It’s been a rather long time since the Game Music Collective played their debut gig in 2016 and though we sadly couldn’t make it to their mini-festival a year or two later, we’ve nevertheless been keeping an eye on them. The most recent development has been the creation of a more casual “live-friendly” iteration called the Game Music Collective Band! This band played their first live show at the soon-defunct Nosturi on December 29th, 2019, and hoping this means we’ll see more live shows from them in general, we headed down to Nosturi for one of our last-ever shows there!
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We were a bit late on arrival while looking for parking, but we noted at 19:00 (showtime) as we drove past the venue that there was still a long queue outside. It had cleared out by the time we had arrived luckily, and to our further luck, we realized that we were not late as the band had not yet started. Whether they were delayed due to technical difficulties or if they were just giving everyone outside an opportunity to come in, we could not say, but just this once it worked out in our favor (though the people who shows up on time certainly may have disagreed). It was also nice to see that the venue was quite full, ergo the show much have sold well!
When the gig did get started around 19:20, they played it smart by playing something from Final Fantasy VII right away: the Bombing Mission theme. It wasn’t a very traditional song choice from FF’s most popular game but that made for a refreshing change of pace, with the sawing cello by founder Lukas Stasevskij, driven clarinet, and fun synth, along with a tight guitar solo by Ossi Maristo.
Next up was the theme from Metal Gear Solid, which is a classic awesome theme often picked up by orchestras and a nice treat for the crowd. The music from Fortnite was really nice to hear, even if we weren’t familiar with it. It seemed to be a bit more on the heavy band side of the music, which was a nice reminder that it’s still got some kick.
This went straight into something that was pure jazz, full of groovy, sexy bass. We didn’t catch the theme but it appeared to be from Grand Theft Auto of all things. Someone was doing some vocals but there was so much fog and darkness in the back of the stage that we couldn’t see the whole band.
The music throughout the night seemed to have everything: funky transitions, sharp violin, groovy synth, dramatic slow string outros, heavy bass, melodic violin, to ominous cellos reminiscent of Apocalyptica with western-like electric guitar strumming.
There were a few speeches between the songs, and at one point Stasevijk mentioned the music of Finnish game composer Ari Pulkkinen, who has done great work with games like Nex Machina. My Finnish is rusty, but he may have been in the crowd, and I believe the band played some of the music from his Trine soundtracks in this part of the set.
It took the better part of the gig for me to finally spot Panu Rauhala on (what I believe was) synth. He was largely hidden behind the battle station of Saku Mattila (EWI). One of the easy highlights of the night was the theme from Monkey Island – it’s a great theme song and not really as well known as it should be, so that was a really cool choice. The reggae sound and steel drums added nicely to the ambiance of the original.
The show had a short intermission of 15 or so minutes, before the band returned to, I believe, commend the work of composer Hans Zimmer, as well as introduce the band to the crowd. The ever-popular theme for Dr. Wily from Mega Man is an easy crowd-pleaser but we didn’t mind at all. The song to follow may have been from something like Red Dead Redemption (though I’m not certain) and had some wonderfully moody, droning guitars and ambient cello slides.
Bass player Tarmo Anttila was a real showman and could hardly be contained next to the drummer, and whenever he wasn’t on stand-up bass swapped to electric and boogied around with his bandmates. He was probably the one who seemed most comfortable entertaining as well as just performing well.
The began to wind down with the main theme from Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which was really epic as the cello and violin shared the vocals. The crowd helped with a singalong (chant-along?) to the Halo theme, which had some really great shredding. The final song was announced, possibly from Black Ops, and we happened to notice some nerds in the crowd scoffing at the song choice. We weren’t personally familiar with the soundtrack but whatever they were playing sounded pretty dang good.
It’s so exciting to watch this band right now, as this was the first time the Game Music Collective Band was seen on stage. The show wasn’t flawless by any means; some of the band seemed very nervous on stage, and there were awkward moments at times where they seem confused. As well, correct me if I misunderstood, but a lot of the music seems to be coming from backing sounds, while it might be nicer to have compositions that integrate the live musicians more, taking, for example, better advantage of having a violinist in the band (Emma Mali?), who seemed more capable than what she was playing.
Otherwise, this was a really fun night. It didn’t matter what they played, everything sounded fantastic, and if we did recognize a song, there was instant excitement that you could feel rippling through the crowd around you. There is a definitely a niche in music right now and we really hope to see these guys succeed in filling it! Of note, there were also some classic video game consoles set up where the merch usually is, which allowed attendees to play some games at Nosturi.
Setlist included music from:
Final Fantasy VII// Metal Gear Solid // Fortnite // Grand Theft Auto // Trine // Monkey Island // Mega Man // Final Fantasy VIII // Skyrim // Halo // Call of Duty: Black Ops
Photos: Marco Manzi