Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Heroes vs Villains - An Album by the Bad Dudes and OverClocked Remix Review

My mind feels like it’s just blown…

Things start explosively with the awesome combination of Samus and Mother Brain’s theme. Whilst Big Giant Circles goes down the great, albeit traditional, route of pumping up Samus’s theme with rocking guitars, Mazedude gives an incredible drum’n’bass remix to the Mother Brain theme, making excellent use of the unusual time signature. As opening tracks these do an incredible job of thrusting you into the mood for something epic and unlike anything OCRemix has provided before. If I’ve any complaint its that Mazedude’s track doesn’t go on longer, as it ends on a rather abrupt note, leaving me hungry for more…

Who’d have though Audio Fidelity would provide a Pirate Rock take on Guybrush Threepwood. The vocals clearly differentiate this track from its predecessor full of all the melody and excitement of a life on the high seas. This is in stark contrast to Voodo, Roots’n’Grog, where Bad Dudes Diggi Dis responds with a brass heavy arrangement that’s notably more sombre than its predecessor, but none the less merry for it.

After four epic arrangements of classic video game songs, the God of War duet that follows is unusual as both songs I could almost picture as actually coming from the game. Brandon Strader effectively collects together some of the biggest motifs from Kratos’s games and gives us something anthemic and powerful. Kunal Majmudar however opts for a far more manufactured approach with ‘Wrath Industrual’ which sounds as though its being pumped out from the factory floor. Both excellent tracks well worth a listen.

WillRock provides a chiptunes esque take Streets of Rage, capturing the aggressive vibrancy of the original games. With fast, hard working guitars bopping away throughout the song’s main melody struggles to differentiate itself at times but no one familiar with the source will fail to be caught up in the sheer amount of energy on display – again it feels like it almost comes directly from the original game. This energy is reflected in a much more managed, focus way in Zyko’s response, which takes the theme in some very strange directions but is powerful and menacing at the same time.

The next track is called ‘Screw Willy, I’m Taking a Vacation’ and the song is just as shocking as the title. Smooth, jazzy, relaxed this sounds like the 8-bit equivalent of lemonade by the pool… Just as overindulgent as you could hope it to be. There’s evidence here Josua Morse and Mattias Häggström Gerdt must have communicated their ideas because these two tracks, the most relaxed in the album, are extremely well coordinated, the latter taking things in a very similar direction that sounds almost ‘casino-ish’.

bLiND throws a slight curveball three quarters of the way through the next track where things transform from a preppy-guitar driven blinder to a more downbeat dub bass that would sound excellent on speakers better than mine. As if deliberately outmatching it ‘Enter the Shredder’ throws an even greater curveball half way through its own electro/metal romp with a cute vocal sample and a downright ridiculous solo section. Completely mad but something done with this much talent and conviction succeeds on ambition alone. Amazing…

Proving this album’s ambition to go places no vg-remix has gone before, José the Bronx Rican and zyko provide a duet of battle-rap excellence to some of video games oldest themes. Well that’s the spirit of ‘He Ain’t a G’ but ‘Bladewalker’ takes things a little further with some epic soundtracking, giving some traditional fantasy-concept elements to this strange fusion of genres. I’ve no doubt these songs will be divisive but there’s some real talent on display in both.

Another acoustic pair follow and both provide relaxed, ethnic, enjoyable themes that take the time to flesh out the source tunes with style. Both very enjoyable and well deserves respites from the grandstanding of the rest of the album, but by the nature of the songs around to them probably destined to be overlooked.
Insert Rupee is the collaboration of electronic-chiptunesque maestro’s Benjamin Briggs and halc, who have both becomes OCRemix regulars of late, and they bring their best to Kirby’s theme with a demented yet epic beatboxing anthem that has an almost haunting property to it. Mazedude responds with his second track on the album, an all encompassing track that perhaps tries to do slightly too much to stand straight. This jazzy, piano-centric, brass-chiptunes behemoth heaves its way through verses with as much grace as its namesake, but amongst the chaotic fun there’s a real gem here.

The final duet features two Castlevania songs, one by Bad Dudes turncoat Mustin representing OCR, and the other from Ailsean. As the final tracks of one of the most ambitious vgremix album’s I’ve heard to date I was hoping for a little more from ‘The Prodigal Son Returns’ which is a very accomplished, technical, fun piece, but just a little to relaxed for its place on the album. Fortunately ‘A Walk With Death’ corrects this in just a few bars, with a concept piece that draws the listener in on a journey through the horror and out into the other side. Traditional metal guitars, ominous rising chords and an epic chorus… A very classy way to end.

Over twenty songs this album represents a broad spectrum of video games, from the early days right through to the current generation, and it’s clearly been a labour of love for its artists. The styles on display are as varied as the source material and all very accomplished. I’d say it potentially struggles to keep the momentum its first half generates but that would be nigh on impossible after the first few songs…


And as this is technically an OCR vs. Bad Dudes album… Whilst both sides have represented themselves fantastically with some very ambitious work I’d say the villains have it… just.


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