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Angela Jan 29, 2011

So, those Dracula Tribute albums (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) that came out this month -- has anyone given them a listen yet?  I gave the techno rock-savvy Volume 1 a spin, and I like it well enough.  There are more arrangements that work than not, and while the ones that do aren't exactly envelope pushers, they prove to be a fun listen overall.

Tsukasa Masuko's Vampire Killer is a clean, easy listen, but I never thought we'd ever have to tolerate such cheesily integrated dialogue outside of Ornell Jones and Joey McCoy from Dracula Perfect Selection.  I was really looking forward to TECHNOuchi's Bloody Tears, but came away sorely disappointed.  I like the musical idea in place, but the original melody deviates so heavily as to render it completely unrecognizable.  It's also much too long in length for its own good.

Things take a turn for the better with Takuya Hanaoka's solid blend of synth and guitar work in Cross My Heart, which is a far more faithful interpretation of its original source.  Next up is Motoi Sakuraba's organ-heavy Beginning; it's generally inoffensive, but I'm not digging the deep, bassy sound engineering.

Clock Work gets a deserving kickass arrangement from Aki Hata.  Great guitar foundation, but it's the fast and lively violin/piano keyboard solo ensemble midway that really puts this one on the map.  Denji Sano's arrangement of Simon's Theme plays it safe, almost to the point of being rote in its straight-up techno suit.
 
In what may be my most favorite track, Manabu Namiki delivers a confident and hypnotizing offering with Calling From Heaven.  That music box interlude midway is particularly stunning.  Yousuke Yasui goes with an unexpected but refreshing change of pace with Divine Bloodlines, a charming 8 bit/FM Synth-like take on the awesome Rondo of Blood piece. 

Masafumi Takada brings the funk with Slash, serving up some crunchy yummy electronica.  The grungy textures sound terrific, and like Bloody Tears, this one takes a lot of liberties with the melody, but thankfully finds its footing midway through.  Which brings us to Yoshitaka Hirota's The Wolf Revealed, which bears a similar arrangement flavor to Takada's.  Cornell's theme from Castlevania Judgment was decent if not entirely memorable, but Hirota makes it ten fold more interesting here.  The reined back tempo better accentuates the melody, and the electronic overlays are a lot of fun.

Mitsuhiro Kaneda plays up Dance of Illusions' meaty, aggressive strings for all its worth, while Tenpai Sato practically smothers Voyager with huge, sweeping choir voice performances.  Finally, MANYO's New Messiah brings on the cool with a tasty blend of swift tempo and violin.  That guitar solo at 2:16 is freaken INCREDIBLE.

Next up: Volume 2!

Carl Jan 29, 2011 (edited Jan 29, 2011)

Well, I haven't done a track-by-track comment in a long ass time, and I got time to spare today, so why the hell not.

As an album it wasn't a compelling whole, and this would mostly be due to poor direction and lack of leadership by the Producer, so that's who I'm gonna blame here for lack of overall cohesiveness.

Tribute Vol.1:

01 Sounds like it warped here from 1991.
Maybe this was *purposely* a tongue-in-cheek joke referencing the KICA-1036 release.

02 Too slow on the buildup (the first 1:40 adds nothing, could easily start at 1:50) and then gets lost in it's own foggy circle. The choral is muddling, and once the main medley synth does come in between 4 and 5 mins, it doesn't even stand out enough to get noticed. 
Needs editing and instrumentation fixes.

03 The haunted castle arcade, where it all started.
Enjoyable, very straightforward, like for a wiiware update port.

04 Prog rock works well here. I like it, but for optimal impact could be slightly condensed by another minute or so.
(1:20 to 2:07 could be cut out)

05 Nice atmosphere! Damn good blend of lots of instruments, and the rhythm is tight!
Can't find anything to nitpick on here, A+ track.

06 Trace time, but feels very doujin-ish when it's following the previous shining example.
Maybe Sano was out drinking that night.

