Game Music, Reviews

Chrono Trigger at its Best: The Bad Dudes Present CHRONOTORIOUS (Review)

August 12, 2009 | | 9 Comments Share thison Facebook Chrono Trigger at its Best: The Bad Dudes Present CHRONOTORIOUS (Review)on Twitter

It just struck me that CHRONOTORIOUS is technically the third album to come out of OneUp Studios that focuses on the music of Yasunori Mitsuda. His work is certainly deserving of this attention, and Chrono Trigger truly is my favorite Mitsuda soundtrack to date, so I’m not complaining. You won’t be complaining either, as CHRONOTORIOUS hits the spot.

This album is different from Time & Space and Xenogears Light in a lot of ways. This is a Bad Dudes project to the core, with some rough-and-tumble arrangements of some of the best tracks from Chrono Trigger, including my favorites: “Undersea Palace” and “Magus Theme.” And wow, the “Magus Theme” remix here is the first I’ve heard that actually does justice to the original.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! Find out what we think in our review of CHRONOTORIOUS after the jump!

So, I have an interesting story to start things off. I listened to an early version of CHRONOTORIOUS some months ago, and gave Mustin some feedback about some of the tracks, and noted that my favorite track, “Undersea Palace,” was missing. I insisted that it be added, but Mustin didn’t seem all that interested in taking my advice. When I finally received my copy of the CD in for review, I proceeded to review each track in CHRONOlogical order, and found that, hey, they added a new track that wasn’t on the earlier version! It’s “Watertite” by Kunal Majmudar, and it just happens to be an arrangement of my favorite song from the game! How’s that for service? I’ll get to that track in a bit, so let’s jump into the music!

So, who better to start things off than our own Tim Sheehy? He opens with the title track, “CHRONOTORIOUS,” which is a groovy rendition of the main theme featuring a clean piano lead with a groovy bass backing and funkadelic guitar wahs in the background. It’s a great start to a great album, and it lets you know right from the beginning that this really is a chillout album.

JJT serves up “Castle Rock,” an arrangement of “Guardia Castle” that takes a mellow rock approach. Quite honestly, the thick reverb on the upbeat piano lines and dreamy brass melody brought the whimsical Opoona soundtrack to mind, which I doubt was the intention! Zyko’s “Cave Girl” takes a similarly light approach, opening with some acoustic guitars and jazzy synth lines that had me thinking I was listening to an arrangement of “Mute City” from F-Zero. This track doesn’t really do all that much, but that’s the point. The listener is meant to sit back and enjoy the layers of sound that unfold throughout this 7-minute long mood fest. And that’s the strength of this album: it really challenges listeners by not beating them over the head with the themes, but rather relies on layers and moods with a hip modern electro-jazz sound.

Well, no Chrono Trigger arrangement project is complete without remixes of both “Corridor of Time” and “Schala’s Theme,” and they’re both here. “Rockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Danimal Cannon features some amazing electric guitar work, but it’s worked into the mix in an unimposing way, allowing the lighter elements of the track to be heard as well, grounding the piece. Diggi Dis is the unfortunate soul to get stuck with “Schala’s Theme” this time around (it’s really a great track, it’s just that it’s so overdone), titling it “Forced Enlightenment.” It provides an interesting blend of electro jazz and ethnic sounds with its tribal percussion mixed in with claps and a fat bassdrum.

We finally get into some other styles with Ailsean’s “Dethfrog,” a metal track complete with electric guitars and guttural vocals. I like how the lyrics section lists all the “ribbits,” but the track could have done without the vocals altogether, as Ailsean’s guitar work speaks for itself. Fortunately the vocals are mixed in so low that they won’t grate on you with their silliness. There’s also a piano arrangement provided by Bladiator. It’s simply titled “Longing of the Wind,” and it’s pretty damn epic. It fleshes out the original melody into something much more—and I hate to say it—mature! Mitsuda has said in the past that his work on Chrono Trigger is “immature,” and I guess this arrangement kind of makes me think for just a slight millisecond that he may have a point.

Then there’s Mustin. I’d say he definitely wins the MBD (Most Baddest Dude) award this time around, as his three contributions are probably the best tracks on the album. His first track,“B.A.M.F.,” is the “Magus Theme” remix I was talking about earlier, and is actually a collaboration track with another of our own, Dhsu. It opens with a sweet piano-only rendition of the theme performed by Dhsu before some amazing badassness cuts in around the one-minute mark. Basstacular synths, snappy percussion, and some clean electric piano chords set the stage for the best “Magus Theme” remix ever. They even nail the howling pads that were featured in the original. The track really epitomizes the phrase “Bad Dudes.” This one will have you bopping your head for weeks, and is well worth the price of admission for this album!

