The music from Sonic Frontiers resonates deeply.
When I say “resonates,” it’s not just about thinking “this song is nice.” It’s more about the melodies that grip your heart, the immersive guitar riffs, the high-tone voices, and the screams.
These sounds that shake your soul feel like a return to the high-energy rock scene of the 2000s, a time when the genre known as post-hardcore (screamo)* witnessed a significant surge. It’s that sound that explosively colored the rock scene in the 2000s.
*Regarding the genre of post-hardcore (screamo) and its associated genres like screamo and metalcore, which are closely related to the emo genre, it’s a bit off-topic to delve into defining them here. For this discussion, let’s just encompass these genres within the realm of post-hardcore.
Therefore, in this article, I’d like to list about ten “godly albums” (as per the author’s view) from the post-hardcore scene in the 2000s. This is in the present Reiwa era, in a gaming media article. I hope you enjoy reading it while reminiscing about those times, thinking, “Oh, I remember that album!” or “The second album was better than the first for that band!”
Please, if you can relate even a bit, take a listen to the music from Sonic Frontiers that I’ll introduce later. It’s sure to resonate with you.
In the latter part of this article, I’ll bring an interview with Tomoya Ohtani, the sound director for Sonic Frontiers, and his top 10 ‘godly albums.’ You’ll get to experience the agony of narrowing down favorite albums to just 10.
If you’d like, could you also share your top 10 albums? It’s quite challenging to narrow it down to just 10, isn’t it?
*The following selection of 10 ‘godly albums’ I’m about to introduce is entirely subjective, filled with my personal bias. It took me about a month to narrow it down to these 10 albums.
- Are you a Fan of Cove or Anthony in Saosin? Looking Back at the ‘Godly Albums’ of the 2000s
- Kellin Quinn from Sleeping with Sirens Handles the Vocal Tracks for Sonic Frontiers
- 【Interview with Mr. Ohtani】THE END Battle in “Another Story” is Choreographed to Climax in a Three-Tier Sequence Using ‘I’m Here’
Are you a Fan of Cove or Anthony in Saosin? Looking Back at the ‘Godly Albums’ of the 2000s
Here are the carefully selected ten albums that have been on my mind for a while:
- Finch「What It Is To Burn」（2002）
- Funeral For A Friend「Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation」（2003）
- Tooth & Nail Records「The Nail Volume One」（2003）
- Underoath「They’re Only Chasing Safety」（2004）
- Pleymo「Alphabet Prison」（2006）
- Оригами「И Ангелы Ошибаются」（2006）
- LoveHateHero「White Lies」（2007）
- A Hope For Home「Here, the End」（2007）
- Empyr「The Peaceful Riot」（2008)
*Listed in chronological order (as listing based on preference would be impossible for me).
Finch「What It Is To Burn」（2002）
Here’s Finch’s “What It Is To Burn” (2002) to start off. It’s hard to believe it’s been over 20 years since this album was released. But it’s no surprise; I still listen to it regularly.
From the very first track, “New Beginning,” it hits me right in the feels. When we talk about Finch, isn’t “Letters To You” the standout? I’ve never seen anyone not get hyped up by this track. The chorus, especially the line “I want you to know that I miss you, I miss you so,” is easy to sing even for someone like me who isn’t fluent in English.
Moving on to the middle, “Perfection Through Silence” stands out. The opening guitar riff is just fantastic. I’ve theorized that people who love this song might also enjoy A Change of Pace’s “Death Do Us Apart.” Anybody here who agrees?
And the conclusion—from “Ender” transitioning into “What It Is To Burn”—it’s just emotionally overwhelming. I remember shedding tears at their 2009 Japan concert just from the opening “She, Buuuuuuuuuurrrrrns!“
Finch’s “Say Hello To Sunshine” (2005) with tracks like “Ink” and “Miro” are also favorites, making it quite challenging to narrow down. Overall, I’ve chosen “What It Is To Burn” (2002).
Funeral For A Friend「Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation」（2003）
Next up is Funeral For A Friend’s “Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation” (2003). I can’t quite recall when or how I first came to know them. It feels like I just naturally started listening to them.
