I listen to a lot of video game music. I consider it to be a long-term side effect of playing so many games in my formative years. Give me the first four notes of the Overworld Theme from Final Fantasy and I’ll hum the rest of the song on loop for five minutes. The title screen song from Battletanx is half of why I consider it to be an underappreciated classic.
And then we have The Legend of Zelda. From the NES original to genre-defining classics like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the Zelda series has been home to some of the video game world’s most beloved music. It’s a franchise that has inspired countless gamers and musicians.
That includes the band Master Sword. A progressive metal band with two albums under their belt (and a third on the way), Master Sword is the brainchild of musician Matt Farkas. Drawing on themes and music from the series, Master Sword produces Zelda-inspired music that stands out as some of the best video game metal I’ve ever heard.
Matt Farkas was kind enough to talk with me a little about Master Sword, his experience with The Legend of Zelda, and how it plays into the band's music and songwriting.
Stew Shearer: How did Master Sword first come together?
Matt Farkas: I founded the band back in 2013 after going to the game music festival MAGFest. Seeing all the incredible bands there playing was a real inspiration, and I wanted to emulate that in a style that I was really into, aka heavy metal.
I reached out to a few friends who might be interested, as well as found a few through sources like Craigslist, or friends of friends. A few joined and off we went! Every now and then we'd lose a member, gain another, etc., until the present day. I'm now the only original member left!
SS: Why the focus on Zelda? I know why I love the series, but I'm wondering what about it inspires all of you?
MF: It's been my favorite game series since first playing Ocarina of Time back in the late 90s. I knew if I was doing a video game metal band, I'd want to do it about a series I was truly passionate about, and Zelda was it. Not to mention, what a perfect pairing for fantasy metal!
SS: What are your favorite Zelda games? I say "games" because I know that Ocarina of Time tends to be the default answer for a lot of us who grew up with it as a formative title. (Present company included.)
MF: Ocarina of Time is definitely up there for me. It's certainly one of the games with the most nostalgic impact! My personal favorite is The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, though. They both have a very special place in my heart. Other games from the series that I love a lot are Wind Waker and Breath of the Wild.
SS: It's not hard to find metal acts producing straightforward covers of video game music. Master Sword writes and performs songs that are inspired by game music, but that are also largely original. Why did you choose to go that route?
MF: That's basically it. There were plenty of metal covers of Zelda songs out there, and if I'm being honest, I didn't know at the time whether or not I could actually produce something BETTER than what others were already doing, as far as straight covers go. So why do it if you're not going to be the best?
Instead, I went with my strong suit, which is songwriting. I've been songwriting as long as I've been playing guitar, and it was the reason I fell so in love with music to begin with. So I thought, why not write original music that really invokes the spirit of the games?
It was something unique, a blend of original metal, Zelda melodies, and stories from the games. I knew as soon as I thought it up that it could be a truly special idea if done right. Hopefully we've done it justice!
SS: Is there a song of yours that you like best? And why?
MF: I like a lot of them, for very different reasons. The songs off our debut EP Epoch, specifically The Mountain, Forsaken Tribe, and A Terrible Fate, have a sort of purity to them to the original idea of Master Sword. They're a bit *too* close to game covers for us now, but I like how concise they are. They're also all super fun to play.
Tower of Stone has some of the best musical lines I've ever written, like the keyboard solo in the second half. I've always been very proud of that section. A Bloody History, on the other hand, is the perfect distillation of the Shadow Temple from Ocarina of Time, without actually using much music at all from the game. It's the kind of thing I want to do a lot more of!
SS: What’s next for Master Sword?
MF: A few months back we announced our next album, which will be called "Toying With Time". It's an album that is 100% about the game Majora's Mask. Look forward to a very dark, creepy, and dynamic album from us. It has some of our heaviest tracks, as well as some of our most complex. I think you guys are going to love it!