Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia OST Review by Diplo
|1. Dusk's Holy Mark||1:09||1.33 MB|
|2. Oncoming Dread||1:59||2.27 MB|
|3. Heroic Dawning||2:21||2.69 MB|
|4. Ecclesia||1:36||1.83 MB|
|5. Vanishing||1:58||2.27 MB|
|6. Deliberate Blink||1:04||1.22 MB|
|7. Sapphire Elegy||1:10||1.33 MB|
|8. A Prologue||2:19||2.66 MB|
|9. Destiny's Stage||1:52||2.13 MB|
|10. Chapel Hidden in Smoke||3:21||3.85 MB|
|11. Serenade of the Hearth||3:30||4.00 MB|
|12. Symphony of Battle||2:42||3.10 MB|
|13. A Clashing of Waves||4:01||4.60 MB|
|14. Rhapsody of the Forsaken||3:37||4.15 MB|
|15. Cantus Motetten||1:21||1.56 MB|
|16. Jaws of a Scorched Earth||3:34||4.09 MB|
|17. Emerald Mist||3:58||4.55 MB|
|18. Unholy Vespers||3:08||3.56 MB|
|19. Wandering the Crystal Blue||2:35||2.97 MB|
|20. Dissonant Courage||2:34||2.94 MB|
|21. Edge of the Sky||3:27||3.96 MB|
|22. Tragedy's Pulse||3:10||3.64 MB|
|23. Hard Won Nobility||2:09||2.46 MB|
|24. Trace of Rage||2:18||2.65 MB|
|25. Sorrow's Distortion||2:25||2.78 MB|
|26. Dark Holy Road||2:17||2.63 MB|
|27. Lament to the Master||2:56||3.36 MB|
astlevania: Order of Ecclesia's soundtrack could be considered the Curse of Darkness of the 2D format – it lets itself go to wilder emotions without a loss in quality. In fact, in that respect, Ecclesia's score is more consistent than Curse's, which, when all was said and done, really was about half-good (even if that fifty-percent was great). There are a lot of tracks on the Ecclesia soundtrack, and pretty much all of it possesses something of worth. It's big, it's bold, it's beautiful: it's the result of long-time Castlevania resident, Michiru Yamane, teaming up with Yasuhiro Ichihashi, whose work I'm not familiar with, barring what he lent to Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles. There's been no official distinction, as of yet, concerning who did which tracks, though being familiar with Yamane's sound leads me to believe she handled most of the job. This is surprising to me; I've never been very impressed by her non-console compositions. The OST for Portrait of Ruin (Yuzo Koshiro lent five pieces to the tracklist) is technically fine and creatively boring. Most of the songs by Yamane felt like a person that was trying to copy Yamane; of course, one ended up with weirdly predictable melodies that seem plucked out of an established repertoire and cobbled together for Frankenstein's-monster-like ditties.
What happened in between the time of Portrait of Ruin and Order of Ecclesia? I'm not sure – at the least, it shows Michiru Yamane hasn't succumbed to the old "one hit wonder" that plagues so many musicians. Her songs here are iconic, destined to stand the test of time in spite of their clearly synthetic sound (if it's possible, note how much more pleasant it is to listen to the handheld versions in comparison to their boneless, "high-quality" counterparts). Wonderful sound effects aside, it's the best usage of the DS' sound yet. The bass is chunky, the percussion is crisp, and the instruments harbor a stand-out sound reminiscent of older atmospheric games' scores like Demon's Crest. I have to admit a preference for slower-paced songs in the series (and I'd love to one day see a Castlevania with music in the vein of Arvo Part, though with a bit more audible, immediate structure and a bit less atmospheric spacing), so when I speak handsomely of Ecclesia's driving songs, I'm addressing it with uncommon praise.
