Review Summary: A mostly successful attempt at blending novelty and substance.
This may seem like a dorky thing to say, but I've always had a sort of fascination with video game music. For the most part, it's something that you never really notice, but were it to just suddenly become absent from the soundscape, the game itself would lose quite a bit of character and luster. For example, without the grandiose orchestral arrangements and instantly recognizable arcane male ensemble in the musical score for Halo, the game would lose quite a bit of what makes it, well, Halo. Going back even farther than that, could you imagine what games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend Of Zelda would be like without their almost universally known scores? Whether you realize it or not, the music backing the action in a game can almost make or break it. So what's that you're asking yourself? What would happen if instead of removing the music from the game, you were to remove all the action and gameplay from the music? Well, if everything falls into place correctly, you'd get something much like Anamanaguchi's newest album, Dawn Metropolis.
Dawn Metropolis takes every musical element found in video games from old systems like the SNES and Sega Genesis, and sets them at the forefront, with a full band providing a driving pop-punk-esque backdrop. For those of you who aren't aware, this specific type of music has come to be labeled "chip-tune", since the main focus is placed on the synthetic instrumentation provided by sound chips that have been salvaged from things like old video game systems and computers, and that's really all there is to it. The crunchy synthetic percussion, lively keyboard bleeps and blips, and a variety of chimes, buzzes, and drones are mixed with driving guitar rhythms and plodding basslines to create an album that really embodies the happy go lucky vibes of old school video games. In short, the album is just chock full of good old fashioned fun. Even so, you would think that an album filled to the brim with nothing but slightly cheesy video game music would wear pretty thin, but Peter Berkman, the man behind all this nonsense, manages to keep the album fairly varied throughout by shifting the tone of the songs. It's a fairly obvious way to put it, but just think surface level versus dungeon level, and you've pretty much got the gist of how it's accomplished. Just when a certain idea starts to wear itself out, the lively high pitched chirps get replaced with lower pitched drones and quivering synth lines. It's also surprising just how strong each individual song is on a compositional level, ranging from fairly slow and melodic in Overarrow, to hectic and blazing fast in songs like Blackout City and Danger Mountain.
For those of us who grew up in the early days of video game home consoles, this album will at the very least provide a nostalgic trip down memory lane, back to a time where video games were much simpler, and arguably better for the most part. Sadly, there will be listeners who simply discard it as an annoying novelty, which really is a shame, because underneath the exterior layers of Casio keyboard noises, there really are quite a few strong compositional elements on display here. I'm not going to sit here and pretend to be a chip-tune expert, but if I had to guess as to what would be the "genre's" standout album, I would say it would be Dawn Metropolis. To be perfectly honest, it should really be nothing more than a contrived novelty item, but somehow, Anamanaguchi managed to turn it into highly enjoyable musical experience, with a surprising amount of replay value.