Final Fantasy VII -Advent Children- Original Soundtrack
Final Fantasy VII -Advent Children- Original Soundtrack
September 28, 2005
Buy at CDJapan
Devoted Final Fantasy fans had waited nearly two years before the arrival of the expected Final Fantay VII -Advent Children- movie. Although the plot was somewhat confusing, the action and fight scenes drew the fan base back into the nostalgia of Final Fantasy VII. Many praised the fact that Square-Enix stood true to the previous storyline and the original characters. However, others thought the new characters — Yazoo, Kadaj, and Loz (the villains) — could have been fleshed out more and with respect to where they came from and their relevance to Sephiroth and Cloud. So what about the music? The music accompanying the movie has several different elements, some are remixes of original tracks from Final Fantasy VII, others are old piano tracks, and some are completely new tracks. From those different elements, it is an album you could call as a tribute to Final Fantasy VII. But, how much material is new on this album? How many compositions did Nobuo Uematsu improve upon? It becomes harder in the judgment process to discern whether this album becomes a derivative of old material or an album that is unique and stands on its own when you mix old and new tracks together.
In order to make an assessment of this album, let’s go backward in time to the Original Soundtrack, the Reunion Tracks, and Piano Collections of Final Fantasy VII. In order to rate this album, we need to consider how it fares in comparison to the old albums. As a result, I listened thoroughly to the old tracks from those designated albums, including the piano accompaniments. There are a total of eight old or remixed tracks on this album. The Original Soundtrack was heavily criticized for using poor synthesizer sound effects that resulted in only midi-quality tracks. The soundtrack had mixed reviews because there were excellent and memorable themes, but also many tracks with questionable quality. Then later on, the Reunion Tracks came out, which was basically a collection of carbon copy tracks from the Original Soundtrack, with only “Aerith’s theme, ” “One Winged Angel, ” and “Main Theme of Final Fantasy VII” rearranged in orchestral accompaniment. All three tracks were vast improvements over the original when I heard them, but there wasn’t a lot of new material for listeners to enjoy. The Piano Collections album was nicely arranged, but never captured quite the same essence of magic as the original. In my opinion, the album was designed more for homework or reading under longer listening sessions. Sometimes the themes were soft and tender enough that you might fall asleep listening to it, but by no means do I mean that in a negative way.
Two old themes re-appearing on the Advent Children album are “Tifa’s Theme” and “Aerith’s Theme.” Tifa’s track and Aerith’s track developed in the Original Soundtrack were probably two of the best themes ever conceived by Uematsu for the female characters. Both compositions were strong and simple, while still touching and emotional at the same time. But the problem in the Original Soundtrack was the sound quality, which detracted from the full impact of those compositions. Tifa’s arrangement was never turned back into an orchestral version in the Reunion Tracks, and remained untouched until it was rearranged for the piano. In terms of appropriateness for Final Fantay VII -Advent Children-, I would say the addition of Tifa’s and Aerith’s piano themes are perfect for the scenes depicted in the movie. Not much drama occurs in these scenes where Tifa enters the church or Cloud meets Aeris in the lifestream. I think this is why the producers decided to avoid the use of a full orchestra under these tracks. However from another standpoint, this was also a missed opportunity for Uematsu to present some of his creativity that he did not take advantage of originally. He could well have taken a chance at rearranging Tifa’s theme instead of just placing in the piano piece. Aerith’s theme in the original soundtrack was done exceptionally well, re-inserting the birth, death, and rebirth concept. On the Reunion Tracks album, the theme was revamped with the harps, woodwinds, brass, and piano to contribute to the total listening experience, which I felt was the best. I found the piano version to be lacking a crucial component of emotion in comparison to the orchestral version — it was just not quite as moving. However, the scene in which Cloud meets Aeris in the movie is not in the same dramatic situation as Aeris dying in the game. This is another reason for using a piano rather than using the orchestral version of the theme. The scenes with Tifa and Aerith are relatively peaceful, so the soft piano accompaniment was more suitable. But make no mistake about it, the piano version of “Aerith’s Theme” is not in the same league with the orchestral version on the Reunion Tracks.
We now get into the old action and battle tracks of Final Fantasy VII. The battle themes, “J-E-N-O-V-A” and “One Winged Angel” come back with different remixes. During the time the soundtrack was composed, “One Winged Angel’s” popularity amongst Final Fantasy fans was unmatched due to its original, powerful, and revolutionary score. The Latin choir combined with symphonic instruments, and synthetic sound effects made it one of the crowning achievements that Uematsu brought to the world of video game music. “One Winged Angel” on the Reunion Tracks had the orchestral accompaniment, but it was very similar to the original version. It somewhat lacked in length at 4:17 minutes in comparison to the 7:19 seconds we’re used to hearing in the original version. Somehow the instruments used in the original version were much superior even though the sound quality in the orchestral version was much better. The piano version of “One Winged Angel” was done well in terms of using only one medium of sound, but it doesn’t have the same adrenaline as the orchestral or original version. For the Advent Children version of the “One Winged Angel, ” it has a more heavy-metal edge, combined with an orchestral background. This was the single track I thought the Black Mages album had left out and was long overdue. The album doesn’t disappoint, as we get a new version with the distorted guitars and rough percussion late in the track to really make your skin crawl at Sephiroth’s ferocity. One word describes the track: SUPERB. It’s one of the quality gems on this soundtrack and is equally powerful as the original version. Put it at the top of your VGM’s 2005 best anthems and cues list, because that’s where it should be! We’ll go into more detail in the track-by-track review.
