Dracula Best: Volume 2 OST Review by Diplo
|1. Demon Castle Dracula||1:13||1.11 MB|
|2. Dracula's Theme||2:10||1.99 MB|
|3. Prologue||0:42||668 KB|
|4. Theme of Simon Belmont||3:42||3.38 MB|
|5. Forest of Monsters||1:58||1.81 MB|
|6. The Cave, The Waterfall, The Submerged City||8:18||7.59 MB|
|7. Clockwork Mansion||3:40||3.36 MB|
|8. Boss 1||1:13||1.12 MB|
|9. Stage Clear||0:09||148 KB|
|10. Map A||0:16||261 KB|
|11. In the Castle||2:18||2.11 MB|
|12. Entrance Hall, Chandeliers||3:42||3.39 MB|
|13. Pillared Corridor, Great Hall||1:40||1.53 MB|
|14. Cellar||2:19||2.13 KB|
|15. Map B||0:13||203 KB|
|16. Treasury Room||3:12||2.94 MB|
|17. Boss 2||1:49||1.67 MB|
|18. Map C||0:17||274 KB|
|19. Bloody Tears||2:06||1.93 KB|
|20. Map D||0:15||2.35 MB|
|21. Vampire Killer||1:08||1.04 MB|
|22. Beginning||1:56||1.77 MB|
|23. Room of Close Associates||1:32||1.41 MB|
|24. Dracula Battle BGM||2:19||2.13 KB|
|25. Dracula's Death||0:38||603 KB|
|26. Ending||2:30||2.29 MB|
|27. Secret Room||1:28||1.34 MB|
|28. Game Over||0:13||214 KB|
ven now, the first three Castlevania games - that is, the NES trilogy - are renowned for their supremely catchy soundtracks which kept on inventing. It may come as a surprise, then, that the first venture on the then-smoking-new Super Nintendo Entertainment System, predictably entitled Super Castlevania 4, was such an aurally devious member of the family. This surprise came linked to the graphics' weirdly subterranean vibe. Sights were built up with funky, but somber, colors, interconnected by strange geometric designs. There was a new, gritty, fatigued emotion to the world outside and in Castlevania. Masanori Oodachi and Souji Tarou thoroughly expressed and heightened this ambience within their compositions, and rarely has there been such a realization of atmosphere within video games.
A point that will most likely stick out to first-time listeners of the soundtrack is how understated it is. The songs don't jump up with briskness and grab listeners with a head-nodding infection. Appreciation of the score takes place progressively, perhaps in the same way as Soshiro Hokkai's work for Harmony of Dissonance. If we're to compare the two, SCV4 is certainly more approachable, considering the instrumentation, and less conflicted style, but the interlacing of melodies is still unexpected, and stays unexpected even after a handful of plays. If Michiru Yamane stands out because of her harmony and directness, then Oodachi and Tarou stand out because of their dissonance and indirectness.
In the interests of isolating the OST from the game, I need to point out that certain tracks are linked together, and that a touch of reverberation has been applied to all. Also, in the vein of the first Dracula Best OST, sound effects are interjected. For instance, "Demon Castle Dracula" positions the name entry ditty, along with wind and bells, before getting to the actual song. None of this annoys me in the least; it adds charm to the package.
"Dracula's Theme" has a pronounced sense of anticipation, and starts off rumbling and overcast, soon breaking away by introducing wailing instruments and a breathless organ. Strings emerge to push the track higher, above dark forests, cliffs, and finally into view of that which presents the ultimate conflict. It's worth noting that this appears before, and continues halfway through, the fight with Dracula, and does much of the work in crafting the most impressive lead-up in the series.
The organ is used again, and more definitively, in the beginning of "Theme of Simon Belmont", a track endowed with resolve, weight, and heroism. It's also here that Tarou and Oodachi's masterful handling of basslines surfaces. It doesn't follow the main melody by hitting notes exactly within it, but steps outside the bounds and extemporizes.
"The Forest of Monsters" references the entry into the wild by employing exotic sounding drums, but keeps the gothic theme via harpsichord and organ. The bass is perhaps at its best here, and the tune is appropriately dingy and cold.
Beyond the woods are watery pathways. "The Caves, The Waterfalls, and the Submerged City" act as a trio, progressing from forlorn simplicity, to moody calmness, to avant-garde activity. The first gives most of the attention to a clear harp and woodwinds; its follow-up adopts the instrumentation, but places importance on a sturdy piano and stoicism. "The Submerged City", a near-improvisational jazz composition, is where things really take off, with clean instruments and notes that wait around, catch up, jostle, and nimbly hop on, but never ruin, the underlying rhythm.