07 Promising first 20 second start, but the drum programming is just BLAH.
The music box part is nice, this really needed that whole atmosphere the whole time.

08 MSX/X68K retro, great energy and nice programming. Awesome soloing from 2:50 to 3:20.
The second A+ track here.

09 Interesting false start, the first 2 mins still manages to grab attention even though it's about absolutely nothing in particular. 
There's only about 45 seconds of actual Castlevania here, so it shows Masafumi's strength is all about abstract atmosphere, when this can still sound better than other tracks here.

10 Gritty mood, piano is nice, but the overall feeling is more Tekken than Castlevania though.

11 The launch is weighty and has authority, then good instrumentation switchups later. Solid contender.
Very well produced, feels like Dracula is in a Mech Robot in "Akumajo Armored Core".

12 Good vibe and energy, but seems a bit quiet and in the distance? Great midsection soloing and masterful re-entry segments. Drum work is good too.
Only some slight tweaking would make this even better. (just replacing the opening synth with guitar to match the later sections?).

13 Just an a sorrowful and longing atmosphere in general.
Not really castlevania related other than vampire hunting being such a lonely job.

Overall: 2 must haves, and 4 middle ground tracks.
Only 6 out of 13 should have made the cut, the rest really needed further guidance from the Producer.

the_miker Jan 29, 2011

I pretty much agree with Carl and his "lack of overall cohesiveness" statement.  That's the reason why I'm usually disappointed by these tribute albums where two dozen famous composers each do a track.  I'm gonna cover both volumes here since it'll be pretty easy for me.

I loved Aki Hata's Clock Work, Motoi Sakuraba's Beginning, Yousuke Yasui's Divine Bloodlines, and Denji Sano's Simon Belmont's Theme.  Aki Hata comes out of nowhere and has my favorite track between both CDs.  Not entirely surprised though, she composed one of my favorite Genesis soundtracks, Light Crusader!  I'm not usually a big fan of Motoi's prog stuff lately but it works with his faithful arrangement.  You can never go wrong with a chiptune arrangement so it's only natural that I loved Yasui's track.  This might be the first time I've ever truly enjoyed something from a member of SuperSweep, btw.  Not usually a fan of Sano either but I love his bouncy techno take on Simon's Theme.. "Raise the damn roof!"

Those were the only tracks I really liked and would listen to again.  Everything else was either too forgettable or just complete crap.  I really tried to like these CDs, gave each track at least two listens, but it just didn't happen for me.  Bloody Tears, Slash, The Wolf Revealed, Sinking Old Sanctuary, and Garibaldi's Courtyard were all murdered.  The arrangers of those tracks should be brought up on charges.

I liked Hamauzu's arrangement style (his usual, nothing new here) but he needed a better source track.  I would have preferred him to take on Bloody Tears, that would have turned out neat.  Soyo Oka's REQUIEM FOR THE NAMELESS VICTIM wasn't terrible either but it's just too forgettable.  Plus it was done so much better on Dracula Battle.  Masato Kouda's Union was pretty good too for a piano solo.

Overall I'd say Vol.1 gets a 6.5/10 and Vol.2 gets a well-deserved 3/10.  I'd probably buy Vol.1 if I ever found it for cheap, but Vol.2 will most likely never be part of my collection.  You can find much better and more cohesive Castlevania "tribute" albums elsewhere.  Just look back to the 90's for arrange albums by Nazo¬≤ Project, Naoto Shibata, Jun Irie, and heck.. even more recently, the Harmony of Despair OST and Castlevania Judgment OST.

Jodo Kast Jan 29, 2011 (edited Feb 4, 2011)

I should get them next week. Will edit this after I listen.

Vol.1

Track 1 - (Vampire Killer) - Atrocious. The strategy I implement is to ignore it. If not for the talking, then this would be ok. Really, the talking is the only problem. I expected much more from Tsukasa Masuko, since he's done a great job on the Megaten series.

