I never had the pleasure of playing many of the games that Chris Huelsbeck became world renowned for during my childhood. Most of my experience with his work has been through his original compositions, all of which I’ve loved. That’s why the Turrican Soundtrack Anthology was such a great opportunity for me to go back and enjoy all the Turrican classics that I missed as a young gamer, and I now understand why people have always been so enamored with these soundtracks.
The Turrican Soundtrack Anthology takes music from across the Turrican series and re-imagines it with upgraded sounds. But don’t let that scare tried and true fans of the classic Turrican scores, as these new renditions are still retro to the core with their catchy melodies intact, fantastic bass synths, and rocking electronic hybrids that are a retro game music fan’s dream.
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This collection spans four discs of music. A lot of it covers the aforementioned rock/orchestral hybrid territory, but there are a handful of orchestral arrangements to enjoy as well. Most of the work is handled by Huelsbeck himself, although guest arrangers are scattered throughout, and the orchestral-heavy arrangements by Fabian Del Priore are featured on the final disc.
There’s so much good music here, it’s easy to see that all the hype I’ve heard about Turrican over the years was justified. Right out of the gate, “Shoot or Die” comes as a super long and explosive blast of 80s synth sounds that continues through most of the collection. There’s dreamy pads in “Thunder Plains,” pumping electronics and funky bass in “Outpost,” a melancholy piece turned dance with “Base Invader,” and the amazing “Tower of Morgul,” which is one of my favorites. There are super catchy arpeggios in “Traps,” chugging electronics in the foreboding “Warhead,” and a hint of “Aquatic Ambiance” in “Exploring Secret Dungeons.” The dreamy 80s synth waltz, “The Great Bath” is beautiful yet mischievous, while the ominous “Check the Gripper,” the playful “Freedom,” and industrial “Scrap Yard I” all stand out. Rounding out the collection are is the galloping “Climb to Survive,” the poppy rock track, “Credits,” the slamming “Steam and Pressure” with its back-and-forth piano, the fun and epic “Buggy Panic,” and another of my favorites, “Wormland,” with its octave-jumping bass and 80s synth rock elements.
As for the guest arrangements, Vince DiCola and Kenny Meriedeth offer a spectacular update to DiCola’s Transformers: The Movie with their 2013 medley with orchestral meets rock. Machinae Supremacy’s “The Final Fight” brings the live rock treatment to the powerful theme, while Roger Wanamo’s “Turrican II – Anthology Suite” offers over 11 minutes of live orchestra with great solos interspersed between grand, sweeping renditions of the game’s themes.
My guess would be that there isn’t much else a Turrican fan could ask for. I was pleased to finally be acquainted with Huelsbeck most famous works, and maybe even a bit ashamed that I hadn’t listened to it sooner. Fortunately, while this was a Kickstarter project, the collection can still be purchased piecemeal on Bandcamp, starting with disc one right here.
The physical collection that was a part of the Kickstarter campaign also sports a lengthy booklet with detailed history and commentary on the project along with a slew artwork. This is definitely a top notch production, and belongs in any game music fan’s collection.