MDb Review : Metroid Metal - Varia Suite : By CapCom


Metroid Metal: Varia Suite

Artist: Metroid Metal Live
Label: Silent Uproar Records
Item #: N/A
Price: $8/FREE US
Release Date: September 8th, 2009

Track Listing:

1 Prelude (SM)
2 Lower Norfair (SM)
3 Brinstar (NES)
4 Item Room (NES)
5 Item Collect (NES)
6 Kraid (NES)
7 Ridley (NES)
8 Phendrana Drifts (MP)
9 Boss Medley (SM)
10 The Tunnel (M2)
11 Space Pirates (MP)
12 Maridia/Escape (NES)
13 Ending (NES)
14 Theme (NES)

It's hard to believe it's been five years, but back in October 2004, Grant Henry (Stemage) released the original Metroid Metal. Back then, it was just one guy with a guitar and a drumkit (and a screaming chick) who reproduced the entire NES Metroid soundtrack in rocking vibes. Today, that one guy is now an entire band, Metroid Metal Live, and he's come back to revisit the original tracks in Varia Suite. Varia Suite will be officially released during their live concert at Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) 2009 on September 8 and published by Silent Uproar Records.

There's every reason to go back and revisit the original Metroid Metal. The original, while an astounding piece of work on its own, gains a complete revitalization through the band treatment. Metroid Metal Live consists of more musicians than you can shake an ice beam at: Grant, Dan Behrens (danimal), and Michael Molnar (Kirby Pufocia) on guitar; Dan Taylor (chunkstyle) on bass; and Kevin Lawrence (Cheddar) on drums. They originally teamed up for MagFest 2009 in January; Varia Suite contains their tracklist from the concert.

While the new Metroid Metal retains the overall structure of the mixes, the songs have gained an entirely new feel through the artistic flourishes of the individual musicians – they're not simply parroting the original mixes but moving within the structure of the tunes to fully express their styles. As a result, this is very different than the original mixes which has Grant (and sometimes Dan Taylor and Goat) recorded and layered, but rather each guitarist is playing off each other to create a living recording and a fuller realization of the originals. Because of this, each musician can react to the other, producing something that sounds more organic, best seen in tracks such as the Theme, which feels a lot like Hip Tanaka's 'living organism' he aimed for in the original soundtrack. Grant even admits it sounds "HUMAN."

Overall, the new mixes simply feel better than the originals. For one thing, there is a lot more power held within each track, making the mixes feel more energetic. Right from the Prelude (Super Metroid theme) to the NES Metroid Theme, the entire album is aggressive, breaking out of your speakers like some kind of animal. There's also surprise at hearing something new, breaking expectations through the touches and flourishes, particularly in tracks like Prelude and Kraid.

The album also has excellent recording quality, comparative with the likes of 20th Anniversary Rockman ~1-6 Rock Arrange: you can hear the physical structure of the guitars in some of the tracks, particularly the end to the Brinstar mix, and this will only sound better on the actual CD or in FLAC (MM Live is planning to release the album in lossless through bandcamp.com). Some songs also emulating the chiptune sound and style of the original, such as The Tunnel, while Kraid in particular feels like an actualization of the spirit of the 8-bit original in rock.

Each track also has a different feel. The guitars of Item Room have taken on a haunting echoing sound and the driving beat of the drums gives the track a sense of depth while the new voice over on the mike sounds especially creepy. The Tunnel has a series of guitar solos for guitar, and I can't help but wonder if they could have given even the drummer a solo.

Metroid Metal Live is also able to pull off some experimental sounds from the instrumnets. Space Pirates takes on an interesting new turn, with some creepy growls, shrieks, and gurgles oozing off the guitars, truly giving a sense of a giant empty factory where monsters are lurking. Likewise, there are some excellent screeching and alarm noises in the latter half of Maridia/Escape, including the sounds of expelling gasses, squealing metal, and hysteria.

Varia Suite is 50 minutes long, which is pretty good, considering all the work that went into it. And while you can use the extra 30 minutes or so to fill up the CD with your other favorite Metroid Metal, this takes away from the album's sense of wholeness, something that was very much a part of the original: adding more would simply make it too much.

Overall, Varia Suite is a fantastic album, and for $8, it's a steal (all the better that it will have a FLAC release in the future). There is also a package deal containing the album with a sticker and a t-shirt for $20. The album gets some originality minuses for not introducing any new mixes, but given the short recording period, that's kind of expected, and it's a fantastic first album for new listeners nonetheless. Top it off with a sweet pop-art cover of Mother Brain, and you've got yourself a classic. Make sure you preorder a copy as the initial print run of 1000 is expected to sell out fast.