Saturday, November 26, 2011

MUSIC REVUE: The Year in Zelda Tributes

By Steve Jones.

2011 has been a red letter year for the Zelda franchise.  Not only has it been 25 years since The Legend of Zelda graced NES consoles everywhere, this year has also seen an Ocarina of Time remake as the major selling point for the 3DS,  the release of Skyward Sword as the first console Zelda game in 5 years, and the touring Zelda Symphony which showcases full orchestral performances of beloved soundtrack selections.  While I am waiting to be reunited with my Wii, so that I may swing this golden Wiimote around like a madman in Skyward Sword, I thought I would highlight some of the impressive tributes that independent musicians have created in the past year

Why has there been such a significant response from the music community?  Well, music in Zelda is much more than sound used to fill the background spaces.  Most games in the series have integrated music as part of the gameplay or plot, from the Warp Whistle to the Goddess' Harp, so it is not surprising that so many gamers, and so many musicians, have had this music stay with them long after the games have been beaten.  Here are some of 2011's best love letters to a series that appreciates music as much as we do:

OverClocked Remix - 25YEARLEGEND: A Legend of Zelda Indie Game Composer Tribute

OverClocked Remix has been the go-to site for quality game remixes for years.  In fact, mp3s from OC Remix were some of the first mp3s I can remember downloading on my dial-up connection.  Full album tributes to popular games or series are nothing new to OC Remix, but 25YEARLEGEND raises the bar, as I cannot think of a stronger or more consistently enjoyable collection of songs to come from the site.

As the title indicates the contributors are mostly indie game composers of varying notoriety, ranging from people like C418 (Minecraft) and Souleye (VVVVV) to other less well-known, but still formidable musicians.  The diversity of styles is wonderful; you'll hear more straightforward reinterpretations of tracks mixed with trance, techno, rock, metal, bossa nova, ambient, dubstep, and other genres.  Some of my favorite moments are the lovely solo piano of "Fushigina Forest," the evolving dance structures of "Labyrinth of Dance Floors," the Boards of Canada vibes in "To Everything There Is a Temple of Seasons," and the smooth Vocaloid singing in "Ballad of the Wind Fish (Kaze no Sakana Mix)."  I don't agree with some of the stylistic choices, such as the commercial(?) sample in "Gimme My Sword!" (an excellent piece otherwise) and turning one of the most crushingly depressing tracks from Majora's Mask into a techno beat, but the strengths of this collection far outweigh the more questionable moments.  I also love how A Link to the Past and the handheld Zeldas are quite well-represented.

This is probably my favorite Zelda tribute of the year.  You can read more about its contributors and download it for yourself (FOR FREE) by clicking on the picture below:

Cory Johnson - Legend of Zelda (Demos)

While this is a work-in-progress, the amount of promise in these demos alone is enough to make them noteworthy.  I have heard many Zelda remixes and covers in my day, but Cory Johnson brings an admirably fresh perspective to what can be a very tiring subject.  Forgoing in-game samples or electronic remixes, Johnson instead creates post-rockish interpretations from scratch, and the results, even in rough form, are fantastic.  For example, he works with one of the best Twilight Princess tracks--the overworld theme--and blends it seamlessly into the Hyrule Field theme from Ocarina of Time. The "Dark World" theme from A Link to the Past sounds heavy and demented, and I think he does the only cover of the Water Temple from Majora's Mask that I have ever heard (and it's great to boot!).

You can listen to the album in full or download it (FOR FREE) from Cory's Bandcamp below.

Shag - Flyrule

Zelda beats.

Beats sampling Zelda.

However you want to spin it, if you ever wanted to rap over the Spirit Temple music, look no further than Flyrule, in which Shag turns your favorite Ocarina of Time tunes into beats you can groove to.  There isn't a whole lot going on here besides that, and the songs aren't modified much at all aside from the infusion of some hip hop, but do you really need more than that?  It does what it sets out to do, and it's a good way of revisiting some classics in a fresh, but not too fresh, manner.

Check out the album via Shag's Bandcamp below.  It's only ONE DOLLAR to download if you feel like supporting a cool dude.

BADBADNOTGOOD - "Title Theme / Saria's Song / Song Of Storms" from BBNG

While not a full album per se, one of the more excellent moments in BADBADNOTGOOD's excellent album BBNG (which you can download FOR FREE) is the jazzy Ocarina of Time medley you can hear below.

Zelda Reorchestrated - Twlight Symphony
Technically, this is a project to look out for, rather than one you can experience in full at the moment, but there is a lot to look out for here.  Zelda Reorchestrated is a team already known for creating new versions of classic Zelda tunes using modern and more realistic sound libraries.  While I do find a lot of charm in chiptunes and cheap MIDI sounds, even I have to admit that many expanded reorchestrations sound so much richer than I would have imagined.  Hear for yourself.

Twilight Symphony is their most ambitious project to date: a complete overhaul of the underrated Twilight Princess soundtrack involving new arrangements, real instrumental sounds and samples, and a full choir.  Estimated to now be over three hours of music in total, it will be released on CD and in digital format sometime in 2012.  As a fan funded project over three years in the making, it has much to live up to (including those $$$ I contributed to its Kickstarter!), but it seems set on exceeding those expectations.

Read up about Twilight Symphony ZREO's official page.

Please let me know if I've missed out on anything!  And shoot these musicians some love if you like what they're doing.


  1. How are you aware of this many Zelda reinterpretations? I'm astounded.

  2. Fucking postrock Zelda covers. Steve I love you.

  3. You got me to finally check out BADBADNOTGOOD and it was fucking mindblowing. Thank you.