Powerglove: Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man
Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man
Written by Jason Porter
Originally Published on November 29, 2007
Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man is the new full-length album from Powerglove. If you haven’t heard of Powerglove, they’re one of several bands that re-imagines video game music. The Powerglove difference? They play heavy metal covers, usually with original arrangements–and they’re really good musicians. Their sound is pure fun for the nostalgic gamer, high-energy, no-holds-barred fun. It’s totally silly, and so is the band (their MySpace describes them as sounding like “a really bad idea for a band”).
My question was: how silly? They’re certainly a novelty band, in a sense. But is their music just a novelty, that wears off quickly, or is it lasting fun for a game geek like myself? I set up a number of rigorous, highly scientific tests in order to find out just how many miles I’d be able to get out of Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man. The margin of error is 100%.
1) Solo Gaming
My first test would also turn out to be the easiest of the four. I picked a small array of video games from various systems, popped MKFTMM into the stereo and began playing. First up: Super Mario Brothers 3. The tune: “Mario Minor,” a driving reinterpretation of songs from the original Super Mario Bros. and the SNES classic Super Mario World. Heading into World 1-1, a sweet minor-key rendition of SMB’s unforgettable overworld theme blasted out from my speakers at a breakneck tempo. I wasn’t just Super Mario, I was Super Metal Mario! The unsuspecting Goombas and Koopa Troopas never saw their fates coming. Midway through the song, the tune shifts to the ominous boss fort theme from Super Mario World–even better. Suddenly, not only was Mario much more badass than usual, he was also on an epic quest. So far, so good: this was high dorkiness at its finest.
The next game was Squaresoft’s PS1 RPG classic, Final Fantasy VII. The reasons I chose this particular title were twofold: the songs “Omnishred (We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Sword),” reinterpreted from FFVII, and “Red Wings Over Baron,” a surprisingly cohesive medley of songs from Final Fantasy IV for the SNES. I prepped my party and submerged beneath the waves to fight Emerald Weapon with the driving strains of “Omnishred,” a cover of the memorable “regular boss” music, blasting from the stereo. By the time that song and “Red Wings Over Baron” had finished, Big Green was still alive, but I was having more fun fighting him than I have in a long time.
And so it continued, a bit longer than I had anticipated. Where I could, I tried pairing up songs with their games of origin, or close approximations. The Zelda medley “Power, Wisdom, Courage” got my adrenaline pumping while playing The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Castlevania 3 seemed as epic as it was years ago when paired with “Vanquish the Horrible Night,” a mix of two memorable themes from that game and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. One of the funniest (and most fun) game/song combinations was the classic Zapper game Duck Hunt with “The Duck Grinder” blaring over it. There isn’t much music in Duck Hunt, so Powerglove’s rendition of it is barely recognizable, but picking out bits of the original tunes was a treat. All in all, for those of us who grew up gaming without growing out of it, Powerglove is a silly, dorky load of fun that’s the perfect accompaniment to a solo gaming session.
2) One on One
For the next trial, I convinced my girlfriend (also a gamer, natch) to sit down with me and go head-to-head for some competitive gaming action. We started off with Guilty Gear Isuka, and the song “Holy Orders (Be Quick and Just Shred),” a souped-up version of Ky Kiske’s theme from a previous series release, Guilty Gear X. The Guilty Gear games and metal music have always gone hand in hand, so it wasn’t like experiencing a whole new game, but the raw energy of the song got us more into the action than usual. I for one felt as though I could take on the world: my girlfriend was about to face a fighting-game steamroller in the form of Sol Badguy! I lost three times before the song was over, but through my bitter tears of defeat, the music carried me on. Immediately following “Holy Orders,” the album jumped into the title track, “Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man.” As set as I was on winning something for a change, we continued to play Guilty Gear until that song, too, was over and we were halfway back into “Red Wings Over Baron.”
At this point I stopped the CD and skipped it back while my girlfriend put Mortal Kombat: Deception, her drug of choice, into the PS2. “Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man” is actually an amalgamation of two songs: the song “Techno Syndrome” from the MK movie, and Metal Man’s theme from Mega Man 2. Not that it mattered to us. “Techno Syndrome” translates into metal surprisingly well (you may recall it as the song with the angry guy yelling “MORTAL KOMBAAAAAT!” over and over again), and it weaved in nicely with the Metal Man theme. I actually managed to win a couple of rounds this time, too!
