There are so many talented YouTube musicians who produce covers of video game music using their instruments of choice. The guitar is frequently this instrument of choice, and few VGM cover artists wield the staple instrument of rock as well as Jack Fliegler, aka ToxicxEternity. Last year, when I originally started writing this review before I shelved it due to a lack of free time, Jack released the fifth volume of his spectacular metal covers of video game covers, simply titled VG Metal Covers Vol. 5.
Vol. 5 starts out strong with one of the best covers of the iconic main theme from the Halo series out there, blending some keyboards in with some heavy-hitting riffs and way more harmonized lead guitar than even the version of the song in Halo 2, which featured legendary guitarist Steve Vai. Many Halo theme covers try to emulate that style, but Toxic takes this track in a different direction.
The second track is an amazing rendition of “Red Soil” from Super Metroid, with a guest spot by ToxicxEternity’s equally talented peer FamilyJules7x. The two guitarists work so well together, producing some of the best dual lead guitar harmonies to be heard in a video game cover. Things then take a turn for the melodic, with a cover of the track “Aquatic Ambiance” from Donkey Kong Country, featuring some beautiful clean and acoustic guitar work. These first three tracks really set the tone for the variety found on Vol. 5.
Track number four is a cover of a song from Mountain of Faith from the Touhou Project series. I’ve never heard of the game or series, but this track is awesome. It’s packed full of guitar melodies and harmonies and has such an upbeat feel to it. Then it’s back to Donkey Kong Country with “Hideout Helm” from DK 64.
Things get super heavy again with a crushing cover of the Orgrimmar theme from World of Warcraft, and then a face-melting, shred-filled cover of the Lysandre battle music from Pokemon X & Y with a guest spot from ThunderScott. The original track was probably the “most metal” song to be featured in a Pokemon game, but these two guys made it so much more metal. There are so many great guitar parts, as well as a moment when the bass gets turned up way loud and takes the forefront.
Things then get really different with an unexpected but still amazing cover of “Hellfire” from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It’s not just an instrumental cover either, as Jack lays down a killer mix of harsh and clean vocals to produce one brutal Disney song. On the instrumental side of things, this cover features a great blend of keyboards, melodic lead guitars, and heavy rhythm guitars.
To wrap the album up, it’s back to video games for an atmospheric metal rendition of “Kraid’s Lair” from Metroid, this time with a guest spot from SwigglesRP. The final track is an epic, nearly thirteen minute long medley of tracks from Star Fox 64. This is actually a rerecording of a medley which was featured on ToxicxEternity’s VG Metal Covers Vol. 1 from a few years ago. The production quality difference between the two is staggering and it’s really cool to see how far Jack has come over the years.
One of the things I really like about this collection of covers is the quality of the musicianship. Blistering solos, smooth melodies, crushing riffs, and killer baselines. These are some of the core aspects of a fantastic metal song, and Jack does it all. Every track on Vol. 5 crams in so much great guitar work. From the amazing shreds on the Halo theme cover, to the catchy groove of the “Red Soil” cover, to the wall of melodic guitars on the Mountain of Faith cover. There are just so many cool moments that get you into these songs. There are even a few really awesome guitar solos thrown in to mix things up such as on the “Red Soil” and “Aquatic Ambiance” covers.
Toxic doesn’t shy away from modifying the original tracks either, sometimes throwing in some really progressive arrangements, such as the ending of the Halo cover, which features a lot of really cool guitar work. In other cases, he will throw in a guitar solo, as I mentioned before. The best part is that these alterations never seem out of place and mesh perfectly into the covers.
While mainly a guitarist, Toxic also does a good job on bass. While it’s nothing too crazy, the bass playing always fits in with what he’s trying to go for on each cover. However, the best bass work comes from the guest performers. FamilyJules7x lays down some sweet bass lines in the “Red Soil” cover and ThunderScott does some pretty awesome and technical stuff with his bass in the “Lysandre Battle” cover. Toxic also pays great attention to the drums. While all the percussion is produced using a drum machine, the drum arrangements are spectacular. They range from slow and simple, as heard on the “Aquatic Ambiance” cover, to fast and technical on tracks like the Lysandre battle theme, and, like everything, fit perfectly with each track.
Additionally, the level of production on these tracks is phenomenal for a YouTube musician. The lead guitars have such an amazingly clear and melodic tone, the rhythm guitars have a great crunchy sound, the acoustic guitars are sharp and clean, the bass is thick and turned up nice and loud in the mix, and the drums are spectacular and almost even sound like they’re played on a live kit despite being produced digitally. It’s this quality that really sets Jack’s work apart form a lot of other YouTube cover artists.
Another cool thing is that VG Metal Covers Vol. 5 features three guest performances, as I mentioned earlier. Not only does Toxic team up with FamilyJules7x, one of the most well known VGM guitar cover artists out there to create one hell of a “Red Soil” cover, but he also joins forces with the much lesser known ThunderScott and SwigglesRP, which might help give them some exposure. The guests also serve to bring their own styles to the table to make the songs on which they appear more interesting.
I really only have one minor gripe with this album. Various clips of the Star Fox characters saying quotes from the game are laced throughout the Star Fox 64 medley and it can be kind of annoying sometimes. But other than that, I don’t really have any negative things to say about this collection of covers.
If you’re a gamer who also likes rock and/or metal music, this album is definitely worth listening to. VG Metal Covers Vol. 5 features songs from a wide range of games and each cover is top notch. Not only do these covers capture the feel of the original tracks, but Jack puts his unique spin on each one to make them stand out from the originals and from other covers. However, if you’re not a fan of rock or metal, then this album might not be for you. ToxicxEternity has since released VG Metal Covers Vol. 5 and will soon be releasing VG Metal Covers Vol. 7.
You can stream VG Metal Covers Vol. 5 as well as ToxicxEternity’s other covers collections on his bandcamp page and you can find free MP3 downloads for each song on the corresponding video on his YouTube channel. If you like what you hear, be sure to check out my interview with him last year over on Talk Amongst Yourselves.