One of my favorite tracks from this album is “Juneau.” I remember there was a limited release of the demo version of “Juneau,” called “Juno,” back in the day. It seems that “Juno” is now included in the album “Between Order and Model,” released in 2013. I’m grateful for that.
Tooth & Nail Records「The Nail Volume One」（2003）
The record label Tooth & Nail Records, known for hosting many emo, screamo, and metalcore bands, also produced acts like Underoath and Anberlin. Their compilation album “The Nail Volume One” (2003) is considered one of the noteworthy albums in history.
Here’s a look at the tracklist:
- Thousand Foot Krutch「Phenomenon」
- Anberlin「Ready Fuels」
- Bleach 「Get Up」
- Watashi Wa「All Of Me」
- FM Static「Crazy Mary」
- Starflyer 59「Underneath」
- Fighting Jacks「Commons And Robbers」
- MewithoutYou「The Ghost」
- Joy Electric「（I Am） Made From The Wires」
- Lucerin Blue「Chorus Of Birds」
- Ace Troubleshooter「Ball & Chain」
- Side Walk Slam「Time Will Pass You By」
- Slow Coming Day「Pages Yet To Be Written」
- Furthermore「 Letter To Myself」
- The Juliana Theory「Duane Joseph」
Every song is so good that I’m not sure where to start! But to keep things moving, let me introduce you to three tracks.
Let’s start with Anberlin. I discovered them through this album. I believe “Ready Fuels” was the breakout song for them. From there, they had hits like “Never Take Friendship Personal” (2005) and “Cities” (2007). Their 2009 Japan tour (TOTALFAT → New Found Glory → Forever The Sickest Kids → Anberlin) is still a vividly memorable live performance for me. Wasn’t that an incredible lineup…?
Following that is Mae. They just visited Japan in 2022 and showcased their greatest hits centered around the albums “The Everglow” and “Destination: Beautiful”. Of course, this album also includes “Summertime”. Despite the live restrictions due to health measures, the quietness during Mae’s performance seemed fitting for their music.
“The Pages Yet To Be Written” by Slow Coming Day is just incredibly transient. Listening to it during this slightly colder season makes my heart squeeze and shiver. It seems that an alternate version of this song is included in the EP “A Part of Me Died” released in 2017. Both are excellent.
Underoath「They’re Only Chasing Safety」（2004）
Here’s Underoath’s “They’re Only Chasing Safety” (2004), released by Tooth & Nail Records as mentioned earlier. This album seems suitable as an introduction to post-hardcore. It maintains a unique balance by incorporating intense screams and melodic clean parts.
While this sound is somewhat standard in post-hardcore, Underoath’s wide range between intensity and melody builds a tolerance akin to the mixed sensations of the carrot and the stick. Encountering Underoath has expanded my listening horizons.
Here’s another album, The Almost’s “Southern Weather” (2007), led by Aaron, the clean vocals contributor from Underoath. This album retains a powerful essence while offering a different mystique from Underoath. In terms of musical style, it feels somewhat similar to The Audition. Speaking of The Audition, their track “You’ve Made Us Conscious” from “Controversy Loves Company” (2005) is a remarkable song. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I highly recommend giving it a try.
I was supposed to talk about Underoath, but somehow ended up discussing The Audition instead. That’s pretty spooky, isn’t it?
Saosin has seen vocalists Anthony (first), Cove (second), Anthony (returning to the first position), and Cove (from the ASIA TOUR 2023, back as the second vocalist). This lineup change could create divided factions among fans. If asked, I might lean a bit towards Cove.
Saosin took a significant leap with Cove’s debut in their self-titled album “Saosin” (2006). Many might associate the “original Saosin” with Cove, myself included. I first listened to the EP “Translating the Name,” where Anthony was the vocalist, but Cove had already solidified his place by then. Additionally, tracks like “Voices,” “Finding Home,” and “You’re Not Alone” from the album “Saosin” (2006) had a captivating quality, making me listen to them repeatedly.
Therefore, I lean slightly towards Cove. If it were mushrooms versus bamboo shoots, I’d instantly choose bamboo shoots, but when it comes to Anthony versus Cove, I can’t give an immediate answer. Of course, there’s no need to choose one over the other.
