Armored Core Reprises
Armored Core Reprises
From Software Records
November 25, 2011
Buy at Amazon Japan
Inspired by the success of the Armored Core franchise, several members of the From Software sound team formed a band dedicated to the series. Known as FreQuency, the band include Kota Hoshino (vocals, bass), Tsukasa Saitoh (drums, bass), Koichi Suenega (guitars), Yoshikazu Takayama (guitars, piano), and Hideyuki Eto (programming). The band have appeared at concerts, official tournaments, and press events related to the Armored Core franchise throughout Japan. They band distributed their debut release, the The Encounter World EP, to just 50 people attending the Japanese concert GameMusicLaboratory Plugged during February 2011. Several months later, they prepared their first studio album Armored Core Reprises for a wider physical and digital release. The album features eleven arrangements of series’ favourites, a then-exclusive preview of Armored Core V‘s original music, and a brand new composition from lead composer Hoshino.
The album suitably opens with an arrangement of Armored Core 3‘s “Artificial Sky” — the unforgettable theme that started the series’ legacy of rich stylistic hybrids. The first 90 seconds of the arrangement adheres closely to the original, combining the surreal sounds of sampled female voices with abstract orchestral and electronic elements. However, returning arranger Tsukasa Saitoh soon incorporates novel elements to the track — including pulsating beats, funky piano riffs, and a killer guitar solo — to ensure the short original cue is expanded to reach its full potential. Benefiting from their years of working together, five band members work together incredibly well to create a balanced and rich soundscape. It’s a great expansion on the original that is bound to have plenty of mainstream pull.
Contrary to the opener, the band tend to distance themselves from the more ambient material of the series in favour of mainstream-oriented themes. Hoshino neglects the mesmerising main theme of Armored Core: For Answer, for instance, in favour of the harder-edged “Cosmos” and “Remember”. Both tracks focus on the artist’s unique brand of heavily manipulated, lyrically nonsensical vocal samples, above dense, grungy instrumentals provided by the band members. Such pieces are a select taste, but those with an affinity for the originals should enjoy them. The band members also greatly enhance some of the tracks, for instance emphasising the unique rhythms of “Thinker -reprise-” with dazzling guitar and keyboard solos. The more electronically-oriented “Autobahn” from Nexus and “Fake Facer” from Formula Front also greatly benefit from enhanced vocals and rich backing.
As the release encompasses the entire series, plenty of pieces pay homage to its IDM-inspired musical origins, while revamping them for a modern audience. Takayama, for instance, pulls all the right moves with Armored Core: Master of Arena‘s “Nine -novem-“. He stays true to the concept of the original by incorporating breakbeats and maintaining a futuristic, aseptic tone. However, the arrangement sounds so much fuller thanks to both its extensive development and fleshed-out ideas, with guitar and piano parts being particularly well-integrated. While the original was by no means primitive, the arrangement also benefits from over a decade’s improvement in sampling technology. “Delta Ray” is one of the more obscure additions to the soundtrack, but will be a further delight for electro lovers, while the closing arrangement “Flood of a Life” is filled with colourful and novel arrangement choices.
The release closes with three original pieces featured in Armored Core V. “V” testifies to the dark mood of the score with its deep cinematic passages and gritty industrial soundscapes. While the piece works excellently in context, it sounds too detached from context when tagged on at the end of an arranged album. More impressive is “Lament Over the Howling Age”, a soft, dreamy work featuring a clear trip-hop influence. The metred piano line encapulates the entire composition — beautiful yet mechanical — while the spiritual chorals and distorted build-ups bring plenty of substance. Finally, “Why Don’t You Come Down” closely resembles some of the other jams featured on the album, blending distorted vocoder parts with jagged riffs and pulsating beats. Closing the album, the original composition “I Know What You Stand” is worthy of a head-bop or two. An amalgam of beats, guitars, and vocals, it’s another fine example of Hoshino’s eccentric but popular sound.
Armored Core Reprises will have more mainstream appeal than the actual soundtrack releases for the series. After all, FreQuency have expanded the originals into fully-fledged band performances and have incorporated plenty of contemporary elements in the process. That said, the music still won’t appeal to all due to its heavy focus on abstract electronic beats and distorted vocal samples. What’s more, some series’ followers may be disappointed that the release focuses more on the series’ action-packed rather than moody themes. All that said, FreQuency have done an excellent job in realising the arrangements here — making a surplus of enhancements, while still retaining the essence of the diverse originals. Alongside the equally accomplished fan-produced The Answer, this release is a must-have for fans of the series’ soundtracks. Let’s hope we hear more from FreQuency in the future.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 22, 2016.