'The Temples' by Ro Panuganti
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time features one of the best soundtracks in video game history, so it comes as no surprise that Ro Panuganti latched onto some of the game’s most intriguing music: the temples. As any Zelda fan will tell you, a good chunk of your time is spent exploring dungeons, and the ambient music that accompanies these dungeons imbues the experience with different emotions: wonder, sadness, fear, and excitement. Likewise, The Temples provides a similar journey with a multitude of emotions: one moment a calm acoustic passage, the next, a barrage of metal riffs and screeching electronic synths.
Before continuing any further, I should make mention of Ro Panuganti. A self-described “home-studio guitarist and musician,” Ro is an active member of the video game music community (or VGM community as it’s more affectionately known), and has been involved in numerous musical projects such as Materia Collective, GameLark, and Multiplayer Charity. For years, he’s collaborated with dozens of other musicians, mainly on YouTube, and this cross-pollination of musical ideas and instruments definitely shows on the album. He’s as comfortable with his guitar as he is with a sitar or a tablas.
If I had to slap a genre on this album, metal would seem the most obvious choice, but that’s an oversimplification. Sure, you can find proggy riffs akin to TesseracT, Animals As Leaders, and Plini, and the guitar solos bring to mind Van Halen, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani, but the devil is in the details as they say, and this album has plenty of details. The accompanying instrumentation for each track provides a unique flavor that defies the metal genre, whether that’s traditional Indian instruments or a haunting vocal performance by TeraCMusic. Put simply, Ro is fearless when it comes to creating sounds, and in the hands of a less experienced artist, this musical fusion might feel overwhelming and disjointed instead of inspired and captivating.
Each track is a journey, and no two journeys are the same thanks to the aforementioned musical diversity. In addition, familiar melodies and motifs throughout the album add some much-needed cohesion to this sprawling album. While some of the tracks clock in around six minutes, The Temples never overstays its welcome. The final track of the album, perhaps my favorite, really embodies the musical philosophy behind Ro’s work: emotion first, instrumentation second.
The important through line for this album, and really, all of Ro’s work is the lead guitar. Take a quick listen to his previous albums The Wild and The Dark Hunter, and it’s evident how skillfully and expressively he plays. His arrangements, while tight, still don’t quite match the confidence that he displays on the guitar, and that’s alright. As Ro continues to collaborate with other artists and work on other musical projects, I can only imagine how that will impact his sound. For a “home-studio guitarist and musician,” Ro has his sights set on a much larger stage, and for my money, he’s well on his way.
Learn more about The Temples at https://www.materiacollective.com/music/the-temples-music-from-the-legend-of-zelda-ocarina-of-time