The enemy of all zombies: A review of Earthbound by Cory Johnson

Earthbound-Cory-Johnson

Disturbing, haunting, plaintive, and even hopeful. Definitely Earthbound. Cory Johnson follows up his monumental Zelda album with something more like an audio event than an album. Johnson channels his inner Orson Welles to create a sonic account of the war against Giygas.

Back when the site had recently gone through another torrid upgrade by my hands, Cory Johnson released a one of a kind tribute to the Legend of Zelda. Since then I have been an immense Cory Johnson fan, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I have never had the opportunity to commit many words to paper about this wonderful musician. Coincidentally, as I have revamped this site once again back in July of last year, I run across a brand new collection of music from Cory Johnson, and it appears he has been grinding and leveling up during GM4A's dormancy, because his latest, a tribute to the fantastic, ultimately niche music of Earthbound, is a SMAAAASH!! Homerun.

The introductory tracks paint an ominous picture using dialogue that would sound at home in any 1950's space opera, the audio equivalent of that memorable opening image from Earthbound. The spoken word portions paint a picture which is steadily reinforced by the musical arrangements in an incredible way I haven't heard since some of Jay Tholen's chiptune classics. The tension builds sharply as the actors weave a tale of the chaos raining down from the skies.

It's not until we are well into "Prophecy of Bee" do we start to approach a world far less antagonizing than earlier. "Towns I (Hello World)" runs with that hope and launches it into an upbeat melody of heavy drums and a whirlwind of instruments lead by some evocative guitar playing. The album takes a turn for the somber and beautiful for much of the meat of the album, but don't let that fool you into a fall sense of safety.

"The Cliff That Time Forgot" lays waste to some of the most truly memorable tracks from Earthbound, the type of songs that seemed to be little more than noise in some instances. The trumpet like warbling of Dungeon Man or the pulsing drill sounds that seemed to have no rhythm at all, seem to be best represented by this song. The mood and style of the song vary wildly until we reach the penultimate track.

Penultimate is a great word in this situation, because nothing conveys the grandiosity of the track "I Am the Evil in Your Heart". An 18 minute build up of dramatic speeches and slowly building music that eventually culminates into a stirring finale.

At least, it would, were it not interrupted by the gestating rumble of something completely not of this world. Perhaps not even of this dimension. The music lurches like a lava stream inching it's way forward until we are plunged back into the depths of chaos that the album began with.

Like all great rock albums, this one ends with a reprise like finale. "Town IV (Because I Love You)" is a heartwarming rearrangement of the theme from the bustling town of Fourside.  No tricks here, despite Giygas' greatest efforts, Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo have overcome evil and are triumphant in their quest.

Now much like the hope for that day that Mother 3 gets an official US release, I long for the day that Cory Johnson graces the world with another grand tribute to another heralded video game series.

You can grab the Earthbound album for free or name your own price via Cory Johnson's bandcamp album page.