Since we’re close to the end of the year, I figure maybe it’s about time I expanded the scope of music I wish to talk about, and touch briefly on one facet of music that’s rather interesting to me: video game music.
Of course, this isn’t music contained within the video game Mortal Kombat, as that music is rather sparse and not worthy of really mentioning. No, instead this is music inspired by Mortal Kombat, that is completely terrible, yet went platinum within less than a week. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:
MORTAL KOMBAAAAAAAAAAAT *cough*
Yes, that infamous roar followed by pounding synth bass and that oh-so familiar riff will be emblazoned in the minds of everybody around my age as we think fondly back to the year 1994. Oh sure, it was a year that had its bumps; in April, disgraced vocalist Kurt Cobain had an unfortunate mishap with a firearm, ending his brief career in making music that would annoy me forever, and exactly one month later, Weezer would release their first album. Yes, it was a dark time in music, but kids like me, around the age of 12, couldn’t give a crap about music. There were video games to be played.
One of the biggest games to come out the previous year (besides Color A Dinosaur, of course) was Mortal Kombat. Combining the new, insanely popular “Street Fighter II” style of face-to-face fighting gameplay with bad spelling and a grittier, more “realistic” representation of violence:
…The game was a legend. In fact, it’s the game that more or less singlehandedly unleashed the torrent of lawsuits directed at video games for screwing my generation up, and in that respect, is the video game that best represents rock n’ roll.
Anyway, as would become the tradition for ultra-successful video games, the entertainment industry (a bunch of evil guys in suits) saw the success in this contemptible form of entertainment, which caused their eyes to turn into dollar signs as they rubbed their hands greedily. These guys in suits were Virgin Music, and they wasted no time in contacting… get this… a moderately successful techno group in Belgium to produce an album of music based on this game (there was also a movie involved somewhere starring The Highlander but whatever), so that they could have an official soundtrack without having to pay Midway or Acclaim much more than the price to use their dragon logo and ridiculous misspelled name to make piles of money appear. Well, that’s my theory anyway, but doesn’t that just sound like something evil guys in suits would do?
So the group, at the time called Lords Of Acid and fronted by an artist called Praga Kahn (Maurice Engelen), decided to call themselves The Immortals for this album, presumably under the wise decision to not associate this album with any of their other stage names (which is why I’m doing that right now). Besides Maurice was long time compatriot Oliver Adams, who wrote the songs, and an ex-roadie of his (but very important to our cause) called Dieter Troubleyn who is apparently a well-known Belgian soap opera star (he looks it), and a girl called Julie Wells.
Now, most of you are going to know this album just by its most popular track, “Techno Syndrome (Mortal Kombat)”, which you would probably know better as the “MORTAL KOMBAAAAAAAAAAT” song. True story: I used to do karate back when I was a teenager, and some of the younger kids would put on performances and do a bunch of fancy moves with nunchucks or whatever, and this was almost always the soundtrack to said performances, even though this would be somewhere in the late 90′s.
Anyway, that theme has been well established, but what about the rest of this album? Well, I’m glad you asked. Basically, using nothing more than a Sega Genesis with a copy of the game that Virgin sent them, songwriter Oliver Adams had to write some kind of lyrics to go along with the terrible techno music that they apparently love so much over there in Belgie-land. Shouldn’t be a problem for this guy:
The only problem with the music in this album is everything. Despite the obviously terrible techno music going on here (well I don’t know, maybe it’s supposed to be good, I don’t care for techno, but I know cheese when I smell it), these guys don’t have the strongest grasp of English, much less the intricacies of these ridiculous video game characters.
Take the first song, for instance, a synth-blatting tribute to Mortal Kombat, disguised as a tribute to the game’s supposed hero, “Johnny Cage“. The chorus kind of has nothing to do with anything but some kind of lyrical mad-libs where Mortal Kombat is the noun:
Prepare yourself, the Mortal Kombat’s on today
Prepare yourself, Mortal Kombat all the way
Prepare yourself, Mortal Kombat’s here to stay
Ooh, Johnny Cage is not afraid to die
And yeah, there’s kind of a rap in the song that describes Johnny Cage’s moves, but the main point of the song is that he’s not afraid to die. Sure, this isn’t really a point that’s driven home at any time in the game, indeed most of the characters shouldn’t be afraid to die, they do so at the end of every match if you know the fatalities, but still, the song remains.
