Goon Review: Contra Soundtrack

(Submitted by His Goon-y Greatness, Mr. Andrew Peters…Much obliged, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxox)

Contra has the honor of being the first video game that left it’s opening screen impressed in my head. Everyone remembers the title card coming in from the right to the left as those few notes jingled and finally exploded when you pressed start (after frantically trying to enter the thirty lives code, of course). Immediately, you’re dropped into a jungle warzone, one that might remind you of Predator with the beat of the music synced perfectly with the action as you worked your way through HR Giger inspired levels and enemies.

Mondo’s recent release of Contra is one for the collection, without a doubt. There’s no considering it, if you’ve played the game or know anything about Nintendo, you need to grab this iconic soundtrack. Side A is the classic NES soundtrack you’ve come to know and love, starting with the aforementioned Title Card track and then creating a creepy mood with the Introduction before setting the action pace with the Area 1: Jungle track (I know, catchy track titles). This is the one we all know and love the most, I think, because of how many times you dropped into that beginning level when starting the game. Not only that, it also rocks more than most other NES tracks out there. My favorite track was always Area 6: Energy Zone which combines both the run and gun action and the creeping terror. Plus, that name is just perfectly ‘80s, it should have been a club somewhere.

 

I have to admit… I totally forgot this was an arcade game, but for a very good reason; not many people played it once the Nintendo version was out there. To be honest, the reason I don’t recall the arcade version is because I found the NES version to be superior in every way, especially with the music. This is one exceptionally rare cases where the Nintendo soundtrack is better than the arcade version. Yes, Contra’s NES music is better than its arcade counterpart. I know it’s hard to believe, but when you listen to Side B of the vinyl, which is the same tracks in the same order with the exception of Track 2: Introduction missing and Track 12: Ranking as a new addition, you will hear the difference. Now, one of these will work better for you and I’m sure for most of you it will be the Nintendo version. The arcade version is actually something more of a cleaner, perhaps a bit more clear Genesis version, what with a very metallic sound and tin clanks. You could argue that better represents the game, but for me, nothing will compare to the NES version.

With Mondo, the artwork is just as important as the actual soundtrack itself. Afterall, it’s all about presentation and Mondo usually always nails it. Usually. Eric Powell’s artwork on the cover is cool and kinda has a comic book style to it, showcasing the two heroes, Lance and Bill, albeit muted colors and to be honest, that’s the start of my disappointment with it. Contra is bright and colorful, full of Alien-esque creature designs and very little of that is present on the cover. Sure, the background behind the two muscle clad, gun toting protagonists shows a little bit of that, but there’s more negative space to be filled that should have been used with HR Giger imagery. It seems like halfway through creating an awesome cover, the artist ran out of time or just called it quits. Again, I’m not complaining about the quality, because I think it’s quite phenomenal, but underwhelming when you consider the source material.

The inside of the jacket is something that would jump at you out of your nightmares. Fold it open and the mother or queen, whatever it was called, dominates both sides and looking to be ready to jump out at you. I really like being able to see the sketchy pencil marks underneath the finished product, giving it a grittier look, but again, it’s just muted colors. Maybe I’m misremembering Contra, but the back cover shows maybe I’m not. That is more in line of what I’m talking about.

San Diego Comic Con goers had the option of getting an exclusive tri-color vinyl with red, orange and yellow, but personally I prefer the pressing that is available which is the classic blue and red. It represents the Player One and Player Two colors that dominated Nintendo games. It’s bright, vibrant and basic. It works so well.

I could go on forever about the Contra soundtrack, but then I would just be going in circles. For most of us that grew up with the arcade and Nintendo, this is one of the most definitive soundtracks to your childhood. I think it goes beyond playing into nostalgia… it’s just a kick-ass soundtrack that every collection needs.

Goon Review: Super Castlevania IV OST

(Submitted by our Happenin’ Ho-rror Ho-mie, Mr. Andrew J. Peters…Thanks, Music Manster! 🙂 xoxo)

Mondo continues the Castlevania soundtrack bloodline with Super Castlevania IV, which marks the game’s soundtrack first foray into the 16-bit era. While music on the Sega Genesis had a tin, metallic clink sound to it, the Super Nintendo was much more bombastic, energetic and honestly, more clear and able to emulate a more orchestral score. Aside from Symphony of the Night, Super Castlevania IV is my favorite game and coming off the 8-bit games, I remember this soundtrack very well and couldn’t wait to listen to it again.

