Miracle of Sound’s ‘Level 6’ album review
By Duncan Fingarson, Columnist
The most consistently amazing thing about Miracle of Sound is that, barring a few collaborations, everything is the work of one guy. Gavin Dunne, a relatively unknown independent musician from Ireland, does all the vocals, all the guitar, and with the help of virtual instrument software and a keyboard, all the other instruments too. It’s for a niche audience—most of the music is based off video games—but it’s still really good and incredibly varied. His new album, Level 6, was released last month and continues the trend. Everything in the album’s 15 genre-spanning tracks is different, and it’s all so good.
“Don’t Say a Word” is the first track, a synth-rock piece with echoing vocals and a nice, slow, background drumbeat. It’s a strong start, and it’s not even the best song on the album.
Track two, “London Town,” opens with piano and flows into guitar. There’s some great soft sections with more piano and subtle acoustic guitar, contrasted with sections of higher energy drums and electric guitar, perfect for a song about the industrial revolution.
Then there’s track three, “Lady of Worlds,” which is a duet and probably the best song on the album. The background music has a very folk sort of feel to it, with a lot of traditional-sounding strings and drums. The female vocals, performed by Gav’s friend Ailin Kennedy, are wonderful—powerful, with a touch of elegance to the delivery—while Gav’s own vocals are subdued—more spoken than sung in some places and not too overpowering. Listen to this one, if nothing else.
“Road Rage” is the first non-video game-inspired track, one of five on the album. This one pays tribute to Mad Max, opening like a dust cloud on the horizon and building slowly, the drums and guitar hitting a crescendo into full-blown, fast-paced industrial metal. You can almost hear the roaring engines in the background. This is a close second for best song.
After “Road Rage,” it’s nice to have a softer song to bring things back down. “Stay by My Side” features much quieter vocals and some truly beautiful instrumental composition. This is a very feel-good sort of song, full of wonder and peace.
It’s followed by “Going Nuclear,” a fun, bouncy little tune that sounds like it could have come right out of the ’50s. It’s the shortest track on the album, and a lot of effort has gone into making it sound authentically old. From the vinyl record scratch at the opening to the sparse instrumentals, it’s hard to believe this one was recorded on modern equipment. Anyone who loves classic jukebox numbers will love this.
From the ’50s, it’s onto the ’70s with “Friends,” inspired by Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s a lot of funk and disco in here, and the lyrics touch unsurprisingly on friendship and having a few good buddies to fall back on when the going gets rough.
The next song is also about a comic character, but this time it’s one of DC’s: Batman! “I Am the Night” isn’t the first Batman song Gav has done, and musically it’s pretty close to the last ones. It’s dark, it’s gothic, it’s brooding. It’s Batman. What more could you ask for?
“Evacuate” is somewhat unique, one of two that wasn’t inspired by a particular other work. The second is track 13, “Metasonic,” which is instrumental. “Evacuate” has lyrics, dealing with loss, learning to move on, and staying positive during hard times. It’s a surprisingly fun track for its subject matter.
“My Shooting Star” is for fans of Firefly, Joss Whedon’s space western, and it really nails the western vibe. This one sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place around a campfire in the middle of the desert.
“Paleblood Moon” somehow manages to out-gothic the Batman track. It opens with distant bells and chanting choirs, and is backed by a dark, dense, brooding orchestral score. I think I heard a wolf howl in there, too. Words can’t really do it justice—this is a complex piece and it works really well.
“Friends to Foes” is the Halo track, a straightforward rock song with just enough piano and string music to place it alongside the Halo original soundtracks. It’s big, it’s bombastic, and it’s a lot of fun, but there’s some notes of loss to go along with it. It gets melancholic at times, but never for too long.
The album’s original tracks finish up with “I am Pudge,” a funny song with groaning vocals and big bumbling tubas. Just try not to picture a fat butcher tromping about during this one—it can’t be done.
The last song on the album is a remastering of an older track. “Hard Cash 2015” would be my favourite, but I’m discounting it because it’s not new for this album. It’s still great, with updated heavier basslines and less airy vocals, but it keeps its roots. This song is ’80s, Miami Beach and desperation, synth and Ray-Bans. Easily the best of the three Grand Theft Auto V songs Gav did, this one surprised me when I first heard it and grew on me since then. I still love it today.
Bottom line: this is a fantastic album by a great artist. Listen to it if you haven’t, buy it if you love it, and rock on.