Memories of the Throne
Memories of the Throne
Nakayama Raiden’s Secret Base Liaison Office
October 31, 2010
Buy at Sweep Record
In 2001, Norihiro Furukawa released a solo album entitled Keep Walking Down the Steps. Featuring a variety of musical styles, it showed the diversity of the former ZUNTATA member. In 2010, he released his second solo album entitled Memories of the Throne. Another multi-styled album intended to inspire one’s imagination, how does it compare to his first solo album?
The album opens up with “Behind the Cover,” a woodwind comprised piece that may seem right at home in a soundtrack to the Professor Layton series. It’s rather simple in execution, but I find the melody to be strong. The variety of percussion does help cut back on the tone of the woodwind; however, due to its simplistic nature, it may leave a bit to be desired to some listeners. The motif in “Behind the Cover” is also featured at the end of “To the One on that Distant Street.” This is a vocal theme with, to my surprise, Norihiro Furukawa singing. I find this to be a very strong song, particularly in terms of the melody and atmosphere it inspires. The acoustic guitar and Furukawa’s voice, which must surely be manipulated to sound like a female, really go well together. In addition, the various percussion and strings accompaniment really manage to accentuate this playful feeling. In the end, I think it’s a wonderful theme.
The title theme is very peaceful, with a touch of exoticism, for most of its duration. This is easily one of the best things on the entire album. I particularly enjoy the soothing woodwind passages, the exotic percussion samples, and the harpsichord melody line. In addition, there are some beautiful and ethereal strings accompaniment in the background that really lend itself well to stirring up a powerful image of regality to mix with the more peaceful tones of the lead melody. “In a Faceless Street” has a very exotic soundscape with a variety of unique percussion elements interspersed throughout the track. I really like how mysterious that atmosphere sounds, through the sitar-like instrument, Japanese stringed instruments, creepy chanting, and occasional electronic accompaniment. It’s sometimes more melodic, at others, more ambient and ethereal. Overall, it creates a stunning atmosphere through its use of flute, sitar, and percussion.
On the other hand, “Investigator” is one of the only true electronic themes on the album. It has a very futuristic tone to it and the opening buildup definitely reminds me of something you might hear in a sci-fi movie to build tension. As the buildup climaxes, it moves into a melody that, if you’ve heard Ge-On-Dan Rare Trax Vol. 1 or Furukawa’s YouTube channel, you might recognize. Known as “Sonar 85” on the aforementioned album, it’s an invigorating synth piece with some definite jazz influences, particularly in the accompaniment. The strong synth melody combines with the upbeat percussion and piano quite nicely and I really appreciate how many different soundscapes are produced during the duration of the piece, such as the big band brass section or the spacey synth sections. This feels as if it’s the definitive version and the original “Sonar 85” was just a prototype.
Two themes on the album, in my opinion, have a horror-inspired atmosphere to them. “Cold Eyes” features haunting operatic vocals, eerie synth accompaniment, and equally gloomy piano and strings sections. The strings melody, when present, is piercing and powerful. It really casts a desolate and forsaken atmosphere and truly makes for a unique theme, among many more melodically focused themes on the album. The other track in this same vein is “Fabrications and Bliss.” The introduction to this track has an almost surreal soundscape to it and, as it progresses, it reminds me of the Darius series. It has an element of some of the more experimental OGR pieces in it. It is full of haunting bell tones, quirky synth accompaniment, and sinister tones, particularly in terms of the percussion and ominous synth accompaniment. It’s a very experimental piece, and while not the strongest theme on the album, does a wonderful job at creating mood.
Another recurring theme is “Fire Dance,” originally from Megalomachia, Shoichiro Sakamoto’s solo album released at Comic Market 78. This theme is a beautiful orchestral theme with a vigorous tone. Wonderful, frenetic strings passages are coupled with powerful and moving brass harmonies, chaotic piano glistens in the background, and the occasional choral passage. This would be a perfect boss theme in an RPG because it definitely displays that ominous, powerful, and tense type of atmosphere you’d expect. Another beautiful piece is “Moon.” This piano piece has a very somber tone to it. It’s not the most complicated piano tune in the world, but I do find its melody to be quite pleasing as well as the overall tone. It definitely inspires feelings of warmth and mystery, at least to me.
My favorite theme on the entire album definitely belongs to “Forbidden Flight.” For the quick description, imagine, if you will, elements of Yoshitaka Hirota, Go Shiina, Yasunori Mitsuda, and powerful evocative singers like Akiko Shikata, fused together into a single piece. Opening up with some mysterious piano, ominous chanting, powerful female and male chanting, and some violin, it quickly moves into an exotic piece with a great rhythm, some beautiful hammer dulcimer-like sounds. As the piece progresses, some very airy woodwind work really meshes well with the various female vocal effects and percussion. At the halfway point, the track definitely reintroduces the violin and adding so much power and a bit of playfulness to the theme. In the end, I’m really impressed with this piece.
My second favorite theme is definitely “Unopposed.” This theme reminds me, in a way, of the more energetic Nier themes, but with its own identity. Some heavy percussion and piano serve as fitting accompaniment to the heroic strings and brass melodies while the chanting exudes quite a bit of power. It isn’t as refined as the NieR tunes, but I can definitely see some corollary between them. Perhaps the most stunning section is the woodwind interlude and the immediate section following it. The album closes with what I presume is a “bonus” track entitled “The Second Storm” from Radio Calisthenics 2. I’ve looked up Radio Calisthenics, and I found it to be a radio program in Japan that plays a variety of music for morning workout routines. This particular piece is classically oriented and definitely has a variety of tones to it. Some of the more intense tones remind me of the battle themes in Folklore, but at the same time, there are some definite playful tones as well via music box accompaniment and leads. It’s a fitting end to the album.
Compared to his first solo album, Keep Walking Down the Stairs, Norihiro Furukawa remarkably improves for his follow-up Memories of the Throne. It still features experimental tunes, but I think they are much stronger in execution, particularly “Forbidden Flight,” “Unopposed,” and “Cold Eyes.” The orchestral pieces are also quite lovely as well and the vocal theme is a nice surprise as well. In the end, I definitely recommend this album. I look forward to hearing Furukawa’s next work and, if this is a symbol of his evolution, I’m quite pleased with the direction his music is heading.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 1, 2012.