Secret of Evermore is a game I don’t have a whole lot of experience with. Aside from a very brief detour taken back in middle school, it has always been “the other action RPG Square made” in my mind, which is more a testament to my Sega-heavy upbringing than a knock on the game itself. As others introduced me to the soundtrack, courtesy of Jeremy Soule (his first soundtrack, in fact!), it became pretty clear that his was a musical style not common on the SNES, and that carries through to his critically-lauded work today. The original soundtrack’s twisting melodies, eerie ambiance, and sense of grim fatalism lodged it in my memory, an impressive feat considering the game is one I’ve barely played. It seems obvious then that composer/arranger Sean Schafianski must have a correspondingly huge attachment to the game and its music, so carefully-constructed and true to the tone of the source material are his arrangements in Secret of Evermore Remastered Tracks.
Much as with this arranger’s other albums of remastered music, there is a careful understanding and reverence for the original music here that colors the entire project. Rather than reinventing or remixing Soule’s classic tunes, Schafianski’s arrangements feel like an homage to them, as though he aimed to recreate the music in a way that emphasizes the originals and hides his own hand, as a translator might with do with the written word. Of course, if you’ve listened to his other works, certain hallmarks are identifiable: quality production, ethereal soundscapes, and the aforementioned trueness to their inspiration. Soule’s rather unique score for the SNES music gives this album a different vibe than several of Schafianski’s earlier arrangements, and it’s one I’m wholly fond of. This is thoughtful mood music, the kind that accompanies introspection rather than action. If you’re a student, it’s the kind of thing you can do homework to. That isn’t to say it falls to the background edges of your mind when listening, but rather that it elicits a calm and easy manner that facilitates focus. To put more of a point on it, it’s chill music.
Normally, I single out particular tracks to show how they emphasize shifts in an album or emphasize points I try to make about the sound. In the case of Secret of Evermore Remastered Tracks, though, every piece feels like part of the whole. This is the kind of album I advocate listening from start to finish, rather than individually or jumping around. Certainly, I could point to the first four tracks (“Main Title,” “Menu,” “Staff Roll,” and “A Boy and His Dog”) as being superb mood-setting pieces, capturing both the tone of the originals and serving as a sort of “here’s what I’m getting at” for Schafianski’s remasters. If I had to point to one in particular, “Fire Eyes” would easily my favorite song on the album, with its jungle ambiance, soft bongo taps, and melancholy guitar lead capturing my mind and bringing me back to one of the sequences of the game I do recall.
As a heathen who does not recall fondly afternoons spent playing as a boy and his dog (at least, not on the SNES), I can say that I’m a fan of this for all the reasons that I enjoy Sean Schafianski’s other remasters: reverence of the source material and quality production among them, but also because it has a distinct identity due in large part but not entirely to the uniqueness of Jeremy Soule’s original soundtrack. For those of you with treasured memories of Secret of Evermore and its music, though, I can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t already own this album, because it serves as an excellent homage to a classic.