“Bottomed Out,” on the other hand, is an arrangement of “At The Bottom of the Night,” which is one of my all-time favorite ”I’m depressed” tracks. The early version of CHRONOTORIOUS that I mentioned before featured a rather straightforward arrangement, but Mustin has obviously done a lot of work since then. The track takes on a poppy feel with a single-note piano melody and some great percussion and electric piano. This sounds like it’s dying for vocals… but at the same time, vocals could easily ruin the mood, so it’s hard to say. Finally, “Forest Steppin’” (an arrangement of “Secret of the Forest”) takes this oh-so-smooth track and somehow makes it even more suave. He starts by upping the tempo and providing a more loose structure with rich electric piano chords and minimalistic bass and percussion that rest near the floor while the melody floats to the top. Similar to the Magus howling sound, he somehow figured out the owl-like “whooo” sound and works it in at various points.

There’s some more jazzy goodness with posu yan (previously known as po!, one of my favorite remixers or all time), with “disodium guanylate,” which is a funky arrangement of “Factory Ruins.” I’ve always been a fan of po!’s jazzy style, and this just provides more of it to love. Another Dude that I love is Joshua Morse, and his “Dream of Black” remix of “Black Omen” is one of the highlights of the album. The dreamy jazz style really hits the spot, and fits the moment in the game that the Black Omen comes into the story perfectly.

Now it’s time! Kunal Majmudar answers my call for an “Undersea Palace” remix with “Watertite,” a sometimes off-time, stop-and-go jazz rendition of the amazing theme. It’s definitely not what I expected, but that’s quite alright, as I really enjoy the improv feel of the track as it constantly shape shifts into something completely new, reinventing itself constantly over the four and a half minute duration of the track. The bass is really killer.

But hey, it can’t all be sunshine and rainbows, right? There are a couple tracks here that don’t really fit. The first is the only Uematsu track on the album, “Tyran Castle,” arranged by Mazedude and titled “Tyrannosaurus.” He starts of staying pretty true to the original, but quickly diverges into ambient jungle sounds and a crazy caveman-esque take on the theme with his signature pitch bends and vibrato effects. The album’s last track, “The Bad Ending” by Kunal Majmudar takes listeners through the destruction of the world by Lavos in 1999 A.D., blending SNES-era Lavos sound effects with car alarms and other ambient noises that are actually mixed together perfectly. While neither of these tracks are particularly bad, they kind of break up the chillout factor by requiring the listener to be fully engaged to really appreciate what they’re going for.

But wait, there’s more! Wait a few minutes after the final track and you’ll find a hidden track tucked away behind a number of silent “filler” tracks. It’s a nice little riff that builds off the little organ melody that you play to gain access to the cathedral at the beginning of the game. It proceeds to visit the “Chrono Trigger” theme, and works its way through a groovy solo by a number of the Bad Dudes, including Joshua Morse, Mustin, and Diggi Dis. It’s definitely a neat concept, and provides a better closing than did the listed final track.

[This is the poster you’ll find inside your copy of CHRONOTORIOUS]

So, I wish I could end it now and send you on your way to buy the CD, but I do have some things to say about the packaging. The artwork is pretty sleek and snazzy, and the prototype artwork that we mentioned a couple weeks ago is actually the disc artwork. There’s a bunch of unique artwork found here and there, including on the bonus poster that’s included which also features the album’s liner notes on the back. It’s interesting to read about everyone’s inspiration for their arrangements.

If I haven’t convinced you to go buy this album, I don’t know what will. Great source material, amazing remixes of some of the best and most un-remixed songs from the game, snazzy packaging, bonus poster, my name in the “special thanks” section, and the music by a number of OSV staff? Oh, and while this album will hit iTunes at a later date, it will be minus 5 tracks, and trust me, you don’t want to miss any of the tracks here. I’m relieved to see the Bad Dudes’ CD debut turned out to be quite amazing, as Mustin had me worried there for awhile, but for $10, you’d be nuts to pass this up!

Are you a fan of the jazzy stylings of the Bad Dudes? Do you think they ought to get to producing more physical products in the future?

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