RichaadEB & Ace Waters
Undertale: Determination [2 Disc Compilation]
Undertale, for those who aren’t aware of it; is a very popular indie game developed by Toby Fox. What started out as a a small Kickstarter campaign slowly became a massive franchise, with an overwhelming fandemonium the likes of which we haven’t seen in ages. Fox didn’t even expect this much from the game and seems incredibly humbled by the support. He might be moving on to another project, but that doesn’t stop the fan works from coming. This soundtrack is actually the first Toby Fox approved fan soundtrack for the game and it deserves it’s recognition for being one of the best adaptations of the game’s amazing soundtrack that I’ve ever heard. The disc is actually comprised of two discs, the red “metal” side and the blue “electronic” side. Undertale had some terrific boss themes, each of them unique and several that I was imagining the guitar compositions for while playing, so it was really quite a treat to hear those very compositions made reality and it was well-worth paying for, especially now that physical copies are soon to be made available.
RED (The Metal Side – Boss Battle Themes)
Red, composed by Richaadeb; is what really brought my attention to this compilation though, so let us start here. The first theme we have here is that of Toriel’s boss theme “Nascency” a grand and heavily melodic interpretation which benefits due to the sheer strength of it’s leads. It even implements the subtle ending melody, which serves as a great transition into what becomes Papyrus’ theme in “Oase De Dans.” Now this one doesn’t really have real thick guitar backing in the original chip tune, so Richaadeb has to improvise and in turn, this makes the track thump a little bit more. There’s also a sort of Russian overtone in the actual melody, which you’ll notice here if you haven’t played the game before. It’s heavily reminiscent of music that we might have heard in Tetris, except here beefed up to show Papyrus’ muscles and muscles that have glasses on them. Next we go into everyone’s favorite fishoujo, Undine. Her theme, “Stay The Course” is a bit longer than the previous two, but that’s because it requires a lot more work to adapt properly. In all instances, the music you’re experiencing here is that of the classic JRPG boss battle. Toby Fox says that one of his biggest inspirations in gaming is Lufia 2: Rise Of The Sinistrals and I’m sure that also goes for composition. If you’re a fan of classic RPG themes, you’ll love this composition, even if you don’t like the game or it’s insane fanbase. With a theme on par to that of Chrono Trigger, it’s invigorating to see such an amazing job done with it. Once again, the leads truly show the majesty here and make for a thrilling performance. Slight moments of atmosphere and piano end the piece. “Electric Balboa” serves as one of Metatton’s several themes, sounding a bit like a jazzy piece from the fifties. It’s odd to hear it metalized as such, but it’s done justice and feels right within the rest of the album. There’s an odd carnival section that got thrown in here for some odd and unknowable reason. Next we have another one of Metatton’s themes, “Exception” in which Tsuko G. & Eruption collaborate. This piece, like “Oase De Dans” is also very Russian in nature, but works just as well. There’s even a kazoo. I never thought I’d hear pounding drums and a kazoo before, but something tells me that I need to hear more kazoo metal. There’s a guitar solo here too, but most of that seemed an afterthought. “Arachnophilia” is Muffet’s theme, which definitely kills on the leads. It doesn’t start out that convincing, but just like the original piece, it feels right covered with a guitar. Especially when the musician is as skilled as Richaadeb. You can clearly hear that this guy knows his stuff, and when put to the test he manages to make a better version of the track than the original. The next theme is a little bizarre to hear in metal, as it’s clearly a posh dance piece and somewhat seems out of place. Richaadeb tries his best, but this third and final theme for Mettaton “Run Of Show” doesn’t really start to deliver until the second piece of the song, where FamilyJules7x jumps into make a really awesome rendition. Keep in mind, FamilyJules7x is also featured in Crypt Of The Necrodancer, where he performed an entire soundtrack (which is also good, I might add) so check that out. Next comes “Desperation” which I cannot recall, as I never went through with the genocide mode. I simply do not remember this boss theme and would consider it closer to Japanese power metal.
Before we start talking about the next piece, “Wrath and Cowardice” I want you to check out the original composition, which you could probably find on YouTube as “Asgore.” Listen to the composition before you take in note this adaptation, because it’s important – and frankly a type of riff-structure that I frankly haven’t heard in metal music before. It’s just a very odd combination for a lead rhythm, and it translates extremely well in metal music. The piece is heavily melodic, definitely recalling the victory-laden Japanese guitar backed boss themes that follow the end of a great JRPG. You know exactly what I’m talking about if you were around in that era. It ends on a bizarrely happy note. But that goes right into another theme which is actually the heaviest (opens with doom riffs) theme in the entire game. “Evening With The Unhallowed” is an electronic backed theme with fiery guitars that feel almost djenty. But if you consider the source material, it almost has to be this way. In a hugely experimental sense, the piece also involves several chip tune laden melodies (all of which are native to the piece, it couldn’t be done properly without these) but then goes back to the insanity of Meshuggah (and even some shredding) where it stretches itself into being the second longest track on the record. This piece is highly progressive, as it evolves into something closer to the Japanese melodic power-metal flair of past compositions. The next theme is something that I won’t exactly describe, but you may hear it if you’re very persistent in the main game. The boss that it accompanies is quite a difficult battle as well. In any case, we have a slightly heavier number (but not as heavy as the prior) with a little more of a western flair and some nice shredding I’ll add – which does the original justice and keeps the headbanging nature intact. Listen to the chip tunes, this thing was born to be a metal track. The disc ends with the final battle music, “Hopes and Dreams” which is here called “Catharsis.” In noting the original, I literally sat and let the thing play through about four times before I even fought the boss. I was not expecting a composition that good to pop out, but when it did, I was floored. So naturally, when I got this album, said track is the first one I went for. It had a sort of metal backing to begin with, so hearing it done with a real guitar justifies it immensely. It is a very victorious, highly melodic piece that feels very much like you’d expect for the game it adorned. Once again, Toby Fox channeled the greats of Japanese video game music composition and made for one of the best damn final boss themes we’ve had in a western RPG in decades. For some odd reason though, it makes me think a little of the rocking tracks that used to adorn the Sonic Adventure games. Which is totally okay with me. As an unexpected but highly explosive solo soon comes into view, the track reaches it’s denouement in an almost ghastly piano piece. It is there that Red also ends.
