Tuesday, March 3, 2009

This Week on Audiosurf Radio – 3/3 – So You Like Guitar Hero Edition

He's really really good at Guitar Hero.  You can tell by how he barely looks like he's playing. Audiosurf’s main critics hold the game up to the mainstream standard for rhythm gaming: Guitar Hero. They complaining that its blocks don’t always match up with the lead instruments. Of course, because Audiosurf generates its tracks logarithmically, it’ll usually respond to more percussive elements like drums and bass. However, guitar-heavy tracks can still kick ass, and this week proves it.

In keeping with the foreign theme of previous weeks, two of our tracks come from the Italian metal act Revolution Republic. Their website doesn’t seem to do much other than play their songs and document their long-hair/shirtless aesthetic, so check out the album’s Jamendo, if not just because their info paragraph starts with “We are the Revolution Republic...and we play Rock'N'Roll!!!” Two more songs come from Haza, a Spanish group specializing in instrumental rock with a hint of electronica. Last but not least, there’s a fifth song that’s anything but metal: an acoustic blues guitar track similar by Jeff Wyatt that sounds similar to the work of Mike Marshall and Mark O’Connor. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.

Well, I’ve tried all five so read on for some knocking.


This song is pretty metal.  Whatever he's saying about his friends, it probably isn't nice. I think I can accurately describe Revolution Republic as an amalgamation of Alice in Chains, Slayer, and Monster Magnet (sans pretense). “My Friends” has a loose, aggressive feeling to it, in no small part to the opening pull-off-heavy riff that kicks in quite nicely after the opening gain knob swell. I think he’s singing in English, but I really have no clue. I’ve really given up on understanding these foreign acts. The syncopation in choruses alternates with some nice, terse drum fills that generate some good traffic. I’m a huge fan of their bassist. He leads a great section post-guitar solo that manages to lay a big fat groove on what started off as a pretty straightforward track. And that’s what this is: a straightforward rock ride with a good deal of traffic and a great bridge. Enjoy.

Gotta love bands who use parts of their name in their songs. I have no idea why, but on this track, they decided to sing verses in Italian and choruses in English. It may just be me, but the Italian makes it all sound extra sinister. But they could be singing about puppies and lilies for all I know. “Days of Revolution” really takes what they did well in “My Friends” and builds on it. After the initial riff statement, the bass comes thundering in and it sounds awesome. Plus, it brings a swath of well-synced traffic with it. The pre-chorus drum fills are frantic, calling forth tunnels and bursts of yellows and reds. The solo section, while uphill, has a great evolution – going from a Rush-like melody to a more aggressive section with some insane bass playing underneath. It feels like the song’s about to go off its rails – disconcerting considering you’re riding it on a track. The last downhill push is a final chorus, complete with mixed-language wailing.

This doesn't feel like a march, and I have no clue as to its relation to Arizona or weddings.  Weird. Thanks to the Steep song tag (seen in the title as [as-steep]), “Arizona Wedding March” is a great ride. It really is just Wyatt and his guitar, no vocals even. But don’t let that fool you, there’s plenty of ride here. All those bumps you see in the track are the result of an accomplished guitar player responding to the music as he plays it, pulling back the tempo on one note just to push it on the next. He alternates regularly between strumming and some intricate picking, which probably accounts for many of the shifts. Toss in the occasional slap to the instrument and you’re left thinking he’d only be hampered by a rhythm section. And with Wyatt on his own, the traffic syncs up with nothing but guitar – just what you Guitar Hero junkies want. I regularly make a case for the least obvious song worth riding, and this article’s no different. I’m definitely recommending you play this song.

Other selections
Oh, Haza. Let me try to put into words how you let me down. Your songs “Kastigo” and “Mundo Kabron” just feel lacking. Each song starts with a decent riff, but there just isn’t enough development. And if you’re going to do instrumental rock, there needs to be development. You can’t just let the riff loop and play some weird synth noise (which you do) and expect me to be hooked. The rides just feel monotonous. I’m not propelled by the music to navigate and collect this traffic. I could label this “Ambient Metal.” I could also label this boring.

Bonus Round
Though I feel I’ve found some decent tracks this week, I did want to plug a song I’ve been listening to a lot lately and recently discovered to be a sweet Audiosurf track. Get a hold of Hercules and Love Affair’s “Hercules’ Theme.” I’ll spare you the 800-word essay on why I’m obsessed with the album, but you should really ride this song. The groove is awesome - a little disco, a little jazz, and a lot of attitude. The final build of the song is a downhill section whose track seems to speed up uncontrollably. It’s a musical Splash Mountain. Give it a shot, try to best my score of 126k. It should still be somewhere on the leaderboards.

Author’s Note
All songs were played on the Pro difficulty using Eraser and Vegas characters. I’d try Double Vision but my brain can’t handle it.