Thrill of the Feel
Thrill of the Feel
March 23, 2000
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Thrill of the Feel is the debut album by Sons of Angels, a rock band created by Jun Senoue that later became Crush 40. The soundtrack features the soundtrack to a relatively obscure racing game, NASCAR Arcade, developed by Sega Japan’s Arcade division exclusively for Western shores. The soundtrack was therefore tailored to an exclusively American audience. After the glorious reception of Sonic Adventure‘s “Open Your Heart” — incidentally included on this album — Jun Senoue decided to create a soundtrack created almost entirely with rock vocal themes. This was no amateur rock soundtrack; combining the talents of vocalist Johnny Gioeli, bassist Naoto Shibata, drummer Hirotsugu Homma, and of course Jun Senoue on guitars, everyone involved were experienced and talented performers. The results were presented much like a rock studio album in Thrill of the Feel although a few instrumentals were thrown into the mix. The vocal pieces were also later compiled into the Crush 40 album. Can such a production really satisfy in and out of game?
The soundtrack’s opener makes the intended audience of the soundtrack just that much more blatant. Blending the American national anthem with American rock instrumentals, how much more American can a track be? “Dangerous Ground” is the first vocal theme on the soundtrack and demonstrates the hard rock sound to expect from the band. American Johnny Gioeli’s vocals are filled with his rock spirit and manage to be simultaneously welcoming and compelling; his surprisingly convinced interpretation of lyrics such as “We rock dangerous ground but once we start we can never ever ever ever stop” reflect his years of previous experience. Abrasive, punchy, and guitar-obsessed, the instrumentals are clearly inspired by early 90s metal and the guitar solo is a welcome break from the more chord-focused accompaniment sections. It’s pretty straightforward, but polished and enjoyable regardless.
Those looking for especially motivating tracks will find “Revvin’ Up” more up their street. It’s reminiscent of some of the latest Sonic opening themes, but the racing-oriented lyrics, such as “It’s the thrill of the chase”, and increased rhythmical focus make it more ideal for racing. “Into the Wind” isn’t quite as melodic, but is the type of straight anthemic rock that potentially works well in video games. The catchy guitar intro and warm chorus make it especially worth revisiting. “In the Lead” adopts a similar format right down to the catchy opening guitar hook, though Johnny’s charismatic vocals make up for the formulaic song structure. “Watch Me Fly…” is perhaps Johnny’s best performance of all, however. The composition itself is a soft rock ballad and the passionate vocals really make it stand out against similarly constructed pieces.
There are also some instrumental tracks to maintain the racing flavour. “Fill It Up” features some elegant electric guitar work against hard drum work. The main figure is a little plain and repetitive, though the extensive solo rescues the piece from mediocrity. “Rush into the Crazy World” meanwhile is the length of a typical filler track, but it’s actually somewhat worth revisiting thanks to its showy guitar work. “On the Road Again” and “When the Sun Goes Down” are much softer tracks, in contrast, and seem ideal for accompanying the more reflective racing scenes. The guitar work works seamlessly to create atmospheric soundscapes here, though is still gently stimulating. The album ends surprisingly with the band’s vocal theme for Sonic Adventure; though I prefer Jun Senoue’s racing sound to his Sonic soundtracks, this is a classic track nonetheless and a welcome bonus.
Opinions will vary on how impressive Thrill of the Feel is. If treated as a studio rock album, it stands among many other albums out there, but is only a relatively average effort stylistically and lacks an appropriate album structure. If treated as a game album by a Sega in-house composer, the album seems much more impressive. It was practically unheard for an authentic rock score to make it into an Arcade game at that time and perhaps nothing stylistically revolutionarily was required in the grander scheme of things. Vocalist Johnny Gioeli is certainly the star of the album, while Jun Senoue’s guitar varies from inspiring to derivative. Together they create a fairly fitting, very enjoyable, and especially American accompaniment to the NASCAR game. It works well on its own too. Note, though, that the vocal themes were later compiled into the Crush 40 album along with a couple of bonuses. Those just looking for the vocal themes, which are the highlight here, might be better looking into that album rather than the complete soundtrack.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.