Thursday, August 25, 2016

Megadriver - Role-Playing Metal (2016)

The shortest disc in the set is also the last one I have here for review, but it is also my favorite. The theme of this one is something completely different than what Megadriver have done in the past, and it works well for them. Here we have several covers taken from various role-playing games, spanning both the classic and modern eras of the genre. The first is “Tristam” from Diablo II, which is a game I haven't played much of even though I've liked dungeon crawlers for years. I'm not very familiar with the source material, but this is one of the most bombastic (and yes, there are a slew of outside folk instruments utilized) and intriguing tracks that the band have ever recorded. It is more than just a metal track, and shows the compositional power of these guys beyond standard heavy metal pieces. It only gets better from here, folks. Next we have the Final Fantasy theme, here entitled “Prelude.” It sounds absolutely awesome to hear those notes played on a fretboard in this fashion, and I love the added elements to the piece which expand beyond it's rather simplistic (but wholly memorable) origin. Then we have “Still More Fighting” which is of course, from Final Fantasy VII. They're doing a solid job with it here, but I just don't think you can capitalize on The Black Mages version of it, which is of course Nobuo Uematsu's band. He composed the orinal cuts, so it goes without saying that his version of this piece is astounding. Even though I will add that this Megadriver version adds some interesting sections and a nice solo to the cut that work to their favor. This is also a pretty long song, so expect that. Next we have “Title Theme” from The Legend Of Zelda. I've heard this covered more times than I would care to admit, by more bands than you would ever believe. One of them even incoproated black metal blasts (Artifact) into the composition. “Gerudo Valley” is from TLOZ: Ocarina Of Time, which most people would want me stoned to death for not having finished. I've played it several times, I just became stuck early in the game and never finished it. I've heard this piece before from the band, but did not know it was from Ocarina Of Time.

Following that, we have “White Wolf” which is the theme for The Witcher. Yes, I have The Witcher. It is installed on my PC right now, but I can't get the hang of it. One of these days I might go back to it. The piece is thundering heavy metal, as we might expect – and it features loads of chugs and gallops. These guys love their gallops. They always have. The next cut is “Courage and Pride” which is the Guardia Castle theme from Chrono Trigger. This piece was done so well in the latter half of the song that my eyes nearly welled up. What was already a terrific melody became a fantastic lead. Without question, this might very well be the best piece Megadriver have ever recorded IMO. Even the solo fits, which I wasn't sure about at first, since this one is fragile. Break it and I'll be forever pissed. Next we have an equally popular piece, “Frog's Theme.” I've heard it covered in metal by several bands as well (but not Guardia Castle, that was a first!) It also seems to be played a bit slow, but the leads really shine here as they should – Chrono Trigger's soundtrack was all about melodies, melodies that the developers actually heard in their dreams. (That's a fact by the way, go look it up.) Even more special to me is the Chrono Cross soundtrack. Now I know that this one is a bit of a hit or miss with fans, but I've always loved the music. There were times that I would sit and just listen to the soundtrack, it's easily one of the best – if not the best RPG soundtrack of all time for me. “Scars Of Time” is the intro movie's music, which surprises me as they could have done Nikki's theme (which actually incorporated a real guitar.) As such, it's decent. Some of the melodies fit rather well here, the leads continuing to shine through. More could have been done, however. Plus, not even a metal cover could one-up the original composition for me here and there are just some things that you shouldn't touch.

“Dragonborn Comes” from Skyrim is a theme that I've never heard, as I never got very far in Skyrim, but I did play quite a lot of it. Oh, great. There's the band's frontman again... You know it's a bad sign when you dread hearing the band's frontman. This is basically a folk metal piece, but I won't put too much stock into it as the vocals really kill it for me. As for “Song Of Elune” I have only spent a total of ten minutes in the World Of Warcraft, when a friend was trying to get me into the game. I suppose the game's music is decent, and that cut does manage to do something for me near the end, when the shredding begins. Closing on the end of the disc, we have “The End Of The Millennium” from Phantasy Star IV, a game I haven't personally played (as I think it was fan-translated) but have been told was quite good. It has an electronic backing, which works additionally well with the amount of melodies and the shredding apparent. The last cut on the album is “Dungeon” from Phantasy Star. Out of all the others, this one could have also been on Rise From Your Grave as it was also a Genesis/Megadrive title.

My closing thoughts on Role-Playing Metal mainly consist of high praise, as this is one of the best records that the band have ever done. If we throw the vocal-laden “Dragonborn Comes” out into the ocean somewhere, we still have twelve memorable and lengthy cuts that show the band exploring and experimenting not only like they haven't done before, but unlike other bands in their genre have done before. The melodies truly shine on this record, which has always been the best thing about video game music, especially in those early compositions.

Closing my thoughts out on all three of these, (please read the reviews for Rise From Your Grave and Gaming Hell before you read this) it's almost unreal to think that these Brazilians have released such a vast compilation of music in such a short time. It has also been well-composed for the most part, and is being offered online for a price, or a free download if you're on the fence about it. IMO, Gaming Hell was hell except for a few strong cuts, with the Rise For Your Grave record being a bit more to my liking. Obviously, I like the RPG compositions the best, and you might feel a little bit different, as well you should. I'm starting to think that these guys are running out of things to cover as well, with so much territory having been covered on a regular basis. They keep releasing new music, which is something that will keep them relevant for a long time to come. I didn't see any real reviews for this band, nor any news articles about them since 2011's Metalhog album. It's been a long time since that record released, and these guys have gone unheard for a bit too long, I'd say. They're practically giving you these three albums on the Megadriver website (that's .br by the way) but if you could throw a little bit of support their way, I'm sure they would be grateful.

(13 Tracks, 45:00)


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