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OCRA-0056 - BadAss: Boss Themes: Volume III


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Welcome to the beginning of the end! BadAss 3 is the final boss of the boss themes albums, so to say. Like the previous volumes, BadAss 3 consists of awesome renditions of various boss themes, from popular series such as Final Fantasy to more obscure games like Vectorman and Wild Guns. But make no mistake: this is not not BadAss 1 or 2. As with a good trilogy, the first one is to introduce people to the concept and vibe, the second part is the meanest and darkest one and the final entry is the epic finale. In Boss terms: BadAss 1 were the level bosses, BadAss 2 is the mean, tough-as-nails general you will have to defeat before you take take on the final mastermind: BadAss 3. This is also reflected in the vibe of the albums. BadAss 1 had general evil-sounding boss remixes, BadAss 2 had more of a focus on meaner, darker and grittier mixes, while this volume has epic orchestral rock or creepy mind-twisting remixes. This album won't punch you in the face with the raw power than Volume 2 had, but rather attack you mentally, by conquering your soul with bombastic powerful songs and driving you insane with the twisted ones. You WILL feel evil after listening to this. Find you inner Darth Vader or your inner Dexter and enjoy the epic conclusion of the (first?) BadAss trilogy! 


And there it is, the final entry to the BadAss trilogy. After being assistant director of the first two volumes, I was now taking the helm as project director with Alex (Chernabogue) as my trusted assistant. Since I became the assistant director for BadAss 1 (after already being a ReMixer when it was still called Crescendo to Chaos under different management), I never stopped working for BadAss. The preparations for volume 2 started just before the first volume was released, and this volume was also being worked on before the release of BadAss 2. In other words, I've been busy with directing BadAss since May 2009 (and involved as a ReMixer since May 2006); it's been a part of my life for quite some time. Of course, I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't enjoy it as much as I did!

This time around, I wanted to change the genre and feel of the album a bit while still keeping it in line with expectations for a boss themes album, just like David L. Puga (director of BadAss: Volumes 1 and 2) did with volume 2. As I described it in the project thread at the OverClocked ReMix project forum: "Instead of gritty and mean as with BA2, Volume 3 will be more adrenaline-pumping, epic, and twisted. People should feel dark and evil when listening to this album. This could be done with epic and bombastic songs, but also with really creepy or twisted songs. This means more orchestral influences (such as low choirs or strings) or more dissonance/eerie arrangements." And, man, did the artists deliver!

- Pieter van Os (pu_freak)

I participated to the two first volumes of BadAss (one track on volume I, and the trailer for volume II), so I knew I had to do something for BA3. Pieter contacted me at the end of BA2 to help him finish the trilogy, and it was a true honor to co-direct another OCR album, with such a great team of remixers and staff members. This album also contains three new tracks from me, the biggest number I've done for any album yet! Thanks a lot to Pieter (pu_freak), Eino (evktalo), and Tim (timaeus222), plus to all the artists that participated. We are BadAss!

- Alexandre Mourey (Chernabogue)

When it came time for BadAss 3 to roll around, knowing it was going to be the last volume, I realized I had to really help it go out with a bang. Since it was the last volume, to me, it had to be as perfect as it can be. Seeing as how the theme was to be accomplished with epic, bombastic, creepy, or twisted atmospheres, I figured the production should also be pretty aggressive (usually), and that's where I come in. I was the mastering engineer for this album, first and foremost, but I was also willing to do the mixing for some people as well, so thank you to the people who were patient with me while I worked to mix their tracks both in the way that I would objectively be happy with and in the way that they had preferably envisioned in the end.

In my humble opinion, I think that, out of all three volumes, Vol. 3 has some of the most talented and imaginative artists working together and making so many tracks that clicked nicely. I truly believe that the best of these artists' abilities was brought out during the refinement process. Even with the aggressive (or just full-sounding) final production, generally speaking for most of these tracks, I think the dynamics are still there to augment the creative, evocative, and/or immersive nature of these arrangements. It was a blast working closely on this with pu_freak and Chernabogue, and I hope to do something like this again in the future! 

