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Serenade of Souls – Perfect Selection Dracula New Classic (Review)

October 30, 2012 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Serenade of Souls – Perfect Selection Dracula New Classic (Review)on Twitter

Chances are if you’ve ever gone to witness the fabulous performances of  VGO, or were lucky enough to be in attendance of Castlevania: The Concert in Stockholm back in 2010, then you’ve been in attendance to some of the best arranging of the music of Castlevania in the form of classical and baroque styles. However, the early series was treated to an entire album of such back in 1992. Following the awful that most considered the dreaded Dracula Perfect Selection rap album, the Akumajo Dracula franchise managed to receive an arranged album that was stark contrast and probably did a great deal to turn fans back to the concept of arranged albums. (Myself included!)

Perfect Selection Dracula New Classic took many of the iconic tunes of the early games of the franchise released until that point, and re-created them in appropriate classical renditions. Does it undo the horror that was its arrangement predecessor? You be the judge.

Using the compositions of the famous Konami Kukeiha Club, arranger Jun Irie set about creating an album that enhanced the soul of Castlevania music through use of traditional classical mediums. Though not solely comprised of classical instruments, and indeed also featuring some synth work to bring out the fantasy-gothic feel of some of the tunes, the album caters to a softer tone in contrast to the future Dracula Battle albums would.

The honor of opening the album goes to probably the first theme anyone could think of to epitomize Castlevania – “Vampire Killer.” Featuring heavy use of strings and clarinets during the first part of the song before going full-tilt into utilizing the rest of the orchestra. It then changes gears and transitions into “Wicked Child,” and it’s here that many might recognize the arrangement variation itself more, as it’s been used in several shows featuring Castlevania music since.

The synths that I mentioned are present very much in “Dwelling of Doom” from Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, but they are used in unison with pan flutes and violin to create atmosphere and a mysterious air and don’t over-power the classic instrumentation of the piece. The other piece from Simon’s Quest, “Monster Dance,” unfortunately can’t say the same. The electronic sounds are used primarily, and in a very odd way that tends to take away from the melody of the main piece. It’s also pretty much the only piece that features electric guitars, which set it apart from the rest of the album and could be considered unique if not for the over-bearing and distracting percussion beat drowning out almost all else.

One of my favorite piece that really exemplifies the album’s main selling points is by far “Beginning.” The 3rd piece of the great Castlevania-tune-trifecta really takes full advantage of the orchestral spin put on it and seems like it was made specifically to be played with live strings and woodwinds.

The two other pieces that I also put into this same category as being made for the classical scene were fellow Dracula’s Curse piece “Evergreen,” which should be no surprise to anyone who played the game as it was pretty much made from the essence of classical melody, as well as Super Castlevania IV‘s “The Cave.” The latter is definitely slowed down and perhaps isn’t as dynamic as Evergreen, though it stays to it’s subtle ambient roots.

If you’re looking for an interesting combination of live instrumentation and synthetic sounds, “Praying Hands” from Belmont’s Revenge is probably the best example of how the combination can be done right. The source is played straight, and even the organ featured seems like it was simply an evolved version of the sound chip used in the Game Boy. It’s unfortunate that the other Game Boy Castlevania representation, “Theme of the Legend of Dracula” from The Adventure, wasn’t quite given the same balance and while still decent, has some quirks about it that just don’t seem to mesh well. The pops at punctuate the rhythm seem incredibly unnecessary and almost ridiculous. The version from Dracula Battle seems more appropriate for this album than this.

Dracula New Classic is probably one of the most sought-after of the Castlevania arranged albums, these days going for several times what it originally was priced for in Japan. While most would consider it good but not worth the exorbitant price, it still remains a fantastic album and it’s unfortunate that more of its kind were never produced. For hardcore Castlevania fans, it would be a prized piece of any music collection. (And something you can play in public and not be given the stink-eye for.)

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