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Monday, September 29, 2014

Koji Kondo -- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Hyrule Symphony

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Symphony is a bit of a misnomer. This is Zelda music played almost exclusively by a string quartet with a few other instrumental flourishes (including what sounds like an actual Ocarina). With that out of the way, this disc is sublime. If you are a Zelda fan in the least, I don't see any way that you don't enjoy this. I mean, it's Zelda music played by well-arranged strings! C'mon, man!
Also, it's out of print, so feel free to download it with a healthy conscience...for free!

1999 SM Records Ltd.
1. Title 4:03
2. Kokiri Forest 2:10
3. Hyrule Field 3:47
4. Hyrule Castle 2:10
5. Lon Lon Ranch 3:26
6. Kakariko Village 3:06
7. Death Mountain 2:58
8. Zora's Domain 3:41
9. Gerudo Valley 4:34
10. Ganondorf 1:06
11. Princess Zelda 3:05
12. Ocarina Medley 3:52
13. The Legend of Zelda Medley 4:48

Friday, September 26, 2014

Koji Kondo (A Tribute)

A few months ago, I broke down the large majority of John Williams' life's work. Williams provided the soundtrack to my youth, and possibly the youth of hundreds of millions of others. So did Koji Kondo. While Williams is as household a name as a composer can be, Kondo's is a bit more obscure. His music is not.

Anyone American who breathed air in the 80's and wasn't geriatric at the time knows this music. Not to get all Synesthesia about it, but it tastes just like a summer afternoon, and I don't want to go to bed. Kondo's music for Super Mario Bros. made me beg my parents again and again and again to get me a Nintendo. Yes, Super Mario Bros.' gameplay is awesome, but that theme song... I'll never forget the greatest Christmas ever.
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As much as I couldn't wait to slam my head into question-marked bricks to grab the yummy mushrooms inside, I couldn't wait to hear Koji Kondo's music. Sorry, tetherball.
Kondo's work for Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3 were also excellent, as well as his work on the Super Nintendo's Mario games. Kondo also helped usher in the era of 3-D gaming, with his work on Super Mario 64. Kondo's compositions managed to make this new dimension safe and familiar, while at the same time introducing new, exotic textures and sounds, absorbing the player into Mario's world all the more.

Perhaps Kondo's crowning achievement, though, is his work on The Legend of Zelda series. His Zelda overworld theme is just as hummable as his Mario theme. His music in the Legend of Zelda series transports the player to a fantasy land, even when that land was visually composed of only a few polygons. Kondo's final solo work, the soundtrack for the Nintendo 64's The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, arguably the finest game ever created, is perfect. Kondo's expansive sonic palette for the game, even with the Nintendo 64's limited soundchip, stands the test of time as one of the most epic ever created. Finding a Gold Cartridge edition of Ocarina of Time is worth it just to play through the Tolkienesque Fire Temple with Kondo's haunting original theme billowing in the background (the theme, due to a controversy over its choral chanting, was removed in later versions of the game).

After Ocarina, Kondo took on heavier responsibilities in Nintendo's expanding sound department, and has since only contributed to game soundtracks, never again composing a complete work. This is a shame, as Kondo's genius is sorely missed in a world of repetitive, militaristic orchestrations, and quaint, whimsical fluff. Still, fans always have Kondo's masterwork, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past to return to again and again. Like an eternal sunset on an ancient landscape, Kondo's work on this 21-year old Super Nintendo conjures...I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I'm just trying to say that this music stimulates the imagination like no other, and may be the most magical video game soundtrack of all time. The ending theme is so good, I'm still not sure if it's real.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Killswitch Engage -- Disarm the Descent

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Killswitch Engage's sixth album, Disarm the Descent, features the band reunited with their original frontman, Jesse Leach. After three albums of work with the band, vocalist, Howard Jones, had to leave because of personal illness. The band turned to Leach to fill Jones' formidable shoes...after Jones had already filled his. This move pays off, as Disarm the Descent displays a re-energized band (even the guitar solos sound faster), even if Killswitch Engage aren't doing anything differently. Outside of the scream-less ballad, "Always," and some stunning blast beats on "The Call," this is the same melodic metalcore, with the same basic song structures, and the same positive, vaguely spiritual lyrics as Killswitch Engage's past albums. Still, few bands are making this particular style of music anywhere near as well as Killswitch, and Killswitch sound extremely pleased to be making it. These factors give Disarm the Descent a freshness lacking in Killswitch's peer's work. Hope you're cool with a double possessive. Here are some happy dudes.

2013 Roadrunner
1. The Hell in Me 2:57
2. Beyond the Flames 2:53
3. The New Awakening 3:30
4. In Due Time 3:18
5. A Tribute to the Fallen 4:02
6. Turning Point 3:12
7. All We Have 3:20
8. You Don't Bleed for Me 3:20
9. The Call 2:50
10. No End in Sight 3:29
11. Always 4:33
12. Time Will Not Remain 3:13

Monday, September 22, 2014

Killswitch Engage -- The End of Heartache

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A decade ago, every other touring band was not a metalcore band (metalcore combines metal with hardcore), and after a decade of every other touring band being a metalcore band, every other touring band is again not a metalcore band. Killswitch Engage released two albums before 2004's The End of Heartache, but The End of Heartache, featuring new vocalist, Howard Jones, is the band's breakout album. Around the same time, screamo was huge, as bands like Underoath found huge success by combining their screaming vocals with a guy (always with asymmetrical hair covering one eye) who sang like a princess. Killswitch Engage, considerably heavier than any of the "screamo" bands of the time, matched their screaming vocals with singing, as well: Man-singing. Howard Jones sounds like he can punch off your face whether he is shredding his throat for Killswitch Engage, or belting out notes. The band backing him write a bunch of driving, energetic, heavy songs that also feature slick melodic moments, and sweet guitar solos. The End of Heartache sounded fresh in 2004 (so fresh, the band essentially re-made it, twice), and it stills sounds good today. Maybe that's why Killswitch Engage are still going strong today, while all the screamo bands have either broken up, or splintered into folk acts...while that's cool.

2004 Roadrunner
1. A Bid Farewell 3:55
2. Take This Oath 3:46
3. When Darkness Falls 3:52
4. Rose of Sharyn 3:36
5. Inhale 1:15
6. Breathe Life 3:18
7. The End of Heartache 4:58
8. Declaration 3:01
9. World Ablaze 5:00
10. And Embers Rise 1:11
11. Wasted Sacrifice 4:18
12. Hope Is... 4:21

Saturday, September 20, 2014


In just three months, the Nicsperiment will be ten years old! That's older than some of the kids in my engineering courses! We're also closing in on 1000 posts, but that's a milestone that will likely only be hit in good old 2015. I love this blog! Ten years! That's nuts!

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Monday, September 15, 2014

See You In a Week

Or maybe Friday. I have three tests this week, and can thus, not tell where I end and school begins. It's definitely easier in your 20's. Here is one of my favorite live recordings ever. Five guys in a room in awe of the sounds they are creating.  So good, at the end Thom Yorke asks if they can do it again.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Goodbye, Kent Reviews

I spent the entire summer writing you, as I listened to Kent's sweet, sweet catalogue over and over again. What's that, spell-check? Catalogue isn't a word? HOW DARE YOU QUESTION ME!!!
Seriously, Kent is a great band. If I encouraged just one person who had never heard them to check them out, this whole "Every Album I Own" review series has been worth it. It's been worth it anyway, just because of how much it has enriched me. Like Riboflavin.