An instrumental side project from the keyboardist of Armory, Peter Rutchio; Vomitron’s sophomore release features an interesting cover with a half naked model and a game controller. Immediately, my nerdgasm level rose to about a thousand; but the man inside my head said “just because there’s eye candy on the cover, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a great album.” I mean, that point is true. For a man who discovered Nintendo metal, or what I’ve now coined as VG Metal (because not all of the songs covered in this genre are from the Nintendo entertainment system) with the Neskimos back in 2000, then moving onto the Minibosses, following up with Megadriver, Chromelodeon, Ryan 8-Bit, (he did the dreariest Mario 2 1-1 music that I’ve ever heard and it had lyrics) The Black Mages, Game Over and Goat moving into Powerglove, (they were on the bill with Dying Fetus for my very first live metal concert) Metroid Metal and GaMetal (whenever you come back, let me know) as well as myriads of others (check out http://www.ocremix.net for hundreds more) including yours truly; (the name and game will not be announced yet, hehe) it’s safe to say that I’ve got an unhealthy obsession with this stuff. But to be honest, video game music was always some of my personal favorite music; and I can remember back as far as third grade when I was instructed to draw my favorite song at the time. Many other people drew pictures based on the classic “In The Jungle” (this was the nineties, mind you) but I drew the train stage (2-1) from Ninja Gaiden 2: The Dark Sword Of Chaos (there’s a hint) which has some of my favorite video game music of all time. (As well as the Megaman X series and the first Doom, of course. Also Chrono Trigger, I could go on…)
But at any rate, this is Peter’s attempt to move away from original work and into VG Metal territory. It has gotten him a bit of notoriety however, being able to play at MagFest (Which I don’t like because the bands just play while the festival is going on and people are walking around, I feel they should have their own dedicated performances later that night after the festivities of the day end. If Powerglove can get their own show, then why can’t the rest of these guys?) and other game related events and with many of the bands I’ve named. The release is quite lengthy, spanning at almost the full length of a CD and begins with the comedic intro of “Filtered Blow 0:18” which is what you had to do with the classic front loaded NES console back in the days before emulators. I remember turning red in the face after blowing out a cartridge that just wouldn’t work, yet I didn’t use that kind of coarse language until I was sixteen. True story.
Now for the meat of the disc, (which it’s going to get technical since I know these games so well that I can even see the images of the areas in my mind’s eye) which begins with “Contra 8:06” starting out with the heavily covered introductory stage music. I remember playing an arcade machine version of this on a 10 in 1 machine that they had at a shelter I stayed in long ago. It is still just as difficult to get through that fucking stage today. The boss music came next, but I’ve also heard it heavily covered. The next stage music is done quite well, piano influence coming in shortly after as the next stage comes cranking. Now we’re getting into something that doesn’t get covered often; which is the latter stage of the game. Just hearing this done with guitar and keyboard is enough for me. Then we have the stage that follows, which I have heard covered before; yet without the keyboard – which this version benefited from. As the end of the game looms near, the sounds of ferocious guitar battle can be heard; leading into a bombastic victory theme.
Now we’ve got something that I truly haven’t heard before, at least in it’s entirety; and that is what I believe to be the complete soundtrack to Blaster Master. No, not just the opening stage that everyone else plays; but the whole damned thing. The keyboard adds to the authenticity; and I will tell you that for the most part he is playing these tunes note for note. That’s unheard of. Then you’ve got the stage two music, which I always loved as a kid. The monster-riffic quality of this stage is perfectly recaptured; as well as the next stage which is just done beautifully. While I’ve not actually finished Blaster Master, the victory music sounds great here. “Kalinka 0:55” comes next, serving as one of the five Tetris interludes. I’m a bit lost here however, because these don’t work well as interludes and should have just been featured as one piece. Next comes “The Legend Of Zelda 3:53” (which a local act by the name of Limit Break is turning into a two part album and I can’t wait for that) which begins much as you’d expect. It’s not the Metallica nod that The Neskimos played, or the blasting version done by Artefact; but instead carries a keyboard laden sense that bodes with the original. But the drums do kick up rather heavily on the dungeon music and this is the heaviest that they become on the entire disc. There’s no doubt that this is black metal blasting; so maybe it is similar to the Artefact version. later the song doubles back with more drum vigor as it really brings home The Legend Of Zelda. (If you really like the Zelda series, you should grab Zelda Classic and a bunch of story mods, btw.)
