Editor’s note: Roberto kicks off his new music column with Metroid Metal, a band that…well, the name pretty much says it all. I hadn’t heard of Metroid Metal before, but I’m loving their brutal covers. In fact, I’m headbanging as I type this — not an easy task! -Brett
Hi, everyone, and welcome to the first installment of EMU(sic)LATION.
One of the things that got me back into gaming a little more than a year and a half ago is the music and visual arts scenes that have sprung up around gaming culture. Being a music geek — and in particular a rock music geek — I’ve been eagerly consuming bands that either re-interpret classic game themes on regular instruments or use old gaming hardware to make new music. They’ve got me really excited about the possibilities of video game music. EMU(sic)LATION is me sharing that excitement.
Metroid Metal – Varia Suite
Have you ever wondered what would happen if The Minibosses made a record after listening to tons of prog metal and Tool records? (And really, who hasn’t?) Metroid Metal’s first official offering, the aptly named Varia Suite, is the perfect answer to that question.
Metroid Metal started out in 2003 as the one-man project of Grant Henry. By January 2009, it had morphed into a full band performing at events like MAGFest 7. Their first release on Silent Uproar Records is a blistering, brutal, yet smart re-interpretation of several classic themes from the Metroid saga. The record covers cuts from the first Metroid game on the NES all the way to Metroid Prime.
So how do the eerie, atmospheric — and sometimes even cold — electronic compositions of the Metroid games sound after receiving this unusual metal treatment? One word: epic.
While the music of Metroid games is noted for the terrifying feeling of isolation it conveys, the games themselves are equally noted for their epic environments and boss battles. Metroid Metal’s take on these pieces of music manages to capture that epic feeling in every possible way.
Opening this adrenaline-fueled aural affair is the “Theme of Super Metroid.” This track manages to set the tone for the rest of the record. Just wait until you hear the effect- and distortion-laden guitars explode right after that pulsating, droning bass line that’s probably been engraved in your memory since the first Metroid. Trust me, you’ll be blown away.
Props definitely go out to the lead guitarist for managing to preserve Metroid’s spacey atmosphere via the use of numerous guitar effects (he even manages to translate the more advanced sound effects from Metroid Prime in the “Space Pirates” track), but in my opinion, it’s the rhythm section that steals the show. Whether switching up time signatures and tempos on the fly or letting loose a fury of start/stop arrangements, they’ll get your heart pounding, then give it a rest, only to jump start it again without warning. It’s truly some of the best drumming and bass-playing I’ve heard this year.
To put it in other words: Fire up this bad boy while driving, and if the theme from “Lower Norfair” doesn’t compel you to break the local speed limit, then you must listen to Cannibal Corpse while reading the newspaper and eating Cheerios on Sunday mornings — that or you’re not among the living.
Not only has Metroid Metal made a truly memorable tribute to the music of one of gaming’s most beloved franchises, but they’ve also released one of the best instrumental metal records of 2009.
Stand-out tracks include a stunning take on the theme to “Kraid’s Lair” and an particularly eerie version the “Item Room” background music from the original Metroid. Make sure to listen for the distorted voice of a man talking in the mix on the latter one. It’ll give you shivers.
Hit the link below to listen to some of their tracks!
and click here to meet “The distorted voice.”
If you liked this, please drop a comment and let me know! I’ll be sure to keep things coming.
Update: I switched the initially posted video for an official live performance video from the MAGFest YouTube Channel and added an extra link at the article’s end. The old video feautured a demo track, the live video will give you guys a better idea of what the new record sounds like (Brett I hope you don’t mind) – Roberto