MDb Review : Shinesparkers Presents: Harmony of a Hunter : By CapCom


Editor: Darren Kerwin
Label: Shinesparkers
Item #: N/A
Price: $15/FREE US
Release Date: August 7, 2011

Track Listing:

Disc One

1 In the Beginning (Mercury Adept)
2 Danger in Old Tourian (DoctorM64)
3 Earthroot (VikingGuitar)
4 Bioluminescence (Theophany)
5 Infectious Fear (The Fishhead)
6 Desperation (Mozzaratti)
7 Into the Green World (Sam Dillard)
8 Leader's Lair (Prophetik)
9 The Caves of Brinstar (AriesT)
10 Ashes to Ashes (zircon)
11 Kraid's Campfire Ballad (Martenson/Bjorkeback)
12 Cave Dweller (Prophetik)
13 The Mission's Briefing (AriesT)
14 Metroid Legacy (Omni-Psyence)
15 MQ2 (Stemage & Chunkstyle)
16 Mission Complete (Sam Dillard)
17 Metroid Medley (Derris-Kharlan)

Disc Two

1 Parasite X (Mazedude)
2 Echoes in Eternity (The Fishhead)
3 Frozen Utopia (Mesmonium)
4 Lore Hunter (Darkesword)
5 Hostile Shadows (Mozzaratti)
6 Melting Sun (Pyro Paper Planes)
7 Solitude (zircon & C-GPO)
8 Corrupt Beginnings (George R. Powell)
9 Path of Ruin (Darkesword)
10 Entering a New World (AriesT)
11 The Adventure Continues (The Fishhead)
12 Thunder Shooter (Chernaboque & VikingGuitar)
13 Symbol of the Ancients (AriesT)
14 Lone Star (Pyro Paper Planes)
15 Omega Cannon (VikingGuitar)
16 In the End... (Mercury Adept)
17 The Crimson Depths (Sam Dillard)
18 Phazon Corruption (Video Game Music Choir)
19 What's Past is Prologue (Theophany)

Harmony of a Hunter is an amazing Metroid remix album conceived by Darren Kerwin, webmaster of Shinesparkers.net. Harmony features music from dozens of famous videogame music remixers and Darkesword, Metroid Metal, Sam Dillard, and VikingGuitar. There's also breathtaking album art by Nate "FoxxDragon" Horsfall, who also did the Contra 4: Rocked ‘n Loaded cover. Through Darren's persistence and some incredible work by everyone involved, Shinesparkers has been able to make any Metroid fan's dream come true and the first major Metroid collaborative project since Relics of the Chozo. With some of the absolute best Metroid arranges ever composed, it is a fine tribute to Metroid's 25th Anniversary, and well-worth the download.

Two major trends in Harmony are range of material and experimentation. Harmony contains just about every favorite track from each game in the series, covering the NES Metroid to Metroid: Other M and, as a pleasant surprise, "What's Past is Prologue", the soundtrack to the Metroid: Other M commercial. Some of this material, such as the Metroid Queen fight and Metroid Prime Hunters, simply has never been covered before, and old favorites such as "Kraid" and "VS. Ridley" have been given fresh new sounds. Each tracks is done in a distinct style, from Viking metal to trance, orchestration to chiptune, and piano to acapella.

Having such a rich soundscape makes each piece a surprise, but can also take the listener off-guard. Just as Zebes is a maze of hidden chambers with the unexpected behind every door, so too does Harmony find each track an unfathomed grotto that can be wonderful, terrifying, or revolting, with the alien in these pieces requires multiple listens before the piece can become familiar. For instance, I initially hated "Metroid Legacy" for its tremulous off-key warbles punctuated by shotgun blasts of percussion, finding it to be far too divorced from the traditional soul of the source material. However, the techno-warbles and electronic chirps have secretly woven a silicon cocoon like the walls of the Mother Brain's Tourian, and I now hold it in higher regard. Likewise, Metroid Metal's "MQ2" is simply far too intense to ingest in a single bite, its complexity and animal vitality best consumed over several meals. Someone once said that every song you hear is initially alien, and Hunters takes some getting used to before you can fully embrace it.

