Children of Termina
Children of Termina
|Record Label: Materia Collective|
|Catalog No.: MCOL-0167|
|Release Date: November 30, 2018|
Buy on Bandcamp
Rozen composes at a rate that makes one wonder if the moon may really be about to fall. Children of Termina marks his third electro-orchestral concept album paying tribute to The Legend of Zelda in the span of a single year. Sins of Hyrule brought 2017 to an impassioned and glorious close, while Ballads of Hyrule complemented the release of the official Breath of the Wild soundtrack earlier this year with a lighter touch.
Yet where these previous two outings drew from all corners of the Zelda series, Children of Termina restricts its focus to one of the franchise’s darkest tales. This may not be Rozen’s first orchestral homage to the Majora’s Mask soundtrack, but in contrast to 2015’s Time Once Lost, Children of Termina is less about the majesty of Termina and more about its oncoming armageddon. Can this album recapture Majora’s Mask’s menacing edge in addition to its bittersweet magic?
Despite visual similarities to the iconically bright Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask packed an apocalyptic narrative, capitalizing on minute details to convey the dire plight of its world. The gravity *cough* of the situation wasn’t impressed on players explicitly, but rather was onset by a creeping sense of dread as the moon came ever closer to crushing the world of Termina. This tantalizing subtlety helped catapult Majora’s Mask to cult-classic status and inspired a flood of internet ghost stories expanding the lore.
In Children of Termina, the looming danger is much more pronounced and immediate – though no less nuanced. Following a grand orchestral nod to Majora’s Mask’s “Opening” theme, the album kicks off with a sense of urgency. Track one, “The World That Ends in Three Days”, sets the strings marching and the percussion crashing, all while vocalist Cecilia Soldream soars over the violent soundscape. Sins of Hyrule fans will recognize Rozen’s raw orchestral power and feel right at home from the get-go.
In fact, the vast majority of Children of Termina sports Rozen’s signature sound, even while keeping the character of various classics intact. “Termina Field”, for example, faithfully revives Majora’s Mask’s jittery rendition of the Zelda overworld theme, but only after a gratuitous orchestral build. “Stone Tower” begins as a mysterious and metallic meditation, but later ascends to a tumultuous orchestral romp. “Deku Palace” emphasizes the catchy punctuality of the original with renewed orchestral force, as lilting and fluttering winds painting this fan favorite in an even feistier light than before. Even the most straightforward conversions benefit from HD treatment, including the rollicking boss theme (“Masked Monsters”) and that curious melody that haunts the four corners of the world of Termina (“The Four Regions”).
So too does the sweetness found in Ballads of Hyrule make ample appearances. “A Moment’s Rest” provides soft respite to the tune of “Tatl and Tael”, peacefully plucked away over whispy synth pad layers and bird chirps. “Final Hours” is similarly entrancing, tugging heartstrings with wailing synth leads and echoic plucked strings. “Moon’s Tears (Astral Observatory)” is a particular treat. The original track has inspired beautiful covers from starstruck composers over the years, and Rozen’s delicate introductory piano textures and eventual thunderous climax make the Children of Termina rendition a welcomed addition to that starry sky.
Yet what sets Rozen’s latest apart is the way in which he wields dread and despair, in large part thanks to harrowing cinematic sound design and arrangement. Track one itself opens with hollow winds, a storm of reversed-attack samples and the iconic chime of a clock tower bell before a single recognizable note is landed. Track two, “Majora’s Mask”, sets terse strings against meticulous clock ticks, culminating in dissonance so abrasive that only the bravest fans will recognize the “Majora’s Theme” melody on first listen. As “Final Hours” crossfades into “March of the Giants”, melancholic ambience gives way to agonized groans and a Hans Zimmer-esque pipe organ riff pulled straight from Rozen’s 2015 “Oath of Order” cover, “Termina’s Demise”. “I Shall Consume Everything” packs ear-shredding synthwork and supermassive blasts of pipe organ and choir. Not even the nostalgically lush and whimsical “Clock Town” can escape the onslaught, frantically accelerating in the second half as raging brass threatens to swallow the track whole. Only once the shadows give way to crystalline piano, percussive undercurrents, and Reven’s beaming soprano vocal lines in “Inside the Moon” are listeners squarely back in safe territory.
These tracks are all tied together with the same smart use of thematic material made Sins of Hyrule such a strong concept album. Majora’s Mask, like its predecessor, intertwined music so tightly with its narrative that the melodies themselves were essential to moving the plot forward. Children of Termina takes similar care in deploying this treasured material. Nods to the “Majora’s Mask” theme are commonplace, lest the album ever become too comfortable a listen. The “Oath of Order” theme is often used to dramatic and climactic effect. If ears could blink, listeners would miss the fleeting fragments of “Song of Healing” scattered throughout the album – though this restorative melody gets its time to shine in the album’s penultimate track. Even the “Song of Time” – a non-native and easily overlooked melody in the Majora’s Mask repertoire – has a role to play, bringing “I Shall Consume Everything” to its invigorating conclusion.
The album closes in the same vein as Sins of Hyrule: with a sweeping eight-minute sendoff track named after its parent album. Here, one final thematic nod merits mention: the triumphant return of an original chord progression from the end of Time Once Lost. Perhaps Children of Termina has taken a leaf from Link’s notebook. After all, aren’t both the album and the Hero of Time using the power of music to return to the start of the journey?
Both Children of Termina and Majora’s Mask have one core element in common: they repurpose familiar material in astoundingly original ways. Rozen’s latest, then, is a powerful dedication to its source material, and just might be his best contribution to the Zelda series’ extended musical universe to date. Should the moon ever really come crashing down, Majora’s Mask fans should be sure to give this one a listen before the dawn of the final day – however many hours remain.
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Posted on January 11, 2019 by Reilly Farrell. Last modified on January 11, 2019.