'The Wild' EP by Ro Panuganti
If you’ve not heard of Ro Panuganti (or SwigglesRP), he’s a guitarist well-known for his video game remixes on Youtube and his work with GameLark and Materia Collective. If you’ve not heard of Breath of the Wild, you’ve been living under a rock.
I’m very familiar with SwigglesRP having been manager at GameLark at one time so I jumped at the chance to review his latest album after enjoying his other recent EPs Jiggy Rock and Shanty Raid released last year (links at the bottom). For those unfamiliar with his style, it’s a blend of 70s prog, 80s rock, and djent; an interesting combination to say the least. A quick sampling of his remixes on Youtube will reveal his talent as a performer, mixer, and arranger. As they say in show biz, he’s the complete package. I knew that his take on Breath of the Wild’s soundtrack would be interesting, but I was not prepared for this 19-minute masterpiece, The Wild.
Breath of the Wild has had somewhat of a divisive reception to its soundtrack, but I’ve been enjoying it so far. Upon receiving the press kit, I checked the track listing and was delighted to find some interesting choices. Of course, the Main Theme (“Awaken”) is present as well as “Zora” and “Rito”, but Ro also opted for some lesser known tracks like “Guardian” and “Hinox”. After ogling the terrific album art by BlueStarMako (shown below), I decided to dive in.
Starting gently with a crisp lead guitar and piano accompaniment, “Awaken” soon swells as crunchy rhythm guitars and subdued synths enter the mix. It’s a balancing act that few can attain both in terms of the production and the arrangement. After a seamless transition to “Guardian”, the listener is treated to a more menacing track with metal riffs, ambient drones, and a delightful guest appearance by Insaneintherainmusic. Once again, the instruments are in perfect harmony, ebbing and flowing like waves on a beach. With “Zora”, we return to a more peaceful mood thanks to warm guitar tones and playful piano melodies. “Hinox” is yet another change with syncopated riffs, complex time signatures, dissonant leads, and a beautiful serene outro. As for “Rito”, well, I’m going to save the best for last.
If I had to describe the style of The Wild quickly, I would say Dream Theater meets Periphery, but that’s doing the album a disservice. This isn’t just a blend of prog and djent. It’s an exploration of sound, a journey of moods, themes, rhythms, and instrumentation. I was especially impressed with the care that Ro shows for each arrangement allowing time for songs to grow organically and sometimes unexpectedly. I found myself lost in the heady embrace of distorted rhythm guitars, delighted by intricate solos, and entranced by David Russell’s virtuosic performance. Nowhere is this fusion of sound more perfectly encapsulated than “Rito.”
This would be a perfect time for me to mention that Wind Waker was one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. Defying expectation, “Rito” opens with mellow vibes and a bluesy groove instead of the usual bombastic introduction. Just when I thought I had the track pegged, it sprung another surprise on me with the introduction of cascading piano melodies, tremolo picking, and syncopated rhythm guitars. If that sounds like a lot, you’re not wrong, but Ro demonstrates that only he knows where the track is going; you’re just along for the ride. The song has several phases with a surprising finish (that I won’t ruin here), but suffice to say it’s my favorite track on the album because it showcases every aspect of his songwriting.
As I’m listening to “Awaken” for the tenth time (and writing this review), I’m reminded why this music means so much to me. Many albums claim to be a musical journey, but this album succeeds in creating a sense of wonder and discovery just like the game that it honors. I rarely knew where the album was taking me, but I always enjoyed the ride. The best part is you don’t need a shiny new $300 console to enjoy this (just $5 and a good pair of headphones). Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge to play Breath of the Wild.