Still, the experimental quality of the work is incredible, continuously recharting the horizons of Metroid's aural topography. "Leader's Lair" is an incredible hallucinatory trip through Ridley's witch doctor shop, with rattling bones, wooden charms, and trance-induced throat-singing, overshadowed by ominous breathing. The flute, who's irritating presence is impossible to track down through stereo reverb, fully underscores the work's similarities to Hirokazu Tanaka's EarthBound music, particularly the monkey cave. Likewise, "Cave Dweller" is a fresh imagining of Ridley as a pharaoh with Egyptian mummy techno-rock that recolors the original piece in exotic musical shades, like a photograph's negative. While these pieces might be too experimental for some, I find the work absolutely breathtaking and would love to see an entire album of this material.

Harmony is divided into two discs, the first featuring work of the 2D games, the second covering the Prime series and Metroid: Other M. Disc One opens with a lilting piano arrange of Metroid's title theme, and the cold, twinkling stars of space before settling into the depths of Zebes with a trance version of "Space Pirates Appear" seemingly taken straight out of Metroid Prime 3. VikingGuitar's "Earthroot" rivals Metroid Metal's epic Brinstar arrange, channeling raw emotions of warrior rage with a choral line ripped from the SNES original and infused with a valkyrie's heart. The true star of this album, however, the masterful "Into the Green World", is the absolute best remix of Green Brinstar ever conceived and raises quality standards across the board. Sam Dillard takes us on a breathtaking dive into his techno-orchestral jungle, a lush biodiversity of instruments from fragile piano to blossoming choir, primeval throat-singing, and heroic brass, each second pure magic. This is quite simply the type of soundtrack fans expect out of a next-gen Metroid. Dillard also produced the incomparable "Ending Suite", as well as "The Crimson Depths" on Disc Two. The disc also contains a twisted gypsy acoustic guitar arranged "Kraid's Campfire Ballad" by Sebastian Martensson, featuring a live accordion played by Kristin Bjorkeback and is one of the highest-quality recordings on the album. Derris-Kharlan rounds out the album with a bonus ten-minute arrange recasting the soundtrack in chiptune gold. Here you'll find the main theme from Metroid II that was sadly missing from the album proper.

Disc Two opens with the experimental "Parasite X", a techno-jazz fusion of "VS. Parasite Queen" by Mazedude that defies all attempts at classification. Other Prime pieces gain boosts in aural quality and instrumentation, such as the smooth jazz of Mesmonium's "Frozen Utopia" and zircon & C-GPO's poignant "Solitude", which captures the emotions of Transfuse's "One Girl" in Tallon Overworld's rain. Darkesword also presents two pieces, his best work in "Path of Ruin", a smooth synthetic jazz jaunt through the Chozo's lost utopia, where the Tallon sun beats down on cracked rocks and forgotten idols in warm saxophone and sawtooth wave. There are also three wonderful, minimalistic piano works, Pyro Paper Planes' "Melting Sun" with its tragic portrait of Rundas and "Lone Star", a passionate etude to the Chozo's legacy, and Mercury Adept recreated the piano theme to Other M. There's even some fan service for Sylux in "Thunder Shooter", where Chernabogue combines his synths with VikingGuitar's axe for some oldschool Alymbic beatdown. My favorite piece from Disc Two, however, is Mozzaratti's "Hostile Shadows", a tour de force covering every battle theme from Metroid Prime 2, a tight weaving of bleeding guitar and synth orchestra, with guitar grates clearly audible in crystal clarity. The nearly seven minute-long piece rocks us through an explosive meet-and-greet of Dark Aether's toughest denizens, and the arrangement is so cleanly polished and distinct it should really be considered an original work.

While Harmony of a Hunter is a massive undertaking, it is not quite the ultimate Metroid arrange album I'd envisioned. While some of the more experimental work can be off-putting, there are far too many pieces that lack the polish of a true masterpiece, though this can be excused, considering how it was produced in less than seven months. Overall, Harmony of a Hunter is a truly exceptional compilation that is bound to serve as a model for other collaborative albums and a fitting soundtrack to Samus' birthday bash. Let's hope many of the mixers return in the future to give us more Metroid love, as this album has demonstrated there is far more terrain to explore in what is one of the most fascinating soundscapes of the videogame world.