...Are you feeling BadAss? Will you strut like you mean it? ARE... YOU... READY?! *spazzes out*

- Truong-Son Nguyen (timaeus222)





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Here's the review I'll be posting on my blog :)


What could be more BadAss than making BadAss: Boss Themes: Volume III my first official album review for the M Disk Playlist blog? Starting this entire review on a 3+ hour Amtrak ride because he has nothing better to do. Whether on a train, or a car, or in your room, or in the darkest depths of Hell, you owe it to yourself to listen to the final installment of the BadAss trilogy.


Boss battle themes and character villain themes have been one of my favorite types of video game music to listen to. There is just something about music exemplifying evil, and the efforts to take down that evil that just gets me very excited. What makes the BadAss albums so special is that these artists take those boss battle themes, those themes that signify the games antagonist(s), and they become something that goes beyond a typical “arrangement.”


So without further ado, I present the track by track review of BadAss: Boss Themes: Volume III. This album is directed by pu_freak, assistant directed by Chernabogue, and was master engineered by timaeus222.


Track 1-1: Monument of Non-Existence
By Lashmush, representing Kefka from the game Final Fantasy VI
Source Track: Dancing Mad from Nobuo Uematsu


Dancing Mad is one of the greatest final battle themes in the Final Fantasy series. The lead-in to the first section, and the calm transitions between sections gives this track a very ominous feel. Making you feel that Kefka is there, getting ready to attack with all of his might. I’ve heard Dancing Mad arranged before; on Overclocked and by the Black Mages. But what this track manages to accomplish, when compared to prior arrangements, is that this track actually sounds like an arrangement, rather than a remaster of Dancing Mad. Lashmush made this track feel fresh and exciting, like this is a whole new battle theme that happens to be inspired by Dancing Mad. For me, this is the most compelling symphonic rock arrangement of Dancing Mad I’ve ever heard.


Track 1-2: Zeromus Sum Game
By Sbeast, representing Zeromus from the game Final Fantasy IV
Source Track: The Final Battle from Nobuo Uematsu


I have to wonder if it was a good idea to make this track the follow-up to the previous track. I worry that people would compare this to the previous track, and then not be impressed because of how conservative it is compared to the other. But I do suggest that you give it a chance. While this track make seem like a great remaster at first, the last minute is what really stood out in my mind. I especially love the mixing, and the balancing of every instrument. And even if it does sound more remastered than arranged, it’s still very well produced. Definitely a good example of how to pull off conservative arrangements.


Track 1-3: Darksightedness
By Kammo64, representing Dark Bowser from the game Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
Source Track: Returning Memories of the Journey from Yoko Shimomura


The intro to this track reminds me so much of the Parasite Eve soundtrack, another fabulous Yoko Shimomura soundtrack. I love that the best Nintendo DS game is represented in this album. What I’m not feeling, however, is the rest of the track after the intro. It seemed like the intro was leading into a creepy, industrial take on this battle theme. But then the mood and rock style drastically changes. It still sounded good, but after the intro build-up, I guess I was expecting something else. So technically, this track is good. But the presentation left me a little disappointed in the end.


Track 1-4: The Metal Emperor
By Chernabogue, AngelCityOutlaw, and Furilas, representing Machinedramon from the game Digimon World
Source Track: Machinedramon Battle from Koji Yamada and Yuko Ishii


This track immediately caught me off guard. I would have never assumed that something that’s supposed to represent Machinedramon could sound like something out of Ys. It’s very encouraging, exciting, and a fun take on a hard rock arrangement of a battle theme. My only complaint is that it’s almost too short. Almost. I still loved it, but I could have gone another two minutes with this track personally.


Track 1-5: Warriors of Shredder
By Gamer Shredding (OmariuZ, and Luis Sáenz) representing Slash from the game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project
Source Tracks: Bad Soldier and Crazy Attack from Yuichi Sakura, Tomoya Tomita, and Kozo Nakamura.


