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After Burner - S.S.T. Band :: Review by Chris

After Burner - S.S.T. Band Album Title: After Burner - S.S.T. Band
Record Label: Pony Canyon
Catalog No.: PCCB-00032
Release Date: June 21, 1990
Purchase: Buy at eBay


The Arcade aerial combat classics After Burner and After Burner II were first commemorated with a full album release three years later with After Burner - S.S.T. Band. It features the original score to After Burner II, which features one of the most memorable rocking game scores of the 80s. What's more, it's slightly remastered so dreary samples are no longer a problem. It also includes two arranged tracks by the S.S.T. Band. This album provided gamers with exactly what they would have wanted back in 1990, but does it still hold up well?


Hiroshi Kawaguchi offered just six tunes for After Burner II, but they were sufficient to accompany the gameplay. The tracks define the rock flavour and gritty rhythmical focus of the series, though aren't quite as memorable as the tunes on several other Sega scores. "Maximum Power" works well as a transient title theme, tensely alternating between three suspended chords against rocking drum backing, though is not really suited for out-of-context listening. The chords are reused in a much more liberating way in "Final Take Off" as an ascending progression rather than back-and-forth. Meanwhile there are lots of rapid funk-influenced treble elements to keep things aerial during the 4:28 playtime. The remastered sound especially helps here.

A variety of other well-developed compositions diversify the mood during gameplay. "Red Out" is an ideal theme for reflecting the endurance of air combat with its harder rock emphasis and dissonant chord sequences, though the more mellow interlude is also welcome. The synth has a considerably richer sound than the After Burner version too. "Super Stripe" meanwhile is one of the most motivating tracks on the album and probably the most catchy too. The title theme "After Burner" is even better with its catchy opening chord progression and particularly anthemic section at 1:14. While another short piece, "City 202" has much more substance than "Maximum Power" did and is a welcome inclusion. The original versions ends with a sound effects collection.

The S.S.T. Band arrange version is limited to two tracks, but they're good ones. "Maximum Power ~ Red Out" works surprisingly well together. The title theme transiently sets the pace while dazzling listeners with its keyboard. The rendition of "Red Out" reflects the rhythmical edge of most of the series' tunes with its gritty bass riff. It quickly mellows out, however, with lyrical interpretations of the melody, spacey interludes, and some extravagant supporting guitar work. "After Burner Version II" is even better than the S.S.T. Band's first rendition of the theme. The introduction is just right with its poppy synth hook and punchy orch hits. The body of the theme also captures plenty of excitement with its charismatic keyboard interpretation of the melody against thrashing guitars.


After Burner - S.S.T. Band is a good achievement. The original score is certainly short, but the individual tracks are quite memorable and suit aerial combat with their rock spirit. They also sound better than their Arcade versions thanks to the slight remastering. The arranged version is similarly limited, but really enhances the originals with emotional performances and extensive elaborations. This is probably the best album to go for in order to listen to the original score for After Burner II, given the sound quality and bonuses, although Yu-Suzuki Produce After Burner II also suffices and surprisingly the After Burner Climax Soundtrack features all the material too. For hardcore fans, the After Burner 20th Anniversary Box is also an option. Just note that it's been out-of-print for some time and so probably carries a significant pricetag.

Overall Score: 7/10