Nostalgia is a fickle mistress. Swathing us in the warm clothes of yesterdays, it can be a comforting sensation of our past achievements. However, got to comfortable within its embrace and it becomes a cloying shackle, holding you back from breaking your mold and rising past who you were. In making game-themed music, bands walk the fine line between these two options; nostalgia for the games of our childhood is the basic supposition on which their music rests. Few bands walk that line better than Descendants of Erdrick, balancing the original material with great songwriting and groove on their newest release, Advent.
The main secret lies in the rhythm section. Instead of just playing support to the guitar, which is usually the case with this genre, the rhythm section here is the main motivator behind the permutations to the basic game themes. This is most noticeable on the title track, based on The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past‘s main theme and accompanying melodies. Instead of maintaining one of the most well known lines in game music history, Descendants of Erdrick use proggy double bass and bass guitar to transform it into something more memorable and catchy.
Nor do they hold back on the nostalgia. Galloping riffs close the track, overlaid with the main theme in bedazzling guitar. These little fan services are a source of enjoyment precisely because they are not overdone. The listener finds himself waiting for these little nods to the shared experience instead of just basking in them at every turn. The wait just makes the eventual prize even sweeter. This is expertly done on ‘Stones’, drawing its influence from one of the greatest games of all time, Ultima V. Opening with the medieval melody of the game, it gives way to moving symphonic vocals and a great rocky iteration of the original melody.
The only flaw in this album is simply the flaw in this genre in general: no matter how well performed, these are ultimately cover versions or pieces that are, at their core, someone else’s creations. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this album or smile and nod to the music but the higher reaches of perfect scores and near them need to be reserved to wholly original works. This flaw might best be exemplified with the two Final Fantasy influenced tracks, ‘War of the Magitek’ (FFVI) and ‘Shinra Oppression’ (FFVII). Something there just doesn’t click and all we’re left with is our memories and faint nostalgia.
However, if you are going to brave that inherent flaw in the genre, look no further than Advent. The fact that this band knows their way around composition, song structure and variance is made very clear with this album. These tools, the musician’s tools, are brought to bear on the original melodies to transform them into something more, something catchy and simple at the same time. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a nostalgia trip now and again. Let your inhibitions go and dive into a past where games were about games and all that mattered was finding that bonus level.
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Descendants of Erdrick’s Advent gets…