Earthbound Papas: Octave Theory
Earthbound Papas: Octave Theory
Dog Ear Records
Mar 16, 2011
Buy at CDJapan
Shortly after the disbandment of The Black Mages, Nobuo Uematsu formed a new band, the Earthbound Papas. Whereas The Black Mages were a rock band devoted to releasing albums of Final Fantasy music arranged in a hard rock style, the Earthbound Papas will be offering both covers and originals in their work, from Final Fantasy and beyond. Now the band has performed at several live events, they have finally released their debut album octave Theory. It contains several arrangements of Uematsu’s newer work, a couple of Final Fantasy classics, and several original tracks. Does this album portend an exciting future for the newly established group?
The album opens curiously, with a whimsical arrangement of selections from Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave. Of course, this simplification cannot compare to the original piece, though the inclusion sets a very intriguing tone as “Introduction ~ Octopus Theory” glides into its second half. Here, a more familiar rock tone is established as Emi Evans of freesscape provides vocals in a fictional language. The words are childish, though delightfully so, and the music complements the spoken word effectively. The vocals soon end, leaving the rest of the track to the guitars and percussion, which paint a nice, rock based introduction to the album. It’s an effective start and, though the contrast between the two halves of the piece is curious, it seems fitting for a concept album of sorts.
“Liberi Fatali” and “Advent: One Winged Angel” are mainstays of the Final Fantasy franchise and some of the most well known pieces of Uematsu, so it’s appropriate and not terribly surprising that they’re both featured. The former starts off slow, with a spacey sort of synth sound, in line with the progressive influence of the album. It then introduces an electric guitar and bass, and then finally the vocals, which are softer than the original, considering the smaller scale. Unlike the orchestrated original, this version is synth heavy, lending a new feel to the piece. It’s exactly the sort of reboot the now overused piece needs, and while it might not be superior to the original, the sound is fresh and worth a listen.
Similar remarks could be said about the following track, “Advent: One Winged Angel”. However, considering the piece already received a respectable heavy rock variation with the original “Advent,” this arrangement sounds a bit too much like a retread of that. It’ll still be very popular with most casual fans, though. Guin Saga‘s “Thread of Fate” also gets an arrangement on the album. The track opens with an instrumental section that is every bit as stirring as the orchestrated original, before the percussion and guitars kick in. The arrangement on this piece is superb, and its delicate nature is expertly maintained amongst the grungy instruments used.
Two newer battle themes are also featured: Blue Dragon‘s “Eternity” and Lost Odyssey‘s “Bo-Kon-Ho-Ko,” a retitling of “Howl of the Departed.” Japanese vocals provided by Yasuo Sasai are just about the only easily noticeable change to “Eternity,” though on closer inspection this version has a richer sound to it than the original, as well as new solos. The lack of full choir is felt in “Bo-Kon-Ho-Ko,” particularly in its opening minute, though this allows for a more personal feel. The track overall feels lighter than its original, for better or for worse, though it lacks a certain oomph that “Howl of the Departed” possessed, causing it to feel far less climactic and lessening its impact.
There are three more original pieces on the album. “Metal Hypnotized” is hit and miss throughout its playtime, featuring slow parts that are somewhat tedious and faster sections that are head-bobbingly infectious. Overall it’s quite a capable piece, though it lacks a catchy melody. “The Forest of a Thousand Years” features a gentle opening, thanks to the cello and gentle synth melody that’s quite indicative of the composer. The percussion and bass are soon introduced and the resultant piece is quite nostalgic and enjoyable. It’s a fitting project for Uematsu’s local green project and a solid inclusion to this multifaceted album.
The album closes with another original composition, “Homecoming”. here one can easily hear traces of Yoshitaka Hirota, the track’s arranger, in the bizarre synth and percussion. Emi Evans once again lends her voice and fictional language, which leads off this repetitious though enjoyable piece into its closing silence. There is disappointingly little interesting material in this track, though it’s effective to close the album with.
Overall, this album is a bit hit and miss. Some arrangements, such as “Liberi Fatali” and “Thread of Fate” are superb and lend a new life to their already fantastic originals. Others, such as “Advent: One Winged Angel” and “Eternity,” feel less necessary but will appeal to casual fans. The original tracks fare likewise, with “Metal Hypnotized” being lackluster and “The Forest of a Thousand Years” sounding blissful. Still, the overall product is an accomplished one that shouldn’t be missed by fans of the composer. It’s got a reasonably short length, but compensates with a range of source material and arrangement styles. There’s certainly a bright future ahead for the Earthbound Papas.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Marc Friedman. Last modified on January 19, 2016.