Alright, the next is an ode to a game that I spent countless hours of childhood playing and replaying, “Ninja Gaiden Acts 1-3 8:34“. Some say that it is a hard game, but it caught my attention and I continued to play the thing until I finally finished it on an emulator. (Yes, I used to have the actual cartridge.) Alright, let’s go though this. First we’ve got the intro music. Now I’m not so sure if that’s how it sounded on the actual game – I’ve always found something off about this rendition; especially when hearing it done by the Minibosses prior to this. The flute was a nice touch though, capturing the latter portion of said intro music. Then the guitar melodies came in and I was assured that this had been well done. Next we have something that I’ve never heard covered, the Act 1-1 music. Without the keyboard, you could not achieve the proper effect of this stage; so it’s done with one to one perfection. Then of course we have the boss music, I believe it’s the guy with the club. Very easy, you just climb on the wall and jump behind him, attacking his back to defeat him. Guy’s as slow as cold molasses. The keyboard at the end of the piece was unnecessary though. It wasn’t in the original and gave a weird technological vibe to something that doesn’t really get into those realms until about the third game. The next piece is the interlude (this game had such great ones – this is the way you subtly tell a story, game programmers!) when I can remember “The Anesthetic must be wearing off.” Then you get to the construction stage with those black boxers who would jump around and make life a living hell for you. Fuck those guys, man. The guitar influence is quite nice here, bringing an element that the stage music didn’t have before. Then you’ve got the fucking part where you’ve got to climb all the stone pillars and there’s the bats and the fucking robed guys as well as the football players who try to bum rush you. Everything in that game wants to fucking kill you. There’s no need for the next bosses’s music, but the next interlude sounds fucking beautiful, almost romantic. Kicks up a little towards the end, leading into the snow stage with the fucking birds. Fuck the fucking birds! One of my favorite themes in the game now plays, I think the keyboard does a great job here. Sure, he goes through this one fast; but you’ve no fucking clue how long it takes to get through that motherfucker. I think I’ve died well over five-hundred times throughout the course of my life while playing that stage. It’s the damn birds, and the bullshit enemies sometimes that make navigating a living hell. Did I mention the damn birds? But sometimes on my old CRT television, I would make it through to that next stage and my heart would race because I could never get that far normally (and had limited time while gaming in my youth, so I barely ever got that far) and I’d never really seen much of that stage; just trying to kill as many enemies and getting through it as fast as I can. The kicking of the drums in this piece really helps to survey what I felt while going through the stage, my heart damn near beating out of my chest. The boss was easy here, but you could still die and start from that fucking ice portion if you managed to screw up against it. It was one of those “two enemies, but one takes no damage” sort of bosses. And I think it was made of stone. The piece ends in the middle of a keyboard frenzy, but it’s not over yet; as you’ll soon see.
“Troika 0:45” continues the Tetris interludes, for those of you who are still following along. “Double Dragon 8:10” is next, and oddly enough he uses the keyboard instead of the guitar for the chorus portion of the intro. But it works. And then of course, there’s guitar solo on the melody portion of that track. Next we’ve got the covered to the bone intro stage music. Double Dragon was always a pain in the ass, but they just don’t make games like that anymore. And I heard that Double Dragon Neon sucked, so I’ve avoided it. Give you bonus points if you can tell me who created this and Battletoads… Give up? Tradewest. Lot of good beat-em-ups came from that guy (and if you like beat-em-ups, you need to grab OpenBOR and all the awesome mods) The next stage comes in, as Peter really hits hard on the chorus portion. Keyboard mainly play this one; but they should. I think the next portion is actually the intro to Double Dragon II. That game sucked, because you had to play as Christ level difficulty in order to get to play the whole game. The next stage has an oriental feel, delivered with the keyboards. There’s some weird shit going on here shortly afterwards with the keyboards; that elongates into some interesting guitar tinkering that goes into another level of Double Dragon. The boss music now comes into play, but then there’s the cave level which is right near the end of the game (hint, play the Arcade version of the game using MAME, graphics and music are better) which finally culminates with the credits music. Then we get “Bradinsky 1:10.” Why? I don’t know.
