Thursday, August 25, 2016

Megadriver - Rise From Your Grave (2016)

The next album in the set is the longest here, and it is also more in the vein of the band's traditional material. Simply, it's a Megadriver record of tunes covered from the Sega Megadrive soundfont. Every single tune covered here appeared specifically on the console, reminding me much of their early material. It's going to be that sort of “return to the roots” days that people were looking for and it certainly doesn't disappoint. There are twenty-one cuts here and the disc nearly runs to seventy minutes, but I'll try to go through it as best I can. First we have “Another Part Of Me” from Michael Jackson's “Moonwalker.” It's alright, and works as a decent enough intro. I never got into that particular title though, but I've played it a few times. “Rise From Your Grave” comes next, which should have actually opened the disc for some reason, but maybe they didn't want to do that as their Altered Beast album did the same. This is probably about the eightieth time I've heard these guys cover this track since the demo days, and I'd actually think Nino would be tired of playing it by now. Next we have “The Graveyard” from Ghouls n' Ghosts, which doesn't need a very long explanation. It is played a little slower than I expected, however. “Sunset Riders” also comes from the band's demo days, except this time we have a more produced version of the cut. “War Of The Clones” is from X-Men 2: The Clone Wars and it is an odd piece with some keyboard effects and record scratches thrown in to go with the slightly electronic feel of the piece. Clone Wars was a very odd game for me, I never really finished it, or got very far. It was one I had always sat on the back burner and never really understood it. It was an unexpected direction from the original, even with Magento playable.

The next cut comes from Vectorman and it's entitled “Day 1 Terraport/Day 6 Bamboo Mill.” It also has more added electronic effects to emulate the palette of the original. Keep in mind, these were more funk-induced electronic cuts, so hearing them in metal seems a bit bizarre – even though the band certainly seems to capture a great metallic feel to both. The next one brings back a lot of memories, as it's title theme to Battletoads & Double Dragon, here called “Dragontoad.” Probably one of the best (and toughest) beat em' up/platformers ever made, it's definitely worth a play for all of you old-schoolers out there and certainly had some great music in it's own right. The band captures that pretty well here and I'm quite pleased with the rendition. Definitely one of the best here. They even got the cowbell right. The next one is “Turbo Tunnel” from the Sega version of Battletoads. It's a remake of the NES version, but is still just as tough. Especially because of that bike section. This one's alright, but nothing truly amazing. Another game I remember is Aladdin, and we have “Agrabah Market” here, which is basically just a Middle-Eastern folk piece transferred into metal. I never got very far in Kid Chameleon, but it remains as a classic sort of launch-title for the Genesis. This is a decent number, but it doesn't really leave me with anything. It's just kind of there and I don't really love or hate it. “Night Of The Mutants” from Comix Zone (another good, but short beat em' up – it was a rare style of game that we haven't seen since) has some strong leads here and there and follows a good composition. It gets better with the listen and stands out as another one of the most memorable tracks here.

Next we have “Last Springsteen” from Contra Hard Corps. This is when Konami still made Contra games, instead of various disappointments. The track is heavy thrash, features a ton of shredding and even some alarm sounds in the background. A good game with a good soundtrack, so it's no wonder as to why this one also wouldn't be one of the best cuts on the disc. “Stage 1-1” from Mega Turrican has a bit of Neoclassical influence in it, it serves as a pretty strong cut and more or less represents the game. “Military On The Max Power” is from Gunstar Heroes, which enough praise cannot be given. The music to the game was pretty decent, but the gameplay delivered in spades. There are a lot of indie games these days that try to emulate that style, and it works to varying degrees. “From Duckberg To Transylvania” is from Quackshot, which I never played much. The track here is also a bit “there” and doesn't really leave me feeling anything. The second portion of the song is a little better though, and I'll raise it a point. “Alleycat Blues” was a good track, whether you heard it on the SNES or Genesis/Megadrive. This was actually taken from Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist, which was a poor man's version of Turtles In Time. It had some bits from the Turtles In Time Arcade game, but other than that, it felt terribly stripped down. These guys definitely did the rockin' piece justice though and it's one of my favorite cuts here. The next track is also a very strong piece called “Tornado Is Approaching” from a game called El Viento. I'm not familiar with this one, but I'll have to play it sometime. Without a doubt, this is another one of my favorite cuts on the disc. Those lead riffs are killer. After that, we have a cut from Splatterhouse 2 called “Back To The House.” As I said, this is from Splatterhouse 2 which was alright; but I would have loved to hear more extreme metal covers of many of the cuts from Splatterhouse 3. That game had such a creepy vibe and atmopshere that was only enhanced by tracks like it's boss music, which begs to be covered in a darker, more guitar-laden format. Splatterhouse 3 was extremely dark for the early console generation, due to all of it's depictions of blood, gore and grotesqueries. The first one wasn't much and the second one looked like a Friday The 13th Clone, but the third one really evolved upon that. Play this one if you haven't. The piece in general is alright, it manages to keep some of the creepy vibe from the original material.

Getting closer to the end, we have “Flash Of Sword” from the Syd of Valis Genesis/Megadrive exclusive title. They may have also made Valis 3 for the Genesis. Valis games have an extremely fascinating backstory. I used to love these, as the gameplay was very interesting as well as the story and it's characters. Syd Of Valis was a weird one with SD characters. The last Valis was Super Valis IV, which was on the SNES as an exclusive. After that, well... the entire fucking franchise became an adult hentai game. Remember those people that you had to fight? The tough bosses at the end of the game? Well, now you're fucking them. This has made me more upset with a franchise than anything else in recent memory. Valis, we barely knew ye. The piece retains the same memorable quality as with the original Valis tracks and many more should be covered from subsequent titles. But what would be awesome, is if someone could create a spiritual successor to the whole franchise. After that we have “Harrier Saga” from Space Harrier II. I sucked at these early shmups, so I didn't play very many of them and for very long at that. It is another strong cut with intricate guitar playing in sections that comes off without a hitch. Perhaps it goes on for a bit too long, though. The last track here is “Du, Du, Du” from Ristar. I'll admit that Ristar was a good platformer, but I think it came out too late in the life cycle of the console to be noticed. By that time, Sega were trying to add more weird peripherals to that thing than were wholly necessary. It's a nice send-off for the disc though, and feels rather dreamlike.

Rise From Your Grave is a much better offering that shows Megadriver doing what they do best, and have done for many years now. Some of the tracks are new, some of them are old favorites given a facelift and a bit more polish. It's definitely worth a listen, but some tracks do seem to just kind of sit there and don't really leave a real mark on you. But that's only because there are so many, and it goes without saying that we will have hits and misses on the disc.

(21 Tracks, 64:00)


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