There’s no secret that I’m a geek overlord, so when the GAME MUSIC COLLECTIVE started sharing music videos for video game music, I became an instant fan, especially following their debut live performance in 2017. It seems the group received an impressive 200,000€ grant from the Alfred Kordelin Foundation to support the creation of “Restart,” an album that showcases a selection of various themes and medleys of music found exclusively in Finnish video games. This independent release will be available for your listening pleasure on March 10th, 2023.
If you follow me in any way, shape, or form, you’d know that I keep my eyes open for any and all video game music that gets played in this country, but you’d also know that I’m slightly critical of most game music orchestral productions for sticking to the safe games: Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, and the other popular classics. What immediately stood out about this release was, due to the grant funding, the selection of entirely Finnish game songs. This meant that there were only three soundtracks that I was even familiar with represented here: Angry Birds, Trine, and Nex Machina (all, incidentally, from Ari Pulkkinen).
The first track is the main theme from Battlelands Royale, which makes for a really strong opening (naturally) with the dynamic build-up and magnificent use of brass, leading to smooth and exciting strings as the song continues. This is followed by a track that became an instant highlight despite being completely unfamiliar: a medley from the 2020 tactical combat game, Iron Danger. The gentle use of strings for the intro melody is deeply enticing, but it is the continuation of this melody and the various ways in which it is used in the medley that really make it shine for its deep and dramatic feel.
Next up is the “Heroes of Warland Main Theme,” which is from a mobile game from Nitro Games that kicks things off on a dramatic and exciting note with the full orchestra, before an electric guitar comes in for the main melody… damn it’s good! Meanwhile, the “Oceanhorn Medley” is a more ambient and mysterious-sounding piece – the game was deeply influenced by The Legend of Zelda, so it should come as no surprise that they put a lot of effort into its music as well, which translates magnificently to an orchestral form.
The “Brawl Stars Western Theme” was an interesting inclusion, as it’s a rather lively piece, paired with a western guitar sound and the shouts of “hoo” in the sound, which are very reminiscent of, for example, other famous western tracks like “Main Title” from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly by Ennio Morricone. They then slow things down with “Alan Wake: Welcome to Bright Falls,” which is likely one of Finland’s most internationally well-known video games. The music surely matches the essence of a mystery/thriller game beautifully and the orchestra only adds to that.
Trine is such a simple game that it truly has no business having music as good as it has… though it seems that Ari Pulkkinen‘s compositions are solid, regardless of the style of game he’s writing for. The theme for “Trine 2” has had some stories told of it during their live shows, so it was as unsurprising of a selection as “The Angry Birds Medley” that follows – a very playful track that makes good use of the full orchestra and its creativity, with little bits and pieces of fun things interspersed here and there for more texture and playfulness. It’s hard to pick a part of the song to be the highlight as the whole thing is just delightful. However, if Angry Birds was a clear choice, the “Hill Climb Racing Medley” was another unusual but nice surprise, with its very funky and peppy vibes. As a very non-mobile gamer myself, so many of these choices really allowed for an expansion of my musical palate and this was a really delightful way to build up to the final song.
One soundtrack that I’ve been dying to hear performed by a video game orchestra is that of Nex Machina, though I understand that synthwave doesn’t necessarily translate as easily to a full orchestra as a lot of other video game music (though the Sonic the Hedgehog medleys we often hear from gaming orchestras might disagree). That said, the moment I saw the name Helena Haaparanta as guest vocalist for Nex Machina‘s theme song, “Let Me Save You,” I had to change my pants with excitement (I’m exaggerating of course, but only a little). Known for her time in bands like CRIMFALL and FEAR OF DOMINATION, Helena is one of Finland’s most under-appreciated talents and it’s a true shame that CRIMFALL called it quits a few years ago. This means that every opportunity to hear her sing is one worth taking. On this occasion, she absolutely crushes it – when she belts it out, I am instantly covered in goosebumps every time. The orchestral rendition of the theme song translates spectacularly, full of life and drama, making for one hell of a finale to the album!
Ultimately, I had no concerns coming into this album as to whether or not it would be good; these guys have proven time and time again that quality is the name of their game. The chosen tracks on the album are unusual and unfamiliar picks, but each deserving of its spot, as this album both showcases the GAME MUSIC COLLECTIVE‘s skills, as well as the incredible compositions that have come out of this country’s gaming scene. All-in-all, this is a spectacular effort and surely one of my early picks for local album of the year already! Now, how do we get these guys to do some music from Noita?
- Battlelands Royale Main Theme
- Iron Danger Medley
- Heroes of Warland Main Theme
- Oceanhorn Medley
- Brawl Stars Western Theme
- Alan Wake: Welcome to Bright Falls
- Trine 2 Main Theme
- The Angry Birds Medley
- Hill Climb racing Medley
- Nex Machina: Let Me Save You ft. Helena Haaparanta
Funded by the Alfred Kordelin Foundation