Tuesday, May 15, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW/STREAM: Cory Johnson - The Legend of Zelda

By Steve Jones.

You might recall that last year I made a post concerning several musical Legend of Zelda tributes that caught my ear. If you do not recall, you can read it here. More to the point, one of my favorites was the collection of demos by one Cory Johnson, who took Koji Kondo's familiar pieces and added a healthy dose of post-rock flavoring. Despite their demonstrative nature, they were extremely enjoyable and left me waiting for the day that a polished post-rock Zelda album would come to life.

Well, that day is today. Or, more accurately, it was May 12, but it could be today for you.

The Legend of Zelda takes all of the promise from the original demos and hones and expands it into an almost 2 hour collection of 23 tracks spanning from the earliest days of the series all the way to Skyward Sword. Don't let the length be off-putting, as you'll be more likely to wish for more once the album finishes. The strength is certainly in the concept, which stands unique amongst a surfeit of remixes and covers for the popular Zelda series, but the execution should also be lauded. Johnson's arrangements, while homogenous enough to keep the album together, include enough variation and ornamentation to not wear thin too quickly. He also often highlights surprising parts of otherwise familiar tracks, which speaks to both Johnson's ear as a musician and Koji Kondo's (and others') prowess as a composer.

Some highlights include a blissful reworking of the exemplary "Hyrule Field" theme, a sweet piano-driven interpretation of the "Lake Hylia" theme from Twilight Princess, and a 10 minute medley of the various "Forest Temple" themes to grace the series. Perhaps my favorite piece here is the "Water Temple" medley, which uses the Great Bay Temple theme from Majora's Mask as its backbone. I cannot think of any other remixes or covers that even touch that track, but it works so brilliantly here. Also of note is the 5-part Majora's Mask suite that is found throughout the "second disc" of the album, culminating in an appropriately heavy arrangement of "To the Moon" (a.k.a. the track that plays when you have to get your shit together and get inside that moon's maw).

Anybody who enjoys the Zelda series owes it to themselves to check this album out. It's a refreshing take on some beloved soundtracks, and that is reason enough for video game and music fans alike to rejoice.

Score: Decent 8

You can stream the entire album for free from Cory's Bandcamp below. Even better, you can pick it up for free, or if you love it you can pay-what-you-want for the whole thing. It's worth it.

(Steve Jones enjoys playing Majora's Mask annually, so his Zelda biases may be slightly tipped. Confirm for yourself on his Twitter @vestenet.)

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