by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Eidolon: Music from Final Fantasy IX had to be an absolutely massive undertaking. This is, after all, a 63-track arrangement that pages homage to Nobuo Uematsu’s work in Final Fantasy IX. It’s not just one style of music, either. The Final Battle is a big band jazz number, Roses of May is more like a rock opera, and A Place to Call Home is more like a renaissance-themed arrangement. There are so many different styles, and a wealth of artists, such as the Triforce Quartet, Videri String Quartet, and StringPlayerGamer. There are video game composers who also took part, such as John Robert Matz (For the King) and Robby Duguay (Fossil Hunters). I love Final Fantasy IX, and despite there being several things about the game that makes me want to gnash my teeth in anger, what it did do right was character development and growth. Every character was terrific, and a great many of the bad guys, you actually hated them (or feel sorry for them in some cases). The game asks important questions, and none of the main cast are bland, two-dimensional characters who only exist to project onto (Looking at you, Final Fantasy XII).
“We thought the next Final Fantasy cover album from Materia Collective was long overdue, and we both have a big love for the Final Fantasy IX soundtrack,” comment album producers Emily McMillan and Joe Chen. “As the game focuses so much on character development and connections, we wanted to celebrate those ideas with a theme of collaboration. Each track on EIDOLON is the work of multiple Materia Collective artists working together to develop their interpretations of the classic music of Final Fantasy IX.”
There is no way I can cover all 63 tracks on this album, but I do feel like every single one is worth mentioning. I’ve had this album on my phone for when I’m driving around, blasting it through my stereo, when I’m writing in the morning, or when I’m relaxing, playing Magic: The Gathering Arena. Though my favorites, personally tend to be songs with vocals, because they’re just spellbinding. I do want to point out something that made me laugh. Vamo’Alla Flamenco: A Song to Impress Nobles uses the line at the end, “100 nobles were watching; 100 were impressed” and that’s how I know this is a work of fiction! Come on, you know it went more like “63, 80, 72, 90, 47, 90, 92, 96. . .” but maybe that’s just my experience. It was a nice touch to the song though. I also genuinely loved all four scenes of I Want to Be Your Canary at the end – because that was one of the best parts of this game, having its own damn opera/play.
Eidolon: Music From Final Fantasy IX can be found at all Storefronts. It comes very highly recommended from me.
1. Melodies of Life (Sauraen, Tavian St. James, Triforce Quartet): While every song on this album is amazing, the best song in the entire game Final Fantasy IX is Melodies of Life, and that’s just how it goes. I don’t make the rules. Tavian St. James does a fantastic job of bringing the lyrics of such timeless Final Fantasy song to life, and it’s certainly one of my favorites of the entire franchise. The Triforce Quartet is excellent as well, and I believe this is my first time being exposed to them. They’re definitely on my must-listen to list. Sauraen’s arrangement of the song is delightful, and this group perfectly captures the emotion in Melodies of Life, which sounds equal parts hopeful and sorrowful. It easily stands up against other arrangements (such as the Distant Worlds album). God, this song was so damn sad but still beautiful. If you buy this album for no other song, make it this one.
2. Court Jesters (Jester Musician, Reyeverie): God, I hate these little bastards. Those creepy, murdering court jesters from Final Fantasy IX. Do you know what this version of the song reminded me of? A Tim Burton movie, and that’s in no way a knock. It sounds like the music you’d get for a creepy advisor or henchman in a big-budget movie. We go from beautiful and haunting, to creepy and unsettling with this one. The transitions, shifting from the click-clack of wooden blocks to represent sneaking, to having the music swell with a percussion and woodwinds? It’s perfect. They easily capture the essence of those damn Jesters, Thorn and Zorn. I hated how they spoke, I hated every dealing with them. But their music was fitting, and Squaresoft kept true to their clown-style characters being unsettling, bordering on murderous and psychotic.
3. Black Mages at the Black Mage Village (Robby Duguay, Sean Schafianski): The Black Mage Village was really something special in the Final Fantasy franchise. The Black Mages aren’t real, they are puppets, manufactured creatures. Seeing Black Mages trying to actually live was a really fascinating thing. They’re also deadly and powerful though! Sean Schafianski and Robby Duguay do a great job of working together to produce a more metal/rock sound for the Village of Black Mages. But it’s paired with what sounded like a harpsichord to me, which was a nice counterpoint to the awesome guitar shredding. To me, it added the whimsy and fascination that came with the original song, so it was really an enjoyable listen overall.
4. THE ROSE OF MAY: A Rock Opera (Brian Diamond, James C. Hoffman, SonikBuster): THE ROSE OF MAY: A Rock Opera reminded me a great deal of the OCR rendition of Final Fantasy VI’s and that may be the highest compliment I can give. SonikBuster is a part of so many remixes/renditions that I count among my favorites, and this is no exception. Their vocal work is just breathtaking. Plus, who doesn’t love a good rock opera? Not anyone that I want to call a friend. Memories of Life might be my favorite song in Final Fantasy IX but The Rose of May is my favorite song on this album if I had to pick one. The rolling drums, stringed instruments, and powerful guitar paired perfectly with the lyrics and spoken word of THE ROSE OF MAY.
5. The Final Battle (ConSoul, Thomas Kresge): Most “Final Battle” songs seem to get the heavy metal treatment, but Final Fantasy IX’s The Final Battle track gets something different, and honestly pretty amazing. Instead, it’s a Jazz/Big Band feel, and it’s pretty unique among the various songs I’ve listened to over the years here. Part of it is for me, that the Final Battle in Final Fantasy IX wasn’t really that intimidating, so having this song sort of ties it together with how I felt about it. It’s not intimidating, but it is thrilling and exciting. It gets your heel tapping, and the blood pumping. Now all I can see in my head are Final Fantasy characters doing swing dancing or something, and with the IX cast, that’s a hilarious mental image. There aren’t enough Big Band Final Fantasy tracks. I’ve heard some, but there simply aren’t enough. The Final Battle stands out among the rest, and is a great one to listen to, without a doubt.