Demoscene, Game Music, Reviews

Music That Just Won’t Die: Immortal 3 and 4 (Review)

December 28, 2011 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Music That Just Won’t Die: Immortal 3 and 4 (Review)on Twitter

I’m too young to have experienced most of the joys of the Commodore Amiga, but I did develop a taste for the music from this era while delving into the musical history of the demoscene as both a fan and amateur composer. Many of the composers working on the Amiga were legends and heroes in the demoscene, so I have a natural affinity for much of the music from that time.

Well, here’s a perfect example of judging a book by its cover. I’ve seen the Immortal CD series pop on VGMdb from time to time and never paid them much attention. That is, until very recently. As it turns out, the series celebrates the best music from the Amiga scene with arrangements from several classic titles arranged by the composers themselves in many cases. And yes, there’s lots of Chris Huelsbeck!

Hit the jump for our review of the two most recent releases in the series, Immortal 3 and Immortal 4.

Now, as much as I’d love to gush about each and every track on both albums, I don’t want to bore you going through 30+ tracks found on each two-disc collection. And that’s the bottom line (which I know is bad to put out there at the beginning of the review): everything here is worth your attention.

Looking at Immortal 3 in particular, there’s lots of like with three tracks from Huelsbeck himself, starting with “Apidya ‘Suite’,” a triumphant orchestral theme that I was turned on to by the PLAY! A Video Game Symphony tour. There are also tracks dedicated to both Turrican 2 and Turrican 3, each with amazing synth work. These are truly great tracks that make me want to experience the Turrican series for myself if not just to experience the music.

Other standouts include the dark retro rock track, “Theatre of Death,” the folkey “Ghouls’n Ghosts,” the beautiful and not so agonizing “Agony,” and the dreamy “Aquaventura.” But this collection wouldn’t be complete without some of the energetic and bass-heavy electronic music that later came to characterize the early demoscene with tracks like “Lotus 3: The Ultimate Challenge” and “Ork.” “Uridium II” goes as far as to remind me of Muse, while Aleksi Eeben (who we featured years ago for his amazing “Water Music”) gives us the unfortunately titled “Elfmania” which provides some catchy drum ‘n’ bass. The last track on the album, “Trolls,” is a really weird vocal theme that I feel like I should hate given how silly it is, but there’s something about the high-pitched vocals and dirty rock sound reminds me of Faith no More (a good thing).

Immortal 4 is much more electronic in nature, sporting even more of that classic demoscene sound that I’m so familiar with. The opening track, “LED Storm,” sounds like the inspiration for many a demo soundtrack with its chugging electric guitar work. There’s the funky “Fury of the Furries ‘Lagoon’,” the super upbeat and catchy “Atomimo,” and “Zeewolf ‘Medley’” which stands out for its use of cowbell.

We checked out Nano Assault this year at E3, and before Manfred Linzner went on to become the president of Shin’en (the developer of Nano Assault), he worked on Tales from Heaven with a great arrangement featured here. “Gauntlet 3: The Final Quest” opens on a high fantasy note before rocking out, while the bubbly “Flink ‘Forest’” and funky “Benefactor” go as far as to remind of some of soundTeMP’s work. You can’t forget the jazzy “Leisure Suit Larry ‘Larry’s Theme’,”now with live saxophone, and the moody alternative rock track, “Fascination,” will have you thinking of Akira Yamaoka. “Flashback” is a classic, and the arrangement here is both cinematic and fun, while “Zarathustra” pairs electronic bass, strings, and brass in a hard-hitting that I could picture as a backing for a final scene in a Rocky film. And of course, Huelsbeck appears again with the super 80s rock track, “Turrican 2 ‘Desert Rocks,’” which is easily one of my favorites.

There’s not terribly much here in terms of packaging aside from some scant artwork and forwards written by producer Jan Zottmann (Immortal 3) and Tim Wright (Immortal 4), but the music is what’s important here. These themes are truly timeless, and fans of that classic “gamey” sound will instantly love much of what these albums offer. While both albums are great, if you forced me to make a recommendation for one over the other, I’d probably pick Immortal 3 by a slight margin.  Perhaps those who are interested could pick up Immortal 3 to determine if it’s their thing before delving into the rest of the series, but I doubt you’ll be disappointed.  The albums are available here if you want to check them out.

Feel free to chime in about your thoughts on music from the Amiga era and from the Immortal series in general. I wouldn’t say this series is the most obvious of gems, but I surely feel like I missed the boat on this one!

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