Powerglove featured in Boston Herald

June 11, 2008

Source: Boston Herald

Video games hijacked rock ’n’ roll.

The soundtracks to “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater,” “Madden NFL” and “Grand Theft Auto” have trumped MTV and radio as promotional tools for rock artists. And “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” launch new bands and line artists’ pockets with cash from gamers adding digital downloads to the games.

So it’s only fair for metal band Powerglove to appropriate something from video games.

The Boston quartet of guitarists Chris Marchiel and Alex Berkson, bassist Nick Avila and drummer Bassil Silver-Hajo has usurped a dozen musical themes from classic Nintendo games for their full-length debut, “Metal Kombat for the Mortal Man.”

“Everyone in the band kind of had this idea independently,” Marchiel said from Virginia, where Powerglove was in the process of wrapping up its first national tour in advance of Friday’s homecoming show at the Middle East, Cambridge. “We were all in a local melodic death metal band called Revengence when Powerglove started out as a side project. It very quickly eclipsed our real band.”

Rock bands have been covering video game music for years. The most popular compositions have been performed by groups as varied as Wisconsin a cappella singers Redefined and classical orchestras including the London and Tokyo philharmonics. Even video game composer Nobuo Uematsu formed his own rock band, the Black Mages, to play his music live.

But Powerglove adds something different.

“Most video game themes are looped after a minute or a minute-and-a-half,” Marchiel said. “They can’t really be rock songs on their own. What we do is transcribe the music and then arrange it and add to it. We have to flesh it out, find where a chorus might go and turn it into a real song.”

By real song, Marchiel means a power-metal, thrash-guitar orgy of epic instrumental rock. Most of Powerglove’s rearrangements are manic three-minute bursts that evoke Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai fronting Slayer’s rhythm section rather than Sonic the Hedgehog (which they steal from on the furious and funky “So Sexy Robotnik”).

The band also does long, complicated suites including an eight-minute medley embellishing their favorite bits of “Final Fantasy IV” called “Red Wings Over Baron.” It’s what you’d expect from a guy who spent his childhood listening to Metallica and Megadeth and playing “Final Fantasy” (and a little “Duck Hunt”).

“I remember pausing Final Fantasy III just to listen to the music over and over,” Marchiel said.

For a band dependent on old-school Nintendo themes, Marchiel doesn’t lament the decline of video game music in current games, which favor soundtracks populated by the likes Rush, R.E.M. and Aerosmith.

“There are so many games of that (Nintendo) era that we could try for the rest of our lives and never go through all the themes,” Marchiel said.

Which is basically the plan.

“We look at this as having a future,” Marchiel said. “We’re finishing a three-month tour, so this has become our career. Now we want to see how far it’s going to go.”

Powerglove, with Psychostick, Look What I Did and Peelander-Z, at the Middle East, Cambridge, Friday. Tickets: $12; 617-864-EAST.

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