MAZ Sound Tools
April 11, 2011
Buy at MAZ Sound Tools
2011’s Immortal 4 had quite a legacy to live up to. After all, its predecessor featured 35 diverse tracks dedicated to the most famous Amiga tunes out there. After a five year wait, producer Jan Zottmann ensured that Immortal 4 equalled its predecessor in quantity and exceeded it in quantity. But having explored so much of the Amiga’s famous catalog, was there room for many recognisable remixes this time? In large part, this album is a fascinating blend of classics and obscurities.
The opening track demonstrates that, after a five year gap, the Immortal series still has charm. With its compelling grooves and retro synth, the LED Storm medley is certainly faithful enough to be nostalgic. Yet the new elements — spanning thrashing guitars and doo-wop vocals — ensure this is a fascinating reimagining, not just a predictable resynthing. A welcome newcomer to the series, Mark Knight’s interpretation of Liberation: Captive 2 perfectly fits in with the tone of the album — shifting from a pensive electronic opening into a vibrant military orchestration. Though the forces are entirely synthetic, they are much better produced than those in previous Immortal series — retro enough to be nostalgic, modern enough to be accessible. The restored classic sound continues with a number of other likeable remixes, spanning Stuart Ross’ expansive space anthem Walker, to Christian Zwang’s vibrant tribute to Zarathustra, to Jason Page’s frivolous funk stylings on Paradroid 90.
Numerous tracks shift away from the Immortal series’ classic sound in favour of contemporary experimentation. Among the rock tracks, Henning Nugel dedicates his energetic contribution to Big Run and Eike Steffen injects a metal feel into Gauntlet III. While the original melodies are recognisable, they sound much more powerful than on the technologically limited originals — in fact, the clean recording and rich stylings of these remixes improve on past instalments of the series. Other remixes that shift from the series’ classic sound include Zottmann’s own relaxing saxophone-based remix of Leisure Suit Larry‘s famous theme and Fabian Del Priore’s dark electro tribute to Wolfchild. Meanwhile experimental electronic stylings return with Phillip Nixon’s abstract Pickled Onions and Nikola Tomic’s punchy Capital Punishment. When balanced with more hybridised tracks like Olof Gustafsson’s Benefactor and Frédéric Motte’s Fury of the Furries, such experiments manage to integrate quite well into Immortal 4.
After a couple of erroneous vocal remixes on Immortal 3, Cannon Fodder‘s “Narcissus” restores the series to form. Whether Jon Hare’s nostalgic vocal performance or the surprisingly tasteful saxophone solos, this rock ballad seems to have been written — and performed — from the heart. Interestingly, this recording seems to have originated from 1993 and has only just made its way on to album form. Listeners can also enjoy a much more upbeat and silly vocal performance based on the game’s “War”, produced through a three-way collaboration. Further vocal recordings make their way into Don’t Waste My Time, but as part of a much bigger electronic experiment that, in many respects, helps tie the album together. Talking of experiments, a special mention should be given to T-Zero‘s “Alien Scratch”. This is a major shift from the all the synthpop anthems and thrashing performances with its ambient soundscapes, but it will engage many listeners with its abstract timbres and rhythms. Fabio Barzagli introduces so many interesting layers on this one during its six minute playtime.
While a number of the tracks are dedicated to lesser-known additions to Amiga’s vast games catalog, it’s fantastic that a few classics at last made it into the series. Perhaps most notable is Tim Wright’s interpretation of Lemmings‘ unforgettable main theme — a retro-styled piano-laced remix that captures the adventurous but humble character of the titular characters. Interestingly, Tim Wright’s tribute to his oldest work — Puggsy — will also be familiar to Lemmings players. Though a tired Hülsbeck sat this album out, one of his most famous tracks — Turrican 2‘s first stage theme — receives a pleasing tribute by Daniel White. While this track has a superficial gloss, the way it shifts so naturally from peppy tones to more reflective interludes demonstrates considerable sensitivity. In another impressive scoop, the album ends with a soothing guitar-based rendition of Wing Commanders‘ main theme by George Sanger. Admittedly, this American title was co-developed for DOS, but it was first heard by most European gamers on the Amiga. Now, how about Another World, Monkey Island, and Death or Glory for the eventual Immortal 5?
Immortal 4 is a much more balanced and refined production than Immortal 3. While the albums are equally diverse, the experiments this time manage to integrate quite well with the rest of the album and are complemented by numerous tracks that revisit the series’ classic sound. What’s more, while most tracks have a classic sound, they tend to be recorded and sampled in a cleaner and richer manner. The item listings and arranger lineup is wider than the predecessor, but as a result there aren’t quite as many recognisable melodies as the predecessor. But the balance of familiar and abstract tracks ensure that there is something for every listener to discover on this album. While its predecessor is a more encompassing tribute, Immortal 4 is a much more accomplished album production.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.