Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Listening Chamber: Metroid Metal - Metroid Metal (2003)

After a brief period of extreme business In Real Life, and with several other entries having been started but none yet finished, we’re back with another installation in the Listening Chamber.  In the last two discussions in the Listening Chamber, we featured a band that focused on the music from games from a particular console and a band that only played songs from a particular company.  This time, we will take a look at a project that only features the music from games in a particular series.

The project is Metroid Metal, and the album is the self-titled Metroid Metal, self-released in 2003.  The original Metroid Metal was a project begun by Stemage (aka Grant Henry) in 2003 with the intent to only cover all of the songs from the original Famicom Disk System / Nintendo Entertainment System title, and not songs from other Metroid titles.  Stemage later decided to cover songs from other games in the series, and the project expanded into a full band playing as Metroid Metal Live.  Additional songs have been recorded since the original release in 2003, and an extended version of the album was released in 2007 with the same title.  This discussion will focus on the original 2003 release.

Metroid Metal - Metroid Metal (2003)

Metroid Metal contains 12 tracks – all 12 of which are VGM covers from the original Metroid game – and runs for roughly 29:21.

Track one is The Theme (2:43), the music that plays on the title screen and story scrolling attract screen. 

The second track, Intro (0:24), is the jingle that plays when the game first begins as the bounty hunter Samus Aran decends into Brinstar.

The third track is Brinstar (2:38), the familiar theme to the first level encountered in the game.  The song ends with a little guitar outro that is not found in the original soundtrack (the original song simply loops as long as Samus is in Brinstar).

Track four, Item Room (2:16), is the song played when Samus is in an area with a Chozo statue holding an item (or not holding an item, as the case may be) or when Samus is in an elevator area in Brinstar.  The track ends with a fade-in effect into the next track.

Track five, Item Collect (0:45), is an extended, multi-speed variation on the short jingle played whenever Samus picks up an item.

The sixth track, Norfair (3:37), is the song played in Norfair, the volcanic region of the planet Zebes.  At a play time of 3:37, this is the third longest track on the album – only being shorter than the last two tracks, The Escape and The Ending.

Track seven is Kraid (2:59), is the song played in Hideout I – also known as Kraid’s Lair – the stage of the reptilian Space Pirate miniboss Kraid.

Track eight, Ridley (2:07), is the song played in Hideout II – also known as Ridley’s Lair – the stage of the dragon-like Space Pirate miniboss Ridley.

Track nine is Tourian (2:08), the music played in Mother Brain’s inner area where the Metroids can be found.  The metal rendition does not feature the “bubbling” sound effects from the original version of the song.

The tenth track is Mother Brain (1:04), the song played during the battle with Mother Brain.  As with the previous track, the “bubbling” sound effects were not incorporated into this cover.

Track eleven is The Escape (3:37), the song played after Mother Brain is defeated and Samus must escape from Tourian through the vertical shaft.  This version of the song is slower than the original and does not feature the bass line as prominently as the original.  There is a screaming effect at the end of the track provided by Olivia Bergman.

Track twelve, The Ending (5:03), is the music played after Samus safely reaches the surface of Zebes and the ending scroll takes place.  The end of the song features guest vocals by Kellin Watson.  This is the final track on the album.

All of the tracks on Metroid Metal were made available for free download on the Metroid Metal website.  A special release CD was created in 2004 and given to people who donated to the project.  Metroid Metal has a bandcamp page here, and Stemage has a bandcamp page here, but Metroid Metal itself is available on the Metroid Metal website and not on either bandcamp page.  Stemage, and later the other members of Metroid Metal Live as well, created additional covers from other Metroid games that are available on the website and were included in another special gift CD made in 2007, but only the songs from the original Metroid were included on the original Metroid Metal.  Some of the songs found on this album were redone by Metroid Metal Live and included in the 2009 release Varia Suite.  We will look at these other albums at some point in the future.

So how does the album sound?  While not all tracks are created equal, Metroid Metal is a great listen that does credit to the original soundtrack by Hip Tanaka.  The album features covers of all of the tracks from the original game, but with a play time of less than 30 minutes you probably won’t have gotten enough VGM metal goodness by the time it’s finished.  The only real “problem” I have with Metroid Metal is that the conversion to metal has changed the mood of some of the songs, making them both slower and less dark, isolated, and creepy than the original versions were.   So just don’t think of this album as a replacement for the original soundtrack, but rather think of it as an accompaniment to the Metroid universe, and the problem is solved.

My personal favorite tracks on Metroid Metal are Brinstar and Kraid, followed by The Theme and The Ending.  My favorite track from the original soundtrack, The Escape, is a little too slow here for my tastes, but it’s still enjoyable to listen to.  Go grab the album off of the website and listen for yourself.

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