To start on the negative side of things: I question where some of the music has been placed in-game. I'm not sure why the Ecclesia headquarters are home to happy beats – "A Prologue" – that, at one point, recall 90s dance music. It's nice in itself, sure, though its Lift-Your-Hands-And-Clap demeanor has nothing to do with the area. A song for Ecclesia should be slower, ideally giving a hint to the establishment's darker intentions. There is also "Chapel Hidden in Smoke": again, it's well composed, but not really iconic enough to be an introductory piece, and a little bright considering the dinginess of the monastery. And I love "Emerald Mist" a lot, yet it's a little conflictingly outspoken and colorful for the glum forest and swamp environments. If there's one thing Yamane still has to learn, it's this: save your best boss battle track for last! No, "Toccata into Blood Soaked Darkness" doesn't count, since that was for Dracula's first form. "Order of the Demon" is simply more of the same "oh look it's the last battle huehahahjheu" nonsense, in the end indistinguishable from the end-battle songs heard in the last two DS games (yes, I know Koshiro composed the one for Portrait). It's great that you have an organ and a chorus and all that jazz, Yamane, but it doesn't mean much when the base composition is boring. I would finally mention that two or three songs get too close to former compositions, and lose some of their identity in the resemblances. I'm sure Yamane isn't meaning to do it; maybe she doesn't see it herself. For instance: "Malak's Labyrinth" seems oddly close to "Dark Palace of Waterfalls" – and "The Colossus" intrudes on the territory of "Lament of Innocence" The good side to this? Well, at least Yamane isn't drawing parallels with bad songs.
|1. Stones Hold a Grudge||1:15||1.44 MB|
|2. Welcome to Legend||3:09||3.60 MB|
|3. Passing Into the Night||2:57||2.25 MB|
|4. An Empty Tome||3:00||3.45 MB|
|5. Chamber of Ruin||2:45||3.16 MB|
|6. Malak's Labyrinth||3:20||3.86 MB|
|7. Ebony Wings||2:24||2.76 MB|
|8. Tower of Dolls||2:25||2.78 MB|
|9. Gate of the Underworld||2:16||2.61 MB|
|10. The Colossus||3:01||3.45 MB|
|11. Former Room 2||2:18||2.36 MB|
|12. Shadow's Stronghold||1:18||1.50 MB|
|13. Order of the Demon||3:16||3.74 MB|
|14. Rituals||1:43||1.96 MB|
|15. Requiem of Star Crossed Nights||4:39||5.32 MB|
|16. Reunion||0:39||764 KB|
|17. Consummation||0:11||217 KB|
|18. Armoy Arabesque||2:24||2.74 MB|
|19. Enterprising Mercantilism||1:51||2.12 MB|
|20. Lone Challenger||2:31||2.88 MB|
|21. Riddle||3:02||3.47 MB|
|22. Dusk's Holy Mark Arranged||2:51||3.28 MB|
|23. Distortion of Chilling Blackness||2:35||2.97 MB|
|24. Azure Wanderings||1:36||1.84 MB|
|25. Rhapsody of Indigo Sorrow||3:22||3.86 MB|
|26. Lapis Lazuli Colored Virginal||1:54||2.18 MB|
|27. Symphonic Poem of the Satin Dem||1:34||1.79 MB|
Otherwise, it's a hell of a lineup: the largest score for a handheld Castlevania, one of the largest for the series, one of the best Castlevania soundtracks, and one of the best in video games. Aforementioned energetic propensities notwithstanding, there's a bag of sensitive goodies to choose from, here. "Serenade of the Hearth", Ecclesia's village theme, is about as lovely a respite-oriented tune you are going to hear on the handheld. What really makes it all the stronger is that it doesn't comfort you one-hundred percent, but mixes its warmth with an ominous grief, letting you know that even the towns of Castlevania's universe aren't separate from the looming threat. "Wandering the Crystal Blue" makes me think of a track Masashi Hamauzu could've written for the Saga Frontier 2 soundtrack, and a perfect fit for the azure area it was produced in mind with. Accompanying jingle-bells heighten its already chilled character. I said "Malak's Labyrinth" (I don't know who Malak is!) is a close-relative to a prior track; however, it takes enough new turns to differentiate itself, and the instrumentation is a far cry from the dank majesty of "Dark Palace of Waterfalls", and closer to the timid mystery of the Underground Labyrinth.
