Children of Termina by Rozen
“You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?”
The World That Ends in Three Days
Join me as we journey through a world in limbo this week with Children of Termina by Rozen. Pressed on silver and black swirl vinyl by Materia Collective comes the darkest chapter of Rozen’s career. This week I sat down with compositional mastermind Daniel Jimenez (Rozen) to discuss his latest foray into The Legend of Zelda franchise. The clock is ticking...
Daniel Jimenez (Rozen) is an award-winning composer and arranger based out of Los Angeles, California. Best known for his work with Materia Collective, Rozen has become a dark horse in the video game music scene with his rich and dynamic arrangements. Spanning the universes of Metroid to Kingdom Hearts, Rozen’s journey into the dark and cryptic world of The Legend of Zelda has been one of the most enjoyable orchestral experiences of our time. With Sins & Ballads of Hyrule preceding it, what Children of Termina represents is the culmination, not only of Rozen's experience as a composer, but the peak of his unique symphonic journey through the Zelda universe. As a meticulous composer and arranger, I found it imperative to find out exactly what his inspiration was for pursuing a life in music...
"My favorite band, Dream Theater. I discovered Berklee College of Music through them and that’s why I decided I wanted to pursue that route. I’ve always been drawn to their conceptual albums, which is probably why I try doing the same for my own work. There’s a lot of progressive rock influence in my music."
Down the Rabbit Hole
Dream Theater is definitely an influence that you can feel on a foundational level within Rozen’s compositions. The way he melds boisterous and playful percussive elements into the framework of every song creates a natural cadence that shifts like the very masks Link wears. As a progressive rock fan myself I am always drawn to narratively driven albums that have a much deeper meaning within the context of their music. As Rozen’s third album within the Zelda series, he has had a gradual progression not only in his musical stylings but with the story he tries to convey through the album's theme or setting. As each album in this series of exploration within the Zelda universe has had a clear and concise theme, I asked Rozen if there was a narrative or message he was trying to convey through his arrangements...
“The overall theme for my Zelda albums is the nature of evil and humanity (hylianity?) -- the eternal struggle the kingdom of Hyrule has to live with, even when a short period of peace is achieved. I purposely shift tone drastically since after working tirelessly on an album, I can feel overwhelmed by all the feelings I poured into the project, so I tend to do the opposite from the last. With Children of Termina in particular, I experienced a very long burnout from the toll the darkness of the music took on me. I actually just came back to writing music, and this has been the longest period between projects. (Yes, this means more is on its way!)”
The Four Regions
A slow descent into chaos has led Rozen to bring the darkest and most brooding album to ever grace the Zelda universe. As a follow up to Ballads of Hyrule, you can tell that Rozen spent a lot of time laboring over creating a stark and dynamic contrast to his more uplifting and whimsical album. As he has journeyed between different Zelda time periods in the past, I am so happy that Rozen focused on a particular timeline and story within the Zelda universe this time around. This focus I believe led to what is a more cohesive and tangible work of art. By stripping away the freedom that Mr. Kondo’s collective work has to offer and narrowing in on a specific fable to tell, I feel that this album has benefited a lot. What Rozen has achieved with this album is nothing short of scoring our wildest imaginations into a reality, and for that, I believe his work to be the greatest tribute to The Legend of Zelda series of all time! From cartridge to our very hearts what Rozen has achieved here is nothing short of the purest translation of our nostalgic hearts.
A Moment's Peace
The way in which Rozen is able to blend Koji Kondo's original Majora's Mask compositions on this album with his own orchestral flair shows not only his maturity as a musician but his overall respect for the source material it is derived from. The way in which he has recreated the music here in his own style is very indicative of his own passion as a gamer and a fan of the series. To create such wonderful pieces of art that are so intrinsically connected to the source material I had to wonder if The Legend of Zelda is Rozen's favorite gaming series of all time...
"Absolutely! I’ve always wanted the opportunity to produce renditions of the music I’ve always loved. As much as I love listening to the original sounds from the game, they can sound dated or not something I would enjoy blasting while driving. I do my best to bring those memories back in my own style and make them a more listenable experience for contexts outside the games."
Moon's Tears (Astral Observatory)
The respect he has for Mr. Kondo's work truly elevates his compositions beyond just a cover, they are the embodiment of his love for Zelda as a whole. Blending those original melodies with an intense and rocking orchestra absolutely makes the albums he has created car cruising worthy. So many iconic moments are squeezed within the grooves of this release and its beauty is not only in the music, but the length in which it holds you captive. This album is just perfection in its purest form. Composing for such a revered franchise must be a massive undertaking, I just had to know if Rozen felt any pressure at all…
"None at all -- there’s so much material to work with that this is the only franchise I don’t have a problem coming up with concepts for albums. If anything, the challenge is to pick one of those to work on. I love expanding on the lore and some details found in the games that are not fully explained or touched on."
