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Turrican Soundtrack Anthology: Review w/ Chris Huelsbeck Interview

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It’s been an interesting year for video game revivals. So many classic games and franchises of the late 1980s and early ’90s have gained new attention in form of remakes, re-releases and re-imaginings.

Last year, the Turrican series received its own revival in the form of a push by series composer Chris Huelsbeck to completely rearrange and re-record pretty much the entirety of the music of the Turrican game’s soundtracks. Praised as some of Huelsbeck’s best work in video game music composition, the futuristic melodies and powerful soundwork has survived through the years in the hearts of fans and the works of fellow composers who were inspired by Huelsbeck’s work with the series. Armed with such appeal in mind, as well as a personal desire to revisit the soundtracks he’d created two decades earlier, Huelsbeck sought to make his dream of reworking the Turrican soundtracks using updated recording technology and orchestral backing by the WDR Radio Orchestra Cologne (who had performed the Turrican tribute Symphonic Shades for Huelsbeck). For such an undertaking, however, he would need fan support. Thus, a Kickstarter was created in April of 2012 to help fund the project.

And boy, did it get funded. Within it’s first week, over two-thirds of the project’s $75,000 requested budget had been secured through fan pledges. In the end, the Kickstarter had produced over 200% of it’s original goal, with a total pledged amount of $175,000. It had become one of the most successful Kickstarter drives in the crowd-funding site’s history at the time, and certainly meant Huelsbeck could achieve his dream and thensome.

And on November 26th, over a year and a half after the project’s successful funding, the Turrican Soundtrack Anthology was completed and released to its adoring fans.

The album is accompanied by a booklet (written by OSV’s own Audun Sorlie) detailing the adventure that has been the progression of the Turrican series’s music since its inception, and chronicling how the anthology came to be. It’s truly a fascinating read for those who want to know everything that went into the project from its start, including everyone involved in the undertaking such as the Symphonic Orchestra Series’ producer Thomas Böcker and Giana Sisters arranger Fabian Del Priore and even the involvement of Yuzo Koshiro, Vince DiCola.. It’s all worth the read and laid out better than I could hope to explain it.

The first three CDs of the album go through every track of the original games, Turrican, Turrican II: The Final Fight and Turrican 3: Payment Day (known on the Megadrive as Mega Turrican). Every track has been given an upgrade in every possible way, thanks to modern-day recording and arranging technology. Very little has has deviated from the compositions of the original tracks, save for tweaks and extensions that only work towards enhancing the music. The bass is deeper; the synths more vibrant, and only a stubborn nostalgic predisposition to the Amiga’s sound chip could possibly be the reason for any griping. My own deep ties to playing Turrican 2 on my family Amiga 1200 continues to draw me back to it’s own soundtrack, reliving my youth with each chord of each song. “The Wall” to this day remains my favorite track, but everything shines through with equal exception.

CD number one also features a medley from Vince Dicola, who if you grew up in the ’80s and ever watched Transformers: The Motion Picture should know very well. He lent his talent to the anthology, being one of the inspirations behind much of Huelsbeck’s work in music composition. His Transformers Medley really is just one more trip down memory lane and proves to be the perfect compliment to the rest of the anthology.

The fourth CD of the album features the entire Turrican medley performed at “East Meets West” concert in Cologne in 2012, and will make fans such as myself hard-pressed not to need need a tissue from the performance of the Orchestra Cologne. Additionally, Huelsbeck went beyond the scope of simply the original Amiga games, but also featured music from the the Super Turrican games SNES as well (mostly Super Turrican 2 in this case), which featured completely different music from their Amiga counterparts. This truly shows the level of dedication put forth to make this anthology as complete as it possibly could be.

I had a chance to do a quick interview with Chris Huelsbeck regarding the aftermath of the anthology’s completion.

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OSV: Now that the Turrican Soundtrack Anthology is finished, what turned out to be the hardest part to work on? Inversely, what has been the most rewarding?

CH: The hardest part was not one particular track or part, but the sheer size of the project. Not only are there over 80 studio-produced tracks on 4 full CDs, but also 190+ tracks of the original hardware recordings that had to be edited, mixed, mastered for the USB Stick. And besides the audio productions, all the logistics of the project have also been staggering. We had to keep track of nearly 2000 people to prepare the delivery of various things by email and the real shipment. The best part was of course to share the music with the fans, be it in the previews or now the digital downloads of the full album and the feedback that I and we as a team received..

OSV: Did any part of constructing the anthology take you by surprise or did something come about that you were not expecting?

CH: I found a new appreciation for some of my old compositions and the technical tricks that I used in the original TFMX Mod files. It helped me to rediscover and expand some of my skills as well.

OSV: What was it like for you having such notable names in the gaming and entertainment industries such as Yuzo Koshiro and Vince DiCola participating in the anthology?

CH: Vince DiCola and Yuzo Koshiro are two of my idols (all the way back from that era when I first worked on Turrican) and it was fantastic and an honor that I could work with them on this project.

OSV: Now that the digital release of the album is out, what has the fan response been from the backers of the Kickstarter?

CH: The response and feedback from the fans has been amazing and overwhelmingly positive. We could not have asked for a better reception.  Many fans are remarking at the quality of the new recordings and wonderful experience of being able to listen again to this music from their youth, that meant and still means so much to them.

OSV: Looking back on the Kickstarter itself and beyond, is there anything you wished you would have added or would have done differently in hindsight?

CH: I’ve learned a lot during the Kickstarter campaign and while working on the project itself, and there would certainly be things that I would try to do or plan better if I had known then what I know now. Most of it has to do with logistics and promising too much that wasn’t even really necessary – for example, offering a choice of T-Shirts turned out to be a mistake, one design would have done the trick too and would have saved us a lot of headaches.

OSV: Since this project has just about been completed, what are your plans for the near future?

CH: I think first I need a little break after this crazy time, but I’m of course also working on a few new game projects. I’m also looking forward to the next big thing and even though I have some cool ideas, I don’t know exactly yet which one will be tackled next.

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Overall, there’s not much more that could be said about the project that doesn’t speak for itself, and I could go into several pages-worth of dedication to dissecting the songs themselves and how they improve or detract from the original tracks. The bottom line is that this project was a rousing success and a fantastic use of fan love for an oldschool franchise, and a dedicated member of the original series’s creation, and bringing them together to create something wonderful. I remember upon hearing that a Kickstarter had been started to make an entire album of remastered Turrican music, and it was all headed by the composer of the original music himself, a small piece of my eight-year-old self let loose a cry of pure joy and it was all I could do not to completely empty my checking account towards helping make that concept a reality. Seems I wasn’t the only one either, and that is just a damn good feeling that I’m sure Mr. Huelsbeck can agree with me on.

If you weren’t lucky enough to catch the Kickstarter and get a piece of the project early-on, the entire Turrican Anthology Soundtrack is available for digital download on Chris Huelsbeck’s Bandcamp for $10 per CD. You can also buy the entire album at a special bundle price of $35 at the TSA shop. It’s worth every penny and has at the very least made this die-hard Turrican fan very happy to have grown up in the Amiga age.

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