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Paul Browne on the bombastic opener for the fan-favourite anime

Based on Hajime Isayama’s manga series, Attack On Titan has inspired TV adverts, a live action adaptation and, more recently, a crossover with Marvel comics that will see the titans battling the likes of Spider-Man and The Avengers on the streets of New York.

Shingeki no Kyojin (Advancing Giants) to give it its proper Japanese title, is a series that manages to weave together traditional shonen tropes with a decidedly creepy enemy. Humanity are barricaded within a massive walled city, built as a deterrent against an ancient foe. The return of these titans, essentially large mindless humanoids, sparks panic and sets in motion a chain of events that revolve around protagonist Eren Yeager, a member of the city’s Survey Corps who has a personal axe to grind against the titan hordes.

The music of the series has also added to the appeal, particularly in the form of the dramatic opening theme penned by Linked Horizon. It’s a pulse-quickening, thrilling piece, which seems to draw on a tradition of military-themed bombastic tunes. In fact Attack On Titan’s military themes have recently courted controversy.

The history of Linked Horizon revolves around its enigmatic founder Revo, a musician whose roots lie in the amateur music scene. Revo adopted the title Sound Horizon in the 1990s for what would become a loose collective of artists and musicians.

In 2001 Sound Horizon participated in Japan’s popular Comiket fanzine event with the release of Chronicle, a story CD that combined sparse dialogue with an instrumental soundtrack. The release was popular enough but wanting to introduce more of a lyrical content, Revo brought on singers for the next album, Thanatos. This included the talents of singer Aramary, whose amazing soprano voice gave Sound Horizon a much larger world of sound to work in.

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In 2004, Sound Horizon stepped up a gear with their first major label release Elysion ~Rakuen e no Zensōkyoku~. Unfortunately, Elysion marked Aramary’s last work with Sound Horizon at the time, resulting in the outfit opting for a range of guest vocals on future outings. This included the talents of TM Network’s Takashi Utsunomiya who came onboard for the 2008 release Moira.

Moira expanded on Revo’s wish to lend a grander sweep to his compositions with a release that often pulls in operatic elements into the mix. The narrative stage of Moira was also on a bigger scale than previous releases, taking in a tale set in Greece and weaving in Greek mythology. Moria managed an impressive No. 3 in the Oricon charts and sold over 45,000 copies in its first week alone.

Keeping his eye on the ball, Revo also pulled in both Marty Friedman (Megadeath) and Hatsune Miku for the 2010 release ‘Ido e Itaru Mori e Itaru Ido’.  This served as a prologue of sorts for Sound Horizon’s 7th story CD titled Märchen, a narrative revolving around medieval Germany and fairy tales which features vocal turns from Revo, Miku and a variety of support vocalists.

Finally, Linked Horizon became the successor to Sound Horizon in 2012 and Revo’s first work under the new moniker was scoring the Nintendo 3DS title Bravely Default: Flying Fairy. This project demonstrated Revo’s increasing skills in penning dramatic soundtracks, which put him in good stead for his next major project.

Although by this point Revo had firmly established himself on the domestic musical scene, the collaboration with Attack On Titan would give the composer and musician much wider recognition. ‘Guren No Yumiya’ provides the initial opening theme of the series with its sweeping percussive rhythms, blistering guitar solos and choral elements. This initial theme song was later replaced by ‘Jiyuu No Tsubasa’, which continued the sweeping scale of its forerunner, but augmented it with more military bluster and, arguably, a more accessible melodic touch to the composition.

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‘Guren No Yumiya’ was released digitally in the early part of 2013 and both songs were later featured on Linked Horizon’s 2013 single release Jiyū e no Shingeki. The single peaked at No. 2 on the Oricon Weekly Single Charts and shifted over 129,000 copies in its first week (marking only the second time that a theme song had achieved such a feat). ‘Guren no Yumiya’ itself debuted at No.1 in the Billboard Japan Hot 100 charts while the single also managed No. 1 on the Japan hot Singles Sales chart.

The success of Linked Horizon’s contribution to Attack On Titan was also reflected at an amazing performance at Japan’s annual Kohaku Uta Gassen music show in December 2013.

Despite the success of Attack On Titan, Revo has kept himself busy since. A further Sound Horizon release titled Vanishing Starlight came out in 2014. Revo also teamed up with Marty Friedman on Momoiro Clover Z’s theme song for Sailor Moon Crystal in the shape of the euphoric ‘Moon Pride’.

With a further series of Attack On Titan due to arrive in 2016 – and likely more releases by Revo under his many collaborative guises, it seems there’s plenty to look forward to.

Attack on Titan, featuring the opening theme by Linked Horizon, is available on UK DVD and Blu-ray from Manga Entertainment.

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