Another noteworthy point about Saosin at the time was the pronunciation. It was quite shocking to discover that Saosin was pronounced as “Sei-oh-shin.” I’d always thought it was “Sao-shin,” so when I saw “Sei-oh-shin” written on the Japanese edition’s obi, it was quite surprising. Even now, I quietly refer to them as “Sao-shin” in my mind.
Pleymo, along with groups like Enhancer, Vegastar, and AqME, was part of the nu-metal collective “Team Nowhere,” known for its close ties with bands like Watcha, Hass Hysteria, Bukowski, The Arrs, and Kyo. You could say that merging them together could resemble post-hardcore, even if it’s a bit of a stretch.
Known for their appreciation of Japan, Pleymo already included the track “K-ra” with Japanese lyrics on their debut album “Keçkispasse” (1999). Vocalist Marc’s profound influence from “AKIRA” and “Ghost in the Shell” is particularly famous.
Their album “Alphabet Prison” (2006) featured the track “4 A.M. Roppongi,” inspired by Roppongi. Starting with Japanese conversations like “You can’t have 100 friends,” if you take just that information, it might give an impression of a “wild Japan” vibe. However, Pleymo’s sense of style is exceptional. I can’t think of any other song that delves into Roppongi in such an immersive way.
Moreover, Pleymo’s artwork, including CD jackets and music videos created by vocalist Marc, a designer himself, along with Team Nowhere’s exclusive photographer BERZERKER, is a sight to behold. Especially “Adrenaline,” with its strong storytelling, remains a personal favorite.
I selected Pleymo not just for their tracks from “Alphabet Prison” (2006) but also to encompass the environment surrounding Pleymo, such as their affiliation with Team Nowhere.
Оригами「И Ангелы Ошибаются」（2006）
The times I use Russian are probably limited to discussing this emoticon (´Д｀) and talking about Оригами. The reason I got to know about Оригами was because they were the opening act at the Moscow concert of Pleymo, as mentioned earlier.
When written in the Latin alphabet, Оригами becomes “Origami,” likely referring to that paper-folding craft. There isn’t much information available about the band, so I can’t say much about the details, but their music is just great. Even though I can’t understand their song titles or lyrics, that’s alright.
Especially, “Ради Чего” from “И Ангелы Ошибаются” (2006) is a catchy song with intense shouts, making it quite accessible. You can listen to their albums on Spotify, so if you’re interested, do check out Russian post-hardcore as well.
A Hope For Home「Here, the End」（2007）
A Hope For Home’s sound is incredibly profound. “Here, the End” (2007) embodies a post-hardcore musical style akin to Mae’s “The Everglow.” The songs seamlessly blend together, creating a beautiful entrance. It possesses a unique fragility and listening to it around 5 a.m. at dawn elevates the experience to its peak (according to the author).
Checking the Spotify play counts, I was surprised to find that the tracks on this album had around 1,000 to 2,000 plays each, which is surprising. It’s an exceptional album deserving millions of plays. Particularly, the track “Kyle” evokes a sense of fragility right from the start, sending shivers down one’s spine.
For a more intense experience, the first track “Casting Light Through Such Thin Shades” or the third track “(Grace) We Are the Heirs!” might be what you’re looking for. However, albums like this feel complete when listened to straight through, starting from the first track.
“White Lies” (2007) is one of those albums I repeatedly listen to due to its “lack of throwaway tracks.” It maintains the same level throughout, devoid of any highs or lows, which allows for a consistent listening experience.
For the same reasons, I’ve found myself repeatedly playing Ivoryline’s “There Came A Lion” (2008) as well. However, “White Lies” (2007) won out because of the memorable guitar riff in the first track, “Goodbye My Love.”
On a more personal note, and I apologize for the personal tangent, “Goodbye My Love” was played during the cake cutting at my wedding, making it a memorable track in my life. For context, the entrance song at the wedding was The All-American Rejects’ “Move Along,” the toast was accompanied by My Chemical Romance’s “Dead!,” and the exit song was Finch’s “What It Is To Burn” (She Buuuuuuuuuuurrrrnns).