Circle of the Moon brought back "Clockwork Mansion" and did a fine job of melding its two parts together. While that version thumped and had a vaguely psychedelic edge, SCV4's original groans, withers, and knocks, conjuring up the imagery of its title: a haunted place, weary and falling apart, clicking with strange components. The latter portion, a separate song, follows the established motif, but gets wilder, referencing the in-game rotating room and its dizziness.
Funny that "In the Castle" doesn't play - in the castle. Actually, it's positioned right before getting into the castle. Its initial section pounds warningly, while the latter adopts the first bit of "Dracula's Theme" and then uses "Prologue"'s deep, fitly timed strings - the calm before the storm. This does a nice job in establishing an underlying narrative.
"Entrance Hall" welcomes the player into Dracula's lair with good, old-fashioned creepiness and spots of regality. "Chandeliers" maintains the baroque style, but turns agitated, and combines organ, piano, harpsichord, and strings for a bit of insanity.
A personal favorite, "Pillared Corridor, Great Gall" perfectly captures the quietness and the dusty antiquity of the castle's library. The great bassline returns, but everything here is delicate, including the horns. Its melody is endearingly quirky, a mix of jaunty and dim notes.
"The Treasury" is an oft-forgotten gem. Elements and themes are built up for the first minute, and then fully realized with an unusual sense of mystery and intrepidness.
Allowing the old to mingle with the new was begun with Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse and its remix of "Vampire Killer", and the concept is exploited further, here, with a redone "Bloody Tears", "Vampire Killer", and "Beginning." All are pretty good - not extraordinary. It's the best rendition of "Bloody Tears", anyway.
"Room of Close Associates", the most pressing song of any, is a fusion of craziness, sophistication, doubt, and fate. It's perfect for where it's played: the final stretch before Dracula, where Slogra, Gaibon, and Death make their appearances one after another.
"Ending" places itself up with "Requiem for the Nameless Victims." Melancholic, conclusive, it's everything anyone could want in a finishing track. The melody is strong and proud, but simultaneously vulnerable and fragile. Every bit is heartfelt, and gives rest to the journey.
There's not much to criticize with Super Castlevania 4's OST. "Cellar" is boring at worst, but that's about it; the rest ranges from good to spectacular. I've no idea what became of Oodachi in the video game music industry, though Tarou apparently did work for a shooter (Axelay), and composed Circle of the Moon's score. Their combined return to the series would be most welcome, and I'd be especially interested to see what they'd do on a current console. As it is, SCV4's stands as an achievement unsurpassed by its contemporaries, even with their virtually limitless sound capabilities. The album comes from a time when core melody mattered more, from two men who pushed their technology's limits, while digging into their unconscious to pull out genius. You have to hear it to believe it.
|1. Start BGM||0:07||114 KB|
|2. Battle of the Holy||1:57||1.78 MB|
|3. Kill! Kill! Kill!||0:38||595 KB|
|4. Stage Clear||0:05||89 KB|
|5. Darkness||1:24||1.28 MB|
|6. Death Fair||1:24||1.29 MB|
|7. Revenge||1:27||1.33 MB|
|8. Evil Devil||1:08||1.04 MB|
|9. Gate to Hell||0:33||523 KB|
|10. Game Over||0:05||87 KB|
|11. Theme From Legend of Dracula||1:24||1.28 MB|
|12. Reprise||0:41||644 KB|
|13. Opening||1:02||997 KB|
|14. Start||0:04||73 KB|
|15. Castle||1:00||947 KB|
|16. Journey to Chaos||0:23||373 KB|
|17. New Messiah||2:55||2.68 MB|
|18. Road of Enemy||1:30||1.37 MB|
|19. Evil Gods||1:25||1.30 MB|
|20. Stage Clear||0:05||83 KB|
|21. Game Over||0:06||97 KB|
|22. Ripe Seeds||2:28||2.26 MB|
|23. Psycho Warrior||3:05||2.83 MB|
|24. Praying Hands||3:11||2.92 MB|
|25. Castle#2||0:39||624 KB|
|26. Original Sin||2:31||2.31 MB|
|27. Passpied||1:11||1.09 MB|
|28. Soleiyu's Room||0:35||553 KB|
|29. Faith||0:46||729 KB|
|30. Chromatishe Phantasie||2:07||1.94 MB|
|31. Road of Enemy#2||0:36||569 KB|
|32. Sons of Satan||2:07||1.95 MB|
|33. All Clear||0:08||126 KB|
|34. Union||2:50||2.60 MB|
|35. The End of the Day||3:00||2.75 MB|
Castlevania: Adventure and Castlevania: Belmont's Revenge are nearly transparent, microscopic. Quaint and gray, they appeared on the grab-and-go Gameboy - the sequel making significant improvements over the original, and both having fantastic music - but seemingly "stayed there." If you bring either up, there will be those who don't know, and those who do. These are special antiques, and if the love isn't there for the mechanics, it will be present for the soundtracks. Both use the Gameboy synth to the best effect I've ever heard. This, coupled with the queer dreaminess of the melodies, (once again!) reminiscent of Hokkai's creaky style, and written by a Mr. H. Funauchi and Norio Hanzawa, makes them treasures.
