Nobuo Uematsu is a well-known game soundtracks composer especially famous from creating music for “Final Fantasy” series. Few years ago he set his first rock ensemble called “The Black Mages” with whom he recorded 3 interesting albums filled with prog rock/metal versions of his compositions. However in 2011 Nobuo Uematsu decided to form new band called “Earthbound Papas” together with 2 friends from the previous group: Michio Okamiya & Arata Hanyuda, along with 2 new members: Tsutomu Narita & Yoshitaka Hirota.
Their first album “Octave Theory” shows many similarities with “The Black Mages” output. Music presented there is a mix of progressive metal (shredding guitar, powerful drumming), heavy prog (Hammond organ floods, sometimes singing style) and symphonic prog (operatic vocals, floating synthesizers, orchestral arrangements). Most of compositions are new versions of Nobuo’s solo material, but we can also find some absolutely new songs here.
Anyway I’m not a fan of computer games, so I’m not familiar with Nobuo’s soundtrack work. In this situation you can be sure that I’ll review this effort just like any prog-rock staff.
1. “Introduction ~Octopus Theory” – album begins with very lightweight classical music played by (synth-made?) orchestra. I wouldn’t call is symphonic prog, as I said it’s just pure classical here. After 2 minutes this introduction is over and the band “enters the stage” with energetic synths, sharp guitar & deep sounding organ runs. It’s only a pity that middle part is occupied by very annoying speaking part (everything in Japanese language of course, but it’s not a problem. This horrible voice is a problem!).
2. “Liberi Fatali (from FINAL FANTASY VIII)” – very dynamic, symphonic piece driven by extremely catchy Gothic-style choruses (in Latin language!) and powerful drums. Sounds really thrilling, goosebumps guaranteed! (OK, if you don’t like such things it will be probably very cheesy for you…) Heavy metal guitar solo and schizoid synthesizer rides are also great. It reminds me of Keith Emerson’s soundtrack for horror movie “Inferno” (“Mater Tenebrarum” part). Vocals and overall atmosphere are so similar!
3. “Advent- One-Winged Angel (from FINAL FANTASY VII Advent Children)” – another marvelous song with highly symphonic, operatic choruses, which surprisingly work very well with shredding guitar attacks, while Nobuo Uematsu fills space with virtuosic Hammond organ, church organ and synthesizer rides.
4. “Thread of Fate (from GUINSAGA)” – finally “Earthbound Papas” lets us take a deep breath after previous 3. thundering tracks. “Thread of Fate” is a slow-tempo instrumental which starts with flute, harp (?) & piano melody, but later on Michio Okamiya and his electric guitar takes control. In this track he really proves that he’s able to play very soft & melancholic, a bit like David Gilmour from Pink Floyd.
5. “Metal Hypnotized” – explosive instrumental led by spacey synthesizers, groovy bass work and crunching electric guitar. Near the end we Nobuo Uematsu plays blasting Hammond organ solo in the best tradition of Jon Lord or Vincent Crane.
6. “Eternity (from BLUE DRAGON)” – very enjoyable heavy prog song dominated by raging organ sound. I also like this slightly corny vocal, which reminds me of Hisakatsu Igarashi (from Japanese band Novela). In general “Eternity” seems to be inspired by Novela’s harder material. However middle part with fiery organ/guitar interluding solos sounds like Lord and Blackmore during their pinnacle.
7. “The Forest of a Thousand Years” – rather boring, soundtrackish instrumental with mellow pianos. violin (synth?) & guitar playin’. Nothing to remember or talking about, just relaxing filler.
8. “Bo-Kon-Ho-Ko (from LOST ODYSSEY)” – great, up-beat track with large bass sound, roaring organ runs & the most important – horror-like choruses, building threatening tension.
9. “Homecoming” – albums ends with total flop. Repetitive rhythm and annoying talking…and talking…and talking… Bleeh.
The latest project of Nobuo Uematsu and his friends, I can recommend to aficionados of progressive metal, but typical fans of Dream Theater or Symphony X can be rather disappointed, by large amount of space occupied by operatic vocals & symphonic keyboards. However people who like different kind of prog-metal, like for example Ayreon, should definitely dig it.
Symphonic style lovers can be also interested in this kind of staff, they will find many classical-inspired fragments and synth/organ work. The most similar artist I can think of would be Motoi Sakuraba. He also often plays very rockin’ soundtrack music filled with analog gear (those blistering organ solos!), but Sakuraba never used guitar so similarity isn’t so obvious here.
Anyway it’s a pity that this album will be probably discovered only by few Japanese game nerds… while it should be definitely appreciated by prog-rock nerds too .
Best tracks: “Liberi Fatali”, “Advent- One-Winged Angel” & “Metal Hypnotized”
1.Introduction ~Octopus Theory (6:35)
2.Liberi Fatali (from FINAL FANTASY VIII) (4:49)
3.Advent- One-Winged Angel (from FINAL FANTASY VII Advent Children) (6:13)
4.Thread of Fate (from GUINSAGA) (5:46)
5.Metal Hypnotized (5:12)
6.Eternity (from BLUE DRAGON) (4:47)
7.The Forest of a Thousand Years (6:03)
8.Bo-Kon-Ho-Ko (from LOST ODYSSEY) (5:56)
* Nobuo Uematsu – Hammond organ, keyboards
* Michio Okamiya – guitar
* Tsutomu Narita – keyboards, guitar
* Yoshitaka Hirota – bass
* Arata Hanyuda – drums