Empyr「The Peaceful Riot」（2008）
The last one is “The Peaceful Riot” (2008). Empyr is a band formed by Pleymo’s bassist, Benoit, Vegastar’s drummer, Jocelyn, Watcha’s guitarist, Fred, and Kyo’s vocalist, Ben, along with guitarist Florian. Their profound sound and light melodies really struck a chord with me.
The music video for the single “New Day” was directed by Marc, the vocalist of Pleymo, and BERZERKER, the exclusive photographer for Team Nowhere. Fans who liked Pleymo’s “Adrenaline” might appreciate this song.
Following the release of “The Peaceful Riot,” they released an EP called “Your Skin My Skin” (2009) the following year and an album titled “Unicorn” (2011) two years later. Unfortunately, they are currently on hiatus.
Kellin Quinn from Sleeping with Sirens Handles the Vocal Tracks for Sonic Frontiers
Here is a summary of the “God-tier Albums” (in the author’s opinion) within the post-hardcore scene of the 2000s. Perhaps you’ve gained a sense of the overall trend. If any of these albums resonate with you, consider giving a listen to the music from Sonic Frontiers. It’s likely to strike a chord.
One particular reason is that many of the vocal tracks in Sonic Frontiers are sung by Kellin Quinn from the post-hardcore band “Sleeping with Sirens”*. For those who’ve read this far into the article, that fact alone might pique your interest, wouldn’t it?
During the Super Sonic battles (boss fights) in Sonic Frontiers, Kellin sings the songs that play.
When this song starts playing, the game will likely pause, won’t it…
The person behind the music is the Sound Director, Tomoya Ohtani. So, from here, let’s dive into an interview with him. Hoping the music from Sonic Frontiers resonates with many post-hardcore enthusiasts.
Vocalist for Sleeping with Sirens. In Sonic Frontiers, he provides vocals for the songs in the Super Sonic battle (boss battle): ‘Undefeatable,’ ‘Break Through It All,’ and ‘Find Your Flame.’
【Interview with Mr. Ohtani】THE END Battle in “Another Story” is Choreographed to Climax in a Three-Tier Sequence Using ‘I’m Here’
── I was surprised by the volume of both the first soundtrack CD, “Stillness & Motion,” with a total of 150 songs across 6 discs, and also by the second soundtrack CD, “Paths Revisited,” consisting of 46 songs spread across 2 discs. Having around 200 tracks for a single game seems extraordinary. Could you share more about the process behind the second volume?
Yes, it’s a total of 8 CDs, which is indeed the largest volume compared to soundtracks I’ve worked on in the past (laughs). It resulted from creating music based on the specifications of update content and what was deemed necessary for enhancing the staging.
It’s accurate to consider that the number of tracks largely correlates with the volume of game content. Except for a few, most of the tracks in the second soundtrack were composed specifically for the third update.
In the beginning of the third update, there’s a line from Sage*: ‘Among my millions of calculations, I never considered the possibility of success. Perhaps there lies a way to save the Doctor there,’ which leads Sonic and others to experience another story.
A mysterious girl appearing in Sonic Frontiers.
Sage discovers the potential for success in that ‘If,’ and on the musical front, there were many ideas not used in the main game. We started by revisiting those ideas. I think one of the factors contributing to this volume was my ability to focus solely on this project. Even after completing the soundtrack of 150 songs, I was surprised by the many things I still wanted to do.
── The vocal tracks in the second soundtrack feature Kellin Quinn singing the main theme ‘I’m Here,’ originally performed by Merry Kirk-Holmes*, and it’s included as ‘I’m Here – Revisited.’ I was thrilled with the arrangement precisely because I knew the original. How did the discussions lead to arranging the same song with a different vocalist?
This was a point that gave us considerable concern. The three tracks that Kellin participated in have become overwhelmingly popular tunes based on the reactions of those who played the game and the streaming numbers on platforms like Spotify. Therefore, we felt it was essential to bring Kellin back for the closing theme of Another Story.
*Merry Kirk-Holmes is the vocalist of To Octavia. In Sonic Frontiers, they provide the vocals for the main theme “I’m Here”.
