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Final Fantasy VII – “One-Winged Angel” (Nobuo Uematsu)

October 31, 2010

Go to any Final Fantasy or general game music concert, and unless it’s specifically organized for a particular series or company, you will probably hear an arrangement of “One Winged Angel” (often by howling encore request).  The song’s popularity is probably due to four main reasons: the fame of Final Fantasy VII is such a popular game, the battle scene with Safer Sephiroth was very memorable (particularly its combination of long, cinematic magic spells wreaking apocalyptic destruction at a time when such things were novel), it used a recorded choir for the first time in the series’ history (and good audio quality always makes things seem better), and that it’s a good song. You combine all three together, and you give a piece legendary status. It is perhaps best to view “One Winged Angel” in regards to its orchestral arrangements, as these place the song in the way it was meant to be played, to which the original synths, good as they are, can’t compare. Run-down of both major versions, with lyrics, after the break.

The best recording of “One-Winged Angel” is from Distant Worlds and conducted by Arnie Roth (check it out on iTunes for the actual album, and the CD is also fairly easy to find, but this video is great because you can really see Roth at work in the orchestra). They play it on tour, but often as an encore piece, and so sometimes the orchestra is a little too exhausted to play it well (this happened in Denver, and honestly, I was glad they played “Terra’s Theme” for the final – particularly as the premiere).

“One-Winged Angel” is ponderous, looming waves of drums and strings like the beating wings of the destroyer. The lyrics – sung in Latin by an apocalyptic choir – are as monstrous as they sound, calling for death and obliteration. It has a wide range of instrumentation, great musical dynamics that switch from malicious to whimsical. The piece is in many ways the culmination of Nobuo Uematsu’s work with the Final Fantasy series as a realization of the classical genre in game space he set out to define in the 1980s.

Another good recording is from Final Fantasy VII: Reunion orchestrated by Shiro Hamaguchi and conducted by Hiroshi Kumagai. For some reason, it lacks the choir, but it’s interesting to view as orchestra alone. The Final Fantasy VII Piano Collections version is avoidable.

IN LATIN 

Estuans interius
Ira vehementi
(x2)

Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Estuans interius
Ira vehementi
(x2)

Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Sors – immanis
Et inanis
(x2)

Estuans interius
Ira vehementi
(x2)

Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Veni veni venias
Ne me mori facias
(x4)

Haryuu no
hanekata

Veni veni venias
Ne me mori facias
(x4)

Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

 

IN ENGLISH  

Burning inside
With violent anger
(x2)

Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Burning inside
With violent anger
(x2)

Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Fate – monstrous
And empty
(x2)

Burning inside
With violent anger
(x2)

Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Come, come, O come
Do not let me die
(x4)

The winged one
Of the lower reaches

Come, come, O come
Do not let me die
(x4)

Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

When Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was created, Sephiroth is resurrected for a final battle with Cloud. Advent Children contained primarily arranged music of the original game, and there was no choice but to give “One Winged Angel” another appearance – this time rock arranged as “Advent: One Winged Angel” arranged by Shiro Hamaguchi and conducted by Koji Haijima. In an interview, Uematsu stated why he felt the song translated so well to a rock arrangement, he felt it had to do with the orchestral composition of the original and how this seems to translate well to other forms. “Advent” retains its orchestral opening, but makes the entire piece guitar-driven for a more brooding, apocalyptic tone – symphonic rock. They also add a guitar solo about three minutes in. This coupled with the better recording is probably why this is the version that tends to get played in concerts, and it’s awesome to hear in person. I think most people find this to be the best rendition, though I personally like the original conducted by Roth better.

And honestly, I’m a little surprised The Black Mages haven’t recorded a version for their albums, but they play it often in concerts (you can hear them in Voices). Tommy Tallarico also plays a mean guitar for “One-Winged Angel” in Video Games Live, and the track is featured on Volume 2 of the album series. I got to see Tallarico play with Chris Kline (Vertexguy) at GDC in a stellar performance.

Anyway, here’s the dual-language lyrics:

IN LATIN 

Noli manere,

manare in memoria

(x2)
Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Saevam iram,

iram et dolorem

(x2)
Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Ferum terribile,

ferum fatum
Noli manare,

manere in memoria

(x2)

Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Veni, mi fili. Veni, mi fili
Hic veni, da mihi mortem iterum
Veni, mi fili. Veni, mi fili
Hic veni, da mihi…

Noli manere in memoria
Saevam iram et dolorem
Ferum terribile fatum
Ille iterum veniet

Mi fili, veni,

veni, veni, mi fili

(x4)

Mi fili, veni, veni, veni, mi fili
(Qui mortem invitavis)
Mi fili, veni, veni, veni, mi fili
(Poena funesta natus)
Mi fili, veni, veni, veni, mi fili
(Noli nomen vocare)
Mi fili, veni, veni, veni, mi fili
(Ille iterum veniet)

Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Sephiroth!

IN ENGLISH  

Won’t remain,

remain in memory

(x2)
Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Raging anger,

anger and misery

(x2)

Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Fierce terror,

fierce fate
Won’t remain,

remain in memory

(x2)

Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Come, my son. Come, my son
Come here, give me death once more
Come, my son. Come, my son
Come here, give me…

Won’t remain in memory
Raging anger and misery
Fierce, terrible fate
The second advent

My son, come,

come, come, my son

(x4)

My son, come, come, come, my son
(By death’s invitation)
My son, come, come, come, my son
(Painful tainted birth)
My son, come, come, come, my son
(Won’t call the name)
My son, come, come, come, my son
(The second advent)

Sephiroth!
Sephiroth!

Sephiroth!

So is the song overrated? Certainly it is not a bad composition (and I wouldn’t be surprised to find it played on classical radio many years from now), but I think there’s a little too much fan fervor around this song. For one thing, the composition does not even originate with Final Fantasy VII - that award goes to Final Fantasy V for “The Book of Sealings“, which plays in the weapons room in Exdeath’s castle. Whatever the verdict, “One Winged Angel” will remain at the top of the game music charts for a long time to come.

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