FastLoaders: C64 Rocks - Review by Lala
The FastLoaders are back with their 5th studio album!
Seven years after their massive 3-disc
Ninja Musicology, and three years after another massive 3-disc album titled
Amiga Rocks, the FastLoaders are back with another 3-disc album that is even more massive than those previous ones:
C64 Rocks! So massive and so hot, in fact, that I'm currently simply taking a break from listening to it to let my audio amplifier cool down a bit...
The numbers alone are staggering for this album: you get 55 tracks organized into 3 discs - all remixes of C64 SID tunes, of course. It's like buying 3 albums in one for a mere 30 British pounds - that's a pretty good bang for your buck (and yes, pun is intended here, because this album will really make your neighbors bang on your walls). Now, granted, 10 of the tracks on this album are not entirely new (more on that later), but that's still 45 brand new remixes that the FastLoaders have unleashed here. The album has a total playing time of 3 hours 42 minutes and 54 seconds - that's a lot of new remixes to listen to!
Okay, okay, fine, the numbers are indeed mind-blowing, you say,
but how is the music? Well, I think the title says it all: it's all C64 tunes and it rocks. These guys are honest, so they are not going to surprise you by sneaking in some sappy tunes (okay, maybe
Monty on the Run - Highscore and
Way of the Exploding Fist are the exceptions), they have not included any downtempo chill house or anything like that, they have not added a single vocal - it's all pure, unadulterated instrumental rock music with their
standard setup: Jarle H. Olsen on guitars, bass and synths, Bjarte K. Helland on drums and percussion, Kjetil Nossum on keyboards (and, for a track or two, on flute), and also Bård S. Larsen on mandolin.
The album was crowdfunded on Kickstarter, and of the 55 tracks, 14 were suggested by backers with high pledges in the
customized rock category. I am very, very glad that those super-backers insisted on those tracks, because some of them are my absolute favorites from the album:
Armalyte perfectly captures the original's every nuance (and more),
R-Type is just wicked as a rocky tune,
Robocop 3 fits the style of this band like a glove, and the lead guitar on
Wizball just knocked my socks off, especially in the second half of it with all those staccato runs - holy-moly!
Ten of the tracks will be very familiar to those who also own the
Progressive 64 album from the FastLoaders, because every track from that album is also on this one, too. Well, not exactly the same tracks - Jarle told me that they have re-recorded the drums and the bass and some of the guitars on those tracks for
C64 Rocks, and all 10 got remixed and remastered, too. So, while the arrangements will sound very familiar, they will also sound fresh and new on this album.
I will not even attempt to review every single track from this album, so let me just highlight a few from each disc. On disc 1
Ark Pandora is one of my favs starting with the very first notes. The original's arrangement has been slightly modified here, but I think they managed to make it even better with those changes. My only wish is that this track should've been longer than 2 minutes. The 9th track on disc 1 is
Black Lamp, which provides a slight break in the action with a more laid-back tune. If by this time you are still not convinced about the superb skills of Jarle on his lead guitar, this tune will surely do that. The original
Auf Wiedersehen Monty always held a special place in my heart, and the Fastloaders made a headbanging piece out of it - and adding the vocal pads was a really nice touch on this remix. Or what about
Supremacy, with the intro of this tune played on a guitar to perfection? And the rest of this cover is really good, too! Or
Pendragon's Legacy, which is a medley of several Dave Thomas tunes - what a cool choice this was! I could go on and on, but that was just disc 1!
The very first track on disc 2 is
Green Beret Loader - I sense a pattern emerging here, because the very first track of disc 1 is
Ocean Loader 2, and the first one on disc 3 is
X-Out Intro - nice touch to
load up the discs this way, hehe. Anyway,
Green Beret Loader is an excellent opening track on the second disc - just the right dose of rockiness mixed with sublime passages.
Shadowfire - another perfect choice for this band's setup. I can totally see myself dancing to this at a concert. (Heck, that can be said for the rest of the tracks on this album, too!...)