This track is pretty fun. Great intro, and outro. The main body of the track was just “okay” for me. Some of the balancing with the background instruments was a little too subtle for my tastes. However, the guitar work in this track is pretty good. So I would still consider this track worth a listen to at least once. Not the best on production value, but it does deliver on the mood it creates.


Track 1-6: Jaded by Death
By HoboKa, representing Deathevan from the game Breath of Fire II
Source Track: Lethal Does from Yuko Takehara


Everything about this track, including the title of the source, and the title of this specific track, just screams evil. The mood this track creates is the kind of mood where you are fighting a hopeless battle against the enemy. And that last minute just takes the creepy vibe, and bumps it up, giving you a very ominous ending to a great attempt at a creepy arrangement. On the technical side, the percussion was excellent, and the way the synths were used (especially near the end) did the best job creating a haunting atmosphere.


Track 1-7: Crescendo to Chaos
By Chernabogue, representing Blue (AKA Rival) from the game Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow
Source Track: Last Battle (VS Rival) from Junichi Masuda


The beginning of this track reminds me of a slower version of the intro used in the hidden Black/White remaster of the track. The main body itself does a fabulous job telling the story of an intense Pokemon battle against the champion himself. It almost sounds like a John Williams battle theme, with the way the choir is used, and with how the main body itself was orchestrated. It’s certainly refreshing to hear a darker, more intense arrangement of Pokemon music for a change.


Track 1-8: The Power
By XPRTNovice, representing Grahf from the game Xenogears
Source Tracks: Grahf Ruler of Darkness, and Premonition from Yasunori Mitsuda


Right out of the gate, this definitely sounds like it could be an official arrangement done by Yasunori Mitsuda. The ominous and almost disturbing vibe is almost instantaneous. No build-ups necessary. Very interesting and distinguishing choice of instruments used in the main body of this track. The voice work adds a whole new level of this track, making it seem like you’re actually listening to a battle commencing, rather than just listening to a battle theme.


Track 1-9: Amputate Your Metal
By Mak Eightman, representing Big Bertha from the game Wild Guns
Source Track: Boss from Hiroyuki Iwatsuki


Absolutely loved the percussion work in this one. One minute, it’s well executed rock drums, the next it almost sounds like a military march accompanying the music in the foreground. The guitar work in this track is intense and exciting. I don’t think the orchestrated portions were as well executed in comparison to the rock portions, but they were still well produced. But it was ultimately the rock work in this track that stood out the most.


Track 1-10: Are You BadAss?
By Chernabogue, Tuberz McGee, Furilas, Mirby, and Brandon Strader, representing Sturm from the game Advance Wars
Source Track: Sturm’s Theme from Taishi Senda


Vocals are so controversial in fan made arrangements. This track is an example of a great, clever, and entertaining way to integrate vocals into this track. This could give the typical bad guy theme from Disney movies and shows a run for their money. Although it’s meant to represent Advance Wars, I can immediately see this as an unofficial theme to this entire trilogy (perhaps that was the intent?). The music itself does an excellent job complimenting the vocals. None of the instruments overpower each other, or the vocalists. All around excellent job here.


Track 2-1: Opening the Way
By Pablo Coma representing the Colossi from the game Shadow of the Colossus
Source Track: The Opened Way ~Battle with the Colossus~ From Kow Otani


Reading the artists comments included in the zip folder, I can see what the artist was trying to achieve with this arrangement. However, it seems like it takes this track a long time to build up to the atmosphere of “slim hope” mentioned in the comments. I’m waiting and waiting, and then 1:42 happens, and then I finally start to feel a sense of urgency. In a way, I guess that compliments the mystery of Shadow of the Colossus. It’s definitely creepy and mysterious, don’t get me wrong, you just have to be in the right mood to get the most of this track.


