Greetings and salutations chiptunes compatriots. What are you up to this weekend? Are you on your way to Otakon, maybe to check out some anime as well as the Benjamin Briggs‘ set yesterday? Or maybe you’re heading down to Orlando Nerd Fest, where you can listen to…Jesus, almost literally everyone you’d ever want to listen to as a videogame nerd? Or MAYBE you’re in Indiana for Little Sound Assembly? Or MAY- you know what, it doesn’t matter. Maybe you’re traveling around, maybe you’re not. But you know what you definitely are? In need of some new tunes to make you swoon, and some tunes to melt your face, and BOY HOWDY do I have some news for you: Inverse Phase and Rainbowdragoneyes have BOTH put out albums this week, so I hope you’ve prepared yourself, because whether you need a cruisin’ playlist or just one to jam out at home, you’re covered. Let’s get down to it, shall we?
Eric Brown, AKA The Lost Protoman AKA Most Likely To Be a Ronan The Accuser Cosplayer AKA Rainbowdragoneyes is one of those lucky punks who we all wish we could be. He started off as a guy who just loved metal in the middle of the American South, and now he’s going on tour with Nekrogoblikon, Alestorm, AND some of that is in Canada and the UK AND he just dropped a new album? How is he even a real person?
Okay. You know what, maybe I got a little ahead of myself. Let’s try this again: So, there’s a new Rainbowdragoneyes album out, released to herald in the Reign of Our Lord and Destroyer’s epic tour across Canada and America with Nekrogoblikon and Swashbuckle (of which he is also a part), immediately followed by his European tour with Alestorm, also featuring Lagerstein and Red Rum. If you can go to one of those shows, I highly recommend it – but if you can’t. then you’re stuck with just listening to the album – which, by the way, is like saying “Well, if you can’t visit the island made entirely of cake, you’re just stuck with an entire house made of cake.” What I mean is, it’s goddamn sweet, and it’ll probably kill you either way.
Honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting when I turned this album on. “Sure,” I thought, “It’ll be metal, I like metal. I liked that Alestorm cover he did a while back, this album will probably be pretty good.” I was woefully underprepared. This album is amazing. This album is face-melting – seriously, I hope you bought the jumbo-pack of replacement faces, because you’re just gonna keep getting them melted off. Eric said that the chippy bits on this album are about 50-50 between NES and Gameboy, which is cool, but what he failed to mention is all the other stuff he’s got in there. I seriously have trouble fathoming that this is all just him – from the extreme amount of instrument layering, to the different voices he does in the songs, he’s a one-man metal orchestra.
Something I really enjoy about ‘The Secret Mirror’ is the subtle humor that sneaks into the lyrics. This is obviously one of those epic metal albums, in the vein of Blind Guardian or Kamelot (if you dialed up the blackness of the metal to 11), and so you have these sweeping fantasy lyrics about slaughtering countless hordes and having your blade drink their blood, but you also get lines like:
“GLORY, EMPIRE OF ENDLESS GLORY
IS A WONDERFUL TRUE STORY
BEGINNING WITH YOU
AND THEN IT GETS PRETTY GORY.”
I don’t know, maybe I just have a really warped sense of humor, but the way Eric delivers the lines and how he jumps back and forth from “normal singing voice” to “extreme demon black metal voice” just lightens the tone of the album slightly enough where you don’t feel the need to go out and slaughter a village afterwards. (I mean, you might do it anyway, but you won’t be compelled to.)
What’s really cool is seeing the songs break back and forth seamlessly between lighter, more standard “Gameboy Music” fare and much more brütal metal, both in terms of actual instrumentation in the songs but also the aforementioned vocals. And let’s not even get me started on the percussion – longtime readers know I’m a sucker for well-produced percussion, and the end of ‘Empire Ov Endless Glory’ and the final track on the album are just beautiful. If I had to pick a favorite song on this album, though, it’s gotta be ‘Fortress Ov Frost.” It’s a perfect blend of the musicianship and storytelling you should love and have come to expect from Rainbowdragoneyes.
This is not hyperbole when I say there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this album, even if you’re just a weirdo like me who likes to pick apart how songs are made. In fact, if I were to continue to hash this out for another few paragraphs…
‘Chiplust: Chiptunes To Make You Chipswoon’ is Inverse Phase’s newest batch of popular songs covered using the NES, C64 and Atari soundchips. Instead of, say, having the theme of these covers be one band, or just assorted nerd anthems, they are instead “[his] tribute collection to songs about love, lust, and other stories.” And the songs do seem to run the gamut on relationship emotions. I guess you might say that if you’re looking for a song for a particular subset of romantic emotions, Inverse Phase’s got you…covered.
Guys? Guys, come back. The pun wasn’t that bad.
Okay. So there’s a healthy smattering of the 80’s, 90’s and today on ‘Chiplust,’ which I think is perfect – because in my experience, there’s three things that Brendan Becker knows best: trackers, 80’s and 90’s rock, and 2000’s pop hits. All of these things are present, along with a healthy helping of the naming puns you’ve probably come to expect from Inverse Phase cover albums. Because Becker is a
masochist purist masochist, some of these songs were made with the POKEY chip, which is why much of this album is such a strange accomplishment, and why it must have been facegrindingly hard to pull off. If you’ve ever attended a convention (or festival) where Brendan does one of his “Showcase of Soundchips” panels, or if you just really love Atari music for some reason, you’ll know that the POKEY isn’t a chip that actually plays full octaves – you get this weird, not quite pentatonic, not quite minor, God knows what scale that it plays, which USUALLY means that making music on it not composed for it is painful, at best. Brendan told me he struggled in parts (some of these are more evident, like in the ‘Take On Me’ cover), but all in all, if there was anyone who knew how to make a chip sound like it’s doing what it can’t, it’s Inverse Phase.
Some particular highlights to this album include the parody lyrics to the Cee Lo Green cover hidden in the link (and presumably in the liner notes) for the song on Bandcamp:
“I SEE YOU LAYING AROUND WITH THE GAME I LOATHE
AND I’M LIKE.. F#c% YOU! OOH OOH OOH
I GUESS THE RAM IN MY SOCKETS WASN’T ENOUGH
SO REALLY, F^!# YOU! AND UH F&)= HER TOO”
There’s also the fact that a number of songs he’s been playing live for a while get a real album release, such as A_Rival’s ‘8bit Pimp’ cover, and being able to probably be the only person in existence to put The Cure and brentalfloss on the same album. Seriously, that’s not a thing I ever thought I’d say. And detuning be damned, the ‘Take On Me’ cover is one of the catchiest songs on the whole album. While some of these songs might be ones you know by heart, the ol’ Inverse Phase razzle dazzle spices them up to where you’re definitely getting something different than just turning on the radio.
If you’d like to get a copy of the album, you could go to Bandcamp, sure. Bandcamp’s cool. But if you’re at Otakon this weekend, you’re in luck! There’s an Inverse Phase booth to be found, and upon finding it, you may trade your American dollarbucks for as many physical copies of the album as you can pay for! Because physical media ain’t dead yet, damnit.You can get Inverse Phase to sign it, and get him to tell you fun stories about “chipping out with your bits out.” Likewise, if you’re at any of Rainbowdragoneyes’ events, he’s got cassettes for sale! Because remember kids, you’re not a REAL chiptune artist until you make people use outdated or clunky hardware to listen to your music! I, of course, only compose music for the laser cutter.*
That’s all folks! Be safe out there this weekend. And both of these albums are out on Bandcamp, so there’s no excuse not to go get ’em, kids!
*I am so joking. Please buy these physical copies of their albums. Don’t kill physical media.