Scions & Sinners: Final Fantasy XIV Arrangement Album
Scions & Sinners: Final Fantasy XIV Arrangement Album
Square Enix Music
March 24, 2021
Buy at CDJapan
Scions and Sinners: Final Fantasy XIV Arrangement Album is the fourth arrangement album from Final Fantasy XIV to focus on piano and band arrangements, mostly covering tracks from the Shadowbringers expansion. The same team from previous albums is involved: Keiko is responsible for arrangements and performances of the piano half of the album, while The Primals, the band led by the game’s lead composer Masayoshi Soken, takes care of the band portion. The album is available in the usual digital and Blu-ray formats. This album sees a development of trends established in earlier arrangement albums, with a more diverse choice of tracks.
Kicking off the piano half of the album is “‘Neath Dark Waters,” the sombre Amaurot theme which was already piano-centric. The arrangement begins quite close to the original, but removal of the original metronome allows for some rubato, adding a surprising amount of emotion. Although the arrangement doesn’t really develop the original aside from textures and flourishes, the emotional register feels different enough to elevate a piece that was wonderful to begin with. Later, “Shadows Withal” takes a similar approach of preserving the essence of the original piano part, but here it’s a less drastic difference; both the arrangement and the original are boisterous and jazzy tracks, but there is a more palpable sense of mystery in the arrangement. Less successful is the unnecessary “A Long Fall, suffering from being overly bombastic with little nuance and even dynamics, and it isn’t saved by the few added jazz flourishes. “Invincible” fares better as it had a more dynamic and classical composition to begin with, and is here helped by overt influence from Classical- and Romantic-era piano pieces, culminating in a reference to the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” (but wouldn’t this have been more appropriate for Endwalker?). Keiko’s playing is great, and I like the added emotional segments too. Then there is “Pa-paya,” which is a bit of a head-scratcher since it was hardly one of the tracks from A Realm Reborn that was still calling out for a piano arrangement. It’s by no means my favourite, but I find it listenable thanks to the fun that Keiko obviously had in arranging and performing the piece; it’s a skillful arrangement with flair.
The remaining piano arrangements are dedicated to tracks with vocals from Amanda Achen (with their instrumental versions included as well). The first is “Tomorrow and Tomorrow’” and although there again isn’t a huge change in the overall feel of the track, I much prefer this version to the original, as the piano-only arrangement strips the track of the weak synth strings and choir from the original, resulting in a track that feels much more alive and intimate. It’s just a shame that it’s one of the weaker compositions of the album. More interesting is the “What Angel Wakes Me,” as Amanda’s classical vocal is a stark contrast to the cutesy vocal of the original. As a whole the track pulls it off; Amanda gives a very playful and lively performance with lots of vocal colour, and Keiko matches her energy. “Return to Oblivion” is similarly an interesting arrangement, allowing Amanda to really showcase her range. The piano accompaniment doesn’t do much to stand out as much as I would like and instead mostly just supports Amanda, but it’s alright since the strengths of the composition together with Amanda’s vocal performance carry the track. These latter two are fairly daring and surprising arrangements to make for these tracks, and even though I do long for the more traditional piano solo approaches of the older Final Fantasy Piano Collections albums, there are already a number of excellent piano solos on the original Shadowbringers soundtrack, and I really do appreciate the strong efforts made to do something different in these arrangements.Keiko
The band tracks on the other hand are pretty run-of-the-mill, which can be good or bad. For the lesser arrangements, there is “A Long Fall” which stays too close to the original, the main difference being that the synths take back seat or are gone entirely while the guitar takes lead. There are two breakdowns in the second half with a new riff, but they are too short-lived and don’t inform the rest of the arrangement. Even though the original is phenomenal as a mixture old themes, there isn’t much new here. “Insatiable” suffers similarly, being still a great track but not having much new aside from heavier emphasis on the rock elements. “Shadowbringers” actually cuts out the “Tomorrow and Tomorrow” and “Eternal Wind” segments of the original, so it’s really just an arrangement of “Who Brings Shadow.” It too doesn’t bring much in the way of new sounds or ideas, but it at least varies the rhythm and emphasizes drumming patterns to give the track a buildup that feels stronger than the original.
The other arrangements are more substantially different from their originals. “Ultima” (reaching back to A Realm Reborn) is one of my favourites, melding rock with the choral and orchestral parts of the original but speeding it all up a bit for more energy. It’s a great version of the track, and frankly I’m surprised it wasn’t made earlier. “Equilibrium” is also an arrangement of an older track (this time from The Far Edge of Fate). This arrangement is a full rock arrangement (different from the piano vocal arrangement performed by the Primals on tour) and has new vocals led by GUNN, who of course suits the style here but is otherwise perfunctory. It’s a good breather as a mellower track, but it lacks anything else to make it standout, and frankly is less interesting than the original was. GUNN also sings for “What Angel Wakes Me,” which again as an arrangement strips out basically any interesting sounds from the original for a standard rock palette, but here the composition and lyrics retains enough of the original’s character so that it the juxtaposition of rock with the playful melodies make it a worthwhile track. “Blinding Indigo” is a solid track that is a bit more streamlined than its original, bringing extra guitars and a more prominent bass line. Lastly there is “Return to Oblivion,” which keeps Reven’s vocals. I’m a bit torn on this one because I feel the original arrangement with its unique instrumentation was perfect for the track, so while this arrangement feels lesser, I appreciate having another version of the track that feels significantly different, and the rhythmic changes here are solid. Overall, a ok showing from the band tracks, but they are mostly helped by the strength of the originals.
For those who purchase the Blu-ray, there’s a bit more in store than with previous arrangement albums. As usual, downloads of each track are available as mp3’s, and each track comes with visuals as well. The difference is that this time around there is a considerable improvement in these visuals. For the piano tracks, Keiko is seen performing from varieties of angles and with sweeping camera movements. There is nothing surprising here, but the videos are of high quality, and it can be fun to watch the ease with which she performs the more difficult passages. The band portion is similarly solid, with a few extra treats like the addition of props and costumes for tracks like “Ultima.” The video for “A Long Fall” is the highlight, with the team fully embracing the memes from the community and lovingly recreating them. It’s great to see the team not taking things too seriously and having a lot fun with these videos.
Scions and Sinners: Final Fantasy XIV Arrangement Album is another good collection of piano and band tracks for game. The piano arrangements are an improvement on many of the ones from previous albums, as here they have more cohesive ideas, partly from jazz and classical influences. The piano tracks with vocals are also a further push in a new direction, as these tracks feel the most different from the originals, and Amanda Achen’s classical voice is a wonderful departure from the norm for video game music. The band portion is alright, the best part for these being perhaps the performance videos, which for once adds significant value to the Blu-ray edition, though I still feel it is a tad too lean for the price. Fans should certainly check out the album, though it may still be that the digital version is the better value for most.
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Posted on February 10, 2022 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on February 10, 2022.