A review of the genre spanning, multi-game medleys of 'Chaos Theatre' by The Runaway Four

It's the long awaited debut studio album from Vancouver's The Runaway Four. The six song album reminds me of classic rock albums like Pink Floyd. I'm talking, the type of album that only has half a dozen tracks, but lasts an hour and takes you through a variety of genres and emotions.

Things start off very classy with the opening medley This Game is Baroquen. Puns also. We are off to a very good start. My personal favorite though, even before I heard it, is the Ice level tribute Boreal Bedlam. The track is even better than I imagined, kicking off with the soft snowfall of Snowman from Earthbound. Only my (second) favorite theme from Earthbound. Despite the endless ice, things heat up as the track leads toward the upbeat rhythms of the Vanilla Lake theme from the original Super Mario Kart. I could write an entire article about Vanilla Lake. This track also adds to the wintery feel with great instrument choices and the overall vibrancy on the track. The medley not only jumps from game to game, but through time as well, as the band kicks it up another notch for the Frappe Snowland / Sherbert Land theme from Mario Kart 64. They drive this ice sculpture of a track home with perhaps one of the most famous snow themes in gaming, the furious race down Super Mario 64's Cool, Cool Mountain. I'm definitely going to have this medley on endless repeats to get me through the 100+ degree summers here in the California desert,

The track getting major rotation lately though, to thaw myself from the winter cold, is Magma Mayhem, and as the name suggests, this medley is filled with the aggressive rumbling of a flowing volcano. The piano and drums take center stage to start the track, winding through the Primitive Mountain of Chrono Trigger to the desert oasis of the Scaraba Bazaar of Earthbound.

This medley business gets serious in the next track, the grandiose seventeen minutes titled Battle Royale! The track slowly builds ominously through the classic battle themes of several Final Fantasy games. The journey continues through a huge variety of genres and moods and ever more games of course. We here the hard banging sounds of Smithy's Fortress from Super Mario RPG at around thirteen minutes in, which I feel obligated to point out for some reason. Then the drums fall into a crazed rhythm that drives home the jackhammer nature of the song before bursting into more classic game tunes than I can write down before they're onto the next reference until finally culminating in an ode to Mega Man. Like any gret rock album, things have to end on a somber, more reflective note, and what theme describes that better than Sanctuary from the highly esteemed Earthbound soundtrack. Makes sense, given the groups name as well. Remember all the times, good and bad, fun and trying, as the debut studio album from The Runaway Four fades to a close.

This album took me a lot of places I haven't been in a while, what with the dozens of games referenced, all with a certain haste that kept any nostalgia in a state of fuzziness as my gaming memories warped into one another. This is a wonderful listen for music fans who like to take their time and saunter through each musical landscape. 

The Runaway Four, Vancouver’s video game medley monsters, release their independent studio debut “Chaos Theatre” on January 20, 2017. This 45 minute sonic adventure contains 37 choice tunes from 31 video game titles, mixing popular favourites and hidden gems into 5 themed tracks. They’ll be supporting the release with a listening party and performance at Seven Dining Lounge in Vancouver and streaming live via Twitch for all the internet to see and hear.

Until now, the band has only ever catalogued their vast repertoire with recordings and video of their many live performances, making clips available on their YouTube channel and a single 90 minute live album on Bandcamp. “Chaos Theatre” is The Runaway Four’s first experience putting forward a polished and professional creation for their listening audience. Medleys from past performances were selected to build a dynamic narrative through the course of the album, intended to give the listener an adventure for the ears. The opening track, “This Game is Baroquen”, uses themes that highlight pre-classical musical devices of polyphony and counterpoint, and starts the journey on a light foot. Ice levels don’t often come second, but “Boreal Bedlam”, the second track, keeps the fun going with melody-rich ice themes from the snowy woods of Earthbound to the cool, cool mountain of Super Mario 64. Track 3, “Magma Mayhem”, leans back on the rhythm section and heats things up with themes of fire, lava and the infernal, preparing listeners for the 17-minute epic to follow that is “Battle Royale”. The fourth track begins solemn and foreboding, but soon dives into heavy battle themes from Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Pokémon and Donkey Kong franchises and ending with a triumphant fanfare. The closing title, “Your Sanctuary”, is an arrangement of themes from Earthbound exclusively. It’s the warm hug at the end of the journey, with a soft chord from the keys enveloping an endearing melody alongside contemplative bass harmonies and drum beats.
— The Runaway Four