If you don’t know what The Legend of Zelda is, then you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of decades. As I’m sure all of us non-troglodytes are aware, the first game in the series had a fantastic soundtrack by Kondō Kōji:
Well, I’m not ashamed to say that I think Kondō is a genius. He managed to wring epic grandeur out of the NES’s little Ricoh 2A03 sound-chip. Various orchestras, bands and solo muscians have been inspired by his work. Today I want to talk about some of my favourite versions of this track. Versions that raawk!
First up, let’s talk about a grand master of shred guitar, Eric Calderone – also known by his YouTube handle 331Erock, or as Shred Guitar Eric. I apologise in advance for the hours you’re going to spend watching his YouTube videos and grinning like a dork and he pulls amazing (and often quite humorous) sounds out of his guitar. Almost every nerd-culture theme song you can think of (and a few you’ve forgotten) has been turned into a shred-guitar epic at his hands.
What’s almost as admirable as Calderone’s talent is that he comes across in his written pieces and the “interview” segments on his YouTube as a very nice, very warm person who primarily produces music because it’s fun to do so. I’m a sucker for that kind of honest enthusiasm.
His Legend of Zelda tribute derives its hook straight from the intro to the NES classic, and launches into it headfirst.
The next Zelda-metal tune I want to mention is another straightforward one, by the delightfully-named Vomitron. These guys mostly use the readily-identifiable “Zelda Anthem” but have mixed in a rather cool middle section based on the music from the dungeons, and the battle with Ganon.
They’ve also done something cool with a smattering of the tunes from Zelda of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
Next up is another impressively-rocking instrumental from Powerglove, a power-metal band who cover video game theme music, and are named after a NES peripheral. (Incidentally, their website rules: that flash thing at the top looks so much like the SNES Castlevania games.) I’m so happy that I live in times where that’s even a thing. These guys mostly adapt incidental music and boss-battle music from the Zelda series, making the listener wait until 4:17 before the anthemic title theme inevitably emerges as a guitar lead.
I like their use of very staccato riffs in the first two minutes; and their bridging between the boss-battle music from The Legend of Zelda, and the Hyrule Castle theme from A Link To The Past is rather cool.
Last, but by no means least comes something a little bit harder and heavier: The Legend of Ovdi by Ovid’s Withering is a medley of symphonic death metal and various various tunes from the Zelda series. The boss-battle theme and the Hyrule Castle theme from A Link To The Past both appear in this track. Ovid’s Withering make much of the brooding menace that was already in the castle theme – and this forms the basis of their track, with brutal guitar-work and church-bells contrasted to a gentle fading harp refrain at the end.
Interestingly, this is the only “Zelda metal” track that doesn’t build up to the classic Zelda title theme. It’s in there, of course – starting about a minute and a half into the song – but it mostly acts as a counterpoint to a remarkably brutal riff. The core of the song is the Hyrule Castle theme.
So yeah, Zelda metal is a apparently a thing, which is nice. Whilst I could continue to describe Zelda-inspired music at length, because there’s great mountains of it, from a cappella pieces to slightly NSFW musical comedies to very NSFW raps, I’ve no desire to write an epic of Tolstoyesque length about this (or any) subject whilst Borderlands 2 exists.
I guess it’s pretty appropriate for so much music to have been inspired by a franchise where the hero wields an Ocarina with as much gusto he does a sword, and has been known to quest after musical instruments.