Harmony of Heroes
Harmony of Heroes
Harmony of Heroes
October 4, 2014
Download at Official Website
Harmony of Heroes is a colossal 7-hour fan tribute project to the music of the Super Smash Bros. series, so it is largely also a tribute to the legacy of Nintendo and friends. Boasting 101 tracks, the album covers the many principal series in the games, such as Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, Fire Emblem, and many more. The album also features many of the top arrangers in the community, evidenced by the high quality arrangements that are present throughout the entire album. There’s a wide variety of styles covered in the album so there’s certainly something for everyone, but it’s all so well done that anyone should be able to enjoy the vast majority of this ambitious tribute.
One of the largest divisions on the album is that of rock influenced arrangements. All of the arrangements are of top quality production, and they are playful and exciting without being overbearing. They are similarly styled to the arrangements in the Smash games, turning the original tracks into high-octane arrangements that sound big and epic. There’s good amount of ground covered in the arrangements, with the metal of Thunderclash’s “Maximum Overdrive (Mute City)”, Lashmush’s orchestral rock “Breaking Point (Planet Colors)”, garlagan’s synth-heavy “What Your Step Fox! (Star Wolf)”, and many others.
A particular highlight is Samuel Lidstöm and Annmari Thim’s unique “Gift of Flight (Skyworld)” which combines several orchestral elements together with some exotic sounds alongside a soaring and grand rock arrangement. Things come together in the symphonic rock climax of Rozen’s “Final Destination”, an epic 7-minute medley (covering much more than the titular stage theme) that perfectly matches its rock elements with its orchestral ones, with a few electronic and chiptune bits thrown in for good measure.
The other prominent division is that of full orchestral arrangements. For the most part these sound quite good despite not using real orchestras, often making good use of solo performers. The opening “Challenger Approaches” has an ominous intro that explodes into a rousing rendition of the opening themes of the Smash games, with a number of guest performers and notable solo soaring vocals from Laura Intravia, Brenda Puepke Omar Najmi, and Angel Mannion. Chris Hunter provides a wonderfully dark (and slightly manic) “Behind Pillars of Marble (Great Temple/Temple)”, and Sean Haeberman’s “Defending Corneria (Corneria)” has a great sound effect intro leading to the fierce track.
The Audire Soundtrack Choir and Orchestra with the Video Game Music Choir craft a pleasantly bright “Anthem of Fire (Fire Emblem Main Theme)” with their great choir and solo voices, while Erik Scerri has heavy percussion accompany Christopher Woo on viola in the emotional “I’m No Hero (MGS4-Theme of Love)”. Scerri is also behind the epic “Beyond the Chasm (Gerudo Valley)”, which does a great job at revitalizing the classic tune and making it fresh. The orchestral apex of the album is Rozen’s closing “Harmony of Heroes”, which has all of the biggest themes in the series in an epic 14-minute medley. Great work in this department, and many levels above most other fan orchestral arrangements in terms of quality.
For the lighter tracks, many take the concert or jazz band approach. Bernardo Limon’s “Sunset at Mushroom Castle (Peach’s Castle)” begins with a romantic jazzy piano opening, before the rest of the small ensemble joins in for a laid back arrangement. It’s a wonderfully pleasant take on theme, and the ensemble sounds fantastic. Stephan Wells and Camoshark mix in some tribal rhythms, woodwind, and solo guitar for the exotic “Jungle Swing (Kongo Jungle)”. Zach Parrish arranges the brassy and charming “Sunny Side Up (Wildlands)”, and the SMES group arranges a sophisticated “Global Necessity (Mother)”, with plenty of great jazz improv from the players. These tracks fit in very nicely, and are all very fun to listen to.
The project features a few stripped down acoustic arrangements as well. Forgotten Dawn’s melancholy “Sad Underground (Underground Theme)” is piano-centric with some light strings backing. Akimagone’s “Space Defender (Space Armada)” and Mercurial’s “Sabrina Lament (Pokémon Main Theme)” are both sadder, expansive piano solos of their themes. There are also two guitar duos: Sebastian Mårtensson and Joel Sandberg bring a wistful feeling to the beautiful and meditative “The Last Cake (Butter Building)”, while Super Guitar Bros. bring their signature groove and playfulness to “Super Athletic (Yoshi’s Island)”. These tracks don’t quite go with the energy or sound of much of the rest of the soundtrack, but they are still great in themselves and well performed.
In terms of electronic music, there isn’t much in terms trance, techno or hardcore remixes. Rather, most of the electronic offerings tend to mix synths and chiptune elements together with some acoustic sounds, covering many styles and moods. Buoy’s “Rush of the Rainforest (Bramble Blast)” is a gorgeous atmospheric soundscape with a soothing acoustic guitar and spacious arrangement, while Vidboy’s fun “Chekov’s Beam (Theme of Samus Aran)” mixes some orchestral elements with bubbly chips and synths. On the quicker-paced side, some dubstep influences make it through in the chippy “Mega Helix (Poké Floats)” by Tom Mauritzon and the delightfully nostalgic “Johto BattleMix” by Soleviio. Aero does drum’n’bass in “King DedeDnB (King Dedede’s Theme)”, and Kirby’s Dream Band arranges the insanely fun retro “Dr. Mario (Fever)”. There are plenty of tracks that fall under this division, each with its own distinct sound, and they’re mostly all very fun and enjoyable.
The remaining tracks are far more “out there” in their interpretations, and stand rather uniquely among the rest. Laura Intravia and Davey Patterson craft the wonderful “El Pájaro es la Palabra (Dragon Roost Island)” with a great Spanish guitar and flute combination, and GuardianSoul’s “Dawn of the Journey (Road to Viridian City)” treads similar territory with a more intimate ensemble. Samuel Lidstöm arranges a playful “Dream Band (Dream Land)” polka, and Zack Parrish returns with a Western inspired “En Garde (Online Practice Stage)” with some chiptune too. In the vocal department, Steampianist, MiMA, and ryokodesu97 arrange a peculiar but alluring jazzy “Magical Girls’ Live Stream (Ashley’s Song)” with female J-pop vocals, while ZipZipper handles male J-pop vocals in the creepy “Die no Uta (Ai no Uta)”. Elsewhere, Sebastian Mårtensson and most of the other album arrangers (with special guest Grant Kirkhope!) come together and have some fun in a jazz-rock-hip-hop “Kong Kollektive (Kongo Jungle)”. These interpretative tracks are sure to be a hit or miss depending on the listener but they’re certainly interesting and add a lot of freshness to the package.
I’ve mentioned a lot of tracks and styles in Harmony of Heroes, but it really only covers the surface of the enormous content in the 101-track album. There are plenty of other tracks that are worth mentioning that would simply overcrowd this already-stuffed review, so I’ll simply say that everyone should check this out. The tracks all have great arrangements, sound production, and performances which make this album rank this as one of the best fan arrangement projects out there. Taking into account the fact that Harmony of Heroes is available for free, and also noting that Nintendo soundtracks can be so difficult to come by, it’s clear that the acquisition of this album a no-brainer. (And they’ve got an expansion out as well!)
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Posted on December 26, 2014 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on March 11, 2015.