For Adventure, the composers collaborated. "Battle of the Holy" is odd in that it doesn't have the momentum we're accustomed to when breaking into a Castlevania game. It's very sequential, more mechanical, slower, and good in its own right. "Kill! Kill! Kill!", like Poison Mind", is very simplistic and loops quickly, but it's all that is required the game's brief boss fights. The track's bassline is the star, hopping about to a keen rhythm.
"Darkness" shows what it means to be slick, notes sliding around with a "No sweat, chief" attitude and a strange, if appreciated, hint of irony. "Revenge" seems to take several cues from "Heart of Fire" and "Bloody Tears", and I'm not afraid to say I prefer it over both. Every bit is savory to the end - well-paced and oh-so-clever.
My favorite of all is "Theme from Legend of Dracula", a lovely track that travels around with ease and sincerity. "Reprise" condenses a slice of the former for minimalism that's charming and listenable as Mega Man 2's password screen music is.
Funauchi tackles Belmont's Revenge solo, and proves he's just as formidable as two minds working together. The sound takes a harsher, but tasteful, and perhaps more surreal, turn. "Journey to Chaos" evokes this immaterialness perfectly (heightened, additionally, by the contrast of its content and its name). This is the iconic beep, boop of the video game, crystallized into cold loveliness.
Remember what I said about Adventure's "Battle of the Holy"? "New Messiah", then, kicks ass from the get-go, showcasing its motorized, raw bass and a wealth of sharp advances.
"Evil Gods" one-ups the previous boss theme by combining urgent and illusory textures for more variety. "Ripe Seeds" nails the sensation of progression, consistently building itself up in a very natural and attractive fashion. A shocking epic comes by way of "Praying Hands", and its creator seems to have known he had hot stuff on his hand with its themes, since it's the longest stage song for no other reason than because it is stunning, and no one can fight against that. Funauchi makes it tread ground specifically, addictively, and releases a host of even more fantastic things a minute in.
Once the castle's been reached, "Original Sin" crashes through a wall and tells the player it's time for Business with rip-roaring ferociousness and blasts of glory. "Passpied" pulls a first in the series' history by having an actual (and very good) classical piece in its score, this one by Claude Debussy. "Chromatische Phantasie" does the same, but draws from Bach's Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor. The result is powerful, in no small part due to the raw audio quality.
"Soleiyu's Room" is a fitting lead-up tune. It's creepy, anticipatory, and "circular," encouraging forward movement; and "Road of Enemy 1" is just wild, disturbing. The meeting with Dracula is soon, and the dissonance in the music conveys this throat-tightening prospect. "Sons of Satan" shows the skill Funauchi possesses in intertwining intricate parts while retaining elementariness in the whole. "The End of the Day" could rightfully be called the brother of "Theme from Legend of Dracula". It has the same wistful tone, and a similar decisive placidity.
Neither of these OST's have anything that I would call bad. There is a group of relative bores - "Road of Enemy", "Gate to Hell", "Psycho Warrior", to name three - which function better in-game, though still can't stand up as well as the rest. Overall, the tracklists are compact and juicy: it's a memorable effort with loads of character, detail, and, as mentioned prior, unequaled Gameboy sound. It's almost inspiring to know that this quality was produced for such tiny and under-the-radar titles. As an additional recommendation, go and check out the "The Legend of Dracula" and "Praying Hand" remixes on the Dracula: New Classic album; they are excellent.