── It’s pretty intense to bring Kellin back again.
Yes, it was a point we struggled with. We were considering whether it should be a new song or whether it should embody the concept of “If” by exploring what would happen if Kellin sang “I’m Here.”
I chose to bet on the latter after much consideration. The reason being, we concluded that it might be more impactful to have the already familiar “I’m Here” in a new version play during the climactic scene, rather than introducing an entirely new song that players haven’t heard before.
We orchestrated the progression of the battle to unfold in three stages using “I’m Here” – starting with the original instrumental accompanied by vocals, followed by the orchestral version, and finally the “I’m Here – Revisited” featuring Kellin. This three-tiered presentation felt like a folding sequence when all the elements were implemented, and I felt a sense of accomplishment seeing the entirety of the sequence come together.
── Kellin’s response regarding the song?
The recording with Kellin for “I’m Here – Revisited” was led by Tyler Smyth, who served as the vocal recording producer, just like the previous time. Initially, we shared the sound source and our expectations, and then we discussed the arrangements to be made.
However, I fully trusted their approach to handling their music, so I left it to them to proceed in their style, saying, “Please proceed in the way that Tyler and Kellin see fit.” Meanwhile, I continued recording work on other songs domestically.
When I met Kellin at the “Sonic Symphony” Los Angeles performance and asked about his recording experience with Tyler, he said, “He is a blast!” So, I believe he enjoyed the recording session. Indeed, we received vocal tracks that surpassed the original, and I am grateful for their dedication. We even took a photo together with Tyler during their time there.
── Could you please tell us about the points you emphasized and struggled with in “I’m Here – Revisited”?
The original “I’m Here” encapsulates the concept of “stillness and motion” within one track in Sonic Frontier. For “I’m Here – Revisited,” we aimed to create an arrangement that embodies both the vulnerability and aggression, representing the transformation towards Super Sonic, with new-found power. We brainstormed new introductory phrases, established basic arrangements, and then passed the baton to guitarist and mixing engineer MEG for the final touches.
I believe that Merry Kirk-Holmes’s rendition of the original “I’m Here” conveys a sense of moving forward with a strong determination despite carrying vulnerabilities and uncertainties towards new horizons. On the other hand, “I’m Here – Revisited” performed by Kellin, I believe, carries a divine quality alongside a refined sense of coolness. How do you perceive it?
── I understood, and initially, I felt a divine quality. Particularly, I think the intro phrases create a sense of tension. While Merry Kirk-Holmes’ original version has a straightforward strength and earnestness, Kellin’s Revisited version gives an impression of being a bit composed with a sense of vulnerability about which way it might go.
I anticipated there would be several new tracks with the release of the third update, but I was taken aback with a “So this is how it’s going to be!” feeling. The fact that there’s a concept behind “Kellin singing ‘I’m Here'” beyond the story aspect showcases the high degree of completion.
Thank you very much.
── The BGMs for playable characters – Amy, Knuckles, and Tails – also left a lasting impression. Could you share the distinctive characteristics of each?
In the challenging trials of the Another Story, the BGMs maintain the mysterious, melancholic, and serious tone similar to the main story. However, based on the concept of “If,” we decided to incorporate some ideas that weren’t used during the main production.
One of those was the idea of inserting fragmented vocals (or vocal samples) to sing the characters’ feelings from an overarching perspective. It’s somewhat like an “intermediate between instrumental and vocal songs.”
We took excerpts from past character theme lyrics for the content, adding the essence of each character’s traits. While integrating the essence of characters like the troubled Amy, funky Knuckles, and intellectual Tails into the songs, we unified them in a Sonic Frontiers style with piano and string instruments.
Considering the different musical vectors compared to past character themes, it might not seem typical of the Sonic series, but it received unexpectedly positive feedback, which was reassuring.
── Is there any particular track from the second soundtrack that left a strong impression on you?
In that case, it would be the ending theme, “I’m with you – Vocal ver.” “I’m with you” was a track we created quite early in the main production. In the main story, it plays when heading towards The End for the final showdown.
