Thirty-five years ago, Metroid graced our screens and helped define the Metroidvania genre. Though the series has laid dormant for a fair while, and anniversaries generally not being acknowledged, Nintendo are now treating us to the first mainline entry to the series in over fifteen years: Metroid Dread. While we wait for that, however, Shinesparkers, the biggest Metroid fan site in Europe, wants to celebrate the series in style with their sixth album: Harmony of a Hunter: Returns.
The album, which releases today, is a celebration of Metroid’s musical history, reinvigorating the soundscape and giving a new perspective on the music involved. The album also goes back to their previous two Harmony of a Hunter projects, switching the tracks up further and also introducing some which never made the original cut. Check out our full review after the break!
Harmony of a Hunter: Returns
Running time: Five hours over sixty-five tracks
Directed by Darren Kerwin, Zack Parrish, and Sebastian Mårtensson
Published by Shinesparkers
Released: 6th August 2021
This is actually the first time I have ever reviewed music, but what an album to debut. Harmony of a Hunter: Returns has a running time of five hours, spanning over sixty-five tracks. This is a hell of a lot of music to digest, but it’s the perfect amount to soothe a long and strenuous train journey… such as my four and a half hour voyage back from Birmingham New Street Sunday night just gone. It has also assisted in me keeping my sanity while twiddling my thumbs in self-isolation after being pinged by the UK’s COVID-19 Test and Trace app.
As mentioned earlier, the album is a celebration of both Metroid’s thirty-fifth anniversary and the ‘Harmony of’ series’ tenth anniversary. The sixty-five track project is a fan-led album composed of a wide variety of talented musicians, artists, and animators, remixing a range of track’s from Metroid’s legacy. The album also revisits various tracks from previous ‘Harmony of a Hunter’ albums, where they have been remixed with different perspectives. If it was an orchestral piece before, it now may come in a synth-wave variant, for example.
With any album, it’s always a good idea to start from the very beginning without skipping anything, and something that is incredibly important here. The order of the tracks almost tells a story of its own, so skipping through any may ruin your experience when listening to it firsthand. Don’t feel the need to set out five hours of your day to listen to it all at once though. As nice as that would be, it shouldn’t adversely affect the experience… I’ve had to stop and start several times because of train swaps and such.
Now for the music itself. I know I’ve said this word a lot already, but what an experience! I loved just about every moment of the album from start to finish. Nearly every track brought a huge smile to my face, and many of which also sent chills down my entire body. It is clear that each member of the team is extremely passionate about the games and music. It’s important to note that, rather than remixing 1:1 to the same musical aesthetic from the games, a lot of the tracks instead bring something new into play. Ever wondered what Norfair’s theme would sound like as a Daft Punk-esque track? What about the Metroid Prime 3: Corruption ending as an acapella. Some of these transformations may seem bizarre but I feel they work very well; they definitely provided me with a lot of auditory enjoyment over the past week. Never fear though, there are still plenty of tracks that include that eerie and desolate charm.
Though the differing genres is a great way to showcase the range of artists involved, it also means that it is likely listeners will find some tracks not quite to their taste. There were a few that unfortunately didn’t quite click with me, simply because I’m not a fan of that particular genre. Saying that, I’m not a massive fan of heavy metal, but there were a few of those which were totally my jam; you could say you may end up liking something you never thought you would have previously. Another issue with having this range of genres is that the album could run the risk of confusing its identity. I am happy to say however that Harmony of a Hunter: Returns, at least in my opinion, has found that perfect balance and regardless of the variety, it doesn’t deviate too far from its identity.
It’s difficult for me to pin down my favourite track from this massive project, instead, I’ll quickly talk about a few of my favourites. ‘Through Depths and Beyond’, a remix of the classic Brinstar theme, is a particular highlight of mine. I originally heard this theme from the N64 version of Super Smash Bros. and has since remained one of my favourite gaming tracks from history. It’s clear that this likely offered some inspiration for the track, something I appreciate massively; it’s just so much fun to listen to. While playing Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, I loved fighting Grandyrayda. She was an awesome ally turned adversary and had an amazing theme to boot, so it was only logical I would also adore ‘Metamorphic’. The whole vibe is intensified by how Thennecan chose to go down the rock route for this remix.
Phendrana Drifts theme perfectly represents its harsh cold desolation; ‘The Inn by the Glacier’ completely subverts this aesthetic. Now it sounds as if, sometime after the Phazon incident, settlers have built up a nice and cosy village where the inhabitants can ride all the Sheegoth they want and relax after a hard day’s work by a lovely fire… can I go live there, please? I’m also reminded a bit of Alpine Skyline from A Hat in Time. Next, there’s ‘Twilight Zone’, based on the theme of Blast Ball. I’ve been craving for a new multiplayer Metroid experience for a while, especially since I missed out on the DS’ WiFi service with Metroid Prime Hunters, thanks to an overly secure router. This one track has intensified that craving further to the extent of having to redownload the wonderfully underrated Metroid Prime: Federation Force; Blast Ball honestly deserved more love in development.
Finally, let’s head to my favourite level in any video game, Skytown Elysia from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. I absolutely adore the theme as it represents the wondrous beauty of this steampunk palace in the sky and ‘An Endless Sleep’ absolutely reinforces this. The track is absolutely stunning with two harps producing an absolute serendipitous sound; I have been informed those are in fact real harps featured in the piece. These are just five of my favourite tracks from the album, but rest assured there are even more which I absolutely adore. Even though you may have to be a fan of Metroid to gain a full appreciation of the music on offer, I feel that outsiders may even find a selection from the album they enjoy, even if it’s just the appreciation of a large group of Metroid fans banding together to create a five hour, sixty-five track album.
Before I conclude this review, I would like to take a moment to appreciate the artists responsible for the album art. I love how this incorporates seven different pieces from different artists. Each one denotes a critical moment in Samus’ bounty hunting adventures. It’s a very unique piece and, even though there are different art styles used throughout, I feel this perfectly encompasses how varied the album’s music is. If I had to pick my favourite piece from the lot, I would have to pick ‘Emperor’s Legion’ by David Verstraete.
Harmony of a Hunter: Returns is a stunning auditory journey, a perfect celebration of Metroid’s thirty-fifth anniversary. The dedication from the team of musicians, artists, and animators is evident throughout, offering a wonderful album detailing Samus’ endeavours. Though there may be some tracks that don’t quite click with everyone depending on their taste in music, there is definitely something there for just about everyone, whether you are a Metroid fan or not. Additionally, not only does the album celebrate Metroid, but it is also dedicated to Jesse Snow, the person who originally introduced Metroid to Darren, the director and producer of the album, who sadly passed away a couple of years prior. This is a truly sweet sentiment, and I am sure that wherever Jesse is today, they will love every moment from Harmony of a Hunter: Returns.
Harmony of a Hunter: Returns is available to stream and download for free now from the official web page.
I am a huge Nintendo fan, hence why NintyBuzz exists. I especially love all things Zelda and Metroid. NintyBuzz was started by me back in the Summer of 2014, it started out mainly as a hobby, though the site has gradually grown, and I hope it grows for many years to come!