Game Music, Reviews

Gritty Riches: Shoot Many Robots (Review)

July 4, 2012 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Gritty Riches: Shoot Many Robots (Review)on Twitter

We VGM aficionados tend to classify composers, trying to make them into certain-shaped pegs so they fit the holes we expect them to. I had Rich “Disasterpeace” Vreeland pegged as almost exclusively a “chiptunes” composer. In my mind, he did chiptunes, usually in a math/prog-rock style. But no one composer is as one-dimensional as we assume them to be.

Case in point: Shoot Many Robots from Demiurge Studios and Ubisoft. This soundtrack is about as far away from the world of square waves as you can possibly get. I mentioned to Rich, in passing, that this soundtrack was way out of the norm for him. His reply? Apparently, it’s more common than we fans realize.

To learn what Rich meant by that, and to get some feedback on this new soundtrack, join us after the jump.

So, a gritty blues/country/rock album from Disasterpeace — that sounds pretty out of the ordinary, right? That’s not chiptunes! Thus, it’s a whole new thing for him. Except… not at all.

While Disasterpeace’s own “original works” releases, and prominent soundtracks like FEZ, may stay squarely in the realm of retro electronic music, Rich does a lot more than that. In fact, he told me that the soundtrack for Shoot Many Robots, with its live performers and acoustic/electric rock back-n-forth, is not new ground for him at all. It is, however, rare that he gets to *release* that kind of music. Much of the work Disasterpeace does for VGM and other types of media score, he does not maintain the rights to, and thus does not sell the soundtrack.

In fact, even with the case of Shoot Many Robots, the distribution is being handled by the game studio, not by Rich himself. Fortunately, a soundtrack release exists, period. For many other games, the soundtrack simply isn’t published.

I am, thus, thankful for this release. I have two reasons to be thankful. The first is that it has given me a more holistic perspective of one of game music’s true up-and-comers. Second, the music itself is really catchy. At its best, it edges on rivaling Bastion, though the musical styles aren’t 100% overlapping.

I’m a big fan of the album’s shorter tracks. On tracks like “Runaway Chainsaw,” “Rockets, “Propane Octane Butane,” and “Count Your Nuts,” Rich packs a punch with sweet guitar riffs and melodic solos. If these are the game’s “jingles” for finishing a stage or achieving some milestone, they certainly are doing their job better than most equivalents.

I’m *also* a big fan of the game’s longest tracks. They are “Cliffs ‘n Mines ‘n Such” and “Boil ‘n Toil in Oil,” the first and last of the stage themes on the OST. Both tracks are built sufficiently to loop for upwards of 30 minutes without getting old. There’s so much variety in these tracks, and they’re built to last thanks to big dynamic range — different layers of pure aural strength coming in and out at different times.

Is there any track I don’t like on the album? Yes! Among the 16 tracks, I must say I am a little annoyed by the mere existence of track 12, “Meanwhile, on the Farm.” This track’s melody gets a little too close to the 19th century folk tune Old Folks at Home (i.e. the “Suwannee River” song). I imagine someone said to Rich “hey, can you make up a track that sounds like the Suwannee River song, but not so much that it’s the exact same melody?” And voila, that’s what we got. My imagination could be wrong, though. Either way, because I feel like the track is trying too hard to be something else, I can’t fully enjoy or appreciate it. It just feels like a tongue-in-cheek parody.

As mentioned above, this album isn’t on the main Disasterpeace bandcamp page, but has its own separate page hosted by Ubisoft and Demiurge. Head here to check it out. This one ain’t for everyone, and it might not be appealing to fans of Rich’s other albums. Me? I like high-quality examples of just about any genre of music, so I’m certainly satisfied with this album and would even be interested in a follow-up, if Rich can keep crankin’ out tunes like “Boil ‘n Toil in Oil.” So substantive, so tasty, so gritty.

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