“Ninja Gaiden Acts 4-6 8:30” now comes into play, starting with Ryu looking on at Jaquio’s castle. It’s a bit fucking mountain castle. But for all the men and monsters and shit that he’s killed, he makes Rambo look like a pussy. I mean, this guy’s committed the first commandment like ten thousand times already, to the point where the afterlife is probably fucking crowded and they had to go ahead and make a separate dimension. I mean, could you imagine standing in that fucking line? One day, you were just hanging out in the construction site; when this Ninja comes in an interrupts your boxing practice with his sword. You wake up, you’re in the other fucking plane. Damn, and your wife was cooking a bit old pot of stew that night. Not the bullshit stew either. I’m talking potatoes and carrots, hunks of beef, pieces of onion, a whole bunch of seasonings; it was going to be good. It was going to be fucking tasty. But instead, some Ninja came by and fucked all that up. I mean, you weren’t even trying to hit him, just defending yourself, ya know? If you look at some of the enemies in the game, they don’t really seem to be attacking you until you get close enough to them. For all we know, Ryu is an insane murderer who forces all of these enemies into self defense. Even the birds have to fight back! But when Ryu looks at that castle, he knows that he’s going to have to work his way up there. The opening song works well enough; bringing us into another interlude which sounds just as mysterious as it should be and if you know the story; then you know what I mean by this. The boss music comes back, it’s just a bit faster this time. There’s that damn unnecessary keyboard bit there – I don’t know if he’s playing the original or the SNES remake version which contained that extra bit I found unnecessary. Next comes the awesome music of the next interlude. Goddamn, the keyboards here are amazing. Now we’re getting into Jaquio’s palace, where several more bodies will be added to the count. These guys are actually fucking evil and worth killing at this point; I mean, you don’t want them to get loose – one of these crazy monsters would slaughter everyone in an entire town or village. And those pumpkin head guys creep me out. More keyboard influence as we’re getting right down to the wire of the game. Obviously the keyboard works well on this next track, especially considering the musical territory we’re covering. Next is the final boss music, when Ryu has to fight his father and Jaquio himself (who is tough as fuck to hit… What did that Worlds Of Power book tell me to do? Damn, I need a mirror!) At any rate, the next track is the victory music. And everything gets resolved here, except for the thousands of dead bodies. At this point, Ryu has committed enough acts of murder to warrant the death penalty ten thousand times over. As an interesting tidbit, the Worlds Of Power book based on Ninja Gaiden was oddly satisfying. The author actually seemed to give a fuck and made a thrilling story, especially when Ryu had to fight the guy who would hurl lightning bolts (Marth – that dude was so fucking cool) and it really added to the overall story of the game. I’m not sure how the other books in the series did, since I know they fucked up Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. Seriously, how do you fuck up Castlevania? This is how you write Castlevania:
“…the denizens of the castle lumbered about, Dracula’s curse seething through their tainted bodes. I held my whip firmly, launching forth in volleys as each creature it struck returned to the abyss from which it came. Yet the dead would never stop coming. The putrid stench of death surrounded me as the creatures continued their hopeless tirade. “You should never have come here!” they wailed as they sailed throughout the decaying walls of the castle. “Your folly will be your tomb!”
Now, that would have been set during level 1-1; around the time you first enter the castle and the zombies keep respawning; their arms raised as they literally seem to fly into you. But let’s get to “The Soviet Mind Game 0:50” shall we? Even though it just kind of seems a little odd after Ninja Gaiden. Next we have a game I’ve scarcely played, but was well aware of the music to. This is “Zelda 2: The Adventure Of Link 7:15.” This is a game that hasn’t gotten much cover attention; so I’m glad to hear it presented here. The full piece follows the entirety of the game, including the alternate Zelda theme which has never been used again (at least to my knowledge) in favor of the main theme from the first game. There’s also this large gap of water that you’re not supposed to be able to cross in the game at the very beginning; but through diligence I made it over the gap without any sort of special item. Can’t tell you today how I managed to pull that off – but I can verify that it did happen and allowed me to skip the whole damn first part of the game. And yeah, this was on the console. Forest theme comes in next, sounds as creepy as it should. Keyboards do a great job here. The dungeon theme comes next, and it’s done quite well also. But I’ve heard many of these combinations before. The boss music comes next, with drums blazing. The keyboards now come into place, illustrating the music of the next world as the final level now comes into place and the final boss music. It’s done quite well with Schaeffer-esque gallops. Then of course, we’ve got the victory music and a reprise of the Zelda 2 theme. I’m just glad this one got an adaptation. There’s also this weird misty keyboard piece near the end of the track that gives it a bit of mystique. Finally, we have everyone’s favorite Tetris theme, “Korobeyniki 0:51” which has been covered by tens of thousands of bands, even before there was such a thing as VG Metal, VG rock or VG anything. A punk/ska version of the theme was also recently used in KickAss 2. Just to show you that this popular theme has crossed into mainstream Hollywood. Falling blocks aside, the final track on the album is from the game I’ve already babbled about; Castlevania. Now, Ryan 8 Bit also did this same exact medley; also adding Castlevania 2. And for Castlevania 3, Goat did that withUnchosen Paths in which he proceeds to shred the living fuck out of the tracks. And it’s also free, so grab that.