This passion that Rozen has for the Zelda series and frankly any universe he sets his sights on is truly inspiring. The confidence that he has had with the Zelda franchise is a true testament to his work in composing. The attention to detail and respect for the original source material on this album is astounding. Breathing details into his work that truly transport you back into those historic and nostalgic moments from our past and connects us even more with the world that Nintendo built for us. The modulation added towards the end of “Down The Rabbit Hole” is so profound when you actually place where the sound is coming from — Faint and passing from channel to channel as if coming in and out of reality itself is the soft melody from The Song of Time as the clock is ticking laboriously in the background. This creative elegance in sound design adds a distinct, respectful, and unique flavor to the tapestry of notes here that is so weighty in the context it is being delivered — it’s simply Rozen. Musically what has been done here is the true manifestation of creativity that was bred into all of us from the creators of the game that these songs inhabit. If there was ever to be a Zelda movie you better believe that Rozen’s music would be the soundtrack to it all! The way he is able to translate those original compositions from Koji Kondo into this spectacularly grand way illustrates how those epic quests and boss battles played back in our obsessive adolescent minds. As is tradition with these interviews I like to ask every artist what their favorite memory was from the writing process. This is what Rozen had to say:
“Coming up with the first track of the album “The World That Ends in Three Days” -- it’s always my favorite part of an album because it isn’t until that moment in the process that I define the overall sound of an album and feel like everything fits together. I really wanted to replicate the narrative experience that “Sins of Hyrule” had with its first track “Ancient Battle.” Also, this was the first time I got to work with Celica Soldream, whom I’ve always wanted to write for. She was the perfect element to be the narrative voice of Termina and I’ll never forget how amazed I was listening to her recordings for the piece.”
The vocals on this record from Celica Soldream, Julie Elven, and Reven is yet again one of the best aspects of this tribute from Rozen. From belting highs to melodic lows what these fantastic women have done in helping deliver Rozen’s cinematic tale of Majora’s Mask is monumental. The style and grace that their melodic inflections add to the overall musical landscape in which they are featured elevate these pieces beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I hope that they all get featured on the same track one day, that would be extremely epic! While the vocals are only used sparingly throughout this album, how they deliver that harrowing experience is what will make this album enjoyable for years to come.
Inside the Moon
Materia Collective and Rozen have completely outdone themselves on this release. Pictured in this review is the Limited Deluxe Edition of this album and it has to be the most ambitious and gorgeous release Materia Collective has released to date. So much care and love were poured into this one that you can truly tell that this is a group of professionals and musicians who care not only about the music they are releasing but more importantly their fans. The experience I had when unboxing this release is like nothing I have ever had with a Materia Collective release before. Included in this Limited Deluxe Edition is not only the vinyl, but a signed card, and sheet of music from Rozen, a custom enamel pin, the album on CD, as well as a foil stamped back cover with premium purple lettering, and a silver embossed number representing the run number you received. As a premium product, they went all out in making you feel like you were truly owning something special and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!
Song of Healing
The amazing cover of this album designed by Anato Finnstark is a true treat in design. Featuring the moon of Termina being held just above the world by the ancient guardians that protect it, the clever use of the rocky negative space form Majora’s Mask is so brilliant. This cover is truly remarkable and is one of the most unique pieces of fan art I have ever seen grace Majora’s Mask. The triple gatefold that this album is housed in opens up into this incredible panoramic piece of art designed by Łukasz Sienkiewicz that embodies that symphonic journey it holds inside beautifully, it’s just so great to look at. There’s a wonderful range of colors here that just captivates you completely, truly well done. Even the inner sleeves of this album were meticulously illustrated and designed in such a way that makes this entire album feels like a journey from the moment you reveal it from its shipping box. Great job all around on this one.
Children of Termina
Mastering for this album was carried out by none other than Jett Galindo of The Bakery. As the resident vinyl cutter for Materia Collective at this point, Jett has done yet another exquisite job with this release. As the best Rozen album to date, I have to say, this has to be one of the best sounding ones on vinyl as well thanks to her impeccable work. The quiet passages are so crystal clear giving way for the loud and riotous grooves that lurk around each rotation. The attention to detail that Jett has for her work is compounded by the love that she has for the music itself. Here’s what Rozen had to say about working with Jett on his albums, “...her masterful craft is now part of my sound and I trust no one else with cutting lacquers for my vinyl.” I agree with this sentiment whole-heartedly! You can tell that there is pride in the work she’s done here and that is why I think she is seriously one of the best cutters in the industry!
I want to give a huge thanks to Rozen for taking the time to discuss his wonderful music with me and share a small part of himself with all of you. I also want to thank him for providing me with a few codes to give out to all of you readers out there and fans of his work. Keep an eye out on social media and here on the site for a chance to nab yourself some awesome digital music!
If you liked what you just read and want to help support me by bringing more content like this to you in the future, please check out my Patreon. Every tier includes early access to each and every review I put out. I've also put together some exclusive VGM WAX-Themed swag like stickers and a T-Shirt for those of you who want that. I have to say they are pretty sweet! I will also be releasing exclusive and unique behind the scenes content available only through this program! Much love to all of you and thank you for the past year. It has completely transformed my life. I can't wait to share more of my passion, love, and creativity with each and every one of you beautiful people!
Remastered for vinyl by:
Anato Finnstark/Łukasz Sienkiewicz/Trish Wheatley
Vinyl produced & distributed by:
Where to buy?
While the Limited Deluxe Edition pictured in this review is sold out there is a standard version of this album is still readily available directly from Materia Collective that contains the same music across two stunning black vinyl. Featuring alternate artwork this release is still limited to 1,000 copies and comes with digital streaming and download of the album in high-quality MP3, FLAC, and more. This is without a doubt one of the best tributes to the Zelda franchise of all time, and I highly recommend you pick this one up if you are a fan of Rozen’s previous work or of the Zelda universe in general!