Video games are art now. The president said it and everything, so you know it's legit. That makes me very happy, because I do believe that games represent a specific medium of artistic expression. Anyone that argues hasn't played BioShock Infinite yet.
And like all good art, the best way to measure its legacy is to see how it has impacted other artists. Take the Bible, for example. Christian or not, you'd have to be a special kind of stubborn to deny that book has inspired some pretty impressive albums over the years. Atlas Shrugged, Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Rings, The Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost... all are classics and each one of them has inspired musicians to craft an entire opus around them at one time or another.
So today we salute the games that have managed to do the same, and ended up as the muse for some killer concept records.
5. Mega Beardo, Belmont Ryan Postlethwait, better known as Mega Beardo, is to video-game rock what Alex Day is to Time Lord rock; a talent so amazing that he actually transcends the geekery he started in. Check out his classical guitar covers of Mega Man 2 robot master themes some time, but first go hear the wonder that is Belmont. Based on the Castlevania series of games the work starts off sad with "Simon," but it quickly gets into ear-blasting metal that will definitely have you head-banging right away.
4. Buckner & Garcia, Pac-Man Fever Video-game concept albums are actually over 30 years old. Not only that, but Buckner & Garcia scored a #9 single and a solid gold record with Pac-Man Fever in the early '80s. It wasn't a concept album about a specific game so much as a celebration of arcade culture at the time.
It's pretty impressive that someone managed to make minutes-long tunes around some of the most bare-bones stories in video-game history. I'm sort of surprised that some nerdy Broadway producer hasn't revived Pac-Man Fever in an attempt to make a dance-friendly show catering to the middle-aged nostalgia crowd. A love story set in an '80s arcade? The Midwest would throw all the money at that.
3. Last Chance to Reason, Level 2 Last Chance to Reason saw the movie Tron and thought, "Wouldn't it be badass if that was a metal album?" The answer is yes, and 2011's Level 2 was a serious prog-metal work that drew its inspirations from Metroid, Contra, and freakin' R-Type, of all things. (Kudos on skipping Gradius for something a little less mainstream.)
Not only did they record a pretty damned good album about being trapped in technology, they also had an actual game to go along with it.
2. Mega Ran, Black Materia I still cannot believe that Black Materia exists, it's so randomly amazing. Mega Ran retells the story of Final Fantasy VII with some stone-cold rap skills that's like a damned Omnislash to the ears. There isn't a single track on the record that doesn't succeed both as a hip-hop track and a celebration of one of the greatest games in the greatest series ever made. You'd have to be something truly special to top it.
1. The Protomen It could never be anything else but The Protomen. The mysterious Nashville act recorded two incredible concept records based on the Mega Man series that is as bombastic and over-the-top excellent as anything Jim Steinman ever put in Meat Loaf's mouth.
The first, self-titled record is great, but it's the prequel Act II: The Father of Death that really cooks. "Light Up the Night" alone is worth the buy, but delving into the whole record reveals a storytelling ability way beyond any but the finest bands. Forget Tommy, forget American Idiot, and most of all forget it's about a video game if you must. The Protomen's tale is one of redemption, corruption, failure, and a world aflame. Go get it.
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