Track 2-2: The Dark Defender
By pu_Freak representing Magus from the game Chrono Trigger
Source Track: Magus Confronted from Yasunori Mitsuda


Okay, so when I first heard this track, I didn’t notice the low strings right away and only heard the wind. That legit gave me chills. But that’s okay, the low strings still work well enough to set up the main body of this track. The piano work was pretty good, but struck me as a sharp contrast to the ominous low strings, and the subtlety of the howling winds. So the atmosphere didn’t strike me as ominous the more the piano progressed. Still, I applaud pu_Freak for relying on the piano to arrange one of Chrono Trigger’s most iconic themes.


Track 2-3: (Progeny) Of a Frail Humanity
By David L. Puga, and Mak Eightman representing Wesker from the Resident Evil series.
Source Tracks: Wesker’s Beginnings, The Mercenaries: Wesker, and Wind of Madness from Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles, Resident Evil 4, and Resident Evil 5 respectively by Masafumi Takada, Jun Fukuda, Misao Senbongi, Shusaku Uchiyama, and Kota Suzuki


It may seem like a short track, but when you actually listen to it, it doesn’t feel short at all. You’re too entranced by the haunting rock arrangement produced here. I love the transitions between soft and hard, sort of like Radiohead’s My Iron Lung. The other thing I noticed, and this could just be me, is that it sort of portrays Wesker as being more of a tragic villain than this deranged lunatic that we’ve come to love over the years. It’s somber, and haunting. Short, but sweet.


Track 2-4: Fortress of Doom
By neshead80 representing the Koopalings from (specifically) the game Super Mario World
Source Track: Sub Castle BGM from Koji Kondo


This almost reminds me of an industrial (slowly progressing into heavy metal) mash-up of the Super Mario World sub castle theme, and the dark world dungeon theme from A Link to the Past. But after 1:33, I started to hear more and more of Super Mario World. It’s definitely one of the most elaborate attempts at an artist making already existing video game music their own.


Track 2-5: Molgera’s Love
By Chimpazilla, and Redg representing Molgera from the game The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Source Track: Molgera from Kenta Nagata, Hajime Wakai, and Toru Minegishi


The intro to this track will immediately creep you out, and give you nightmares. Then we get to the main body, and the atmosphere shifts from disturbing, to a more elegant and fun approach to a dark atmosphere. I would have loved to hear the “happy” version mentioned in the artists comments, because this particular arrangement does a fantastic job creating something that is both happy, and scary. Kind of like the Cheshire Cat. So I’m curious as to how “happy” this track sounded before everything turned inside out.


Track 2-6: Mad Jack’s Drops
By Kammo64 representing Mad Jack from the game Donkey Kong 64
Source Track: Factory Boss from Grant Kirkhope


For me, dub step is difficult to tolerate, because the artists tend to abuse the beat drops and/or rely only on the beat drops and not care about the rest of the track. But this track is flawless from beginning to end. Everything was handled well. The build ups, the bridges, the subtle background instruments, that creepy outro, and oh yes, the beat drops were all carefully produced to give that truly twisted carnival vibe. This is what dub step needs more of; equal attention given to how the beat drops are used, and the in-betweens.


Track 2-7: Twisted Rebirth
By SkyRiderX feat. XPRTNovice representing Dark Samus from the Metroid Prime Trilogy
Source Tracks: Vs. Dark Samus Theme, Tallon Overworld, and U-mos from Kenji Yamamoto, Minako Hamano, Masaru Tajima, and Kouichi Kyuma


It was kind of hard to hear the voice samples throughout the track (not so much the laugh, and damn was that laugh good for Dark Samus), as the music overpowered them a bit too much. That is my biggest gripe, as the music itself is pretty good. I’d be convinced that this was an actual battle theme from the Metroid Prime trilogy. I really loved the beginning, and how it seemed like Dark Samus was making the music “glitch.” Most of the music sounded a bit compressed, but I actually think that makes this track even more “Metroid Prime” like, and that makes me more convinced at how authentic this sounds. It sounds like a homage to the Metroid Prime Trilogy, while simultaneously sounding like it was actually composed


Track 2-8: Soiled by the Egyptians
By timaeus222 representing Orbot Purple from the game Vectorman
Source Tracks: Cave2 Tank, and Day 5: Arctic Ridge ~ Day 9: Hydroponic Lab from Jon Holland