Track 2 - (Bloody Tears) I just don't like TECHNOuchi's arrangements. I do have to acknowledge the subtlety of the arrangement, but it's not my thing.

Track 3 - (Cross Your Heart) I didn't know what to expect from Takuya Hanaoka, but I like the gritty sound.

Track 4 - (Beginning) I knew exactly what to expect from Motoi Sakuraba and I got it.

Track 5 - (Clockwork) I am completely unsurprised that I love this arrangement. Aki Hata is featured on a number of Konami albums that have become a part of my existence. This is the best track.

Track 6 - (Simon's Theme) This is not a bad arrangement; it's just a basic techno treatment that sounds like something anyone at OC Remix could have done. This was probably made in one afternoon. (I've seen what it takes to make music on a PC; it's pretty damned fast if you have basic skills. A friend of mine arranged the MGS Theme in just a few hours. Sounded on par with this.)

Track 7 - (Calling From Heaven) Sounds like Namiki. No surprises here. I think he did a better job on Castlevania ReBirth, though.

Track 8 - (Divine Bloodlines) This sounds like chiptuned Dracula X. The PSP remake sounds a lot better than this. Still...very listenable. I'll take anything after my horrifying experience with the first track.

Track 9 - (Slash) Sounds cool. But this is more an experiment with strange sounds than an arrangement of Slash. Masafumi Takada has a more abstruse approach than TECHNOuchi, but he is not subtle.

Track 10 - (The Wolf Revealed) Like his arrangement on Guwange, this is dirty-sounding. Like filth has contaminated the song. It's not bad; it just has a different sound that brings to mind scraps and crap and trash and dirt.

Track 11 - (Dance of Illusions) - This is a really mean song on Dracula Battle II and it sounds a little fierce here, but more stealthy. If this song were arranged for MGS, this is what it would sound like. Some of the sounds remind me of the Hideo Kojima Red Disc.

Track 12 - (New Messiah)  - The melody is addictive enough to the point where this could only be ruined with talking (or TECHNOuchi's subtle touch). This arrangement is similar to the professionalism manifest in Aki Hata's approach.

Track 13 - (Voyager) - It's Tenpei Sato. So I knew I was going to hear some wacky weirdo noises or mesmerizing vocals. It's La Pucelle meets Castlevania!

My bottom line: This is a great CD with only one truly terrible track. If you have the chance to buy this - DO IT.

I'll write something about Vol. 2 in a few days.

Smeg Jan 29, 2011

Sakuraba performing Castlevania? Be still, my heart. And my loins.

Angela Jan 30, 2011

the_miker wrote:

I pretty much agree with Carl and his "lack of overall cohesiveness" statement.  That's the reason why I'm usually disappointed by these tribute albums where two dozen famous composers each do a track.

Yeah, but isn't the purpose of these tribute albums to bring a hodgepodge of varying styles based on composer diversity?  One generally doesn't expect a unifying sound going into these types of compilations.  In fact, I believe cohesion should be discouraged; it's awesome that they leave these musicians to do their own thing, to just let loose with bringing their own brand of musical treatment to the table.

That said, I think both volumes actually do a good job at capturing an intended mood.  Volume 1's emphasis on techno, trance, and electronica plays up as high energy, while Volume 2 appears to take a more somber, contemporary classical approach.

FuryofFrog Jan 30, 2011

Man, I really wish I could get a hold of these ones. I want to get the Tribute bundled with Harmony of Despair. How do you guys get ahold of your Konamistyle albums?

XLord007 Jan 30, 2011 (edited Jan 30, 2011)

Should be getting mine next week.  Will comment once I give them a good listen.  FuryOfFrog, I got (or will be getting) mine as special orders from VGM World.

