MDb Review : Game On : By CapCom

Game On

Artist: Vangough
Label: Dissonance Rising Publishing/Records
Item #: N/A
Price: $10/$11 US
Release Date: April 27, 2010

Track Listing:

1 Wily's Castle (Mega Man 2)
2 Marine Fortress (Wave Race 64)
3 Simon's Revenge (Castlevania)
4 Your Darkest Hour (Punch-Out)
5 The Turtle King's Lair (Mario Series)
6 Green Hill Terror (Sonic 1)
7 Corneria (Star Fox)
8 The Killer Instinct (Killer Instinct)
9 Torvus Bog (Metroid Prime 2)
10 Coral Capers (Donkey Kong Country)

Awhile back Vangough's band leader, Clay Withrow, sent me a review copy of their first cover album, Game On. Why? Because he's a huge Metroid fan, and it's got an awesome Metroid Prime 2 remix that he wanted to share with the MDb community! What's more, there are plenty of other awesome tracks on this album, making it worth picking up your own copy. So after a much-delayed review (sorry, Clay!) let’s dive in!

Vangough is based in Oklahoma and inspired by 90s progressive rock. Minted in 2007, they started making game music covers just last year. The band also loves to mix game music into their regular work, as evidenced by the killer cover art that mixes Castlevania with power metal.

The band's strongest point is their ability to experiment and give listeners a mix of common favorites and the far-too-rarely-heard. Yeah, Game On has “Wiley's Castle” and Castlevania, but Star Fox (the good one) and Killer Instinct? Hell yeah! What's more, the band is not afraid to go off the beaten path and try out pieces you just never hear – but realize you wish you had. Just how often do you hear SMB's Bowser's Castle? Sounds surprisingly awesome with guitars! Wave Race 64? And Withrow and Co. makes this stuff sound damn good.

Vangough's talents also lie in introducing unique instruments and solos to provide a refreshing sound missing from most rock arranges. Take Bowser's Castle. It isn't just played with rock guitars, it's also got organs and bongoes (nice!). Also check out the keyboard clarinets in Castlevania, the harpsichord in the Sonic Medley, and acoustic solo in “Corneria”.

And if you liked what you heard from Metroid Metal, just wait until you give Vangough's Echoes arrange a listen. This is one serious 7-minute epic of Title Theme/Torvus Bog, mixing guitar, piano, and synth choir into a tasty cocktail. Faithful to the source material, the theme carries Prime's trademark whistling as well as Torvus' haze and dampness and the mournful cries of the guitar. Even though we've heard Metroid Metal's version dozens of times, Vangough makes this piece perfectly fresh – just like their other work.

This said, Game On does have some of the problems that irritate a lot of rock albums. For one the, guitar sometimes uses parts of the scale that just don't sound quite right on guitar (“Green Hill Zone” and Robotnick's theme, for instance). The medleys could use a bit smoother transitions and endings. And the tempo for Wiley's Castle feels a bit off (though maybe I'm spoiled by the guys from Guilty Gear).

Still, the second half of the album is phenomenal with what is by far the best arrangement of “Corneria” with its electric Arwing vibes and acoustic solo, and a kick-ass rendition of Killer Instinct that nails David Wise's postapocalyptic grunge. The album also closes with a rock lullaby of Donkey Kong Country's “Aquatic Ambiance” for a refreshing departure.

With fresh sounds and fresh material, Vangough has certainly come screaming onto the scene. They're still a young band, and one that's certain to grow its promising talent and vision over the next few years. They're definitely one to watch!