Finally, we popped in Soul Calibur 3 and just started the CD from the beginning. We played bouts until the CD reached “Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man” again before finally quitting. It was a bit draining to absorb such a huge amount of dorkiness in one night, so we agreed to do the same thing again the next night. It was just as fun as the first time, as we alternated between laughing at the exuberant, silly but well executed and catchy music, and yelling at the TV screen when we lost. If you have a good, dorky friend with whom you game, the two of you ought to have a lot of fun gaming to Powerglove.
3) In the Workplace
In some ways, playing Powerglove at the downtown pizza parlor where I work (only when my fabulous pro-gamer income runs out, of course) was the moment of truth. Sure, I appreciated its mix of solid metal technique and tongue-in-cheek video game silliness, but then again, I’m something of a game aficionado. How would the music hold up under the scrutiny of customers and coworkers? I played the album four straight nights in a row to gauge the effects on the various crowds that frequent the place at different times.
There was no problem getting the music played, at least: my coworkers all liked it. “That’s the Metal Man song from Mega Man 2!” a friend of mine exclaimed the first time “Metal Kombat” came on. “But there’s some other song in there too…” he frowned. I guess he was more about Mega Man than anything else. Another coworker, with an expression of wonderment, commented, “it’s like my childhood all over again, only on crack….” I elected not to ask him from whence he’d drawn the metaphor.
And the customers? There seemed to be four basic types. The average person, as with just about any music, no matter how unusual, didn’t really notice anything about it, or at least didn’t volunteer any comments. There was a fairly large minority of people who started yelling, “Zelda! See, man? That’s effin’ ZELDA!” or “oh my God, it IS Mario! Wait… isn’t it?” in between gulps of PBR, but who otherwise didn’t seem to draw the connection to the other songs. A few people bobbed their heads along in time to every track, leaning over to mutter to one another which theme was currently playing and occasionally asking about the music at the counter. And there was one old guy with a ponytail who just wanted us to “stop playing this, this, heavy metal, this music… it’s too loud… look, I’ll tip you a dollar to put on something else.” What could I say? A dollar is a dollar. Powerglove was out, Zamfir was in. Sorry, Powerglove.
4) Looking for Love
So far, so good: the music seemed to largely be a success at home and at work. But one important test remained. The weekend was upon me and, in the interest of science; my girlfriend agreed that I should test the album in the dating arena. Would this album, which I had become rather attached to over the course of the week, help me to pick up chicks?
I hopped into my beat-up old Nissan and popped the album in. Like any normal person, I knew that the sort of person I would want to meet in real life was not the sort of person who would appreciate me cruising around slowly with my music blaring, making faux gang symbols at them. Since I was going for the easiest possible targets, and not anybody I would actually want to get to know, I decided to do exactly that. I chose one of my ever-increasing supply of Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven T-shirts (current count: 3, all exactly the same) to wear underneath an open white collared work shirt. I even had my Fatal Fury promotional trucker cap (just like Terry Bogard’s!) tilted at an unorthodox angle, though my need for prescription eyewear prevented me from donning a cheap pair of knockoff wrap-around sunglasses to complete the effect. Aside from the subtle video game touches, I looked just like everyone I hated in high school.
Perhaps because of embarrassment, perhaps because of thoughtlessness, I ended up driving out a long ways from home before I rolled the window down, checked the hat and cranked the music up. Where I was, there were very few people, and most of them were twice as old as me or less than half my age. The suburbs: my native habitat. I didn’t have any cool gaming symbols figured out, so I elected to just try to look chill as I rolled past grandmothers and elementary school kids. I did finally manage to cruise by some likely targets, but before I could say anything, they started laughing so hard that I thought they might suffocate. Defeated, I drove home. Powerglove, it turns out, can’t do everything.
On the other hand, my girlfriend went to our local net cafe afterwards, and less than ten minutes later she was frantically pounding on the front door again. I cracked the door open and she squeezed through, followed by several pudgy hands adorned with Naruto watches, waving scraps of paper. I fought them off and finally asked what happened. She told me she’d started listening to Powerglove at the cafe on her laptop, and spent the rest of the run home fending off phone numbers and even an awkward marriage proposal or two from a veritable army of nerds. Gamer girls–is it any wonder they aren’t seen at LAN parties very often?
In The End
With that, my battery of tests came to a close. I can’t speak for the quality of the album, since I’m no music critic. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. But I can say confidently that from the perspective of a hardcore gamer, Powerglove is gold. It’s a fast, relentless good time for anyone who grew up on games like Killer Instinct, Super Mario Brothers and Final Fantasy VII. My only problem with it is that the album is over far too soon when playing a long round of PvP in World of Warcraft. The Alliance can keep DragonForce–Powerglove is superior combat music. I haven’t stopped listening to their wild, wacky, head-banging metal yet, and I doubt I will any time soon.