“J-E-N-O-V-A” had the definite feel of an alien when you heard it in the context of the techno beat and keyboard accompaniment on the Original Soundtrack. The Black Mages album tried to add an extra rough-edge feel to this track. In a sense, it was an improvement on the original, but the melodies between the two are nearly indistinguishable. However, the Black Mages version was longer at six minutes and more developed. The piano version of “J-E-N-O-V-A” was entirely unfit I thought for remixing the original, but it was certainly a bold attempt by Hamaguchi. The Advent Children version of “J-E-N-O-V-A” isn’t too much different from the Black Mages version, but it’s heavier on the guitar section, pushing the melody. I actually enjoy the rock version of “J-E-N-O-V-A,” because it balances out techno synthesizers and heavy metal for a unique alien feel. This Advent Children version is also composed quite well, but lacks the balance of the Black Mages version. This causes the bizarre atmosphere to lose its impact and effectiveness.
We now get to the “Those who Fight” and for some reason, this track didn’t have as much of an impact on me as the other boss and dungeon themes in the Original Soundtrack did. The Advent Children version is the replica of the piano arrangement. Somehow it doesn’t quite work in the scene with Tifa and Loz duking it out, because heavy rock and orchestral instruments would have been more appropriate. A sort of laziness is what I sensed from the track, because it could have been remixed just like “J-E-N-O-V-A” or “One Winged Angel. ” Sadly, what we hear is an uninspired and disappointing piano track that does no justice for the scene. To be fair, this piano track is not bad, just it shouldn’t have been in this album for the designated scene. Track 2 on disc 2 of “Those who Fight” probably would have been much more appropriate for the situation.
Now we can’t go on without any mention of the opening theme of Final Fantay VII -Advent Children-. This new version hits the old version with a bang on the trumpets flaring out. If you compare it against the original, you can hear the difference with ease due to the poor synth quality in the Original Soundtrack. Then, track 14 of disc 1, you get the remixed version of “The Great Northern Cave,” which is very similar to the original version. Better sound quality works well in forcing a dark mood. “Cloud’s Theme” gets reiterated as well as the “Prelude” in the “Ending Theme,” marking the excellent nostalgia factor for revisiting the old Final Fantasy VII roots in the five-minute suite.
So we got all of the old tracks out of the way, now we get into the new material. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve heard anything new from Uematsu (since Final Fantasy XI). Although I wasn’t completely impressed with his contribution to that album, his selected compositions were well done, such as his “Opening Theme” and “Recollection” theme. So what has he been up to all this time? He’s created some new tracks that go into the extreme of metal edge, other themes that stand on the border between synthesizers giving off an ambient feel to heavy rock, and a few beautifully-orchestral tracks near the end. This album is quite diverse and satisfying for people looking for new themes.
So how does the new material measure up? I can say the overall new material is enjoyable and impressive, with only rare occasions where the ambience tracks become totally unbearable (“Black Water” and “Materia,” for example). They’re hugely dependent on the same guitar line over and over again. The ambient and heavy metal tracks take a huge portion from the album. “Violator” is another bumpy ambient track which is next to “Black Water,” but a little more discernable. “Battle in the Forgotten City” probably works as one of the best ambient tracks on the album.
The rest of the tracks are polished and arranged extremely well. The “Promised Land” is an excellent eulogy track for ones who suffered and died in the previous battle in the game, while hinting the earth’s cry for help. “Beyond the Wasteland” is a great beginning action track with violins and piano working well in pushing the excitement of the motorcycle fight. The “Chase on the Highway” has a full-fledged heavy metal flavor which builds up and is quite additive in depicting how Cloud chases Kadaj. “Divinity 1” and “Divinity 2” are classics, and describe the fight of the summoned beast, which reminds me of Uematsu’s earlier score of “Liberi Fatali” (Final Fantasy VIII ). Uematsu has done well in the inclusion of choir to his ensemble of music demonstrated in his previous works of “One Winged Angel” (Final Fantasy VII), “Liberi Fatali” (Final Fantasy VIII), and “Memoro de la S^tono” (Final Fantasy XI). Since then, he has never turned back, and now he adds another accolade to his famed work collection with these two tracks. Then, the final theme, “Calling,” is a light-hearted track which is quite a change from the overly romantic versions you’ve heard from so many female vocals in “Chrono Cross, ” “Xenosaga, ” and “Final Fantasy. ” I was actually kind of worried that we’d be hearing another carbon copy vocal in the movie, but mercifully the composers didn’t do that.
I would buy this album for the nostalgia factor of the old themes as well as the new themes offered. There were only a few mediocre tracks (“Those who Fight (Piano Version)”) and “Black Water” that I personally didn’t like. Also, I thought “Materia” was a little underdeveloped and short. The rest of the tracks are arranged very well with the context of the movie with top notch sound quality. Also, the last eight tracks on disc 2 are just phenomenal. Kudos to the Square Enix sound team’s effort for composing this album. There are so many great new themes on this album that you’ll want to go back and listen to them again, such as “Chase of Highway,” “Beyond the Wastelands,” “End Credits,” “Calling,” “Cloud Smiles,” and “Divinity 2.” This album will surely bring you back to the old roots of Final Fantasy VII sounds while also satisfying listeners who are thirsty for fresh material.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Will. Last modified on January 19, 2016.