Twisted Metal Symphony
Twisted Metal Symphony
Sony Computer Entertainment
February 5, 2008
The game that started the craze in car combat titles, Twisted Metal was released way back in 1995 and inspired multiple sequels. The music for the series generally matched the intense gameplay and devilish storyline with hard rock tracks and other hybrids. Despite the popularity of the series’ music, fans had to wait till 2008 before they could enjoy a soundtrack release. Twisted Metal Symphony is a compilation of tracks from the most acclaimed titles in the series, Twisted Metal, Twisted Metal 2, Twisted Metal: Black, and Twisted Metal: Head-On. It was available as a digital download to those who purchased the PlayStation 2 title Twisted Metal Head-On: Extra Twisted Edition.
The album opens with six tracks from 1995’s Twisted Metal, the first a disturbing voice-over from the host Calypso. “Twisted Metal” fully asserts the rock sound that Chuck E. Myers (Warhawk, Jet Moto) and others developed for the title. It really matches the intensity of the gameplay with its fast tempo and hard drum beats. What’s more, while they sound a little dated by today’s standard, the howling country-influenced guitar leads certainly pulled in the crowds. The siren effects on this track and a couple of others are quite gimmicky, but back then added to the realism of the in-game experience. “Freeway Free-for-All” and “Assault on Cyburbia” convincingly build on this sound with memorable hooks and extensive guitar solos, once again pushing boundaries technologically. However, the deepest tracks here are the percussive “City Park”, which twists children’s voices and tunes into something horrifying, and the climactic “Rooftop Battle”, a robust hybrid of Hollywood orchestration and exuberant guitars.
Despite being released just a year later, the music of Twisted Metal 2 from returnee Chuck E. Myers was a step up from its predecessor technologically. Whether the clearer opening voice-over or the rich guitar work on the “Twisted Metal Reprise”, the soundtrack consistently sounds ahead of its time. “Quake Zone Rumble” particularly stands out for its extensive development and rock band sound, bringing some much-needed rhythm guitar riffs to the series’ established combo of lead guitar and drums. “Suicide Slide” takes listeners on quite the ride, shifting from a blistering rock introduction into a triumphant orchestral interlude, and demonstrates what extensive development can bring to gameplay. Once again, epic orchestral passages are also incorporated into “The Big Leap” and “The Drop Zone”; in terms of both composition and implementation, these are certainly convincing. Other highlights include “Hong Kong Krunch”, a daring but convincing hybrid of Asian, orchestral, and contemporary forces, and “Monumental Disaster”, with its dark, propulsive twists on some popular children’s songs.
The compilation skips the music for the critically panned Twisted Metal 3 and Twisted Metal 4, and heads straight to Twisted Metal: Black instead. Wanting to keep the series modern, Sony favoured action-packed orchestrations over blazing rock tunes throughout the soundtrack. Right after the silly voice-over, “Minion’s Stadium” demonstrates the raw power and brutality of the soundtrack; lead composer Mike Reagan (God of War, Conan) fills the track with dissonant brass discords and racing crisis motifs that, while far from novel, create plenty of intensity. Other tracks follow suit, spanning “Prison Passage”, complete with booming percussion and edgy flutters, and “Suburbs”, with its suitably devilish choral chants. Listeners will be divided whether this direction suited the series, though such tunes — alongside Pursuit Force and Need For Speed — rank among the high-octane orchestrations out there. While impressive, this section of the compilation is sadly brief and three of the seven tracks feature voice-overs.
The second disc of the score is entirely dedicated to the music of the PSP’s Twisted Metal: Head-On and, for good reason: its music remains the most lavish of the series to date. By offering music to accompany each of the game’s city maps, the music producers ensured an eclectic mix of music. They requested the services of a number of specialists to ensure each location was underscored suitably. The tracks set in Greece, Egypt, and Italy convincingly integrate ethnic instruments and vocals into the electro-orchestra mix to give a sense of modern countries emerging from ancient civilizations. While they bring plenty of novelty to the series, they somehow fit well with the Twisted Metal sound too. “The Coliseum” is especially vibrant. The might of “Russia” called for a guest appearance from Inon Zur (Dragon Age, Prince of Persia), who brings some Hollywood flair to the score with one of his more interesting compositions to date, while “Transylvania” incorporates amusing gothic references without sounding too much of a cliché.
While the soundtrack is astonishingly diverse, it is a contemporary at its core. The producers at last restored the rock focus of the series with tracks such as “Monaco” and “Vampire’s Teeth”, but both sound much more fresh than similarly styled tracks from the 90s soundtracks. Whereas the former is a bright and catchy tune filled with the spirit of racing, the latter has its roots in heavy metal and features plenty of killer riffs to entertain consumers. The guitar work on both tracks is especially stylish. Other additions such as “Los Angeles” and “Big Blue Stadium” hybridise a rock spirit with modern electronic grooves. Though they’re not quite as vibrant as those on Twisted Metal‘s reboot, such tracks have plenty of substance and are a step in the right direction. But perhaps the most enjoyable tracks of all are the four dedicated to Tokyo, all soft but stimulating electronic pieces befitting the cutting-edge metropolis.
Overall, Twisted Metal Symphony does justice to the series’ musical legacy. Whether the guitar-heavy rock tunes of Twisted Metal 2 or the epic dissonant orchestrations of Twisted Metal: Black, each instalment of the series had a modern and edgy sound. Though the omissions of 989 Studios’ titles leaves the compilation incomplete, it was probably for the best that Sony focused on the titles fans fondly remembered. It is especially pleasing that the producers included the majority of the Twisted Metal: Head-On soundtrack, which remains the best of the series. Overall, a welcome bonus with the port.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.