In the beginning, "Heroic Dawning" greets players at the menu screen. It's not as captivating as "Name Entry". Still, it does what it does with charm. Beat the game, and "Welcome to Legend" – an instrumentally simpler, but much sweeter, theme – replaces it. It's a lovely little thing, and a personal favorite. I am not sure where "Armory Arabesque" plays; similar to the previous track, it's an excellent example of Yamane's ability to write intriguing counterpoint. A number of the cutscene-themed pieces are glittering gems in their own right, "Rituals", "Deliberate Blink" (unusual, neat bassline), "Trace of Rage", and "Cantus Motetten 1" being the best of the bunch. I really enjoy either track for the world map, too: "Destiny's Stage" and "Passing into the Night". The former is both quaint and vast, and the latter is portending, emerging once Dracula's castle has materialized. Take a listen to "Requiem of Star-Crossed Nights" when you get the chance: it's not tear-jerkingly amazing, but it has a pleasant vibe that reminds me of the closer in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (it also, in its revisiting of motifs, removes any doubt that "Chapel Hidden in Smoke" is a bad song). At the least, it beats the hell out of the atrocious enders for Portrait of Ruin, and helps add a layer of emotion to the closing of the protagonist's journey that otherwise might've been absent.
And then there is the boisterous pack led by "A Clashing of Waves", its home being the stormy Kalidus Channel. Yamane could have done more to develop its content – as such, in spite of its strengths, like the powerful bass and the delightfully cheesy squeals of the electric guitar, it ends up sounding more like what would be composed for a place of transition, rather than one of self-sufficiency. You might see that positively or negatively, I guess. "Rhapsody of the Forsaken" could be called Ecclesia's "Jail of Jewels", standing in as an anthemic game-defining track, even if it wasn't meant to do so. It's better than Portrait's vigorous song, though: the melody is juicier and keeps on giving beyond the rousing hook, performing every catchy gesture it should along the way. "Edge of the Sky" is hard to classify, somewhere in between "Baljhet Mountains", "Forest of Jigramunt", and "Mortvia Fountain". It has a wonderful bassline, and it goes many places in its short time, but always stays close to a wide-scaled, foreign passion. Two castle tracks, "An Empty Tome" and "Ebony Wings", are modern-day counterparts to Castlevania 3's fast-paced, poppy-but-not-too-gleeful style. "Ebony Wings" is so greatly fitted, it feels like it's always existed in the stream of video games songs as a latent, iconic melody.
"Hard Won Nobility" harkens backs to the sassiness of a Rondo of Blood song with an implacable, paradoxical irreverent seriousness. "Jaws of a Scorched Earth", while comparatively subdued, is an attractive, jazzy piece, and a soundtrack highlight, maintaining a sweetness that never gets too precious with unpredictable, explorative harmonics. As per usual, there are a couple remixes: "Tower of Dolls" from the X68000 release, and Dracula's Curse's "Riddle". Even if both of them don't take noticeable creative liberties, they are rock solid resurrections with appropriate instrumentation; "Riddle" has a nice, bloopy lead-synth reminiscent of the original Famicom's sound chip. Admittedly, "The Colossus" doesn't do much for me. I think it has to do with the synths that are used – there's something inappropriately dinky about it all, and that's not an adjective the climactic castle keep should be associated with. "Lone Challenger" reminds me of Journey to Silius's stage music – a good thing, indeed.
Most of the battle songs are great. As said, "Order of the Demon" is flavorless, as is "Symphony of Battle" – but then you have things like "Dissonant Courage", vaguely reminiscent of Symphony's "The Tragic Prince", and "Lament to the Master" with its fun rhythm and sprightly notational doodles. The crowned members of the bunch, though, are "Sorrow's Distortion" and "Chamber of Ruin". The first is good enough that you might not mind dying during the fight in which it plays, just so you can hear more of it. You could call it the Baroque cousin to Mega Man 2's fantastic music. It's flawless, and a contender for best battle theme in the series. "Chamber of Ruin" is a weird surprise: messy, carnival-esque ragtime. When the bass and beat get down to serious business around the thirty-five second mark, a wild organ emerges and proceeds to entertain ears with cascading, nutty notes. The rhythm and tunefulness that arrives out of all this is a damn miracle. It's one of the few songs where I have no clue as to which composer wrote it; though, whoever it is, they should feel proud for devising such a devious critter.
It seems inevitable that with such an extensive score, there would be less creative tightness that's evident in, for example, Bloodlines; even so, Yamane and Ichihashi's Order of Ecclesia OST is a triumph. Like the game it appears in, it defies expectations of bland content and presents itself as an enjoyable, mature work with a sense of playfulness, certain to keep on giving in the years to come.