seconds in, it goes from calming electro-chill to fun, satisfying, just-energetic-enough dance techno.  A nice guitar breakdown around 2:45 is a welcome, not-over-the-top addition, and the dubbiness after that is just dubby-wubby enough to be fun and awesome.

I know there are 7 tracks to go, but damn.  This disc has done extremely well so far.  Two Five-Locke songs in a row?  I never thought I’d see the day…

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Track 11 – Reverie of the Broken Phoenix (Forever Rachel) by McVaffe

Nobuo Uematsu is a legend.  His work on Final Fantasy VI is amazing.  Personally, I would say that it is, in terms of video game scores, second only to FFIX.  To be able to take one of his songs and make it your own is a very difficult task, and would be impossible for most

These OCRemix guys are good.  Like, really, really good.

McVaffe keeps the train rollin’ with another memorable remix of another memorable track.  I really am amazed.

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Track 12 – Slam Davis (Slam Shuffle) by Mazedude

Mazedude did a good job creating a creepy atmosphere for a creepy song.  Very ghostly, very ethereal, very dark.  Halfway through, it went into a little breakdown, then goes back to the creepy beats with renewed vigor.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of this song, but I think that’s just because I wasn’t feeling the “creepy” vibe when I listened, as opposed to there being anything wrong with the song itself.

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Track 13 – Fiddlesticks Rag (Spinach Rag) by diotrans

What a fantastic song.  The remix, with all the stringed melodic deliciousness, was great.  No complaints.  It’s very bouncy and fun, and reminds me of something that would be in a 1920’s silent comedy.

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Track 14 – The Nightmare Oath (Overture) by OA, Moonlapse, BardicKnowledge, Laura Intravia feat. DragonAvenger

The first pretty “meh” track on the disc.  Don’t get me wrong – the music was totally badass.  It reminds me of some of the more epic tracks of Nightwish or Within Temptation’s stuff.

My problem was twofold.  One, the vocalist, while much, much better than I am, didn’t sound ready to handle the epicness of the song.  You need to be an extremely talented and powerful singer (like the singer from Within Temptation, for example) to live up to that sort of epic, and I just don’t think he was ready.  Two, where did these lyrics come from?  They’re not from the game…  did someone just come up with them on a whim?  See my review from Disc 1 for “Tastes Like Victory”, and you’ll see my opinion on such lyrics.

The power of the music alone nets this song two Lockes.

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Track 15 – The Impresario (Opera Sequence) by Jake Kaufman, Tommy Pedrini

Ugh.  Okay, I’m calling it right now – if there’s one song to skip over this entire five-disc album, it’s this one.  I simply can’t think of a way that I could be more disappointed by a remix of the Opera.

I didn’t like the lyrics at all.  It sounds like a twelve-year-old was trying to sound like a badass (“I’ll kill them” is said about twelve times in a row over the course of thirty seconds.  “Gonna”, “wanna”, and other unprofessional words are used all over the place.  I’m not opposed to the use of these words normally, but seriously?  This is an opera.  The Opera Sequence from Final Fantasy VI.  Make it sound a little bit epic).  The vocals sounded like a mixture of Weird Al and Backstreet Boys melodies (for the record, I love both Weird Al and BSB…  again, just not when someone’s trying to remix the FFVI Opera).

The music itself sounded good.  Very similar to the music of the “Overture” above, which would make sense.  But here’s a tip:  The songs that have come before that have had lyrics, I’ve given them a chance, because at least they’re trying to add something.  The guys that remixed this song already had lyrics, and they removed them and replaced them with lyrics of their own.  Like, what?  No.  When you remove the lyrics of a song and provide your own, it becomes a different song.  Plus, the vocalists were definitely not opera singers.  I guess this was more of a rock-opera deal, but meh.

One-Quarter of One Locke, and that’s being generous.  It’s a Pity-Locke, mostly.  Such potential, and it fell flat on its face (in my opinion).  I’m very, very disappointed.

I have edited this, since it was definitely more insulting before, and I definitely don’t mean to insult anyone.  There are definitely people out there who love this track;  I’m just not one of them.

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Track 16 – Till We Meet Again (Aria de Mezzo Carattere) by zircon, Jillian Aversa, AeroZ

Word.  Okay, this was a little bit better.  The lyrics weren’t exactly the same, but it was definitely in the same vein, which was good.  The music and vocals were both beautiful. It was by no means anything great, but it was definitely passable.

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Track 17 – Full Speed Ahead (Setzer) by zircon

Ahhhh, nothin’ like some drum n’ bass to refresh a weary, cynical soul.  This got the end of this disc out of the funk that their failed Opera experiment caused, and left me with a pretty good feeling.  It was fun, it was fast, and I loved it.

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Overall

Whew.  Well, before the three Opera tracks happened, I thought this disc had a very good chance of getting a full Five-Locke rating.  It really is that good.  Disc 1 still has my favorite track of all in “Ascension of a Madman”, but this disc, on the whole, was consistently better.  Since it’s only three tracks on this disc that really bug me, I’ll give this disc two “Overall” ratings:

If you don’t listen to Tracks 14, 15, and 16:

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If you do:

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