Review Summary: Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Except beautifully remixed. Very high quality stuff here.
“Nothing beats the original,” as the old saying goes, is true. That’s why I intend to avoid remix albums: most remixes are uninspired and too much like the original to be worth anything. However, when you put your heart and soul into remaking the song with your added style while retaining the power and groove of the original song, it ends up being a wonderful masterpiece. That’s why I tend to enjoy remixes of songs from (older) classic video games: gamers/musicians part of the cult following will go over the top to create something magnificent. And that’s exactly what happens on this album.
Now OverClocked ReMix isn’t actually a “band,” so to speak. It’s a community, with several dedicated musicians who love what they do: play music. On top of that, they ask for no money at all when the album is released. Nada. $0. No contracts, no deadlines, so nothing is forced here. They can take all the time they want honing the songs, making them the best sounding they possibly can, with only their dedication and songwriting in mind. This particular album features 15 different people, and most only work on one song. This also shows the huge genre diversity across the album, as each person featured put their own twist on the original.
DO NOT listen to this album expecting all rock music. Doing so will only lower the replay value of the album. I made the same mistake, and it took months to realize the emotion put into the remixed songs. As said before, several genres are explored throughout the album. About half the songs are computer program-generated (Fruity Loops). This should not turn you off to the album! The first actual song, The Wait is Over
, does not try to hide this, but the composition more than makes it up. An effect that reminds you of the tropics is used to present the main melody, with string orchestration in the background. The next song, Divided from Grace
, is very similar to the previous song, but makes use of a wider variety of instruments, including an acoustic guitar, with a latin-like drum beat in the background. The orchestra is stronger and plays the melody every once in a while, making good use of everything. The song ends with a great acoustic guitar solo and then fades out into a techno-ish beat. Three Ring Nightfall
is similar to the other 2 songs, but drops the tropical-like beats. Instead, you get carnival music by a xylophone, which creates a pretty groovy melody. Before the Storm
is probably my favorite of the electronic-like music here, which is soothing and catchy at the same time. The only jazz-based song, Elevator Music
, is what it’s called, but it still a great song. The electronic saxophone takes the melody here, and gets into a nice little groove with the drums. Finally, Knuckleduster
is very unique, as it’s the only remix with vocals. They are very reminiscent of Kurt Cobain, which may be a good or bad thing for different people.
Classical music makes up a decent chunk of this album: there are two very different piano solo songs, and two full orchestra songs. Every single one of these songs are worth listens. That Freezing Feeling
starts off with powerful, accented piano chords, and then slows down into a calmer mood for the rest of the song. Beneath the Ashes
features some very emotional piano, and has a very sad feel to it. The Secluded Stronghold
is the first orchestrated piece on here, and starts a little slow, but breaks into a happier, epic brass section about 30 seconds in. Well-placed percussion beats are added in the middle, which gives the music a little latin feel to it. The next one, Breathtaking Vision
is easily the best classical remix here, it’s very powerful and uplifting the entire time. Despite their only being four classical remixes here, every single one is well-composed and worth listening to, unlike the generated ones above.
Straight out rock is also present on the album, although only heard in two of the songs, minus the 24 second album opener. Walk on Water
reminds me a lot of a song Satriani would write, as it has kind of a surf-rock feel to it along with Satriani’s well written solos. Dead Batteries
is almost a funk song, the slap bass on here is crazy! The guitars and drums are much more rock-oriented, which drive the song. Keyboards and guitar trade off the main melody with the bass pounding away in the background.
Finally, there are four metal songs here, all of which are very high energy, and are all excellent songs. The guitar work in the songs are fantastic, and do great justice to the original, 16-bit wonder. Metalheads rejoice: you will love these. If you’ve listened to the band Powerglove
(a metal band that covers video game songs) before, these songs are definitely for you. Live at the Sandopolis
starts off with nu-metal chugging, but leads into a cool, Egyptian-like guitar solo. Because of the riffing, this is probably the heaviest song off the CD. Scrambled Eggman
and Malicious Fingers
are both very thrashy tracks, with a straightforward thrash drum beat throughout the songs and strong soloing as usual. Malicious Fingers
, however, has keyboards throughout, which deepen the sound even more. The Doomsday
is probably the most frantic of the metal songs, and features pretty technical riffing compared to the others. The solos during the second half of the song are top notch, and are one of my favorite sections on the CD. The metal songs here have really helped bring the remix alive, and give the remix CD as a whole a good bang.
Unfortunately, some electronic songs are the key weakness in this remix album not getting a perfect score. On top of that, those two songs just happen to be the ones that end both discs. Robotnik Radio
and So Long and Thanks for All the…
are simply weaker compositions overall: they drag a lot and end up being boring, amplified even more due to the bad song placement. Luckily, these are very minor, and the other songs make up for these little weaknesses by far. Another key weakness was song placement. Seriously, all the metal songs ended up on the second CD, almost the entity of the first CD are electronic songs and 3 of the 4 classical remixes are back-to-back. I know the order is reflecting the stage sequence in the game, but album playthroughs will seem tedious, despite all the great songs, due to the sudden genre switches.
To sum it up, the musicians of the OverClocked ReMix community did a wonderful job writing and producing the songs. A vast majority of the remixes here are worthwhile listens, and do the originals justice. I will not recommend tracks. Instead, I will direct you to their website (listed at the bottom), to download the album (all their albums if you want) for free via torrent. An absolute must if you’re a fan of remixed video game music and/or Sonic 3 & Knuckles, and worth checking out for everyone else.