Seiken Densetsu: Spectrum of Mana
Spectrum of Mana
September 28, 2013
Buy at Official Site
Spectrum of Mana is a fan-created remix project that focuses on the iconic score for Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 2 in Japan), originally composed by Hiroki Kikuta. When the official arrange album, Secret of Mana Genesis (simply Seiken Densetsu 2 Arrange Album in Japan) was released, it was disappointing to some that the album wasn’t so much an arranged album as it was a synth upgrade. A year later, the Spectrum of Mana was released by a group of passionate fans, hoping to provide the re-imaging that fans were looking for. The three-disc project spans the entire soundtrack and a variety of styles. As with any fan project, it can certainly be a mixed bag in terms of quality, but any Secret of Mana fan should find enough to be pleased about with this ambitious project.
Each of the three discs in the project focuses on a different mood and style. The first disc in the project is titled “War”, and it is filled largely with metal remixes. A few of the original pieces very naturally adapt the new metal image, such as “Monarch on the Shore” or “Steel and Snare”. Some of the pieces go through more change much for the style, such as “Wrath of the Beast” (orig. “Morning Is Here”) or “Pandora’s Box” (orig. “Ceremony”), and for the most part these work quite well. The production across most of the disc is good, including both high-quality synth renditions and even some studio performances from talented guitarists, bassists, and drummers. However, the sheer amount of metal may be tiring to some listeners.
There are a few tracks that stand-out amidst the homogeny. “Star of Darkness” (orig. “The Dark Star”) is very melodic, featuring some live strings, brass, and piano for sensitive and atmospheric segments that interplay with the epic metal segments. “The Great Sprite Hope” (orig. “One of Them Is Hope”) mixes some chippy elements in amongst the wailing guitars to great effect, and the arrangement has great drive. For “Like a Boss” (orig. “Danger”), norg expands upon the progressive rock influences of the quirky original to great effect. The 11-minute “Sword from Stone” (orig. “Fear of the Heavens”) is also of note, wringing out a great long arrangement from the iconic theme with some nice solos for good measure. The remainder of the “War” disc can also be enjoyable, but it will depend on the listeners’ tolerance to metal and their affinity to the source tracks.
The second disc is titled “Peace” and features arrangements that are more subdued than on “War”, although they are by no means boring as there is much more variety on this disc. The theme of “Peace” doesn’t seem to refer so much to the mood as it does the toned down nature of the tracks compared to the previous disc. Again, some tracks’ arrangements come very naturally from their source track, almost as if these new versions came from an HD Remaster of the game. “Together Always” and “A Storm is Coming” (orig. “Distant Thunder”) are some examples of this, bringing acoustics and a charm that helps realize the intentions of the original tracks. These also happen to have been written by two of the biggest-name arrangers on the project, namely The OneUps’ Williams Reyes and legendary game composer Alexander Brandon.
A number of the tracks on the disc have great ideas and arrangements, but unfortunately are bogged down by the quality of the electronic instruments used. The two solo piano arrangements “Teal and Silent” (orig. “Eternal Recurrence”) and “Voyage” (orig. “Did you See The Ocean?”) are quite good, but would have benefitted greatly from being recorded on a real piano that would allow for greater use of dynamics and sensitivity. Many other tracks suffer from cheap synth strings or choirs, which is understandable given that it is a fan project but it still detracts from the sound quality.
In contrast, the advantage of having acoustics is seen in tracks like “Village of Silent Roses” (orig. “Phantom and a Rose”) and “The Summer Sky is Blue” (orig. “The Color of the Summer Sky”), which use a guitar duo with great groove and feeling. A number of songs have softer rock elements that still work in the framework of the disc, such as Cory Johnson’s “Spirit of the Night”, Omigadrive’s “Solum” (orig. “Still of the Night”), and, of course, Stemage’s “Holy Intruders” (orig. “Mystic Invasion”), which have great progression while also utilizing real instruments that help bring out different textures along the way. The disc itself could have a better flow and production in some parts, but it’s still an enjoyable mix of laid-back tracks with many varying styles.
The final disc is titled “Spirit”. A bit of an in-between in terms of style, the arrangements here again span many genres. Generally this disc feels a bit more fun and exotic than the others, a bit more inline with the original soundtrack feel. From the pub fare of “Girl, You Got a Nice Beard” (orig. “It Happened Late One Evening”) to the organic forest feel of “You Gotta Fight For Your Sprite To Party” (orig. “The Little Sprite”), there is much more personality to be found here, and it all sounds fairly polished. Other tracks capture the adventurous side of the game, such as “On the Wings of Dragons” (orig. “Flight into the Unknown”), with its uplifting guitar melodies. Other notable tracks include “Assault on the Witch’s Castle” (orig. “Into the Thick of it”), “A Bell is Tolling”, and “Mushroom Kingdom” (orig. “Dancing Animals”), which like on other discs are tracks that mix acoustic elements with heavier metal.
The finale of the whole project is also one of these highlights. The final boss theme “Meridian Dance” gets an 11-minute progressive rock remix with many of the album remixers coming together to provide exciting solos and backing. The game’s victory theme gets a suitably victorious rock version in “Survivors of the Storm” following right after. A bonus 17-minute medley of the score ends the album, celebrating best of the original soundtrack and giving it even more old-school charm. It’s mostly chiptunes, but there are some modern touches thrown in. Like with “Peace”, the disc as a whole is a bit of a jumbled mess in style and sound quality, but it certainly ends on a very strong note.
As a whole, Spectrum of Mana is a solid remix project. Although a large majority of the tracks are similarly styled rock remixes that some listeners may have to sift through, they are still of good quality and a few tracks are bound to stand out amongst the rest. Some other tracks are very similar to the original tracks, and instead focus on developing the original ideas or giving them a fuller, acoustic sound. Other tracks are much more interpretative, and there are some interesting takes on the originals here. Many tracks are of good production quality and often feature live instruments, but there are also some that sound cheaper or amateurish. Generally, the good outshines the bad, and while the bulk is average there are a few tracks that are exceptional. The entire project can be downloaded for free, or a hard copy can be purchased that comes in a nice digipak case with a lengthy booklet. Anyone who enjoyed the original game or score should definitely check out this worthwhile project.
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Posted on July 13, 2014 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on January 19, 2016.