Editor's Note: Regarding the tracklist used here, fans have had long-standing translations for many of these track titles. Because this album was released not just as a CD in Japan, but also digitally via US iTunes, we've used the official iTunes tracklist on our page. So, just as an example, the first track is known widely among Falcom music enthusiasts as "The Strongest Foe," but Falcom has officially named the song "The Strongest Enemy" on iTunes. Hence, that's the translation we're using for our review.
Falcom's started a new series of arranged albums with the suffix title "Zanmai." I have no idea how to translate that word, though I'm tempted to say based on my very limited knowledge of Japanese that it is something akin to "compilation," "collection," or "best selections."
There are four of these albums as of the time I'm writing this. Each release has been timed to go with Japan's semi-annual Comic Market or "Comiket." The second album, "Falcom Boss Zanmai" (released for Comiket 82), is the only one so far not limited to an individual series within Falcom's library of games. Instead, we get boss themes from all across the Falcom spectrum: Ys, Legend of Heroes, Sorcerian, and even a track from Brandish! One is tempted to think back to the old "Falcom Ending Collection" that had unique arrangements as one of its two discs, all focused on end credits music from various Falcom games.
This particular album has its roots in jazz, rock, "epic operatic orchestra" (of the Carmina Burana variety), with a little bit of Asian ethnic flair thanks to the use of a Japanese koto on track 3. The arrangements come from Yukihiro Jindo (who has been with Falcom for over a decade), Noriyuki Kamikura (ex-Basiscape, new to Falcom), and Toshiharu Okajima (a new JDK'er who seems to work closely with Kamikura on many projects). These three, alongside the session musicians recording on this album, have put together something that is in no way "more of the same" for a company that is known for milking its music department.
I think the star of this album is Toshiharu Okajima. Not only are his arrangements (tracks 1, 3, 5, and 11) some of the best on the album, but he's also the drummer performing on those four tracks. And he's an absolutely fantastic drummer. The energy in "The Strongest Enemy" and "Termination" is mind-blowing.
I have to give Yukihiro Jindo props as well, for his work on "A Miracle Is Shown" from Ao no Kiseki. The original was already strong, but Jindo's arrangement takes this operatic beast to a whole new level.
If you're ready to get your groove on, there's nothing more groovy than the super-fun syncopated "Evil Shaman" from Sorcerian (arranged by Kamikura). Instead of head-banging to the power-rock or just sitting still in the awe of the big choral work Jindo put together, this is one where you can simply dance the night away.
All in all, I'm happy to see Falcom doing these new "themed" arrange albums. I hope the Zanmai series of albums continue to impress and delight Falcom fans the world over.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann