The year was 1994.
The location: The majestic wind-swept ice shelves of Belgium.
It was a very special time and place never to be repeated again, the day when electronic musician Maurice Engelen, fresh off his successful Lords of Acid tour “Banana Hammock Rubber Hole Ori-Face,” was about to reach climax- of his creative career. At the Belgium’s only discotheque that night, Engelen chained his ceremonial sled dogs to the stage, helped himself to a mouthful of raw penguin meat…
And made history.
That night was the CD release party of “Mortal Kombat: THE ALBUM” by Engelen’s side-project The Immortals, which was released as a promotion for the second Mortal Kombat arcade game. Each song is a character sketch from a fighter in the game, but these are but puppets, existing only to flesh out Engelen’s vision. They are but devices in a poetic narrative that is as shape shifting as Shang Tsung himself.
It is known today for its — frankly — most amateur track “Techno Syndrome,” a.k.a. “MOOOOOOOOORRRRRTAAAAAAAAL KOOOMMMBAAAT (doodoodoodooodooodooodooodooodooo Fight!).” But on the whole, MKtheA is actually a delightful techno study in existential metaphysics — a wormhole to an inter-dimensional kung fu dojo that sucks unionized workers from the C&C Music Factory toward vistas of cosmic understanding.
Garbage Duck recently acquired this extremely rare gem of an album on wax cylinder from a mysterious albino record store clerk for the low price of two and a half orphan hearts. This week, we share selections from that album in a series we’re calling “A Study in Goro: The Music of the Immortals.”
But why belabor an introduction when the Immortals said it so much better with:
Prepare yourself/ Mortal Kombat’s on today/ Prepare yourself/ Mortal Kombat all the way/ Prepare yourself/Mortal Kombat’s here to stay Oooh!
Johnny Cage is not afraid to die!
Our journey through the Outworld begins with the first track on the album. “Johnny Cage (Prepare Yourself).”
Before packing us into his rocket ship toward Nirvana, Engelen invites us to ponder the inherent worth present in every individual. His icon for this meditation is the fighter “from the United States of America, the movie star with the iron fist” the one and only Johnny Cage.
Engelen describes Cage in almost erotic terms (perhaps an unnecessary homage to lesser poets such as Walt Whitman).
Through a cacophony of synthesizers and — Engelen’s favorite musical device — a button that goes “Woo!” listeners commune with Johnny as he trains for his inter-dimensional fight for his life. Cage reaches his peak physical and mental condition, honing skills like “the shadow kick we all admire” and “a split-punch that makes them cry.” (Please note: Engelen uses the term “split-punch,” prudently steering away from a special move generations of 12-year-old boys were more familiar with as “the nut-crusher.”)
However, the message that many listener’s miss on their first 30-or-so listens to MKtheA is the clever comparison Engelen draws between the storm god Raiden and the mortal Johnny Cage. We are told in “Raiden (Eternal Life),” “We all know he’s not afraid, because Raiden cannot die!” But the boldest assertion in “Prepare Yourself” is simply “Johnny Cage is not afraid to die!”
Garbage Duck recently obtained a grant from Youngstown State’s Endowed Chair of Outworld Studies” to research Engelen’s stark contrast between man and the gods. We gained an audience with Engelen on the deck of his airship floating high above the deserts of Belgium. When we asked him to explain this contradiction, Engelen pulled a freshly-cut flower from the folds of his robes, performed a silent sermon with it and said: “I wished to show sexy cool American peoples a future. A future free of silly kings and the demands of petty gods.”
Engelen said he had grown weary of us and several topless hermaphrodites wearing loincloths carried him away on a litter into his private quarters.
Since the publication of that paper, Engelen’s statement was responsible for forming the ideological base of the band VNV Nation and for driving countless scores of gamers into the clammy embrace of Ayn Rand.