I love reading timaeus222’s source breakdowns. It’s really fascinating how he can take any section of any song, and arrange the order to sound like something that is both different and respectful to the source. But anyway, VECTORMAN! One of the best non-Yuzo Koshiro soundtracks on the Genesis. I was really excited when I found out Vectorman would be in this album. But I digress, this track is pretty damn fun. Good solid beat, and a very addictive percussion. And after seven consecutive “dark” tracks, this album needed an injection of fun. This isn’t the first “eastern culture meets electronica” arrangement I’ve heard, but just because it isn’t an original idea, doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.


Track 2-9: Become Death
By Darkmoocher, and timaeus222 representing Metalhead from the game Vectorman
Source Tracks: Day 4: Absolute Zero ~ Day 15: Worldlink Center, Day 2: Metalhead, and Day 16: Twist and Shout from Jon Holland


Holy crap, this is such an insane track. This track manages to encompass the fun, the dark, the creepy, and funky aspects of being BadAss all at once. The other thing I love about this track is that before you get comfortable with how the music sounds, the music shifts into another direction. And the best thing about those music shifts is how seamless they are. It fits with the general purpose of the track, leaving nothing in this track to feel abrupt whatsoever.


Track 2-10: Seed of Perdition
By Lashmush representing Lavos from Chrono Trigger
Source Tracks: Lavos' Theme, World Revolution, and Last Battle from Yasunori Mitsuda


Lashmush brings this album full circle with his take on Lavos. This track does a great job telling the story of the battle against Lavos, and all its forms, in the style of heavy symphonic death metal. At times, the music sounds a little too hot, forcing me to turn the volume down a little just to clearly hear the music. Minor production issue for me though. It’s one of those tracks that gets better the more it progresses. Once the “last battle” section hits, the quality really takes off. And that ending, so emotional. Like Lavos has emerged victorious. But…the future refused to change.


Overall, it seems like effort was made to not make this volume as rock heavy as the other two volumes were. It’s fun, brooding, and evil. Sometimes all at once, sometimes on separate occasions. If you loved volumes 1 and 2 of the BadAss series, then definitely download volume 3. Whether it’s better than the other volumes is up to interpretation. I personally think all three volumes offer an excellent abundance of high quality boss theme/level arrangements.



And then at the bottom of the post, I'll post links to all the BadAss albums.

Great job everyone. Best trilogy since Back to the Future! 

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On 15.03.2016 at 11:16 AM, Chernabogue said:

I just realized something: BA is OCRA-30, BA2 is OCRA-43, and BA3 is OCRA-56. There's exactly 13 albums between the BA ones ^^

Actually, there's 12 albums between them... from 31 to 42 and from 44 to 55. It's more correct to say that BadAss album is always 13th after its predecessor ;)

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On 3/15/2016 at 1:16 AM, Chernabogue said:

I just realized something: BA is OCRA-30, BA2 is OCRA-43, and BA3 is OCRA-56. There's exactly 13 albums between the BA ones ^^

Spooky as hell.  But also very fitting.  I love this album so much and I'm glad that I managed to squeeze one in there myself.  Makes me wish I participated in the first two damnit!!!

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I skipped over the boss theme albums for a long time because I figured, eh, I don't know most of those songs. It was only my loss. This album is the one that drew me in since it is bookended by the Kefka and Lavos themes. What I love about this Kefka remix is that it seems like Dancing Mad typically gets either an organ-heavy remix or a guitar-heavy remix and the track here just pulls the taco girl, "Why don't we have both?" and then throws in some occasional choir for good measure.

The Magus theme stands out for dropping down to one sinister, spooky piano rather than all of the heavy industrial stuff and face-melting guitar licks from other tracks. It's a great version of the theme and a great palate cleanser for the album. And there were a number of other fun ones from source music I don't know so well. The Shredder theme, the one from Wild Arms, the Majora's Mask boss. Another great one.

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