Immediately, it did not disappoint. The memory of running home from school on a Friday night and heading to the video store, picking this game up and playing it with the step-father late at night (we were big into playing the right games at the right times). I remember the eerie music droning over a black screen, keeping you anticipating what you are about to experience, followed by the opening text crawl over fog to the opening of the game. Not only did the visuals set the mood for a very ominous playthrough, but the music really brings it altogether. Combined with the graphics, you know that this is going to be a spooky experience with some action and right from the start when the Theme of Simon Belmont slowly starts as you make your way inside the castle and upon entering, the game brightens and the music kicks into full gear. You get a rush and feel like the ultimate vampire killer.

I just wanted to illustrate a picture in your head about how impactful soundtracks are to a game, especially something like Castlevania. Now that it’s on the Super Nintendo, it’s much more grandiose, allowing it pack much more of a punch. This is a soundtrack that really showed off the SNES’ musical capabilities and was just as much of an experience as the gameplay, because honestly, I don’t think this game would have totally worked if the soundtrack, well, sucked. When there are cooldown moments in the game, The Cave stage’s song is very relaxed, but something about it says that danger could still be lurking around the corner. The Waterfall has a very dooming and ominous tone to it, like you’re already at your funeral. The boss fight tunes are incredibly hair raising and nearly give me an anxiety attacking, making it harder to control the game. It adds a certain panic to the already difficult boss fight. Even Bloody Tears makes a return with much more gothic organ vibe with electronic drums, making it an interesting combination and although it’s not my favorite iteration of the track, it’s still pretty cool. Overall, I would say that this soundtrack has a very Fabio Frizzi vibe going on, making it feel like if Fulci had made the game in his prime.

Moving down the bloodline, so to speak, Mondo has been slaying (okay, okay, I’ll stop with the vampire puns) their video game soundtrack releases with the Contra series, Silent Hill and, of course, Castlevania and since we are moving on down the line with the sequels in this particular series, we finally get what is arguably the best Castlevania game’s soundtrack, Super Castlevania IV. The artwork is very, erm, eye catching, but not in the sense that you would think. Now I don’t dislike the artwork, in fact I think it’s fantastic and has a very Metalocalypse aesthetic to it, but it doesn’t look or feel like something of Mondo’s caliber… or Castlevania. Going to box art of the game, it’s very action oriented and features creatures as well as some of the castle in the game. It screams what a Castlevania game should represent. I’m not really sure what to feel here. The image on the back is lot more in the direction of what you would expect from a Castlevania game and the inside of the jacket is the map (keeping with that tradition as with all the Castlevania soundtrack releases), but I feel like this artwork misses the point. Even had said all of that, keep in mind I do like it, but I just don’t feel it properly represents the game.

The record itself is more representative of the game, with a flat grey that reminds of the rocks the castle would be built from or the oppressive nature of the game, splattered with blood red. It’s simple and maybe some would say dull, but I like the simplicity of it. It says more without saying too much and by that I mean it doesn’t need loud or wild colors to look attractive. As I look at it, I can’t help but think of the violent Gothic Hammer horror clicks and the old black and white monster movies with spider-webs and bats. Mondo really did their job here or perhaps I’m just overthinking it.

Super Castlevania IV’s soundtrack is one prime example of just how important a soundtrack can be. It walks a fine line between chilling and action oriented, appealing to both the horror and action genres. Fans will be pleased with this two 12” 180 gram LP set, featuring all 29 tracks from the game. It’s exciting, it’s haunting and I can see folks playing it at Halloween parties instead of spooky noises soundtracks. Artwork aside, I feel like this one is a masterpiece that is needed for every horror or video game aficionado’s vinyl collection.

So, what’s next? Rondo of Blood (always loved that title)? Symphony of the Night? Fans are clamoring for what should be next and the series seems to be getting released in order, so I guess we will have to lay in our coffins and wait.