The song about “Kano” is even more perplexing, partially because a song about a hardened criminal should maybe not have “Woo!” being shouted on every bar, but also because all the lyrics are sung by a woman (the same woman who sings Sonya’s song, thus is sounds like Sonya’s singing a love song to her supposed bitter enemy and… please excuse me, my coke-bottle glasses just slid off my face), and go something like this:
You are wanted, and you’re haunted
You’re the Bad Guy, but I feel for you
You’re the danger, a fallen angel
But I like you, you’re the strongest of them all
Use your might, Kano fight
The world is at your feet
Fight, use your might
I’m on your side
Well, I applaud the song for wanting to take a stab at some depth to the character, but seriously? His “fatality” move is that he punches a hole into the chest of the other guy (or girl) and rips out their still beating heart, exactly how much can you empathize with this guy? (Woo!)
Still, if you want to talk about classics (sorry, “Klassics”), there is only one song that wears the assless chaps around here: “Sub-Zero (Chinese Ninja Warrior)“. Featuring epic piano and an admittedly catchy beat, this is one of the songs I’m convinced is using Dieter Troubleyn’s singing voice, because there is no way those “WHOOOOAAAOH”s are coming from anything but a guy that looks like this:
Indeed, the song makes absolutely no sense, but it is the funnest thing to sing to at the top of your lungs, if you can suppress the laughter long enough. True story: I heard the female “FREEEZING VIBRATIONS” line (what?) in a song on the radio a few times, and though I haven’t found out whether there was some kind of sampling going on, apparently that particular line sounds very similar to one by Marky Mark, but I have not found out which song because I’ll be damned if I’m going to go looking for Marky Mark material to find Sub-Zero material. That’s lose/lose for everyone.
The song “Liu Kang (Born In China)” is another song that also amounts to little more than a Belgian guy spouting off facts about the character that he read in the instruction book. The real pay-off in this song is in a section that starts off with someone shouting “FIREBALL!”, as that is one of Kang’s moves, and then a sample of the game character’s voice, which is a bad Bruce Lee impression in itself, going “WWWEEEHH HEHHH!” in every beat, and then, presumably to note the character’s “flying kick” move, instead shouts out “FLYING CAKE!” I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s hilarious, but the best is yet to come.
Basically, if you took Sub Zero and colored him yellow, you would have an equally ridiculous ninja called Scorpion. His song is called “Scorpion (Lost Soul Bent On Revenge)”, and Scorpion is generally a favorite among players for his super easy Fatality and the fact that his face is really a skull, so you’d think it would be a pretty killer track, right?
Well give it a listen and come back, I can wait.
Yes, this is perhaps the most ridiculous track on the album. It sounds like a drag queen singing against a new agey kind of tuneless thing, and the whole thing is followed up by repetitions of Scorpion’s famous lines “COME HERE! GET OVER HERE!”, which in the game is what he shouts when he throws a harpoon into your sternum and drags your bloody body over to meet with his cheap uppercut. In the song, it just sounds like he really wants you to come over to him, and his insistence is unyielding. So yeah, that and nature sounds, this album went Platinum folks.
The other half of the album is ridiculous as well, what with a feature-length rap about Sonya (again detailing her special moves and other information they got from the instruction booklet) and Raiden, where they insist that, because he’s a thunder god, he can’t be killed and is thus immortal (which kind of makes him a bit out of place in “Mortal” Kombat?) Another point they make in a very matter-of-fact way is that he has no eyes; apparently the songwriter was just done by this point.
Speaking of, I have milked enough writeup out of this disc that cost me $2 and some shipping. It’s a fun disc, but don’t actually buy it, you can just hear it all on Youtube and forget you ever heard it, that is until you’re at work someday and suddenly you break into a round of “WHOOOOOAH CHINESE NINJA WARRIOR, WITH YOUR HEART SO COOOOOOOLD, SUB ZEROOOOO”, then you too will be affected with the plague that beset my entire generation, and you too may seek legal action against Midway (despite their going bankrupt this year) and the nation of Belgium.
Like Album Du Jour? Why not make it official on Facebook!