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Doujin, Game Music

lets-listen-aggressively-contra-4-rocked-n-loaded-review

Let’s Listen Aggressively: Contra 4 Rocked ‘n’ Loaded (Review)

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Well, oops. We had a lot of coverage of Contra 4: Rocked ‘n’ Loaded on OSV leading up to the album’s release back in March 2010, but it somehow managed to slip through the cracks when it came to a review. Well, after seeing and talking to many of those involved this past week at MAGFest about the status on their Rockman X arrange album and realizing our boo-boo with the Contra 4 album, I was determined to go back and review it.

And here it is!

I think all of us were super ecstatic to hear that Jake Kaufman had been signed on to score Contra 4 knowing how big a fan he was of the franchise. It seemed like a perfect fit, and I have to say that it really was.

He tore it up on the Nintendo DS, and I distinctly remember being incredibly frustrated with the Contra 4 demo on the E3 show floor (I suck at these games) and having one of the game’s producer play through while I was plugged in with headphones. I enjoyed every minute of it. From there, they only put out a soundtrack release in Japan unfortunately, which was a site to behold with large-breasted ladies and comical images of Jake adorning the booklet.

The soundtrack was rockin’, although brief, so it came as no surprise to me that somebody would want to tackle remixing the material, and what Klub Kunchadonga and team have done is right in line with what I think Kaufman would have done himself if he had scored the game on consoles instead. This is impressive stuff, featuring all the guitar shredding, chugging, cheesy narratives, amazing synth work, and creative interpretation that you could hope for. Two minute tracks have been transformed into five minute-long masterpieces that include perfectly executed solos and the perfect blend of rock and gamey synth elements to let you know that this is indeed Contra.

The intro track, “Hell’s Orifice,” sports that cheesy narrative I mentioned above, featuring a deep-voiced Norg setting up a ridiculous scenario that is so cheesy and over the top that you can’t help but laugh. And it’s not like they’re even trying all that hard.

This blows up into several tracks that I loved on the original soundtrack, so it’s no surprise that I love them here. “Jungle Exploder” takes Kaufman’s impressive and incredibly catchy jungle tune and works in an array of instruments, including electric guitar, organ, piano, and synths.

Other tracks that I loved before and love even more here are “Slave FREIGHTER” (from “Harbor” on the original score) and “Bass Fishing” (“Ocean”). The former comes courtesy of BrainCells, and is relatively straightforward (a good thing) while the latter brings in the characteristic slap bass and some great piano work courtesy of the entire group of arrangers. “Shrapnel Facial” opens with a dark and foreboding segment that covers the lab area before the familiar “Waterfall” arrangement comes in, heavy on synths before shredding ensues, voicing the catchy melody that is another one of Kaufman’s highlights from the game. Snappleman and Prince of Darkness take a lot of liberties with the theme, expanding upon, refining, and including an amazing guitar solo about midway through that strays from the source material, but is one of the best parts of the album.

Other arrangements turn me on to tracks that I may have skipped over on previous listens to the Contra 4 soundtrack. “Balls of Steel” from the factory area features Norg alone, coming as the most synth-heavy track on the album and incorporating electronic chugging, zipping, and whirring to simulate an active factory, making for one of my favorite arrangements. “Dey Callim Boss” and “Let’s Attack Aggressively!” also turned me on to some new themes as the first is a boss medley, opening with some haunting piano and responding belltones before launching into an all-out rock fest and the latter featuring guitar work by Danimal Cannon.

And don’t forget the classic Contra material that makes an appearance in Contra 4. I can’t complain about “BRICKERWALLER” from the base area that features classic Contra base and boss music as well as “GET TO THE CHOPPA,” the opening stage from the original Contra with guitar work again by Danimal Cannon.

Jake Kaufman himself closes out the album with “B.E.I.G.L.,” and arrangement of the end credits theme that brings in strings for the first time, voicing an epic and upbeat melody that is a perfect way to close out the album.

While minimal, the packaging is also pretty nice on this release. Our own Audun Sorlie handled some of the packaging concept, while Snappleman provided some great artwork on the cover and Nate Horsfall created an interestingly laid out booklet with track credits and scattered fragments of paper with the artist’s contact information found throughout. Also can’t beat the classic flaming Contra ‘C’ on the disc itself.

I have to say that it’s a shame we never covered this one, as there is some great material here, but if anything I hope us writing about it now spurs the team to get going on their Rockman X arrangement album that I’m even more excited about at this point.  You can still purchase Rocked ‘n’ Loaded here if you haven’t already!

Let us know what you think of Rocked ‘n’ Loaded and the concept for their upcoming album.

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