Chip Music, Game Music, Indie Music, Reviews

MMMMMM (Review)

June 16, 2014 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook MMMMMM (Review)on Twitter

Back in 2010, Terry Cavanagh released a game titled VVVVVV, usually just pronounced “Vee”, for PC and Mac. The game is a 2D puzzle platformer that uses gravity reversal as its primary platforming mechanic. The game has seen release on several other platforms since and has earned a large following from the indie game fan base. Not only is the game engaging in its central mechanic, it’s also fairly difficult. The music of VVVVVV was composed by chiptune artist Magnus Pålsson, aka Souleye. If you’ve never heard the original soundtrack, fix that immediately. It’s easily some of the best indie chiptune music that’s been written in the past few years. Pålsson has also written music for a number of projects including Extreme Roadtrip, Drop Sort, and has even written an intro theme for Twitch caster MANvsGAME.

The original soundtrack, titled PPPPPP, has already received an arrange album in the form of PPPPPPowerup!, which featured arrangements by several indie composers and remix artists. This new album, titled MMMMMM, is a power metal re-imagining of the original soundtrack. This new work features a collaboration between Magnus Pålsson and music remix artist and composer Jules “FamilyJules7x” Conroy. As we covered recently on OSV, Conroy has been creating some impressive metal covers of videogame music for a few years on Youtube. His talent seems to have caught the attention of Pålsson, which has led to the creation of this new album. So how does this metal re-imagining of the music stack up against the original soundtrack? Read on to find out.

There’s a reason that I’ve been using the term “re-imagining” instead of “remix” or “arrange album” for this project. This album is not just an arrangement of the original tracks in the game. The music serves as an alternate version of the soundtrack that can be used in the game itself. If you buy the soundtrack directly from Souleye’s site, you get several bonuses which includes a mod file that lets you replace the original game music with these new metal versions. So in reality, MMMMMM is an alternate soundtrack just as much as it is an arrange album.

MMMMMM kicks off with the track “Prelude” giving us a nice build up into the kick-ass metal sound that fans of Jules Conroy will be familiar with. The following track “Presenting VVVVVV” surprisingly brings the energy levels down several notches. The track begins with a few familiar sound effects from the original game and continues with an acoustic guitar cover of the original “Presenting VVVVVV” track. Compared to the previous piece, this is a much more mellow and relaxing pace for the material. Once the track gets to the 1’30” mark, the arrangement takes off into more familiar electric guitar cover territory. It’s here where we really hear how well the original melodic material works when transferring to the metal genre. The memorable melodies of the original soundtrack translate perfectly to Conroy’s expressive lead guitar playing and really grabs the listener’s attention. The last minute of the track switches back to an acoustic arrangement, to end in a manner similar to how it started. I actually enjoy the changing up of styles within the tracks. It offers some variety to the music in terms of sound and its pacing.

For those of you looking for tracks that stick to a pure metal arrangement throughout, this album provides a hefty dose of that as well. Pieces like “Pushing Onwards,” “Passion for Exploring,” and “Potential for Anything” maintain an exciting and intense level of energy that never strays away from a melodic metal interpretation. Again, any of you who are familiar with Conroy’s previous videogame covers will instantly recognize his metal arrangement style. The source material is already highly energetic to begin with and the transfer from chiptune to to electric guitar and bass boosts it all to another level. My particular favorite of these tracks is “Potential for Anything” with a great number of rapid arpeggios on the lead guitar parts that really help boost the music’s momentum.

The final “official” track on this album is “Power Medley,” which is the original medley that FamilyJules7x arranged and performed on his Youtube channel. The piece is over 7 minutes long and covers several tracks from the PPPPPP album. These include “Power-Up,” “Predestined Fate,” and “Pushing Onwards.” This was the medley that inspired the collaboration for this entire project, and while I do miss having the visuals from the original video, it’s a nice inclusion on this album.

In addition to the ability to use this album to replace the game’s original soundtrack, there are some extra surprises on MMMMMM. Anyone who bought the original PPPPPP album from Souleye’s site may remember that he hid some extras on the soundtrack’s digital download. This album pulls a similar stunt. One of these bonuses for MMMMMM is the inclusion of six extra tracks. This gives the album a total of 19 tracks, rather than just the 13 that are listed on the store pages. I won’t give away what all of them are, but I will say that some of them include tracks that appear to be missing from the initial cover list. One of the interesting bonuses is the intro theme “Playing vs MAN,” the piece Souleye wrote for Twitch caster MANvsGAME’s videogame broadcast. That may seem like an odd inclusion, but considering that MAN, aka Jayson Love, has been a big supporter of game composers like Pålsson and Conroy, it doesn’t seem too out of place. As far as I know this is the only time that the piece has been commercially available for download, so that may have also been a contributing factor. In any case, it’s a nice little Easter egg included on the digital download.

My final verdict on MMMMMM is one of overwhelming approval. The music captures the original energy and spirit of the PPPPPP album and transitions it well into the metal genre. Jules Conroy’s arrangements all bring something new to the original tunes, while still staying true to the melodies and source material. The occasional use of acoustic guitar on a handful of tracks helps add some variety and contrast to the album’s sound, and the arrangements are great to listen to no matter what genre FamilyJules7x is implementing. The inclusion of bonus tracks and the ability to use this album’s music in the actual game makes for an even more enticing purchase. Fans of metal and the original soundtrack definitely need to check out this album. MMMMMM can be found and purchased on Souleye’s website or on Bandcamp.

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