Zelda is a game that I hold very close to my heart. I don’t play video games as much as I used to, but when I think back to when I played in the past, Zelda, Luigi’s Mansion, Halo and James Bond Nightfire are the first that come to mind. They are the games that opened my eyes to creative world building, plots and a way for the player to feel immersed in ways that other media can have a hard time doing. When you can feel like Link saving a princess, it’s much more gratifying than watching Indiana Jones and his quests from the sidelines. The act of being Link versus watching Link is what makes video games such a massive industry and the reason that people play for hours without regard for time – exploring dungeons and saving the princess is cooler than whatever your day job is.
That might seem like a tangent for a music review, but it’s not. Thief Reborn is a song made by the artist Rozen. It’s a reimagining of songs related to the game franchises most iconic villain, Ganondorf. Ganon is a man who is the unholy part of the holy trinity known as the Triforce wielding the Triforce of Power. If he controls the Triforce, then he controls the world. Zelda holds the Triforce of Wisdom and is, in basically every game, taken hostage by Ganon immediately. For holding something with the word wisdom in its title, you’d think that she could think her way out of captivity, but what’s the fun in that?
Link holds the third and final piece of the Triforce – the Triforce of Courage. He is reborn time after time with his main trait being the ability to sack up and attack someone stronger than him without fear, and every game he succeeds. He’s the perpetual underdog that kids dream of being. He’s the whimsical memory of us walking through our woods, living room or dreams with an imaginary sword and defeating imaginary monsters. No matter the monster, we won because we weren’t going to back down. We’re plain and simple humans, but the wooden stick that we found was all we needed to stop Ganon from taking and injuring our families. We created these massive worlds that only the most creative and determined could conquer time and time again.
*Start listening to the song now*
So, when Rozen starts the song with the elegant beauty of chimes, a choir, quiet base drum and fills it up with the rest of the orchestra, matching the same delicate caressing, you know you’re back in that amazingly playful world that you haven’t seen for so long. Then dissonance arrives like nails on a chalkboard, but instead of fear and discomfort, you feel ready. The hairs on your neck rise to the challenge that you know is incoming. Quick strings and deep brass beckon you to pick up your wooden stick and prepare to fight. The choir seems to be cheering you on as the brass welcomes Ganon… the villain that you’ve worked your whole life to defeat.
Then, the battle begins with the brass playing the most majestic line you’ve ever heard, hyping the battle. You are ready, but weaker than your foe. You dive in, knowing that he’ll likely win… but you have the Triforce of Courage. You are the kid that you used to be and you’re ready to fight through whatever this magical son-of-a-bitch can throw at you. The low brass and electric guitar welcome his string of well-planned and thought out attacks. The bell tones guide you around the battlefield as you dance around, avoiding his punches, looking for a weak point – when it reveals itself. The low brass stops, and frantic notes encourage you to make your move. You are the hero of time. The electric guitar plays again, as you swing your wooden stick at the man-turned-dragon.
You back up as you notice the smoke clear. He is defeated. The choir welcomes your victory scream. That’s when he inches back to his feet. He’s weak, but you are too. The battle ends with one final blow. The eternal fight between good and evil is done… for now.
I absolutely adore the music that Austin Wintory puts out. He’s best known for creating the soundtrack for the video game Journey, but the song I’m looking at today is from another video game, Abzu.
I played the video game a few years ago and that’s how I discovered Wintory. After all this time, the soundtrack still brings goosebumps in ways that other music couldn’t do the first time I heard it. According to Spotify, Wintory was my most listened to Artist of 2017 and will most definitely be again in 2018. His unique style of ambient, but not understated, strings and vocals are finessed in such a way that it’s as if an invisible conductor is taking my hand through the movements of the art, giving me the most relaxing and serene of musical adventures.
The song opens with percussion creating a vibe that you never knew you needed. It begins with this warm feeling that always seems to make me exhale as if the weight of the world had been lifted from me and given back to Atlas. After a fifteen second percussion section, a woodwind solo begins. I say woodwind because I genuinely can’t even tell what instrument is playing; it’s like this flawless, soothing sound of a flute, but with the reedy sound that you’d get from a clarinet or oboe. Instead of taking the guess, I just listen and enjoy it. After it’s short time in the spotlight, it’s replaced by a choir which sings and lets the sopranos and altos which come in with a low hum and then evolve to a fully developed and impossibly finessed sound. As this happens, the percussion and all other instruments slowly fade out without you even noticing because the other, lower parts of the choir take center stage to add depth.
By the time you realize that the instruments are gone, they come back in with this subtle build to the climax. That’s when the chills start. It’s like someone chewed an entire pack of mint gum and blew cold air on my neck. The vocals have this angelic beauty that is somehow lifted even higher by the basic but fully-developed instruments that creep back in. Then, the second that it should end, the song does, leaving you with a longing for the discovery on this mysterious, magnificent planet.
The song is completely innovative throughout its short 1:58 play time. It never repeats itself, because even if he wanted it to restate the theme, it’s done by another member of the orchestra and it’s like they are constantly trying to outdo each other, but the only winner is the listener. This song is an absolute masterpiece. I can imagine Austin Wintory sitting down to write this and just bawling his eyes out, letting the true beauty of nature captivate him in a way that most people don’t understand anymore. It’s like he’s trying to illustrate that the beauty of the world doesn’t have to be scary and that the sense of wonder should overpower any sense of confusion, anxiety and depression that stems from a lack of direction or understanding of one’s true purpose. If you asked him “why we exist on this planet and what our role is in the betterment of all things,” I bet he would say something like “who cares. You’re here and you’re you, and that’s good enough.”