BLUE (The Electronic Side – Area and Town Themes)
Blue, composed by Ace Waters; is a completely different affair from Red as it focuses on electronics and an awful lot of chip tunes. Ricaadeb still makes his presence known on the first track here, “Ingress” which comes off a little more industrial than the original piece. I almost feel like I’m listening to a Chrono Trigger piece from 3000 AD. It’s nice to hear the guitar accentuate such a catchy part, especially when so many different effects are utilized within one piece, making it far from boring, while still capturing the catchy feel of the original. “Above The Magma” is next, and it’s actually one of mine as well as a friend’s favorite pieces in the game. Sadly, I don’t feel that some of the melodies used are as good as the original piece, which was actually fine as it was. There are sections I like, but it’s not so much unlike the original in it’s chip tune nature. “Hoi” comes after that, which is the theme from a special village in the game. It does what it’s meant to do, but I’m indifferent to it. It works with the game, but isn’t something I’d blast loudly at the neighbors. The harmonica section works though. “Reflection” is a very dreamlike piece, here turned hugely atmospheric and taken full advantage of. Ace Waters made a hugely trance-like piece, which I never expected and am quite happy with. “Such A Friendly Little Town” features ThunderScott and is your average RPG town music, gone electronic and given a major facelift. Now I love the original composition in the game bunches, but here I think it sounds even better. This appeals to my childlike love of such happy town themes, which stems from my own childhood, no less.
“A Puzzling Quagmire” definitely shows it’s strength in the main melody, which sounds like it was composed with a guitar. This is the theme for one of the dungeons in the game, and it certainly fits. I definitely like it more than the original piece it was adapted from. “Have You Ever Heard Of A Talking Flower” nearly takes us into the far-reaches of the atmosphere, wherein I swear that I can hear the sounds of spacecraft. It’s most definitely an atmospheric soudscape like “Reflection” and feels necessary on this kind of disc. “Esoteric” comes next, which feels a little like Dracula and Dr. Wily composed a piece together. It gets a little close to dubstep territory, but is still worth listening to. “Penultimate” actually brings Richaadeb back into a much jauntier (and reminiscent of Smithy’s area from Super Mario RPG) piece where guitar is certainly needed and welcomed. Though fully electronic, it’s nice to still get a little bit of firepower on the piece, especially since you can tell it was a necessary element to the original composition. The touch tones actually work too, because someone was calling you every few seconds here. “Like Snowflakes” seems a bit ethereal, and a little more spacey than the original, but far be it from me to complain. As much as I love the base composition, this adaptation delivers on an entirely different level. “A New Home” which features Teracmusic and Eruption definitely covers the more Americana, woodsy taste of the home theme which sounds like the sort of thing you might hear in the background of a Kodak moment. There’s even an ol’ banjo, so that really brings it home. This is actually the longest track in the entire compilation, and it adds in drums as well as guitar to bring a full band performance into the mix right near the very end. Something tells me that Ace Waters must have really loved this one to go as all-out as he did, and the track is all the better for it. The last track on the compilation is “The End” which obviously adapts the game’s finale. It’s fitting, but not nearly as interesting as the piece that came before it and feels like a chip tune influenced end credits. It’s alright, but not the best of the set.
All in all, I feel that while both discs are memorable in their own right; the idea of packaging them together doesn’t work for me. Right now, there’s no ability to purchase either RED or BLUE separately, even though I know there are some metalheads out there who just came for the metal tracks and not so much the electronic compositions. In the same sense, I am sure there are some with robot ears that didn’t really want anything to do with the metal side of the compilation, so it’s unfortunate. While I love both metal and electronic music, not everyone does and they really should let people get either side for half the price on the band’s Bandcamp page. There are also some additional bonus tracks that one gets with purchase of the record, but those are for you to check out and are furthermore; not available with the physical release. Both artists do a phenomenal job with the material provided here and fans of Undertale and it’s amazing soundtrack really shouldn’t be let down. Toby Fox literally composed most, if not all of the game’s music by himself and the very fact that he’s given this soundtrack a stamp of approval, thereby making it official; certainly says something about what he heard. If the composer digs it, you ought to dig it as well. This reviewer is largely more into the RED metal side, but it certainly seems that I loved quite a bit of BLUE as well. In any case, it’s something you’ll definitely want to own and I’d certainly recommend it. This game has one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in years, and that’s not coming from an insane fan who’s been playing it nonstop. It’s coming from a man with a real appreciation for what truly makes a great game soundtrack. Even a terrible game can have an awesome soundtrack. But that’s not so with Undertale, so go pick it up for ten bucks if you liked the music here. Chances are, you’ll also like the game. No spoilers. (Eric May)