Games and Music

After seeing Powerglove open for Dragonforce this past Wednesday I’ve had video game music on the brain.  Apparently SF/F web zine Strange Horizons has a direct feed to my thoughts as they posted a thoughtful essay on the topic, which attempts to explain how music in games differs from music in other media.  A post about Left 4 Dead over at Gamers with Jobs also had some interesting comments about the music from the first Halo game.  I hadn’t realize quite how intertwined gameplay and audio were in that series but as this interview proves, Martin O’Donnell (composer) is intimatley aware of the subtle complexities involved in the creating a game soundtrack.  However one might feel about the Halo series they’ve always done production value well and that transaltes into some truly stunning and engaging music that is memorable and epic in scope.

Anyhoo, just some thoughts on this exhausting post-holiday Monday.  Be sure to check out Music 4 Games for news/review of the last video games soundtracks and music.

Review: Worlds Collide by Apocalyptica

I just recently noticed that Apocalyptica’s entire catalog has been loaded up on Rhapsody.  Presumably it’s part of a larger plan to advertise their new album, Worlds Collide, which seems to be the trend for a lot of artists that have been holding out on “monthly fee” services. Since I’ve been only listening to their second album, Inquisition Symphony, up until this point (because it was the only one on Rhapsody), this gave me a chance to see what else a metal band founded by four cellists can do.

The Bad: I’m fully convinced that the addition of a drummer to the original quartet stripped away some piece of the band’s uniqueness.  On the initial few albums, the percussion section was either dropped entirely or picked up by one of the cellos. Either choice results in a unique sound in a genre where the drummer is heavily emphasized and that’s now missing. The only other problem with this album is that the collaborations tracks with vocals are clear attempts at sacrificing their sound to garner some play on rock radio (success…I actually heard I’m Not Jesus on WMMR recently). The results are some tracks that tend towards generic hard rock.

The Good: The instrumental tracks are fantastic. The band does an excellent job of letting the beautiful sound of the main cello come through while still maintaining an overall metal sound that proves they really understand the genre despite being trained in classical music. After the novelty of “cello metal” fades for the listener, the band can easily stand on the quality of their music. As an added bonus for Rammstein fans, there is clearly a lot of overlap between the two bands since they toured together in 2005. Till Lindemann makes a guest appearance with a German-language cover of David Bowie’s Heroes. A longtime Rammstein producer is also at the helm of Worlds Collide. Combining that with Rammstein’s frequent use of strings results in a couple moments that could have come from either band.

The Verdict: A strong B+. Find a way to listen to this album. Just maybe skip some of the generic vocal tracks.

Top 5: Part 2 (Music)

My music picks have a number of older titles in them, but everything I list here I bought this year.

5. Down -Sentenced (1997)
Down is a fantastic black metal album. Shades of this album can be heard in almost every metal, metalcore, and emo band album released recently and Sentenced still does it better. A metal classic.
4. A Line of Deathless Kings -My Dying Bride
Despite having a name that should belong to whiny emo band, My Dying Bride, manages to kick some ass. Gloom or Doom metal featuring melodic vocals and a driving rhythm the band manages to be equal parts hard and beautiful at the same time. Certainly an interesting departure from much of metal saturating the market today.
3. Angel Down -Sebastian Bach
A surprisingly hard solo album from former Sonic Youth frontman Sebastian Bach. It’s a shame that Bach’s vocal talents aren’t as well known as they should be. This album features three tracks with Axl Rose and I’m hard pressed to make the call on who tops who in the seeming battle for vocal oneupmanship. Solid rock album a far cry from most of what hits the market today equal parts retro and new.
2. The Dethalbum -Dethklok
Despite being a spoof on all things metal The Dethalbum sill manages to rock hard. Lacking the rather oppressive seriousness of most death metal bands the fellows over at Dethklok manage to turn out some damned entertaining tunes, hilarious in their over the top nature. How can one not smile at songs with such ridiculous names as “Hatredcopter”, “Bloodrocuted”, “Face Fisted”, and “Dethharmonic”. Hilarious metal fun.
1. Bang Camaro -Bang Camaro
80s metal “tribute” sung by a 15+ man chorus, with wicked guitar licks and simple easy-to-sing-a-long-with lyrics. No other album had me smiling as much as this one (The Dethalbum came pretty close) nor have I blasted any other CD quite so loud in a long time. If you’re a fan of 80s metal, Guitar Hero, or just fun music this is the album for you.