The Death March

SQEX-10445 Album Title:
The Death March
Record Label:
Square Enix
Catalog No.:
SQEX-10445
Release Date:
September 17, 2014
Purchase:
Buy at CDJapan

Overview

The Death March is a rock band inspired by the fictional rock band Def Märch from the game The World Ends with You (TWEWY). The members of the Death March consists of composer Takeharu Ishimoto (Producer), T$UYO$HI (Bass), ZAX and Ko Kanza (Drums), Taro Kato and JUNYA (Guitar), Stephanie and SAWA (Vocals). The band’s history can be traced back to the first concert of TWEWY back in 2012. But they only decided to become official in September 2013 as they began to look for new members and prepare to release an album together. Their first and eponymous debut album, The Death March, was finally released in 17th September 2014. The album includes arrangements of Ishimoto’s compositions for various games, including TWEWY and the Final Fantasy series, as well as a number of original tracks.

Body

The album begins with “The Beginning of the End” from Final Fantasy Type-0. The source track was titled “We Have Arrived” in the original Type-0 soundtrack, but it was renamed “The Beginning of the End” in the soundtrack for the HD remake (note that the soundtrack for the HD remake was only released half a year after The Death March). The arrangement features only a short section from the opening of the original track. While the arrangement succeeds in painting the piece with refreshing tone colors that set it apart from the original orchestral setting, the shortened arrangement unfortunately feels underdeveloped. I would have liked to see the entire track being arranged instead.

Note that all of the tracks in the album feature vocals from either SAWA or Stephanie (except “The Beginning of the End”, which features both of them). SAWA and Stephanie also wrote the majority of the lyrics (all of them were written in English save for one) for the album, which unfortunately are literal at best and nonsensical at worst. I will give some examples on this later.

“Revelation” is taken from The World Ends With You -Live Remix-, which is a Japan-only social mobile game. The materials Ishimoto composed for Live Remix was never released outside of the game, so there would be no source track that I can compare this arrangement of “Revelation” with. Regardless, the track is energetic and would have fit well into the universe of TWEWY. The lyrics are the typical anguished words you would expect from TWEWY songs, but some make less sense than the others: “Something burns inside and spicy aroma is mending up my nerves”.

The arrangement of “God in Fire” from Dissidia 012 has a thicker instrumentation and less vocal harmony when compared to the original. Nevertheless, this arrangement is very similar to the original. “Hybrid -ignis fatuus-” is another arrangement that remains faithful to its original track, “Hybrid” from TWEWY. While the track sounds better with the live instruments, the arrangement is so close to the original that it feels more like a remastered track. Surprisingly, there is a second arrangement of “Hybrid” in the same album. The second arrangement of “Hybrid” is the only track in the album with a Japanese title and Japanese lyrics. This arrangement, which I believe is based on “Hybrid -New Born-“ from the album Subarashiki Kono Sekai + The World Ends with You, has a slower tempo and a heavier focus on the guitar. While the arrangement is distinctive from the original “Hybrid”, it is unfortunately a rehash of an existing arrangement.

The first original track on the album is “DOO”, a rather dubious title. The song is a mellow and repetitive J-rock piece that I find rather uninspiring. “MUSIC”, on the other hand, has a more upbeat melody even though the lyrics by Stephanie are rather generic. “Bubbles” is a track that tries to be sexy but stumbles on the wrong subject. SAWA’s obsession with bubbles in the lyrics is baffling to say the least: “…skinny bubbles, eat bubbles, ain’t it bubbles? Where is my smoky bubble?”. With a fatalistic tone in both the melody and the lyrics, “Promise” sounded like it would be a good fit for Crisis Core. “TRAPPED” is a darker track that shares a similar tone with “God in Fire” and lyrics that dwells on a soul beyond redemption.

There are two tracks on the album that are not composed by Ishimoto, both of them original compositions by T$UYO$HI. The first is “TWEWY”, a tribute track to the game that inspired the band. It is a fast-paced track with a lot of momentum. The lyrics of this track by SAWA are also one of the few that I liked on this album: “In layers of untruth, I’m about to break the cause and effect of this sick old ship”. The other track by T$UYO$HI is “Strange Days”, another dynamic song with a memorable chorus. The track is also a good showcase of the strength and the range of Stephanie’s vocals. I find that the original contributions from T$UYO$HI are stronger than Ishimoto’s in this album.

Going back to the arrangements, Ishimoto put a new spin on “Calling”, one of the stood out tracks from the TWEWY soundtrack. The arrangement reduced the tempo of the original track and gave it a slightly jazzy rhythm, which resulted in a distinctive vibe quite different from the original. “Run Away” is a great addition to the TWEWY music library when the game was ported to mobile as The World Ends With You -Solo Remix-. The original track starts with a slower pace before speeding up in the second part with stronger beats. The arrangement is based more on the second part of the source track and starts right away with a faster pace. While this gives the arrangement a higher energy right from the start, it loses the momentum built through gradual development in the original.

“Theme of Elfe” is taken from Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII-. In the source track, the melody is being carried by an acoustic guitar. While some sentimentality from the stripped down original is lost, the rock arrangement and Stephanie’s vocals give the track a new vigor. “Price of Freedom -I Want to See You Smile-“ from Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- received a new set of lyrics and vocals from Stephanie. Knowing the plot of Crisis Core, the lyrics gave the track additional pathos as I can imagine the words coming from Aerith to Zack at the end of the game.

Summary

I believe most people who would buy The Death March are more interested in the arranged tracks than the original pieces. In fact, most of the original compositions in this album are weaker than the arranged tracks. However, the quality of the arrangements is also uneven and most are mired in mediocrity as they remained stubbornly close to their original. While there are a few good tracks on this album, fans of Ishimoto will be better off spending their money on the actual soundtracks instead.

The Death March KT Wong

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Posted on June 10, 2015 by KT Wong. Last modified on June 10, 2015.

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About the Author

KT Wong

is a musician who likes to analyze video game music. With great passions for gaming and music, he hopes to contribute to the community of video game music through his writing.



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