One of the first things I did after the discontinuation of Anime Strike was delve into Re:Creators. It was thoroughly entertaining, and Hiroyuki Sawano knows his way around a soundtrack. His opening themes, in kind—especially “gravityWall”—were very good, but they still had me pining for another particular work of his.
Note: The only seemingly viable version that can be found on YouTube is this live studio one. Luckily, it’s very close to the recording.
Hiroyuki Sawano feat. Mizuki, credited as SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:mizuki
The history of fan tributes to anime, were it to be fully laid out, would have a huge section dedicated to AMVs. Within those multitudes, so many were scored by early to mid-2000's hard rock by the likes of Linkin Park, Evanescence, Three Days Grace, Skillet, and so on and so forth, that such music has become practically synonymous with anime in some respects.
It’s kind of ironic, then, that anime often doesn’t soundtrack itself with AMV rock all that much. “aLIEz” is one of the rare exceptions, and it’s glorious to the point that it singlehandedly justifies Aldnoah.Zero’s thoroughly extra decision to have not one, but TWO alternating ending themes.
Sentiments about A1 Pictures’ and Troyca’s mecha series have always been, and always will be, vastly divided and polarized—I’m actually split between how much I loved the first season against how ultimately unimpressed I felt by the end of the second—but “aLIEz” has this intriguing optical illusion-esque property where no matter how anyone felt about the show, that ending theme will encapsulate their thoughts to a tee. Was it a try-hard mess? Then all that nü metal angst is all too appropriate! Was it (like I thought) a fantastically bleak roller coaster ride? Then the track’s off-kilter intensity fits the sensation to a tee!
This theme may share much of the DNA from the plethora of AMV-soundtracking songs, but it also stands out from the pack by how immaculately layered and cinematic Hiroyuki Sawano’s arrangement is. Distorted guitars don’t actually rule the soundscape much of the time. A menagerie of piano, marimbas, video game bleeps, and electric bass hold down the verses. It isn’t until the choruses and bridge that the guitars, patiently waiting their turn, finally let loose. The precision-strike restraint is an excellent call, as those moments, with bluster that starkly contrasts the more spacious segments, stand out as defiantly anthemic in turn.
This is also as good of an excuse as any to scandalize everyone with that one time a few years ago when I mashed up Maroon 5's “Animals” with the “aLIEz” instrumental.
RedStripe Loved Trax—originally from days of Tumblr past—is a series about the music Justin adores, with special emphasis on songs from (or introduced by) video games and anime.