Goon Review: Silent Hill – Original Video Game Soundtrack LP

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)
Music and sound are equally important when it comes to any video game or movie, almost as much as visuals. Just about any John Carpenter film is a great example of a movie can really benefit and improve with an eerie soundtrack. It helps set the tone and amplify the mood while crawling under your skin and making its way to your brain where it will stick. The same can be said about one of the greatest survival horror games to make its debut on Playstation (where video game music really began to take off), Silent Hill from Konami. You know, back when they treated their properties with respect instead of trying to turn them all into Pachinko machines.

I can’t think of a more shining example of a soundtrack that captures the look and feel of the game it accompanies better than Silent Hill. The rustic, dried blood aesthetic is captured perfectly in sound by composer Akira Yamaoka that gives a dooming, oppressive feel to the overall weight of the game. Imagine the sound of old, worn down machinery, the banging of decaying, rusted metals with a piano that sounds like it’s been abandoned in an old house, covered in dust. That is the music of Silent Hill and it’s still chilling to the bone, even after eighteen years. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since the game was first released on Playstation. I remember keeping up to date with it through magazines, like Electronic Gaming Monthly and Playstation Monthly (it was cool to add “Monthly” to your magazine back then) and I was at a local video game store the day it was being released. Being in upstate New York, the store’s delivery was late because of the winter weather, but my mom was cool enough to let me wait around at the video store and finally when the game arrived, I bought it right off the truck (literally) ran home, played it and was spooked out of my mind. Looking back, the music had a lot to do with it. It repeated in my mind and as it looped in my head at night, it would be the soundtrack to all my dreams, good or bad.

The soundtrack has an overall vinyl type of quality to it. Like, it’s meant to be played in mono with a warmer sound, that sort of thing. Now that Mondo has been releasing the Contra and Castlevania soundtracks, both of which are 8-bit and 16-bit, we move onto 32-bit sound. This may not sound like a big deal, but we were moving away from computerized keyboard sounds and making a giant leap into being able to use actual instruments. Silent Hill makes full use of this, making an odd variety of hip-hop stylized drum and bass with piano and stringed instruments, mixing aforementioned old machinery and rusted metals. I can’t praise this soundtrack enough. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of and I mean that in the highest regard. Silent Hill was the first soundtrack to really stick in my head and give me chills. It kept me awake at night when I was younger and I’m glad it’s now available from Mondo on a 2XLP.

Of all the images you could use to represent Silent Hill, I’m sure most of us conjure up the images of the nurses, perhaps the school or even Harry Mason, the game’s protagonist, himself. Artist Sam Wolfe Connelly brilliantly uses the subtle image of Harry’s crashed jeep abandoned in a white void. It’s what brought Harry to Silent Hill and it’s the last thought of something that was supposed to keep you safe. The thought of leaving it means you are on your own in unfamiliar territory. To me, it captures the unknown fear you are expecting to encounter that the soundtrack perfectly captures. The inside image captures more of what you would expect upon exploring the hellish place, Silent Hill. A goat’s head on a woman’s body that is partially missing… I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but that can be said about most of Silent Hill (again, that’s a compliment). The discs themselves are a translucent grey with white splatter, perfectly representing the fog and the floating ashes. Each one also has a label of the cult’s triangle symbol.


Silent Hill has always had a remarkable soundtrack, probably some of the best and most memorable and Mondo’s vinyl release is the best way to listen to it and remember how the games use to terrorize you. There are times that the music sounds like it’s warping or wobbling and I honestly couldn’t tell if it were my records or if the soundtrack was intentionally doing that. It doesn’t take away from the listening experience, if anything it heightens it. After all these years, the original Silent Hill soundtrack is still able to raise the hairs on my neck.

#FBF: The “All’s Well That Criswell” Edition

(Submitted with all the vintage love by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks, freaky fiend! 🙂 xoxo)

Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future. You are interested in the unknown, the mysterious, the unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you the full story of what happened on that fateful record. We are bringing you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimony of the miserable souls who survived this terrifying ordeal. The incidents, the places! My friend, we cannot keep this a secret any longer! Let us punish the guilty! Let us reward the innocent! My friend, can your heart stand the shocking facts about The Legendary Criswell Predicts Your Incredible Future?!