But as for Vomitron’s rendition of a game I know too damned well; “Castlevania 9:37” begins with the intro music and of course, “Vampire Killer” which I have written two sets of lyrics for – each one pertaining to either Belmont or Dracula. Oddly, we don’t get the vampire bat music yet (defeat him with axes) and it goes right into the next stage. Which I’ve described as platforming hell, ala Medusa heads. God, do I hate that fucking stage. But I love the music there and have never heard it adapted. Peter does a great job of this and gets it at a one for one accuracy with the original. The next one goes into “Wicked Child” which I’ve also written lyrics for. The lyrical themes represent an antichrist archetype. I like Goat’s better, but this version is quite classy. Then we get our vampire bat music. Well, we could just say that this is the boss music in general, hehe. At any rate, it’s very classy and filled with gothic keyboards. The next stage is when you drop down to the dungeon of the castle and obviously that’s meant to be tough. As we get closer to Dracula’s humble tower, (I’m really surprised by the structural integrity of that thing to be honest) we hear an all familiar theme, which was given lyrics by Swedish band Game Over. It’s actually a good track. As for this version, it’s also done rather well. This next stage should be right on the cusp on Dracula’s tower; with more keyboard influence coming in than has been used on the previous few tracks. Now we enter Dracula’s tower (which should surely fall, if that level of a battle was going on during it. As such, the Dracula music is much like you’d expect for the original version and contains the sounds of authentic battle from the game (not like the slit your fucking throat thrash shred-fest that Goat did) though it does really start to kick up with keyboards and drums towards the end, when Dracula dies. But we all know how that story goes. Though I’ve heard the end theme really kill with guitar melody in the beginning, he uses keyboards on the first two notes and proceeds to solo the latter half of the song.
And that’s it. While there have been heavier versions of this material before; I’m just happy to hear some of these tracks, to be honest. Some of the music that Vomitron has covered here has not been covered before; and I’ve been wanting to hear some of these tracks covered for years now. Some brought tears to my eyes, as I’ve got so much respect for this kind of music. I hear that he’s working on a new album now, but apparently is having guitar troubles. People have, of course; flooded the man’s page with requests asking for more tracks than the man could feasibly cover (I of course, am also guilty of that as I requested a few) but hearing music like this really makes me want to get Blood Red Cartridge started and really bring the more extreme sense of metal to the music, with the lyrics I have written of course. And yes, I really want to do a Megaman X concept album; making the most melodic and crushing disc ever released with the likeness of the blue bomber. I’ve always felt the material of those games to be quite adult, and with definite metal influenced themes musically and story wise (there are scenes with robots bleeding, for example) so that’s something that’s meant a lot to me. Megaman X melodic black/death… one of these days, folks.
For those of you who have read this extremely long review, I have to say that I’m impressed with the material here and would certainly recommend it. What Peter does with the keyboards here is equal to anything I’ve heard from the more guitar laden efforts. And his one for one quality checking makes the disc well worth the purchase price. Once again, I hope to hear some Megaman X, Little Samson or Wizards And Warriors on the next disc; but whatever Vomitron chooses to vomit forth on the next album is fine with me and I’ll welcome it. If you’re as obsessed with VG Metal as myself, then you’ll want to grab this one for yourself!
Highlights: Contra, Blaster Master, The Legend Of Zelda, Ninja Gaiden Acts 1-6, Double Dragon, Zelda 2, Castlevania (14 Tracks, 67:00)