ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Blademode’ as exciting as its gaming inspirations

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First Posted: 1/27/2014

If you’re in the mood for something a little different to add to your music collection, you could do no better than a brand new disc from Bloomsburg’s own Kris Huber. Under the moniker of Kroth, Huber has recorded a very metal-slanted instrumental take on classic video game music he’s titled “Blademode.” Running the gamut from crushingly melodic to ethereally ambient, the music successfully translates from screen to speaker with implied levels of commotion that made the games from which they’re culled such a rush.

Conceived for presentation at MAGFest, a yearly video game and video game music-themed festival held in the Washington, D.C., area, Huber’s instrumental prowess, largely influenced by bands like Dream Theater and Opeth, comes alive in “Brain Scraps” from “Sonic the Hedgehog,” with its breakneck, death metal tempo and expressive modal melody line. Similarly, the melody line is the most provocative element of the song in “Smokey and the Bandit Town ft. Stemage” from the early 2000’s Game Boy platform “Shantae” – the track is no simple background noise with its complex neo-classical/harmonic minor-inspired flavor and aggressive drum patterns.

A brilliantly diverse detour occurs within “Whuduya Buyin’?” from “Castle Crashers,” with its whimsical backing melody provided by the Otamatone, or stick-like Japanese instrument shaped like a music note sounding something like a delightfully comedic duck call, along with a tunefully twanged lead on what seems to be a mandolin or like-stringed instrument. A sense of child-like wonder and unhurried, amusement park-themed enjoyment is captured via the track’s unique vision.

True to the overall vibe of the album is “That Burning Sensation” from Killer Instinct, with a plodding drop tuning and nearly poisonous string scrape igniting the song. The jagged, chaotic thump of the instrumental chorus is akin to Huber’s beloved Dream Theater’s “Under a Glass Moon” in its progressive cuts and breaks. Also of note is the staccato-picked melody lines of Huber’s guitar leads, evoking the electronic bursts of typical mid-1990s 32-bit game audio – a real throwback that won’t be lost on diehard gamers.

You can practically feel every punch, jump, and kick that Huber’s notes suggest, capturing the mischievous spirit that was his initial siren call to the video game world. It’s a truly surging soundscape proving the inherent musicality that dwells within the creative mind of a dedicated gamer.

Kroth ‘Blademode’ Rating: W W W W V