[I was asked to Review the new album from Video Games Live, Video Games Live: Level 3, for this special edition of Twinfinite’s Endless Playlist]
Video Games Live is an award winning concert series that orchestrates famous video game music for the roaring public. Their combination of classic orchestra and multimedia presentation has made them the go-to video game symphony years before Nintendo went on tour with their Legend of Zelda concerts.
Recently, they went to Kickstarter to fund their new album, Video Games Live: Level 3. This new studio album would feature never before released arrangements from famous games such as Final Fantasy, Monkey Island, Silent Hill 2, and Shadow of the Colossus, among others. I got the chance to listen to the completed album, and I only hope that our support for quality video game music projects only increases with the advent of services like Kickstarter and Bandcamp.
The funding for the album really helped by slashing production costs for this wonderful album. The orchestra and chorus really make amazing contributions to tracks such as Skyrim‘s “Dragonborn Theme” and “Liberi Fatali” from Final Fantasy VIII. Honestly, I could just run down the entire track-list here and if I told you each one of them were amazing, that’d probably be enough to get any video game music fan interested. What really surprised me were some of the off-center choices the album’s made to include. There are your famous tracks from Final Fantasy and Zelda, but surprising tracks include music from games such as: Beyond Good & Evil, DotA, Shadow of the Colossus, and my favorite, an opera arrangement of the theme from Tetris you have to hear to believe.
The vocal work is especially a highlight whenever it appears on some of the most surprising tracks. The choral work appearing throughout the Journey track featured an especially amazing way to end a song that had been slowly building up since the beginning.
In their Kickstarter video, they promised to include tracks from the deeper cuts of video game music canon, and I can say Video Games Live delivered on their promise. Sure, you won’t find an obscure track from the niche title games only you and a handful of other people played, but they managed to find tracks often ignored from popular game covers (though video game music fans always surprise me with a cover of virtually any song I’m looking for).
Of course, any cover of “Theme of Laura” from Silent Hill 2 is going to be my favorite, naturally; but it was actually the more adventurous songs on the album that had me doing double-takes (or quadruple-listens, whatever). Music from World of Warcraft turned into a choral hymn that wouldn’t be out-of-place in a church, the amazingly grand spectacle that is the orchestration for Shadow of the Colossus, and, of course, the Tetris opera I mentioned earlier; these are the songs that makes the album more unique than anything that’s come before it.
The music industry, or at least the distribution mechanism, used to run with musicians bringing their songs to people in offices who would say “yes” or “no” to pressing the music into CDs for sale to the masses. Things have changed in the last ten years with the internet helping, and sometimes hurting, these musicians in being able to send their music directly to their fans. Video Games Live sought funding for exactly that. To produce a studio album to deliver directly to video game music lovers around the world, and it’s one that shouldn’t be missed.