Monster Hunter Brass Quintet
Monster Hunter Brass Quintet
Jan 14, 2015
Buy at CDJapan
CAPCOM’s Monster Hunter franchise has generated a following that extends all the way to followers of the score, and which inevitably comes with a slew of cover music. With the rise of cover music has come the rise of cover music mediums, and the Monster Hunter Brass Quintet album, arranged by Tomoyuki Tsuzaki, features an uncommon instrumentation in the world of covers, through both interesting and innovative arrangements. As a soundtrack that tends to lean towards the dramatic, the heroic, and the epic,brass works well as a medium. The album isn’t entirely successful, however, as some of the arrangements – although not all – did not seem to be featuring the strengths of the varying instruments in the brass quintet. While I don’t want to encourage instruments falling rote, predetermined patterns, brass instruments each have specific timbres and qualities that can’t be emulated in neighboring instruments, a fact which is forgotten at places in this album.
Some of the tracks were extremely well arranged and executed – “Well Cooked!” sets the tuba in a polka-style pattern, and even brings in vocals to add to the cartoonish nature of the track. The trombones open the melody with some drawling glissandos and eventually a wild trumpet takes over with a virtuosic solo. The piece suddenly slows down dramatically and slowly begins again with the polka pattern, speeding up straight to the bombastic end. “Cute Felyne,” while not outright amusing, was in several ways the most successful track on the album. Slinging wonderfully crunchy jazz chords around amid a swing pattern, the instruments sounded completely relaxed (but capable) in this performance , and the light percussion added to the piece is particularly effective in setting a casual, relaxed mood. Additionally, the muted trumpet added an enjoyable lounge air to the piece.
Not all of the tracks are so light; “Brave Icon” takes a completely different approach, beginning with a slew of harsh, brassy chords that leads into a more driven and dramatic track, very representative of the original monster fighting piece. Incidentally, I thought this was the most successful fast piece; the way that the instruments are divided up give the piece a more substantial feel than that of “Tyrant of Hellfire” (which relies too much on a staccato tuba for a strong bassline) and “Tremble of the Sea and Land” (in which the instruments are too thinly divided). The piece also develops as it moves, pausing for low, sweeping sections and continuing with a fast-paced syncopated staccato rhythm. The moments where the instruments unite in rhythm contain well-built chords that add depth to the frenetic piece. “Don’t Say Goodbye” was much more solemn; with a very straightforward melody (not all too common in the Monster Hunter soundtracks), the arrangement actually sounded a little like a brass Christmas carol, a surprising sound in this setting.
“Pokke Village” was one of the pieces that came across as roughly arranged; while the structure of the arrangement was sound, the instruments weren’t properly set up, so that the flowing chordal arpeggios sound more like wrong notes instead of gentle dissonance. The arrangement might have been slightly better for a string quartet, in which every instrument has the same (or very similar) timbre, but in different octaves; however, a French horn holding out a melody over trumpet or trombone bass notes can come across as strained, and the complexity of the dissonant chords unfortunately detracts from the melody. The delightful crunchiness of the chords in “Cute Felyne” are gone. “Proof of a Hero” seemed to also put a strain on some of the instruments; the opening piece fell slightly short of being completely heroic in this arrangement. The arrangement did not entirely capture the boldness and triumph in the original track; whether it due to a high difficulty level, too few instruments, or some awkward instrument juxtapositions, this track struggled to live up to its original piece.
“To One With Life” is another thoughtful piece with a striking series of chord progressions that has made it a common target piece for covers. The piece, following in the same vein as an anthem or hymn, has a chorale feel to its steady chordal movement, and makes it an ideal candidate for a brass setting. The problem with this one is that, like in “Pokke Village,” the instruments seem to be just slightly misused. The cover is still majestic, but unlike the covers for “Cute Felyne” and “Brave Icon,” the piece gives the impression of missing instruments, or hollow spots. The tuba is used very sparingly, and the constant movement of every line, often soli, make the moments where the crescendo is greatest seem lacking in instrumentation. That being said, I love this piece, and even an imperfect cover is still worth a listen.
While many of the tracks fell short of their intended goal, some were extremely fun to listen to. Brass quintet is (sadly) a rare medium for cover music, and an album like Monster Hunter Brass Quintet takes a risk with its arrangements. Additionally, it is gratifying to see a cover album go outside its instrumentation’s comfort zone; the pieces varied stylistically, so some shortcoming is to be expected. Certainly the album is worth checking out for fans of Monster Hunter, and for those looking for the “best of” tracks, “Cute Felyne” and “Well Cooked!” are fun and quirky additions to any soundtrack playlist. I would love to see more cover albums like this in the future push the cover music medium into newer territories.
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Posted on March 18, 2015 by Emily McMillan. Last modified on March 19, 2015.