The Obscure, High-Octane Soundtrack of Anarchy Reigns

 By: Jeric Salvador

In the world of video game music, few scores compare to the intense, rap-infused anthems of Anarchy Reigns. The game’s 2012 release fell to poor marketing, and it earned a mixed critical reception for its repetitive combat and mission design. However, for fans of the game, Anarchy Reigns is best known for its rich, one-of-a-kind, 32-track album.

Following the success of the game’s spiritual predecessor, MadWorld, lead music producer Naoto Tanaka reached out to numerous underground artists to rap over electrifying fighting game-style beats. About half of the album is produced by Hiroshi Yamaguchi, whose track record includes Okami and Bayonetta. The massive track list contains a wide variety of production styles and vocalists, eventually capping off with a heavy ending theme by California hip-hop trio Dilated Peoples.

Most of the songs of the album were made for specific characters or missions of the game. A majority of them talk about combat and gang violence, so there is rarely anything profound about the lyrics. The producers utilize a variety of styles, but the bulk of the album consists of synth keys and electric guitars, reminiscent of the Street Fighter IV soundtrack. Your mileage may vary on the album’s many styles, but what you’re getting here is a huge, fun-filled album of high energy tracks.

Cincinnati rapper Wonder Brown sets the album’s style straight in “Mortified.” He plays to the strengths of an electronically charged production with straightforward couplets. While the track doesn’t budge from its formula, Wonder Brown’s clean delivery and unrelenting pace make it clear that the artists on the project can keep up with the hit-makers of the rap industry.

Sick YG, who worked on MadWorld, brings a raspy flair to the street violence-themed soundtrack. He comes strong on all three of his appearances on this album. With “Over In A Flash,” he tells the story of a cocky, deadly fighter over a metallic, industrial-inspired beat. On “Play For Keeps,” Sick YG gleefully illustrates the life of the game’s bounty hunters over a wonderful fusion of the electronic motifs and brass hip-hop melodies.

“Which way did he go, is the question
I have the masses gasping and stressing
But I’m infected with thoughts of a mad man
So any strategy to capture me is a bad plan.”
~Sick YG, “Play For Keeps”

“Here We Go” features Theory Hazit rapping about combat over a club banger beat.  This track isn’t the most musically interesting, but it is definitely the most accessible compared to the more intense or quirky tracks. The party style works as Theory Hazit uses the dance floor as a metaphor for a battleground. He cranks this tone up in “Merciless,” in which he raps about going “beast mode” and then literally cannibalizing his opposition.

The soundtrack certainly isn’t perfect, featuring a few entries that feel noticeably weak compared to the other heavy hitters. Notably, Tre-Dot’s “Rock On” jars the listener by syncopating its bubbly melody with misplaced baritone vocals. “I Know U Want Me” by Bandy Leggz suffers from an annoying chorus, taking away from its fresh, dynamic verses. “We All Soldiers” doesn’t have quite as many issues as the latter two tracks, but it fails to utilize the lyrical talents of Skitz the Samurida as heard in “My Pride.” Oddly enough, “Merciless” and “Kill Em All” actually use the exact same instrumental. This doesn’t take away from the quality of either track, but it’s just a strange fact that detracts from the quality of the album.

Doujah Raze, also returning from his work on MadWorld, has some of the smoothest bars on the album. His rhymes on “Gotta Get the Cash” and “We Play” are cucumber cool. Doujah Raze’s intimidating confidence helps sell the game’s fictional world of brawlers and killers. The uncharacteristically dramatic “Find You” stands out among the other tracks as Doujah Raze raps about ideals and deception while choir samples harmonize with the beautifully chaotic instrumentation.

“Take a sip of insanity,
Put a knife to the heart of humanity
Murder you, it’ll only make a man of me
Let’s dance to the dawn, ’til we barely see.”
~Doujah Raze, “We Play”

The electro-house duo Rushden & Diamonds set themselves apart from the others with their goofy, fun-loving style. In “Fast Lane,” they divert from the album’s violent themes with an electronically-fueled track about street racing. With “They Came From Underground,” the duo fully embraces the sci-fi setting of Anarchy Reigns, rapping about the game’s mutants in a zany and comical fashion.

muzeONE comes off as the strongest performer in the soundtrack. He kills it in “Venom,” which consists of non-stop, high-speed bars over a dense rave beat. In “Jaw,” muzeONE throws down battle raps of graphic poetry over an empowering, string-based rhythm. Almost every line is filled with clever wordplay and vivid imagery. Akira Takizawa, who produced “Jaw” would later work on the amazing electronic rock soundtrack of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. 

“Over the top with my underground style
Plunder abundance of clowns
Rowdiest crowds try to jump at my crown.”
~muzeONE, “Venom”

By the end of this album, I found myself following a lot of these artists. Anarchy Reigns is a shining example of the quality tracks that talented rappers can put out with the right production behind their voices. Tanaka and Yamaguchi’s styles definitely work with some artists more than others, but it’s ultimately impressive that these vocalists were able to create such great tracks despite the unconventional style.

Recommended Tracks:
“Venom” by muzeONE
“Play For Keeps” by Sick YG
“Lights Out” by Ox

Grade: B

(Featured Image: Anarchy Reigns, Sega)

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