20/11/2021

๐Ÿ’ฟ๐Ÿ“€ Metal Slug X Original Soundtrack Record Label - Wayo Records Artist - SNK Sound Team ๐Ÿ’ฟ๐Ÿ“€ @WayoRecords @WayoRecordsJP #Vinyl #VideoGameVinyl

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‘The iconic soundtrack from the legendary game Metal Slug X for the first time as a stand-alone release in vinyl format, for the 25th Anniversary of the legendary SNK game series! Go Peregrine Falcon Squads!’

Growing up in the valleys of South Wales, there was never really a local arcade per se (the closest I can think of was a brief spell when a place called Top Ten Video opened in Cilfynydd and consisted of Mortal Kombat, Super Baseball 2020 and a horizontal shooter whose name evades me – the dude that ran that shop didn’t have a till he just kept all his money in a KFC bucket on the counter…it’s no longer trading) but instead, there were scattered machines around in chip shops, pubs and the like.

In once such place – Pontypridd Precinct – there was a record store called Rainbow Records and, at the back, tucked away in darkness shone Double Dragon, Aliens and Metal Slug. I PUMPED 10p coins into Metal Slug whenever I was there, with its frantic on-screen action, awesome reload animations and the fact that it rewarded my personal penchant of hammering the fire button as speedily as I could by releasing a stream of handgun fire meant that it was one of the most compulsive arcade games I could play.

It’s a game I will always have a crack at when I pass one on my travels and only last year, I met up with a friend in Cardiff’s The Arcade Vaults and we completed the game – it was on free play, thank the lord – and it remains a blast of pure vintage arcade gold.

Released in 1999, Metal Slug X was an enhanced version of Metal Slug 2 and – being released in 1999 – has some awesome, AWESOME midi music.

The version I have is presented on a single 180g smoky grey vinyl that has a ‘gun smoke’ vibe to it - there is also an orange variant available. The cover art of the vinyl is very much the cover art from the game - with a white background and that familiar font in the top-left corner, featuring the four playable characters in front of the titular Metal Slug.

Tarma Roving’s cheeky grin is clearly a hint as to the aural gold contained on the waxy grooves therein.

The rear of the album shows the four heroes peeking inside the main gun barrel of Metal Slug to see a small rodent impishly nesting and eating a snack. Astride this image is the tracklist, sporting 18 tracks in total at a running time of just over 44 minutes.

Finally, the centre image of each side of the record features the Metal Slug either rolling over a smashed tank (side A) or standing tall, shining, and victorious (side B).

Track by Track Breakdown

Side A:

The Military System (Operation Explanation, Ranking) – marching band snare and a single thudding bass kick drum signal the start of the album, snappy and motivating stuff. This works really well as an intro track, showing off the production style straight off the bat

Barracks (Character Select) – This launches in with a peppery drum rhythm and great bass that is all over that digital fretboard, a short track but pumps the energy levels right up

Judgment (Stage 1-1) – Wailing guitar, roomy sounding snare and tinging ride lead up to – a new one on me – what appears to be a midi version of a vocoder playing Eastern-inflected throat singing. GOOD. The guitar and keys wail over those swift drumbeats. This also shows the albums recurring theme of playing perfectly looped music (due to the arcade roots) through to a fade-out ending. This point in the album also solidified how much I enjoy organic instrumentation reproduced artificially in the ‘90s, there’s such nostalgic energy and buzz to it.

Steel Beast Greats (Boss Theme A) – The pace keeps up on this, the first boss theme of the album. Featuring ominous, descending notes and a driving drum beat with a spiky, punk heart and the first instances of a sound that I instantly associate with the Goldeneye soundtrack on the N64…and  I can’t really describe it, it’s like a series of midi hammer blows that reoccurs later in the tracklisting as well, cementing that this album is unabashedly from the ‘90s. A lot of the tracks veer around the 3-4 minute mark, meaning that they feel like full songs that you can get hips deep into - which is absolutely fine.

