We at Shinesparkers love Metroid music. The release of both Harmony of a Hunter albums is a symbol of that love – with it, we brought together various talented musicians to express their own passion for the series’ melodies and harmonies. One of those musicians was Sam Dillard, who is now releasing his first solo album, Metroid Cinematica. Sam kindly offered the album to us in exchange for the following review from both our content writer Renan Greca and our webmaster Darren.
As the name implies, Metroid Cinematica is a collection of cinematic arrangement of Metroid music. However, each track in Metroid Cinematica doesn’t necessarily correlate directly to a single track from a Metroid game, since Sam’s arrangements often include several different melodies, sometimes going from Metroid to Metroid Fusion to Metroid Prime in a matter of seconds.
Cinematica has 16 tracks, but many more themes are represented in them. The tracks that are made out of several base themes aren’t composed as straightforward medleys, though. The themes come and go and come again, blended masterfully to create fluid pieces. Sam’s usage of harmonies during the switch from a theme to another was somewhat similar to “The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Medley”, from Symphony of the Goddess.
The “cinema” in “Cinematica” is well-deserved. With eyes closed, the music is food for imagination; in my head, I saw images of Samus exploring some of the hostile environments of Zebes or Tallon IV. Some parts of the album would have fit right in a Metroid movie, and I couldn’t help but imagine what those scenes would be like.
Fans of Harmony of a Hunter will enjoy listening to more tracks in the vein of “Into the Green World” and “Beyond the Glass”. Those two tracks, in fact, could have been part of Metroid Cinematica and they would have fit perfectly, but Sam Dillard chose to create new arrangements of “Green Brinstar” and “Maridia” for the album that sound fresh, although Sam’s style is immediately recognizable. Even the “Red Brinstar”/”Kraid” medley that Sam had assembled as “The Crimson Depths” in HoaH got a new version in Cinematica. As for Harmony of Heroes fans, know that “Edge of the Labyrinth” was made for Cinematica and featured in HoH, not the other way around.
“Into the Green World” is one of my favorite fan-arrangement tracks ever, so I went into Metroid Cinematica with high expectations. The album isn’t stuffed with mind-blowing awesomeness the whole time, but it’s a great listen nonetheless. I’m listening to it right now, and for the past week I’ve been listening to it while working or studying. Typical of great video game music, the album is usually motivating and enjoyable without being distracting, so it’s great for these tasks.
Sometimes, however, you can’t help but be distracted by the notes and chords reaching your ears. An epic-sounding version of the track you first heard twenty (gasp) years ago exploring the depths of Norfair is hard to ignore. Indeed, out of all the arrangements I’ve heard of “Lower Norfair”, Dillard’s “Inferno” might be the most breathtaking one. Meanwhile, “Wings on Fire” is a very different take on “Ridley’s Theme” compared to what we’re used to listening from both official and fan arrangements.
Metroid Cinematica is more than just a Metroid fan-arrangement album, it’s a cinematic story of Samus highlighting music across a variety of games, beautifully expressed and presented in a sixteen track compilation. It was fun to guess the many different themes across the album from games such as Metroid Prime, Metroid Fusion and the original Metroid. Sam Dillard is on top form, and it’s clear that he has grown and developed his skills to an even higher level than previously heard in Harmony of a Hunter. Two tracks in particular really stood out to me.
The first was “Inferno”. I feel this track in particular deserves some serious recognition for how faithful it remains to the original, but enhanced by its high quality brass and string sections. It could very well fit into a game, and I would personally go as far as saying that this comes as close to the original in terms of greatness as you are going to get. Simply put, “Inferno” is the greatest arrangement of “Lower Norfair” since “Magmoor Caverns” from Metroid Prime.
The other was “The Last Metroid”. Ending the album with a selection of tracks from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was a huge surprise, something that I feel has been lacking from remixes and arrangements of this series. Sam delivers a beautiful track, and ends the album with me wanting more.
Metroid Cinematica is an album that every Metroid fan should experience. If you enjoyed any of Sam’s work on Harmony of a Hunter, be prepared for the same high standard of work, expanded and fulfilled into a complete album.
© 2014 Darren & Renan Greca
This feature was originally published in December 2014. It has been edited slightly since its original publication.