TPR’s “Melancholy” albums never fail to surprise me by defying conventions. It’s always the pieces that I, on a visceral level, don’t immediately think would lend themselves well to the “melancholy” treatment that make the biggest impression on me. For example, Fragments of Memories: A Melancholy Tribute to Final Fantasy VIII was a fantastic album from start to finish, but the downtempo ethereal arrangement of the intense boss theme “Force Your Way” stood out in my mind. I found this sentiment very true as I listened to The End of Time: Melancholy Music from Chrono Trigger in that the album turned some of my expectations sideways.
I knew pieces like “Secret of the Forest,” “Wind Scene,” and “Schala’s Theme” would lend well to TPR’s “melancholy” treatment since they already had slower tempos and sparser, more ethereal arrangements. Those tracks certainly sounded lovely and were dreamily nostalgic to listen to, but did not necessarily elevate or innovate their source material. While that could be seen as being respectful and true to the source material, when I hear alternative arrangements I also want to hear the arranger’s personal stamp so I can get a sense of their emotional connection to the piece.
On the other hand, the more bombastic pieces, like “Chrono Trigger,” that punctuate pivotal moments in the game retain their intensity and are quietly epic. In a similar vein, I love how “Battle 1” is treated. This arrangement maintains the original’s drive, but its newfound enchanting qualities make it seem like a hero confidently striding through the mist as opposed to a fast-paced brawl. Many gamers would use the word magical to describe Chrono Trigger and I must say, TPR’s arrangement of “Battle 1” is truly magical.
I also love the arrangements of the more ominous pieces like “Undersea Palace.” With a slightly slowed down form and a sparser arrangement, this piece has an incredibly sinister sense of foreboding that completely washed over me. It is noticeably darker than its source material and its more serpentine qualities actually instilled a visceral sense of dread in me. “Battle With Magus” is great too, with a swaying groove about it that the original doesn’t have. I also like that some of the melody lines incorporate a couple of additional notes from the bassline, adding depth and complexity to the piece, which befits the deep nature of the character, the complexity of the battle sequence, and the haunting setting. This is precisely what I’m talking about when I talk about an arranger putting his/her own emotional connection into a beloved piece.
Speaking of beloved pieces, “Corridors of Time” is arguably the most beloved piece of music from Chrono Trigger. Few pieces of music exude that sense of magical otherworldliness and, within the context of the game, it makes the already stunning kingdom of Zeal seem even more mystical. Unfortunately, I find “Corridors of Time” rather forgettable in this soundtrack. It is too sparse to the point of surprising blandness and lacked that intangible mojo, that “mystical angelic gleam” of the original. I feel similarly about “Frog’s Theme.” It sounds nice and is skillfully played, but it lacks the majesty and power of the original and does not do a gloriously noble character like Frog justice.
Within the context of the soundtrack, those aforementioned tracks sound fine, but would clearly be among the “filler songs” on an album. To be honest, I feel that many of the tracks here are pleasant to listen to and cleanly executed, but lack any standout qualities. Admittedly, it’s difficult to soar to the lofty heights the original soundtrack reached, but I would have liked to hear more renditions like those of “Battle 1” or “Undersea Palace” that showcase personality and have that indescribable “it” factor to make them special.
My final thought regarding The End of Time: Melancholy Music from Chrono is that it’s a smoothly arranged album that’s pleasant to listen to, but only has a handful of standout tracks. The highlights for me were “Battle 1,” “Undersea Palace,” and “Battle with Magus” because they innovated or enervated the source material by showcasing them in novel ways and doing so with personality. Otherwise, I feel that a good majority of the album either stays too close to the source material (e.g. “Schala’s Theme”) or relaxes it too much (e.g. “Corridors of Time.”) I feel bad that I wasn’t wholly satisfied with this album since I love Chrono Trigger’s music and TPR’s melancholy arrangements. Still, I would heartily recommend Fragments of Memories: A Melancholy Tribute to Final Fantasy VIII over this one instead, because that Final Fantasy VIII album is loaded with personality and that intangible “mojo” I feel is lacking here.