Prehistoric Site (Stage 2-1) – Slowing things down a touch, the booming traditional drum beats sound out with a soldier snare rattling underneath as trumpets parp out a march that leads to an Eastern flute section and dancing strings that rise into a surprisingly rousing melody.

The Cenotaph (Stage 2-3) Panic not, the Eastern-vocoder-throat singing is back! This time backed up with some snazzy conga work and spooky marimba, the samples are so crisp and clear on the album, which is really illustrated here. The temple/desert vibes are really whipping through the track, making this an early stand out for me, although the best is yet to come.

First Contact (Boss Theme B, Stage 6-2) – A change of mood to what is initially a more rousing and victorious score before the track again changes tact and becomes a repeated, single-note piano climb that invokes a sense of unease as horns blare out over the top. The drums are particularly cool here, always maintaining an almost dancey element and featuring some nice open hi-hat work and well-chosen snare samples which are tighter and more piccolo-esque on certain parts, adding a surprising amount of scope and variety.

Livin on the Deck (Stage 3-1) – It was close but this is a favourite for me, beginning with some really cool synthetic bass work, the wandering keys, guitar and breakbeat drums are pure ‘90s Japan, this track gave me some serious flashbacks to Galaxy Force 2 by Data Discs – by the time the sax solo kicked in, I knew that this would be a highlight. The music keeps throwing solo sections, tempo changes and riffs at you that completely rock, this is a song that – if I could create a dream live band VGM playlist, would most certainly be played. 

Twice.

Side B:

Assault Theme (Boss Theme C, Stage 6-1) – Kicking off with ‘the Goldeneye sound’, this features light but swift drums and climbing horns in a pretty short loop before opening up into a melody that reaches up in pitch with each revolution before returning to that opening theme. A bombastic opening to the second side.

Race to the China (Stage 4-1) – Single beat drums and 80’s synthetic percussion shots as well as a two-note bass riff drive a swirling keyboard melody before giving us one of the prettiest slow-tempo moments on the album. The second time the track repeated, I was so keen to hear that part again, one of those moments where you wish it hung around for longer, a beautiful riff.

New Godokin Street (Stage 5-1) – The bass and drums again take the reigns here, adding some funkiness to the proceedings and harking back to a variation on the riff from Race to the China at one point. I really am a sucker for midi bass and this track shows why, with those drums keeping the grooviness going.

Kiss in the Dark (Stage 5-3) – the most hard rock so far, this opens up with a downscaling three-note (pretty much) riff before a wailing metal guitar solo comes sailing in, leaving an ‘80s stamp on the album. A straightforward turkey-necker.

Metamorphosis (Stage 5-3) – A shift indeed! One of the most low-key and atmospheric tracks, this is a gloomy one but also a welcome change that adds variety. All doom-laden piano chords and shocks of keyboard run over church bell chimes and a low hum, it calls to mind a misty graveyard at night. The spookiest Metal Slug moment?

Gravestone (Game Over) – A brief blast of music, this is an extremely short interlude track that will be familiar to players of the game!

Final Attack (Stage 6-3) – A celebratory romp propelled by marching snare and driving bass, the string and horn section ensure that this is a memorable last hurrah on the album – I especially love the section where for a moment, it sounds like a Spanish wedding - good!

End Title Again (Final Performance) – A breath of release, this short piece is almost like a sigh after the many bullets have been fired throughout the game, leading us to the final song.

MS X Ending (End Credits) – Drum and brass sections to the fore for this final full track, almost JRPG-like in its presentation it certainly feels like a military victory and the choice to have the drums switch from marching to a funky groove halfway through that’s backed up by a sax solo is a bold and brilliant one indeed. This album really knows how to shift tone and do it WELL.

Carry Out (Stage Clear) – another interlude track, this triumphant blast ends not only the in-game stages but also this album.

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