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Electronic Metal. A genre so underutilized and overshadowed by its industrial counterpart, that it’s almost surprising to see at least one or two great albums per year. Not only was this year graced with another entirely synthesized Master Boot Record album, but also the debut full-length of Multi-Memory Controller. MMC’s approach to electronic metal is one infused with adventurous power metal and par for the course chiptune for good measure. This approach is also appropriately saturated with a healthy dose of retro video game worship for its subject matter. This is a pairing that’s entertaining on paper and in execution, as MMC provides several tracks worth of enjoyable chiptune metal albeit with a few hiccups.
This album does a great job of capturing the spirit of what it pays homage to. Regardless of the quality of the tracks, each one is an excellent representation of the mood and genre from their respective games. I’m not all too intimate with NES era home and arcade games, but having played Mega Man, the track ‘In the Year 200X’ feels like a track ripped straight from the rom. The songs and their melodies feel wholly authentic, as if they were modern, metal renditions of classic video game themes, torn from the 80s with a more contemporary production style. This is especially pronounced due to the usage of power metal to convey these games’ action/adventure slant. The rapid fire of the keyboard and electronic elements are a powerful driving force for the album and fit in like a puzzle piece. This is a combination of factors that have an excellent symbiosis for the album that exudes an unrelenting charm.
However, charm can only get you so far and ‘Power Up the Chips’ is not without its fair share of glitches and bugs. While the writing of the tracks captures the spirit of all things retro, it stutters and sputters with a few moments of clumsiness that I can’t get over. Some of the tracks are missing that ‘peak’ of satisfaction or a gratifying climax. These songs personify arduous and challenging adventures, but some are missing the moments that are the most gripping and interesting. For example, ‘F-Zero Racing’ is a good track but is missing elements and moments of glory that made these games the way they are, so the track never elevates itself beyond being a decent homage. However, when the tracks go all out, they are endlessly enticing to listen to. The instrumental finale ‘The Age of Classics’ is not only a phenomenal sendoff for the album and an amazing track, but it’s also got all the twists and turns of the arcade games it mimics to pull off a dynamic ride.
The production is nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done. It’s obvious the strength of the album was channeled into the writing as this album sounds like it could’ve been released via YouTube under the banner of “Retro Games Metal Style”. That isn’t to say great material can’t be released under any medium, however the mixing and tones are just fine for what they are: they get the job done. I will say that the electronics sound great, and sampling actual sounds from video games is a nice touch to add to the songs’ depth. Everything that’s supposed to sound retro, does so in spades. The vocal performance of the band’s proprietor, Dominic Arsenault is easily the weakest aspect of this album. Power metal requires range, and Arsenault’s strained delivery is underwhelming in some cases. It doesn’t ruin the album, nor does it really bring it down at any point, but it’s in sore need of improvement.
Overall, MMC’s first full-length is a strong debut for the band. Through an excellent mix of homage and originality, Arsenault crafts several tracks’ worth of run ‘n gun chipmetal excitement. Arsenault has found a formula for excellence and made it his own with MMC and though not perfect, is a satisfying listen, bookended by manic metallic majesty. Power it up and leave it on.
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