Some things you can fake. Take for instance the feigning of interest in some long-winded conversation on beading and buttons. You’ve been cornered and there you sit… generalized in your remarks, nodding in larger, grander motions with your neck. Your hands move, you shift positions in your chair and lean forward, eye contact. By all accounts you are engaged, taut, showing palpable anticipation, and it is pleasing whoever is opposite you. This is a false connection between both parties (albeit one that feels real enough) and that’s fine. Nothing is on the line here and everyone loves a good show.
However, there are things you simply cannot fake. True story. Once I was compared to a fake Rolex watch. I looked, sounded and ticked like the real thing, but as it turned out passing through the metal detector, exposed my fraud. From precious to semi-precious, to clouded, muddied stone; I couldn’t ever be that genuine sought after prize. This anecdote proves that in some cases, either you ARE the real thing or you aren’t. Well, at least I had the look.
And that brings us to composer Michael John Mollo’s take on the world of Capcom’s legendary ninja Strider Hiryu.
Close your eyes. Now imagine how you personally envision the music that would make up Strider in 2014. Whatever it is, it would have fallen doornail flat. Your mixture would have ended up a maligned, ill-conceived schematic of contrived homage. Your ideas reaching to strike a balance between a personality of its own and a nod that might find a mere wink of acceptance from the series original composer Junko Tamiya. I say this harshly because the entirety of Mollo’s LP for Strider is something I imagine ONLY coming from him. Something that is so gorgeous and well fitted to the universe of the Strider legend, it becomes absolutely integral, an ingrained piece of the series canon after a single, solitary flip of the record from side A to side B. While your musical take might have been passable, capable even… your salt, mine, anyone else is nowhere near the grain of Mollo when it comes to Hiryu.
It all comes down to understanding. You may read a paragraph in a textbook, a passage in a novel, and think your paraphrase aptly summarizes and plucks the meaning from every letter. In reality, you are missing details. Something about it, those words, your words, feel grayer once the pen leaves the page. Then you start scratching your head. What were they saying? Mollo, however, KNOWS Strider. KNOWS those details that anyone else would have missed. He has swung that light-cypher, recalls the oddity of its texture, its uneven handling. Mollo’s sat and traveled with Hiryu long enough to know his flaws. Hiryu’s not perfect, but you wouldn’t know it until you’re standing physically next to him. To have a genuine comprehension of a person requires more than you can discern from hastily written Cliffs notes. Mollo knew that to reach the full summation of Strider as a man, one must stand inches from his breath, watch him shift just as he’s about to leap. The ordinary and the spectacular are things not lost on Mollo. Legends after all are just people carrying upon them a fictional paradigm. Mollo understood that to make their stature larger, you must tap into every conceivable avenue available however mundane the task they are performing.
Listen: The Mechanical Dragon
Mollo is beyond the understanding of Strider, and that’s what makes his interpretation so faultlessly compelling. He is able to do anything he chooses. Each move he makes seems richer, more alluring than his previous play. He knows this world so well that he can let loose with his material; time signatures fluctuate rapidly, his tone shifts completely inspired, and his cross fades are playful. Mollo knows when to apply hard pressure, ease his hand if need be, and steer towards any bearing of his choice. Strider is so lively and brilliant a concoction that its closing shot remains as fascinating and impeccable as the album’s opener. Mollo is nothing short of jubilant on Strider and you can hear it. It is a picture that couldn’t be any clearer. Mollo loves Strider and it is this love that puts Strider as an LP into a class completely its own.
Listen: Kazakh City
Strider in the hands of composer Michael John Mollo is as monstrous and bold as its namesake. It is doubtless one of the most intoxicating, exciting collections of music in recent memory. Mollo effortlessly plays all sides of Strider’s daunting field: paying sumptuous and expected tribute while expanding boundlessly upon the possibilities, the dimension’s within Strider Hiryu’s frozen world of ice, tundra, and mechanical Dragon. While there may have been many candidates to helm this score, Michael John Mollo is most assuredly the ONLY REAL choice, the ONLY GENUINE article. Everyone else would have simply looked the part but like that Rolex, the tell is in how it ticks.
Having fallen in love only 4 times in his life Geno counts Double Dragon as his second and truest love. He has worked in record retail since 2000 and believes David Hayter to be the one true Solid Snake. Currently, he is putting together a band which only perform songs from Street Fighter 3rd Strike.