This is Naofumi Harada, once again.
Read the previous Umbran Studies entry on the music of Bayonetta 3: Bayonetta 3 Music Vol. 2 We Are As One
The Bayonetta series is defined by its slick over-the-top action, but something else that makes it stand out are the battle themes accompanied by female vocals that play while you’re tearing down enemies. Today I’d like to break down one such theme, Al Fine, which also acts as the game’s main battle theme.
First let’s check out the video down below so you know what kind of track Al Fine is.
- Vocals, Lyrics: Chess Galea
- Composition: Hitomi Kurokawa (PlatinumGames)
- Arrangement: Hitomi Kurokawa, Naofumi Harada (PlatinumGames)
This track plays during Bayonetta’s regular battle scenes, making it a “theme song” by Bayonetta series standards. So that means the track has the huge responsibility of reflecting the whole Bayonetta world, as well as match up to the magnificent theme song called We Are As One. We decided to utilize the melody of We Are As One as a motif to compose a new battle theme. Kind of like an alternate version.
I didn’t actually compose this song, by the way! It was the lovely Hitomi Kurokawa (*), who managed to get through the development of this game while raising a baby. She was already feverishly composing and arranging this track during the initial stages of the game’s development. The team received a lot of direction from the father of the Bayonetta series, Hideki Kamiya, as well as Bayonetta 3 director Yusuke Miyata. Just as the trajectory of the first verse was coming together, I was suddenly thrown into the project none-the-wiser and told “OK! It’s up to you to complete this one now!”
I mentioned earlier that we used the melody of We Are As One as a motif, but the melody from the intro to the verse is followed quite closely, making it a little unusual. That being said, it’s easy to miss if you aren’t listening carefully.
(*) Read her article here: [Dev Blog] Bayonetta Origins: Behind the Scenes of the Theme Song Recording
Anyway, let’s compare Al Fine to We Are as One. I’ve prepared a little clip, so please take a listen.
If you listen to the vocals at the beginning of the song, as well as in the verse (0:24), you may notice that they have some similarities and differences. The first song has a feeling of grandeur to it, while the second has more notes as well as a sense of momentum.
The lyrics, the music layout (i.e. the timing and length of the notes) and the chords have been deftly changed here and there, so you may not be able to tell at first listen. It may come to you if you listen closely to both tracks.
You may have guessed by now, but Al Fine and We Are As One are alternate universe versions of the same song, reflecting the multiverse theme of Bayonetta 3.
In the last BGM article, Hiroshi Yamaguchi called these songs “sister songs” and that certainly is no lie. I remember getting the demo from Kurokawa and not really noticing it at the time. I just remember being surprised that it was a little different to previous Bayonetta tracks, being a pretty passionate Argentinian tango-like arrangement! Oh, those memories of putting my head in my hands as I wondered how on earth I was going to finish this are flooding back…
Instruments and Recording
The demo I got was already quite well put-together, with it already clear which instruments would be playing which parts. From there on I played with the drums and bass to give it a more battle-like feeling. Then I highlighted some of the solo instruments such as the violin and accordion.
I have to say, I appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to create the music from scratch, as most of it was already done for me. However, I was originally using a type of software known as a digital audio workstation (DAW), which lets me just type in the instruments I want. I had no idea that we would eventually be recording this track with real instruments.
That’s right! One of the major differences between this and previous battle themes is the fact that almost the whole track was recorded again using real, live instruments! I’d say that was one of the biggest improvements compared to previous titles, but all the preparation leading up to the recording was probably my most important task.
The drums, bass, piano and other elements which formed the very backbone of the track were recorded remotely by a talented group of musicians located overseas. Other elements, such as the strings, acoustic guitar and solo violin were recorded at a studio in Tokyo, so I was able to witness the wonderful performances of these musicians in the flesh. It was very exciting to see the instruments in the mock-up slowly get replaced by the real thing!
With the orchestral recording done, it was now time for the vocal recording! Well, not quite.
As I mentioned before, the actual melody of Al Fine differs slightly to We Are As One. We also couldn’t just use the We Are As One lyrics as-is, as they were never intended to be used for a battle theme. This meant that we needed to get a new set of lyrics.
I feel that the lyrics are conveyed best to the listener when the singer truly feels one with the lyrics and can put all their emotion into the song. So that’s why I think it’s even more convincing when the singer has written those lyrics themselves.
For that reason, we asked vocalist Chess Galaea to pen the lyrics herself. We talked about the world of the game and gave her direction at certain points, and I think we ended up with a wonderful set of lyrics!
Al Fine’s vocalist and lyricist Chess Galea
Recording Vocals and Mixing Down
With all the parts ready, it’s time to do the vocal recordings!
The vocal recordings were performed at a studio in London, but the vocal direction took place in Los Angeles, and those were both overseen by staff in Japan. This kind of online recording session taking place in 3 countries at once was a valuable experience. It may have been through a screen, but as it was our first meeting, we were sure to exchange greetings with each other. I knew from that very moment just how into it Chess was and much passion she would be pouring into the project. She had this outpouring of passion that differed from many Japanese performers, and that came through in her vocals too. You could tell right away that she was putting her emotions into the lyrics. We also had the incredibly talented Jess Camiller as the recording engineer. She’s around the same age as Chess, and I was happy to see them getting along swimmingly. They listened to our requests and worked together in tandem to get the track together.
The recording data then made its way back to Japan and into the hands of Masahiro Aoki for mixing. He also composed some BGM tracks for Bayonetta 3. And with that, we got the coolest and most unique battle theme in Bayonetta history!
To finish off, I believe that the music which plays during the battles for this game are even more special than any from the past ones.
Although it is already special enough as it is due to being a battle theme, I believe that Al Fine is truly very special track in that it is the result of the efforts of so many different people who miraculously managed to put it all together!
In the next entry regarding the music of Bayonetta 3, I’d like to pass the torch on to Tomoki Kameyama, who composed another special battle theme.
Bayonetta 3 Original Soundtrack
The Original Soundtrack is now available to stream and purchase digitally! Look back on your journey with the beautiful melodies that helped shape it.
Listen Now: https://lnk.to/bayonetta3
After working on music for TV commercials and other broadcasts and corporate videos, he joined PlatinumGames in 2012.
Harada worked as the composer on Bayonetta 2, The Legend of Korra, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan, Star Fox Zero, Star Fox Guard, ASTRAL CHAIN, World of Demons and others. He was the implementer on NieR:Automata and participated as guitarist on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
He worked as lead composer on Bayonetta 3.