The PC gaming progressive metal project, WASD, just released its second album, Escape (opens in new tab), which includes chunky, proggy reimaginings of classic tracks from hits like Deus Ex and Warcraft 2, but also some deeper cuts like Turrican and Space Quest 3. We had a chance to sit down with WASD mastermind Austin Green and chat about the album, as well as its cheeky "Floppy Disc Mystery Single" edition.
"I'd messed around with the idea of trying to fit every song onto a floppy," Green told us. Unfortunately the audio compression required rendered his songs "unlistenable." A satisfactory floppy release of Escape probably would have required a spread of discs like a '90s game installation, so instead Green minted a limited run of 50 floppies, each with two random tracks from the album.
This'll net you a "not bad" listening experience, but you'll probably want to stick with the included digital download of the album for listening in your $200 headphones. But it's not about practicality with this sort of thing, is it?
Just like with the indie music scene's obsession with cassette releases, it's about the audacity of keeping an outmoded format alive just for the hell of it, and I love how Green made this happen by finding lots of old floppies to write over on Facebook marketplace. (Admittedly we're biased—in 2020 we paid Austin Green to produce a free album celebrating some of our favorite PC gaming music, The PC Gaming Show 2020 Album (opens in new tab).)
I'd compare WASD's sound to progressive metal bands like Haken—you've got those chunky metal guitar riffs, but also a certain funkiness and playful virtuosity like a '70s band of guys with mustaches and wizards on all their album art.
The highlight of Escape for me is Green's Deus Ex track: Nanotech Outlaw (opens in new tab). It blends the exploration and combat versions of that game's essential UNATCO HQ theme, and I found that WASD's style especially gelled with Alexander Brandon, Michiel van den Bos, and Dan Gardopée's original compositions.
Green primarily focuses on that formative, western, '90s to early '00s era of PC gaming in his work. "I think the wonderful thing about that era of PC gaming is that it's when PC games were PC games," Green explains."It goes both ways, games were on their own specific platforms with their own feel."
There were a few gems from this era that were left on the cutting room floor for Escape, and Green may try to revisit them in future work. Myst, for example, is right smack dab in the middle of Green's preferred era, but he's yet to settle on a style that satisfyingly translates that game's dreamy OST. Similarly, Green toyed with and ultimately axed covers of music from StarCraft and Unreal Tournament (though the original Unreal is represented here), and had at one point considered a rendition of Portal's end credits song, "Still Alive."
You can listen to Escape in its entirety right now on WASD's Bandcamp page (opens in new tab), as well as check out the project's merch and physical releases. WASD will be playing at MAGFest (opens in new tab) this January, so if you're anywhere near the Gaylord Convention Center in Bar Harbor Maryland from January 5-8, you know where to find a good time. You can also follow WASD on Facebook (opens in new tab) and Twitter (opens in new tab).