Killer Cuts (1995)

In 1995 I was in the fifth grade. My best friend at the time was a fellow Super Nintendo fanatic named Tim Kim. We’d ride our BMX bikes to his apartment after school and spend every afternoon drawing robot warriors and playing Mega Man X. He and his older brother were big fans of Killer Instinct; I never got big into fighting games, but he let me borrow the Killer Cuts CD, which was included with the the first 100,000 released copies of the game. (He later gave it to me as a gift for my 10th birthday party at a Q-Zar lazer tag arena.) The record features hi-fidelity arranged renditions of each character’s theme music, which played when you fought on that character’s stage. This was one of the first records that I got really into… I listened to it constantly on my badical Sony CD Walkman. It would serve as the background music for riveting matches of tabletop wargame Necromunda or The Omega Virus. By the end of the 90s it was scratched beyond the point of playability, and I think I accidentally sat on it and shattered it while getting back into my mom’s minivan after a Q-Zar lazer tag match.

I haven’t heard this music for probably two decades. It’s fascinating that my brain managed to store these tracks so well; listening to this record now, it’s all extremely familiar, and I’m remembering samples and segments that I haven’t heard since the Clinton administration. I also wasn’t big on genre classification back then, but if we’re to use Wikipedia and Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music to evaluate these songs, the record is loaded with Goa trance / Psytrance — 135+ BPM, plodding mechanical analog synth basslines, techno flourishes, party-pumping house samples, and a heavy Eastern-Indian melodic sense. “Full-bore” is menacing ’90s industrial techno-by-numbers, whereas “The Instinct” goes down a more industrial-metal path, with Terminator 2: Judgment Day string pads, “orchestra hits,” and reverb-soaked wailing Satriani synth-guitar solos. “Yo Check This Out!” and “Freeze” are slightly awkward attempts at funky urban hip-hop, the latter featuring some convincing Fat Boys-esque beatboxing.

Given that the music was intended to be background noise for beating up futuristic cyborgs as a skeleton man or werewolf, it’s all pretty straightforward ’90s action sequence sounds. But thanks to the magical massive library of information on the internet, this obscure album is again available to my ears after all these years. Listening to this record takes me back to a special time, before puberty and severe crippling depression, when my imagination ran wild with cybertronic fantasies and robo-delic delights, and I was still capable of deriving satisfaction from life. C-c-c-c-combo breaker!!

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