MDb Review : Metroid Metal - Varia Suite : By CapCom


Metroid Metal: Expansion Pack

Artist: Metroid Metal Live
Label: Silent Uproar Records/Bandcamp
Item #: SUR-008
Release Date: September 2nd/8th, 2010 (MP3 & FLAC/CD)

Track Listing:

1 Prime Theme (MP)
2 Brinstar (SM)
3 Norfair (NES)
4 Crateria (SM)
5 Tourian/Mother Brain (NES)
6 Prime 3 Theme/Bryyo (MP3)

Expansion Pack is Metroid Metal's short and tight addition to Varia Suite, the five-man band recording of the original Metroid Metal tracks. Expansion Pack takes fan favorites of older Metroid Metal pieces that didn't make the Varia cut and arranges them for your listening pleasure.

Metroid Metal's Grant Henry (aka "Stemage") is quick to label the album "a reinvention of a reinvention with a more human, solid, and commanding sound than any of the Metroid Metal material so far." Given that, I must say these new mixes are heavier than the originals, with the weight of three guitarists, a bassist, and drummer for some serious, meaty metal. Tracks like "Prime Theme" pack some heavy-duty nitro while "Crateria" marches forward double-time over the rocky landscape thanks to rattling cymbals. There are some new nice touches to the themes as well; "Brinstar," for instance, contains some absolutely botanical guitar plucking in its opening section while "Crateria" has some swoon-inducing riffs at 3:20. The ever-malicious "Tourian/Mother Brain" reeks of evil that oozes from the 1's and 0's streaming over my speakers, along with high-pitched wails at 0:41 a static-cling fade-in at 2:05 that deliver you an instant brainstem-sandwich. There's also a healthy infusion here of actual drums over the drumkits (though admittedly good ones) used in the original tracks – particularly in "Prime Theme."

Unfortunately, the album gets perhaps a bit too brutal in its intensity. "Norfair" in particular is a manic acid trip through molten purple bubble city with eviscerating breaks at 0:40, tons of syncopation, and more discord than a choir full of banshees. Holy moly! Thankfully, it all pulls together at the end with a jazz-like jam session. "Prime 3 Theme/Bryyo" was also disappointing, especially considering how much I love the original. Missing is the minimalism of the intro and the pure acoustic break. While Grant says in our Wave Beam interview that the original recording of "Bryyo" was a bit muddy, it contained an emotional touch that seems flattened by the weight of the guitars, showing that it might be possible in this case to have too much of a good thing. It's not that Metroid Metal can't be minimal – see "Space Pirates" from Varia Suite or the absolutely amazing Red Brinstar break at 3:03 in Expansion Pack's own "Brinstar" that gently pares the entire thing down to just one guitar before exploding again into electric warbles...it's just they didn't choose to do so with this particular arrange. However, I didn't find myself missing as much those mysterious cymbal swooshes from the original "Tourian/Mother Brain."

So ultimately I was a little disappointed with Expansion Pack, though that has nothing to do with the album length, and more to do with the liberties taken with the original Metroid Metal pieces, making it a little bit too different from what I remember (and I tend to listen to Varia Suite at least a couple times a month). However, as I start to listen to some of these tracks a second time, even now they are beginning to get a little familiar...

While you might balk at purchasing such a short album, remember that you're only paying $4 (or naming your own price) for six tracks –- that's roughly half as much material as Varia Suite -– and which can supplement that venerable album by perfectly fitting on a standard CD-R. It's definitely worth checking out, especially since you can sample the entire album on Bandcamp before choosing to buy.