Game Music is Dead
Game Music is Dead
NEC Avenue (1st Edition); Nippon Columbia (2nd Edition)
September 21, 1995; July 18, 1998
Buy Used Copy
Renowned for his work on the Cho Aniki series, Koji Hayama’s music is generally as strange as the games themselves. To put this into context, the Cho Aniki series is a very unique game which features raving airborne homosexual characters, namely the two brothers. Game Music is Dead is a ‘best of’ album, but rest assured that Hayama’s crazy creative skills are in full bloom throughout. It features a number of tracks featuring bizarre melodies and a rather unorthodox set of fusions.
The album opens with the title track “Game Music is Dead.” Most will see this title as being ironic, in that Hayama is a game composer and is stating the demise of his own profession. Talk about shock factor. Still, he seems to prove that bundling a load of awful riffs, sounds, and beats can actually create an enjoyable track. The first part of the theme is built up from sounds which you would expect to hear in a game of Asteroids and are combined with a mixture of shouted phrases from a synth voice. Hayama’s style is certainly eccentric, and I’ve never really understood how or why it works, but I think that if you want to get to know him, you need to listen to this track. Track thirteen on the album is this same theme, but remastered. It sounds a lot more impacting, but not a lot is changed.
Following “Game Music is Dead,” I didn’t know what to expect. To my surprise, the excessive quirkiness was continued in “Big Brother Without Morals.” This track is an amalgamation of what not to do in a piece of music, but at the same time, I can’t help but applaud its creativity and cohesion. Guitar riffs, electronic beats, and Japanese shouting and speaking all come together to form what I like to call “melodic mayhem.” Many normal people might want to evacuate from this one though. “Dinner Prayers” isn’t really a stand-out theme on the album, but it’s still original. How better to say grace than with an alternative rock/heavy metal theme with deathly utterings? This piece is the only one which makes me want to run away from the antichrist — the riff is mean, the drum beat is heavy, the screaming is scarring, and the melody is demonic. You’ll find that the most intrigued part of this track actually comes through what the vocalists are screeching, sadly though, I can’t quite bit my finger on what they’re hailing!
The lyrics in this track really sum up “New Sexy Dynamite”. With those random male voices yelling “Oh! Yeah!” and the crowd yelling “Aniki!” in the middle, the track is written as an over-the-top wrestling anthem. Much like “Game Music is Dead,” this is really a laughable track and such an enjoyable one for those with suitable abouts. The strangest thing about it is that the melody is presented solely on rhythmic synth voices. This is quite a cool effect, and the utilisation of these vocals is what Hayama does best, as is evident through the Cho Aniki series. The only normal thing that you’ll find in this track is an electric guitar which lets out quite a powerful riff. Other than that, expect “New Sexy Dynamite” to literally be an explosion of untamed musicality. “Samson and Adon” starts out quite classically for something different, though this is merely a facade. Before you know it, the track is invaded by electronic and industrial beats. As is the norm with Hayama on this album, this track also employs the use of vocals. Despite all this, there is a bit more development to the track.
The concept behind “Big Brother Scolds the Japanese Youth” definitely describes the track title. While this is another melodic track on the album, the vocals have an interesting way of interchanging between rap and an actual chorus. I can imagine the harsher vocals to be the scolding part, while the chorus serves as a way to promote the message this track is meant to convey. Of course, I could be entirely off base since I don’t speak Japanese. “We Are Chances” is yet another supreme theme that holds a unique character. It starts off in a style totally unrelated to what the track becomes; with a grandiose melody played on strings, a distorted guitar is suddenly introduced to turn this into a thrilling rock theme. With some powerful beats and a new keyboard line introduced, the track begins to develop into a heavy metal theme with shouted lyrics. At times the vocals become instrumental, with the notes they hit being executed in such a way that it sounds like an agglomeration of bizarre sounds. This track probably has the most orthodox development out of all of the themes on this album, and with it being amongst the longest too, I’m surprised that Hayama didn’t resort to his beloved synth vocals too much.
“Punch Rock” also greatly contrasts with the first few tracks heard on the album. You won’t find any strange beats or noises. These have been replaced with a fairly straightforward melody. This melody is a superb creation and the electric guitar employed is extremely funky and helps to give off that “fun in the sun” mentality. But where does Hayama come into the equation? The use of the occasional Japanese sentence and a light staccato voice intermingling with some harsher vocals is all that we get. This does not detract at all from the piece and helps to make any listener feel like a beach bum. Although it’s short, “Big Brother and Me” packs all the punch that you need. It starts out with a fast paced riff with a catchy rhythm, and then moves on into a guitar melody which seems to be an ode to awesomeness. The track carries on at the same pace before a piano melody is introduced. This piano line seems to be improvised, but it proves to be insanely catchy and motivating. This is probably one of the most musical tracks on the album, and although it still contains those unorthodox vocals, it proves that Hayama can be semi-normal!
So we’ve finally reached my favorite track of the album, “Super Takurazuka 3.” The basis behind this track is quite interesting. Takurazuka is an all-female musical theater style, in which many Broadway shows are adapted and aired; however, I think Hayama also decided to include male vocal parts to represent the theatre style of an all-male performance Kabuki. This track starts off quite melodically, and in the style you would expect from a Takurazuka performance; however, the track soon pulls a 180 on us and enters into more of a rock style with subtle jazz influences, by using an electric guitar. The intermingling of these two styles makes for a quite a contrasting and dramatic track. The underlying melody itself is one of exquisiteness. But more importantly, the track truly begins to shine when the male “la-la’s” come into the forefront. By doing so, Hayama is able to create an almost operatic feel to this performance. While the middle of the track is a bit slower, it emphasizes the art of Takurazuka and Kabuki even more by adding in a dialogue exchange between a male and female.
Featuring a kawaii voice, some ’90s pop brass, and a funky rhythm, “Lucky Rapper Party” is about as light-hearted as things get. In comparison to the tracks around it, this is a bit of a step down, but it’s a nice change. The best bits about the track are an electric guitar solo and, believe it or not, the voice. Although I generally detest cute singing voices in tracks, this one pulls it off since it’s on an album filled with synth vocals. It’s pretty much the lesser of the two evils! “Takurazuka Epilogue” is probably the most normal track on the album. Taking the melody from “Super Takurazuka 3” and orchestrating it with a touch of jazz really makes the listener appreciate the created melody. The addition of a female vocalist, singing the lyrics heard in the upbeat track, makes for a very touching experience. For such a quirky album, this seemingly normal track is a very fitting close to an outstanding performance.
Game Music is Dead can be pretty much summed up in a few words: drug-fuelled music. It’s almost a certainty that Hayama must be high 90% of the time when he composes, and if not, then we should fear for him. It’s by far amongst the weirdest albums out there. However, this is definitely not a bad thing. Koji Hayama was able to fuse some many different styles together in this album to create a truly unforgettable experience, even if you tried to forget. His interesting take on blending various aspects of each track was truly unique and there is something on this album for everyone. This album is recommended to anyone who can appreciate the “different” things in life, or who finds themselves lacking something unique in their album collection.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Dave Valentine. Last modified on August 1, 2012.