Zane Jan 30, 2011

Aside from a few tracks here and there that border on decent (Yasui and Namiki come to mind), I think that these albums are pure shit. Both volumes. (Seriously, what the Christ is this?!) Angela has a great point about showcasing a hodgepodge of different styles, but as far as I'm concerned you can put together dozens of flavors of crap and it's still going to amount to nothing more than a huge poop sandwich.

LiquidAcid Jan 30, 2011

Haha, these tribute album really seem to divide the nation. As for me, I really like Vol. 2, even with Zane's favorite track by Maki Kirioka wink

the_miker Jan 30, 2011

Zane wrote:

As far as I'm concerned you can put together dozens of flavors of crap and it's still going to amount to nothing more than a huge poop sandwich.

I love you.

Cedille Jan 30, 2011

Zane wrote:

(Seriously, what the Christ is this?!)

The intro is disturbing, but I think she overall does a good job of sounding moody, eerie yet enjoyable. Don't know if my opinion is shared by others though. I even don't know the original song. I'm not a big CV fan to begin with.

Jodo Kast Feb 1, 2011

FuryofFrog wrote:

Man, I really wish I could get a hold of these ones. I want to get the Tribute bundled with Harmony of Despair. How do you guys get ahold of your Konamistyle albums?

I used Shopping Mall Japan. I ordered 5 days before the release of the albums and got them yesterday. It's slow and, curiously, the price is nearly equivalent to vgmworld. So it seems there is no way to get these for the stated YEN price unless you fly to Japan (or live there).

Jodo Kast Feb 4, 2011

Smeg wrote:

Sakuraba performing Castlevania? Be still, my heart. And my loins.

Don't get too excited. His arrangement is good, but not the best on the CD. There is much more to get excited about.

Jodo Kast Feb 5, 2011

Vol. 2

I like tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.

Track 5 is too bombastic.

Track 6 is offensive, disturbing, and irritating. The vocalist is deranged and demented. I don't think throwing her into a crocodile pit would solve the problem, since the crocodiles would leave.

Of the tracks that I like, tracks 1 and 3 are my favorite. Azusa Chiba and Soyo Oka are the clear winners here.

I don't care about track 13. It's not about liking or disliking. I don't care.

The types of arrangements here are different from Vol. 1. The first 4 tracks alone are good enough to warrant a purchase, but it turns sour at track 5, infinitely deteriorates at track 6, and somehow surfaces from the deplorable depths of dementia at track 7.

Angela Feb 9, 2011

I'm somewhat surprised at the hatred leveled against Volume 2.  I won't do a formal breakdown like I did on Volume 1, but I do find Volume 2 to be a more consistently enjoyable listen.  As said, this one goes for more classical contemporary, and the presence of live instruments is a great asset to the overall presentation. 

Soyo Oka's REQUIEM FOR THE NAMELESS VICTIMS is my favorite on the album; the acoustics bring to mind the first Suikoden's best guitar-laden moments, and the incremental build up towards the uplifting finale is spectacular.  The Ghostly Theatre was one of my favorite musical pieces from Lament of Innocence, and I love the clean, elegant piano rendition of Kumi Tanioka's Concert Hall without Applause

I'm not sure we needed both Lost Painting and Nocturne on the same album, but they're both great versions, with the former's ethnic-diverse instrumentation gaining the better favor of the two.  And I need to respectfully disagree with Jodo: yes, the Castlevania IV Ending Theme is bombastic, but I always felt that the original was somewhat restrained in bringing forth that dramatic 'oomph' necessary to bring the piece alive.  Kikuta rectifies that in a big way here.

Definitely on the same page as everyone else on Garibaldi's Courtyard, though.  It's an abomination enough to send Dracula himself screaming toward the sun.

XLord007 Feb 12, 2011

Ok, I gave these a listen.  They're both decent, but the first one is the better of the two since the second is a little on the dull side.  Naturally, I agree with everyone on the creepy voice lady and the cheesy guy.  That said, I actually think it's the other Dracula album that came out at the same time that is the best of the three: some of the arranges on the Harmony of Despair OST are quite excellent.

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