David Peacock and Augustine Mayuga Gonzales must have decided that they had unfinished business with Undertale. Or perhaps, they were not aware of how great their first Piano Collections was until the positive fan response came their way. In any case, Materia Collective, alongside Peacock (arranging) and Gonzales (performing), have provided us with a second volume.
For any readers worried that a second volume requires picking from the bottom of the barrel, here is a friendly reminder: the Undertale OST has over 100 compositions from mastermind Toby Fox. So, no. After listening to this, and looking at the OST tracklist, I suspect that this team could pull off a third volume with great aplomb if they wanted to. Then again, this might be a worthwhile stopping point. After all, as the description on Bandcamp reads, this album can be thought of as running the game on an alternate path (such as the Genocide Path) after completing a True Pacifist run. The irony there, of course, being that “Megalovania” appears on volume one and “Your Best Nightmare ~ Finale” and “Last Goodbye” appear on this volume. Methinks the genocide run should be equated with volume one!
Taking a look at what we have on this album, let’s consider the battle themes first. Right away, we get “Enemy Approaching” and “Stronger Monsters” in a fantastic medley. It’s easy to get caught up in the memorable boss fights, but there are a whole host of “other” battle themes throughout the game, and Peacock did a great job arranging these two. And yet, things get even better when he and Gonzales follow it all up with the game’s first boss theme, “Heartache.” This one song was the single piece I was most affected by when I played the game, and it was the one song I felt needed to be on the first volume. So I’m glad to see it here. They did an excellent job, and though I know it’s beyond my skill level, I’ve already ordered the physical sheet music (limited print!) from Bandcamp so that I can attempt to memorize Heartache for myself.
Further ahead, we have “Battle Against a True Hero” on track 10. Much as I love “Spear of Justice” from the first volume, it is only appropriate that we get this thrilling counterpart. The piano starts sparsely in both hands, right past the first minute, and then Peacock gives Gonzales a real syncopated challenge. The good news, of course, is that Gonzales keeps up with said challenge. He even nails decorations that, perhaps, may have been his own addition to the song? One can never be sure with a touch of musical flair here or there.
Perhaps even more impressive is what they did with “Your Best Nightmare.” Right at the beginning, there’s this wildly effective use of clustered notes to imitate the evil cackle of Virus-Flowey. I’m excited to see what level of specificity David Peacock provides for this effect in the sheet music. In any case, impressive as that effect is, it’s not enough if the rest of the song doesn’t stand up. Does it? Well… yes and no. This might be the only bone I have to pick with this album (haha, skeleton puns, get it?). While I love the transition in and out of the soft music to match up with the pacing of the battle, the fact is that this theme is really, really hard to do in a big concerto piano style. If anything, I feel like it requires Peacock and Gonzales to hold back a bit, which is a shame.
In some sense, then, while I’m very glad to see these battle themes on Piano Collections 2, I’m more excited about the environment/event themes. Chief among them are a fast-paced version of the original “Snowdin Town,” the wildly cheerful “Dating Start!,” the inspirational/tearful “Last Goodbye,” and of course, the title track itself. It’s nice to see the actual song “Undertale” get some recognition.
Let’s get down to brass tacks: is this worth a purchase? If you own the first volume and enjoyed it, the answer is a definite yes. If you haven’t heard the first one, go listen to it, and then maybe consider purchasing both volumes. If you feel the track selections from volume one aren’t as impressive as the selections for volume two, maybe just pick up this volume? Also, if you’re a wannabe-rockstar-pianist like me, you have the option of purchasing digital (PDF) or physical (glossy cover, paperback) sheet music. Be sure to check it out! “Your wallet is filled with determination…”