I honestly can’t tell you if famed psychic/Plan 9 from Outer Space star The Amazing Criswell was a nutter, a charlatan, or a master showman. Armed with unwavering confidence, a mighty spit-curl, and a sequined suit, Criswell made incredible “predictions” in just about every form of media, but they usually had the same accuracy as a fortune teller machine on a boardwalk. Yes, he did predict that something terrible would stop President Kennedy from running for reelection in 1964… but he also predicted the 1999 “End of the World” by a black rainbow, the 1970 assassination of Castro by “a woman,” mass cannibalism, and the destruction of Denver by an amusement park turned deadly. He was questionable as a psychic, but he sure put on a show. In fact, the only thing I can tell you for certain about Criswell is that he was a highly entertaining personality.

The Legendary Criswell Predicts Your Incredible Future is a fascinating record because it really is just 44 minutes of non-stop predictions. Hearing his booming voice makes it even harder to determine just how sincere Criswell was. Horror fans will likely recognize that his “psychic” delivery is exactly the same as his delivery in the Ed Wood films he appeared in. If he was a carny-like showman, then his tenacity and theatricality should be praised. And If he truly believed he had powers,  he should be admired for honesty and boldness. Either way, Criswell was amazing.
I predict… you will click on the box below to hear The Amazing Criswell! 

Goon Review: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse Soundtrack

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Rock on, Ho-rror Ho-mies! 😉 xo)

Even though Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest wasn’t a hit with the fans, Konami still made a sequel, but decided to bring it back to its original roots and becoming more of the simple side-scrolling game that the first Castlevania was. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse wasn’t just a retread. Not only was it a prequel to the first game, taking place centuries before those events, it also offered the player the ability to switch between playable characters and also take branching paths during certain points in the game. That’s Konami for you. Well, the old Konami. Always thinking outside the box.

The music this time around was different, but still in the same spirit, if that makes sense. In Dracula’s Curse, the tone seems to be much darker and it lacks that poppy punch (that’s the best way that I can describe it) that Simon’s Quest had. I guess the idea was to make it seem more gothic horror, having a much more metallic tinge and slower pace. It certainly fits the image that would pop into your head when you think of Dracula; a dark, blue evening with a full moon reflecting on a thick fog that masks danger. However coming off of Simon’s Quest that arguably has the best score in the entire series, Dracula’s Curse seems to lack that action-hearted punch. Not to say that it’s bad or anything, I just enjoy Simon’s Quest more thoroughly. The soundtrack, not the game.

Mondo’s presentation of Dracula’s Curse, however, is not lacking. The original artwork from Sachin Teng is hypnotically eye catching, making your brain try and piece it all together. Another thing you’ll notice right away is that this soundtrack is spread across two 12″ 180 Gram LPs, one Famicom and the other NES. Both versions have the same 28 tracks (which, by the way, is amazing amount of tracks for an NES game), but once again just as with Simon’s Quest, the Famicom version has a much more rustic sound than the NES version and for this soundtrack, I actually prefer the Famicom version. I feel like it has a much more gothic horror and atmospheric sound and it fits what I feel the game was trying to accomplish. Having said that, I do like the NES version of Stage 01, Beginning and Stage 06, Demon Seed better. Both have a higher energy that their Famicom counterparts don’t seem to have and those are some jazzy, energetic tracks. Konami Kukeiha Club once again did a fantastic job capturing a nightmarish batch of tunes perfectly fitting for a Castlevania game.

The records themselves are really beautiful too. The vinyls I received are orange with some black splatter all over them with tinges of white or silver here and there. There is a variant for you collectors out there, disc one is Trevor Bronze and Alucard Black and disc two is Grant Maroon and Sypha Blue. I haven’t seen those for myself, but I can imagine they are quite a sight to behold.

There’s no better way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Castlevania series than with these Mondo soundtracks. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse goes for $30 and while the split colored version is sold out, the orange with black splatter is still available, so get it while it’s hot.