Hearing the Horror- Belmont.

Belmont is the second album from studio act Mega Beardo, the solo act of Ryan Postlethwait, lead guitarist of blackened death metal act Descension Rate. Despite the usual untouchable image often portrayed by death metal artists (deserved or otherwise), Mr. Postlethwait makes it clear that he is ‘one of us’ in the subject matter; Belmont is a concept album inspired by the original Castlevania on the NES.

This album doesn’t sound of death metal, though; instead it seems to draw a great deal of influence from the NWOBMH, particularly Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate.

Mr. Postlethwait definitely does some interesting things vocally on the album. The tone of his voice is consistent all the way through, but the qualities of his vocal performance are more difficult to define; at times droning like Marilyn Manson (The Mysterious Works of Dr. Frankenstein), and at other times shrieking like King Diamond (the close of Medusa’s Scream). The recording contains numerous occasions of double- (or possibly triple-) tracked vocal performances, which do well in adding power to the delivery of the lyrics and bring to mind some of the better moments of Iron Maiden.

Mr. Postlethwait contemplates an NES controller connector.

The lyrics are sufficiently charged to as to make it easy to imagine the feeling of walking the dank corridors of Castlevania. Each track essentally summarizes a different level of the game, from the opening of Castlevania’s gates to the final confrontation with Dracula. Also intriguing is the epileptic trees style speculation concerning some elements of Castlevania cannon that Mr. Postlethwait has worked into the lyrics. The track I Return to Rain contains a possible explanation for the presence of holy water in Dracula’s castle; Shadows Without a Sun concerns itself with the motivations of the Mummy level boss; and most interesting in this regard is the final track, The War of Dark and Light. Mr. Postlethwait has incorporated something in that last track that I have always considered part of my own Castlevania cannon with the statement (written from the perspective of Simon Belmont) “I can feel the souls of the fallen heroes. They live inside of me.” This is rarely touched on in-game, but it provides a logical explanation of the plot arc of the Castlevania series- part of the power of each Belmont to have faced Dracula may lie in the Vampire Killer whip. This also accounts for why the games in the series have become progressively easier over the years, with the exception of Order of Ecclesia- but Shanoa, the protagonist of that game, did not have posession of the Vampire Killer. I applaud Mr. Postlethwait for the attention to detail in rendering these ideas lyrically- conceptually it would be easy for the average listener to overlook these inferences, but their inclusion adds another level of detail for fans of Castlevania.

Look closely- he is using a Power Glove to play a superstrat made from an old NES. Yes, seriously!

Instrumentally the album is extremely well-engineered. Each instrument is clear in the mix and the audio space is divided well between them. The guitar performance is excellent, the riffs complex without descending into the trap of technicality for it’s own sake. The bass is sufficient, although it sounds to my ears the least prominent of all the instruments on this recording. Percussion is brutal, but also not over-technical. It is difficult to determine how much of the percussion was accomplished via use of a drum machine, and on certain parts of the record (such as I Return to Rain) it would have been nice to hear the drums given a tad more prominence. The simplification of the percussive elements on that track might have been intentional to avoid overshadowing the power of the vocal performance, though.

The album’s cover art is wonderfully drawn but a bit cartoonish- given the amount of feeling that Mr. Postlethwait poured into his vocal performance here, something darker might have befitted the subject matter in a better way. Perhaps that dichotomy was intentional. Of note as well is the lyric sheet, which was clearly designed to be reminiscent of the instruction manuals included in NES games, a beautiful nostalgic touch.

A video is also available for the track The Mysterious Works of Dr. Frankenstein, which can be viewed via Youtube.

Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory must have good acoustics.

In two prior reviews I have covered new media tributes to old works of horror, particularly horror video games. In my review of Soundless Mountain 2, I predicted that we would see the retrogaming movement expand exponentially in the coming years. I stand by that prediction, and will take this opportunity to add that I believe it will be artists who create unique content like Mega Beardo that lead the expansion of the retrogaming movement.

If you’d like to check out Belmont you can do so via the Mega Beardo page on Bandcamp, where the entire album can be downloaded for the paltry sum of two dollars- or, if you prefer physical media, you can order the limited edition CD for six dollars.

All images in this review were taken from the Mega Beardo video for The Mysterious Works of Dr. Frankenstein. The rights to all properties discussed are those of their respective owners.  

~ by Redgoateerob on June 19, 2012.

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