NJBP Concert Archives 1 ~ANCIENT FESTIVAL~
NJBP Concert Archives 1 ~ANCIENT FESTIVAL~
July 6, 2019
Buy at Sweep Record
The NJBP Concert Archives 1 ~ANCIENT FESTIVAL~ is a DVD+CD combo dedicated to the music of Yuzo Koshiro. Featuring music from The Scheme, Streets of Rage and Etrian Odyssey series, and the entirety of Actraiser, all played by the New Japan BGM Philharmonic Orchestra (NJBP) and arranged by Nijuhachi Haneda, who has arranged Koshiro’s music for the Etrian Odyssey series in the past, it is a celebration of Koshiro’s long career in video game music. In addition, there is also the main theme of the orchestra composed by Takeaki Kunimoto. How well do these orchestral arrangements hold up?
The first disc is comprised of the video recording of the concert and features all of the music, along with MC commentary in between, heard on the second disc, which consolidates everything into one easy listening experience without the reliance for a DVD interface. The CD portion of the release opens with “DAWN -Theme of NJBP-,” a bright, uplifting piece with an orchestral pops sound, particularly in the percussion, that brings the brass forward melody, alnogside strings and woodwinds, to life. The melody itself is quite fun and has a game-like quality to it as well. In addition to the full version, there is also a shorter version on the album, but it is largely superfluous, as it doesn’t bring anything new to the experience. Following that is “I’ll save you all my justice” from The Scheme. Overal, this is a great transformation of the original, of which I’m a bit more partial to, but it’s woodwind and brass melody, especially in the flourishes in the solos of the woodwind themselves, does the tune justice. In the second half, strings are more prominently featured and includes a solo violin section that is also superb.
Of all the orchestral arrangements on the soundtrack, the one that I feel misses the mark is “Fighting in the Streets/Dreamer/Round Clear,” from Streets of Rage 1 and 2, due to the style of the source material. To be fair, it is a unique entry, as it is certainly far less melodic than Koshiro’s other works, but the transition from techno to orchestral causes the tunes in question, despite having some solid melodic hooks to begin with and generally solid choices, to lose their punch. There are some instrument sections that sound subdued over the percussive elements to the medley, which I think they were trying to emphasize. Fortunately, things rebound with the medley dedicated to the Etrian Odyssey series, in particular, the first game in the series. Consisting of “Labyrinth I – Emerald Woodlands / Battle – Initial Strike / Battle – Destruction Begetse Decay / Labyrinth V – The Fallen Capital of Shinjuku,” the piece itself conjures up images of the remake Etrian Odyssey Untold, sans saxophone. It’s a quintessential collection of tunes that are well arranged, although the first transition from labyrinth theme to battle theme is a bit rough, but the other transitions are more successful.
The majority of the album though is decidated to the Actraiser soundtrack, performed in a mix of medley and solo tunes. Of particular note is the fact that the tracklist and medley choices are different than those on the Symphonic suite from ACTRAISER album, arranged by Kaoru Wada, released in 1991. The suite opens with “Opening/Sky Palace/Advent/Filmoa,” starting with a brass fanfare, strings, and martial percussion before transitioning to a more religiously toned piece dominated by brass and strings, giving an general feeling of melancholy before briefly showcasing “Advent.” However, the meat of the tune is dedicated to “Filmoa,” led by strings, but also incorporating equally exquisite brass and strings harmonies, while the solo violin section gives a chance for the tune to be elaborated upon. Another solid entry is “Birth of the People/Level Up/Offering,” with its Renaissance-like woodwinds alongside wonderful strings and piano harmonies. It’s exquisite chamber music and the embellished variations of “Birth of the People,” in particularly, are some of the highlights on the entire performance. The same tone continues into the “Offering” section as well.
“Bloodpool – Casandora/Beasts Appear/Round Clear” opens with a brass/strings forward rendition of the original, really bringing the original to life while the transition to “Beasts Appear” is done quite well, leading the way to a brass heavy boss theme that brings more power to the original thanks to the live performance. More mysterious in nature is “Pyramid – Marana/Altos – Temple,” with the former showcasing mysterious wodowinds, brass, and mallet percussion that only deepens the mystery later on. It is a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere that truly appreciates the original. The hard transition of silence before starting “Altos – Temple” is a bit disappointing, but the nature of the piece, focusing on heavier percussion with moments of high action intermingled with a woodwind focused atmospheric piece is a tune that is a great listen overall. The first solo piece, “North Wall,” is cold and mysterious, focusing on piano and brass, and really brings the excellent melody to life.
“World Tree” utilizes the melodic motif heard in “Opening” before transitioning to an intense orchestral tune with a dramatic and film-like quality. The moments of mystery help to bring down the exhilaration a bit, to great effect. The final boss theme, “Powerful Enemy/Satan,” is a dramatic and intense brass forward interpretation that does justice to the original. Lastly, “Silence/Peaceful Wordl/Ending” closes the suite dedicated to Actraiser. It opens with a very classical sound, predominately woodwind and strings forward, giving off a peaceful quality overall before moving to a brass forward melody with a waltz accompaniment before ending with an orchestral fanfare utilizing all the orchestra sections. The interplay between all the instruments in this particular portion of the medley is quite lovely.
There are also two encore pieces as well. The first is the Streets of Rage medley from above, but with added audience participation in the form of claps, and the second being the “Ending” portion of the Actraiser suite. These are nice encore bonuses, but have already been heard on the album prior. It would have been nice if the encores for the show were unheard pieces from Koshiro’s vast career. If I could change one thing about the CD version of the concert, it would be to edit out some of the moments between tunes where there is easily heard page turning. I feel this could have been edited out to have a cleaner overall experience, but I can understand why it needed to be kept in the recorded DVD portion of the release.
All in all, the NJBP Concert Archives 1 ~ANCIENT FESTIVAL~ release is a largely successful one. While I feel that the Streets of Rage medley doesn’t translate as well to orchestra as the other selections, others might also enjoy it. The arrangements and performances are done well. It is truly a nice celebration of Koshiro’s works throughout the years, focusing on some of his favorites. I’ll be interested in seeing what the next Concert Archives release will be all about. Fans of Koshiro’s music, especially Actraiser, should definitely try to seek this out.
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Posted on August 14, 2019 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on August 14, 2019.