Savage covers the less-often remixed subtune #3 from the game - if this track won't lift your spirits, nothing will. I smiled really wide when I noticed that the FastLoaders also remixed
Target Renegade - it's a medley of several subtunes here presented in a very neat and tight package.
Monty on the Run - Highscore is one of a very few downtempo tracks on the album. Unlike on many of their other tracks, the Fastloaders diverge a lot from the original's arrangement here - and the result is absolutely beautiful. Especially that ripping improv lead by Jarle later on in the piece - it left me speechless! Let's move on: oh, no, not another remix of
Sanxion?!? Yes, yes, and yes! Even though it's one of the most-remixed tunes on RKO (somewhere in the 40-ish range), this is such a smashing version, they made me like this tune all over again!
Are we done, yet? Absolutely not! On disc 3, initially,
Way of the Exploding Fist didn't strike me as a particularly good choice for a rock band - but no challenge is too big for these guys. After they lull you into a false sense of security with a serene intro, they hit you with a bunch of guitars until, well, until their fists explode, haha... (Sometimes I really do crack myself up.) This is immediately followed by
Fist II - a carefully arranged medley of several tunes from the game, and may I say, very nicely done.
Gauntlet III - a-ma-zing! Words fail me on this one, so trust me - just listen to it if you get a chance.
To Be On Top - what a perfect fit for rock! These guys are really on top of their game here (as I said, I can really crack myself up). The intro to
Myth provides another opportunity for Jarle to showcase his superb guitar skills.
Commando - oh, my gosh, what can I say? This is how I always imagined this tune to be - guitars and drums galore!
Fairlight of Wizardry is an obvious mashup of the two title tunes from Clever Music that launches into a bombastic remix after a medieval-style intro.
The Great Giana Sisters features something hitherto unheard of on the album: a piano! Do not worry, though, bass and lead guitars soon make an appearance on this track, too, rocking this classic Hülsbeck tune to its core. The disc - and the album - concludes with a medley of tunes from the two
Forbidden Forest games, providing a fitting - if somewhat frightening - conclusion to nearly 4 hours of non-stop listening.
But here is the thing: as much as I've listened to this album during the past week or so, my ears never got tired of it. The arrangements and styles are varied just enough to keep your interest up, and just as importantly, the mixing of the entire album is done to perfection: not too loud, not too soft, not too booming, not too whiney. It sounds just as professional as you'd expect from, say, any Top100 album on the billboard charts. High kudos to the FastLoaders for that!
As I mentioned before, the FastLoaders were honest when naming this album: they delivered 55 (say that again: fifty-five!) C64 tunes which they arranged to rock - nothing more, nothing less. Most of the tracks on the album follow the arrangements of the originals faithfully, and on those where they veer away, it's usually to their advantage. And, as they told me, they created, arranged and recorded all this material in a mere 12 month span in their free time while holding full-time jobs. That is some serious, serious dedication, my hats off to them...
So, here's my advice: take this album on a long roadtrip with you to make your boring drive a lot more enjoyable. Play it during wedding parties to get everybody moving on the dance floor. Or just listen to it on your home audio setup - your speakers will thank you for giving them such a treat.
C64 Rocks perfect? Of course, not - there are some tracks on it I like, and some tracks that do not tickle my fancy that much. I have my favorites, and I'm sure you'll have your own favorites, too. But that's the beauty of this album: with this many tracks, we are all bound to find our own favorites among them.
Click the image to vote on each track of the album!
And now, please, excuse me, as I gotta go: I think my audio amplifier cooled down just enough to start another playlist of
C64 Rocks on it!
Review by LaLa, May 2023
Disclaimer: The reviewer contributed to the C64 Rocks Kickstarter campaign.
C64 Rocks is available for purchase now for digital download, and will be available as a physical CD album on June 2, 2023.
C64 Rocks launch party and concert
When: June 2, 2023
Where: Underworld Club, Camden, London, UK
Tickets and more info: