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Metroid Metal - "Varia Suite" (CD)

Metroid Metal - "Varia Suite" CD cover image

"Varia Suite" track listing:

1. Prelude (SM)
2. Lower Norfair (SM)
3. Brinstar (NES)
4. Item Room (NES)
5. Item Collect (NES)
6. Kraid (NES)
7. Ridley (NES)
8. Phendrana Drifts (MP)
9. Boss Medley (SM)
10. The Tunnel (M2)
11. Space Pirates (MP)
12. Maridia/Escape (SM-NES)
13. Ending (NES)
14. Theme (NES)

Reviewed by on September 7, 2009

"Though the music is just covers, the band creates their own spin on the originals by adding parts and sections to the music."

The band Metroid Metal is exactly that: a band covering the music from the video game Metroid with a metal arrangement. The project started originally with Grant “Stemage” Henry, who would record his guitar parts along with a drum machine. The recordings sounded great even back then, but after teaming up with other musicians for a live show, Henry has released an album with his live band.

Though I have only played two Metroid games, the original for the Nintendo and Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo, I still find the songs well arranged, played and delivered. Though the music is just covers, the band creates their own spin on the originals by adding parts and sections to the music. For example, in the cover of “Brinstar” from the original Metroid, the band adds a new dimension to the music. The band syncopates the original rhythm, which creates this need to go insane. In fact, there are a bunch of places in the album that deserves rocking out to. I’m sure if this was put on for a metal head who didn’t know the music, they’ll be shocked to learn it was video game music.

Another interesting song is their cover of Metroid Prime’s “Space Pirates” theme. The original was more eerie and synth based. Their cover version starts with about a minute of the same eerie feel as the original and then you wet yourself, as the heavy guitars come in power chording their way into your heart. At this point, the double bass and tremolo picked guitar lines rip out your heart and then the melodic music afterward symbolizing the mourning of your death, which will only last a few seconds as this song picks up to find it’s next victim.

Probably the most drastic change from the original is the “Item Room” theme from the original Metroid. This theme was originally just one lonely guitar line. It has been converted entirely with drums by Kevin “Cheddar” Lawrence (Yes Mayhem), guitars from Dan “danimal” Behrens (Arm Cannon), Henry (Stemage), and Micheal Molnar (Temp Sound Solutions), and bass from Dan “chunkstyle” Taylor (Yes Mayhem).

The song starts with a single guitar and then kicks in with a Meshuggah vibe, as the rhythm guitars are very abrupt. The next change is power chords underneath the line. Throughout the whole song, there is distorted spoken word vocals, which are supposedly reading the story from the manual of the game, adding an interesting character to the music. I only wish that the band did more vocal work on the album. If this band were to write originals, this is pretty close to what it would sound like.

Overall, the band delivers an album that will stand up to original metal bands in most people’s playlists. Compared to many other video game cover bands, which prefer to show off their musicianship instead of writing good songs, Metroid Metal has found a good balance between staying true to the original music and displaying their own talents in “Varia Suite.” More cover bands should do this with songs. All metal heads, especially those who have played any of the Metroid games, should definitely pick up this album.

Highs: Great production and arrangement of video game music in a metal setting.

Lows: Lack of vocals can make music less interesting for some and the guitars could be heavier.

Bottom line: Catchy and nostalgic melodies of the Metroid video game series brought to new life in progressive instrumental metal.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)