This time, the meaning of “I’m with you” was more along the lines of “I’ll support you” (even though I can’t be with you). However, in the “I’m with you – Vocal ver.” from the Another Story, it unmistakably became a song that means “I’m with you” in the sense of physically being together. The moment this song starts playing in the final scene is a favorite scene that I want to watch over and over again. As one of the developers myself, I feel genuinely thankful for concluding it in this way.
── Earlier, we mentioned Sonic Symphony, but how was the Los Angeles performance where Kellin was also present? Please share your impressions about the atmosphere at the venue and so on.
Regarding Kellin, we connected his management with the Sonic Symphony production team to negotiate his appearance as a guest singer at the Los Angeles performance. When it was confirmed, the excitement was definitely palpable.
He sang two songs, ‘Undefetable’ and ‘Break Through It All,’ from Sonic Frontiers, and it was quite exhilarating. I anticipated the audience’s chorus at the line ‘It’s time to face your fear!’ right before the chorus, but in reality, the entire song was a massive chorus from start to finish! (Laughs)
It was my first time performing at a venue with a capacity of over 3000 people (Dolby Theatre), but the energy from the European and American fans was fantastic. All the members of the Symphony band were a lot of fun, creating a homely atmosphere. Kellin approached this live performance with great positivity. His compatibility with Dave Vives, the lead singer of the Symphony band, was excellent, adding a touch of brilliance to the performance. I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to express it this way, but he was genuinely a great guy! (Laughs) I think everyone ended up liking Kellin a lot.
── I think music production and live performances are completely different aspects, but what are the unique features and strengths that the Sonic Symphony offers in particular, in terms of highlights and listening points?
The Sonic Symphony is a concert that allows you to enjoy instrumental and vocal tracks from various Sonic series, featuring an orchestral ensemble combined with a rock band. The first part, Act 1, is about experiencing the rich performance of the orchestra. However, from Act 2 onwards, the band joins in, transforming the show into a fusion of a rock band with an orchestra.
It starts delicately with the orchestral performance, and before you know it, everyone is standing up and passionately singing along to the metalcore track ‘Undefeatable’—it’s that kind of concert! (Laughs) This wide range is the essence of Sonic music’s potential and the greatest charm of the Sonic Symphony. We aim not only to entertain Sonic fans who’ve enjoyed the games but also to captivate music enthusiasts. We’re preparing for a successful Japanese performance, so please look forward to it!
── I’d like to ask a completely personal question here. In the first half of this article, we introduced 10 albums, but could you also share your selection of “god-tier albums”?
Narrowing it down to 10 is quite difficult (laughs). I’ve been more inclined towards punk, rap, and nu-metal, starting with alternative, emo, and melodic punk. In recent years, I’ve gradually leaned toward post-hardcore and metalcore, culminating in creating those kinds of tracks for Sonic Frontiers. There are plenty of albums that I reluctantly had to leave out, but this selection might reflect that transition.
Considering that the first song I created for the Sonic series was hip-hop-influenced, I’ve included Beastie Boys.
・Beastie Boys「ILL Communication」（1994）
・Rage Against the Machine「The Battle of Los Angeles」（1999）
・LINKIN PARK「Hybrid Theory」（2000）
・The Mad Capsule Markets「010」（2001）
・ELLEGARDEN「RIOT ON THE GRILL」 （2005）
・My Chemical Romance「The Black Parade」 （2006）
・A Skylit Drive「ASD」 （2015）
・Bring Me The Horizon「Post Human: Survival Horror」 （2020）
・Sleeping With Sirens「Complete Collapse」 （2023）
── Thank you very much! I believe it was a challenging selection process. Finally, could you please share a message for the post-hardcore fans reading this article?
I aim to create music that impresses not only Sonic fans and gaming music enthusiasts but also music lovers in general. I’d be delighted if through this article, people felt the dedication and attention to detail in Sonic’s game music.
The soundtrack CDs for Sonic Frontiers, the first installment titled “Stillness & Motion” (comprising 150 tracks across 6 discs) and the second installment “Paths Revisited” (46 tracks on 2 discs), are currently available. They can be streamed or downloaded on various music streaming services, including Spotify.