Metal Max 3 Original Soundtrack
Metal Max 3 Original Soundtrack
December 22, 2010
Buy at Ebten
It took Crea-Tech 17 years to finally release a third main entry in the Metal Max series. Arriving for the Nintendo DS in 2010, the title stayed faithful to the series’ roots with its open-world, vehicle mechanics, and, of course, rock-flavoured score. However, Satoshi Kadokura’s score ended up being the weakest of the series to date for several reasons. The Metal Max 3 Original Soundtrack was commercially released by Enterbrain to coincide with the game. The first disc features the instrumental music from the game, while the second features its two theme songs and several bonus arrangements.
Given the game was produced for DS’ consoles, the scores for Metal Max 3 aren’t much more elaborate than those of the original games and the synth isn’t much of a step-up either. This is evident from the opening track, a rendition of the series’ main theme. The track sounds meatier than ever with its rocking guitar riffs and cymbal crashes, but the heavy-handed arrangement loses some of the ethereal quality of the original. Furthermore, while the samples sound more realistic than the NES and SNES versions, they also sound quite thin and muffled due to the hardware limitations of the DS. Plenty of other fan favourites make returns on the this album too, but in most cases sound inferior to the originals: “Tank Vodka” superficialises the jazzy original with synthpop stylings, “Let’s Meet Dr. Mince” is an infuriating pile of Asian clichés, and “Theme of Love” loses all its emotional qualities. “Caravan”, “WANTED!”, and “Wanderer’s Song” are a little effective, but only because they hardly stray from the originals.
While the reprises on Metal Max 3 are unimpressive, the original material tends to be a little better. Realizing fans of the series loved his rock themes, he offers them in surplus in this entry. The first all-new track featured is “Hell is Full”, a memorable, punchy battle theme. Simultaneously paying homage to the series’ roots while introducing a blues sound to the series, the track manages to be familiar yet fresh all at once. Others such as “Purgatory Rock”, “Old Enemy”, and “Until the Ends of This World” go for a traditional 80s-influenced instrumental rock sound; though they focus a little too much on riffs over melody, it’s clear Kadokura focused on making the instruments sound as good as possible on the DS. More interesting are the themes to convey the game’s primary antagonist, “Gratonos”, “Battle with Gratonos”, and “Last Battle”, which boast fast tempos, hybridised styles, and abstract features. The second of these even pays tribute to speed metal.
Much of the rest of the soundtrack features various synthetic sounds. “Echoes of Unknown” and “Let’s go by Ocean Liner” shift from the rock approach in favour of Vangelis-influenced electronic soundscapes; while quite well-composed, they’re somewhat let down by the clumsy implementation of the soundtrack on to the DS. On the other end of the spectrum, there are bland and tacky synthpop tracks like “Angel’s Whereabouts”, “Embraced by the Crowds”, and “Tank Bow Wow” that wouldn’t sound out of place in a 90s dating sim. Such tracks are big step backwards for a once progressive series. The most successful pieces here are those that hybridise the title’s electronic and rock stylings to create moody soundscapes, notably “Morgue Town”, “Ambition Lost”, and “Wreckage Blues” (cool title!). With their contrasting timbres, these tracks convey the desperate and sad plight of humanity to survive in the game’s barren wastelands. In doing so, they continue the unique concept of the series’ music that was introduced way back in the title theme for Mad Max, but has often been ignored over the years.
For the first time in the series’ history, Metal Max 3 features two vocal themes. Produced by Satoshi Kadokura and sung by Manami Mizuno, both songs are fairly average in their production values. “Inheritor of the Flame” attempts to capture the tone of many anime opening themes with its fast-paced rock stylings, but falls short of the classics. With trashy J-rock stylings, a generic chorus, and an unsuited vocalist, the track certainly didn’t win my heart. It is also adapted in the instrumental ending theme for the game, another poorly arranged and implemented synthpop affair. The other vocal theme, “REBORN -Let’s Meet Dr. Mince-“, is vastly superior with its piano ballad arrangement and effusive vocal melody. While Mizuno still proves a subpar vocalist, her mellow voice is much more suited for this piece than the other one. Both songs are featured in full at the end of the second disc of the soundtrack. For those who want it, they are also featured in karaoke versions.
The second disc of the soundtrack also features four other bonuses. There are two full-length medleys dedicated to the series’ battle and field themes arranged by Kadokura. These medleys are what most would expect: they present straightforward instrumental performances of fan favourites one after another without much thought on the transitions between them or the overall flow of the arrangement. But they both have their moments, with the field melody being dominated by a lengthy take on Metal Max‘s “Tank Bang Bang” and the battle medley never relenting in intensity as it shifts between fan favourites. There are also two rock band performances of “WANTED!” and “Old Enemy”. In many ways reminiscent of the Black Mages’ performances, the guitarist and keyboardist punch out the original melodies before elaborating on them with several decent solos and coming back together for the finale. They’re nothing surprising, but it’s fun, catchy, and polished. All four tracks, together with a boss battle medley, were also performed at a live rock concert recorded on the Metal Max Sound Collections -LxR-.
The Metal Max 3 Original Soundtrack is a highly disappointing and inconsistent effort. There are a handful of very good tracks here, particularly those that bring heavier or deeper elements to the franchise. But they’re featured amidst numerous bland originals, misguided arrangements, superficial fanfares, and a sloppy theme song. The soundtrack is also persistently blighted by dated stylings and mishandled synthesis. In the end, the soundtrack fails to reach the highlights of the three other scores in the Metal Max franchise. The four bonus arrangements are excellent, but they can be heard as part of recording of a full 73-minute live set on the Metal Max Sound Collections -LxR-. Skip this album unless you’re a hardcore fan of the series.
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Posted on December 5, 2015 by Chris Greening. Last modified on December 5, 2015.