World of Ruin - Year 200X
When the Nintendo Entertainment System was released in 1983 the world of home entertainment was forever changed. Over the past 30 years the games and systems have evolved and changed and now we have graphics that are so realistic and stories that are so engrossing that many of these games become almost like mini cinematic features, allowing us to join forces with people from all over the globe without having to ever leave the comfort of our living rooms. Of the many elements that comprise a memorable video game there has remained one constant: the musical score. The compositions of classic video games stick with us throughout our adulthood and will always bring back that nostalgia for the days of old when heard. Year 200X, a local band out of Lansing, MI, takes the beloved tracks of our favorite first gen consoles and breathes new life into them via live drums, bass, and metal guitar riffs. With their second and final album, 'World of Ruin,' the band shows their prowess and passion for composition and musicianship and showcase the real awesomeness of classic video games.
The album begins with the 'Intro,' a beautiful and fitting track composed by Year 200X, then launches into “Wizards and Warriors/Ironsword' with a vengeance. The band's previous album dealt with game strictly on the Nintendo platform, but with this album they branch out into the Super Nintendo and Playstation One, giving us an album with a variety of great games to pick out tracks from. It is a lot of fun to listen to the songs without looking at the titles and challenging yourself to see if you can truly pick out the right game. Some of the tracks have use different stages from the same game, making for a nice sound change up in the album. My personal favorite is 'Mega Man X: Spark Mandrill – Opening Stage' as this was my favorite game released on the SNES platform. Although there are three guitarists the bass and drums never get lost, which just shows the talent the guys have for working together and creating awesome tracks. Utilizing mandolins, flutes, and keyboards help to give the tracks a more authentic feel, as with 'Chrono Cross: Star Stealing Girl.'
The last song, 'Final Fantasy VI: Dancing Mad,' is a glorious and beautiful rendition of a wonderful score and game series. The guys really do this one justice and give it lots of room to breathe and play out; the track is just over ten minutes long and features choir singers and well executed solos. The team of Tim Lydon, Kyle Hoke, and Tony Oliver on guitar combined with Jake Bryan (current drummer for Know Lyfe) on drums and Ian Whiters on bass is phenomenal, as these guys have been playing the metal circuit in Lansing for years, and I have always been a big fan. Overall I am totally satisfied with this effort and although I am bummed that the band has since dispersed I know that these guys will never stop doing what they love, whether it be with Year 200X or not. I highly recommend this album to people who love video games and enjoy hearing their old favorites with a new twist.
As I know the guys in the band it really was a pleasure to be able to interview Tim Lydon, co-founder of the band, and he had some awesome things to say. Check it out below!
Interview with Year 200X
1. Tell me a little bit about your background and why you formed Year 200X.
I've been playing music since I was ten and started my first band when I was thirteen. I started out learning some of my favorite music at the time (Nirvana, KISS, Alice in Chains) but later realized that I really loved to play heavy metal, and focused my learning more in that genre. I was in several bands, including one with (fellow Year 200X members) Tony, Jake, and Rance [Tatroe; former member].
Around 2004 I discovered some of the original bands to do video game covers: The Minibosses, The Advantage, and the Neskimos. I had always loved video games ever since owning an original Nintendo as a kid, so the music was very nostalgic for me...and I had no idea that there were people playing the music from those games on real instruments. I was immediately hooked. Sometime in the next year I recorded my first video game cover, which was the title theme from Mega Man II. Sometime around then, Tony did a cover of the opening theme from Ninja Gaiden II. Tony and I decided that we'd put the songs up on Myspace for fun, naming the project "Year 200X" after a line of text from the Mega Man II opening. Jake, Rance, and Ian, upon hearing them, offered to assist in playing the tunes live, and we started practicing and arranging new tunes. So, the formation of a full, real band to play video game tunes was really kind of an accident.
2. What/ Who are your musical influences?
All of the band members have their own personal influences, and while I can't speak for them, my personal influences include bands like Metallica, Megadeth, and Testament. As a band, I'd say we're influenced a little more by melodic metal and Swedish death metal, like Killswitch Engage, In Flames, and maybe a little Opeth in there some times.
3. As I mentioned in the review for the first album, We Are Error, I am in agreement with the decision not to bring in a lead singer and force lyrics in where they do not belong. Was this even an issue when you guys started out?
Not really, because while I've been known to do some singing during our occasional non-video game covers, none of us can sing very well and there's already like fifty of us on stage (ok, five) so stages are already a little cramped. Additionally, video game cover music itself inherently walks a fine line between awesome and cheesy, and I don't think that we have the subtlety to pull off vocals in our style of music without taking off into Cheese Land. There are other artists who can do video game music with vocals and do it very well, but it never really seemed to be for us.
4. What is the process like when it comes to converting the video game composition into live drums, bass, and guitars?
We start by finding a song that we really like, or one that we think would lend itself to our style. We'll then look for an accurate MIDI version, and import it into a digital audio program which separates the different instruments onto their own tracks. We'll sometimes fiddle with transposing the key, and then we'll start copying, pasting, moving, and arranging sections and instruments into the structure that we like and programming rudimentary drums to get a feel for how the finished product will sound. Then we'll go track by track and actually learn the parts on guitar. Once we've gotten a firm grasp on the structure and how to play the tunes, we'll bring it into the rehearsal room and work on getting it tight as a full band.
5. How do you feel about the digital revolution in music and has it helped or hindered your success?
I think it's a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it gives artists the ability to be heard when fifteen or twenty years ago it may not have been possible. Home recording has made it easier and easier for anyone to be able to express themselves and share it with not just friends but the whole world.
On the other hand, this has led to an oversaturation of the market; YouTube and Soundcloud are packed with zillions of artists, and it makes it harder to find great artists in the sea of...not-so-great artists. In the end I think that if an artist is truly great, they'll get shared enough to be heard.