Editor's Note: "Where's the review for Vol.1," you ask? RPGFan only covers certain titles in the Dracula (Castlevania) series, those with strong RPG elements like Symphony of the Night or the GBA/DS titles. None of the Castlevania titles represented on Vol.1 fit that criteria, but Vol.2 has over half its tracks coming from Castlevania titles that RPGFan covers. Hence, no Vol.1 review, but a big "yes" for the Vol.2 review.
The Dracula Tribute albums are akin to the "Premium Arrange" discs from years past. Basically, peer composers/arrangers from the world of Japanese game music work to tackle individual pieces of music and turn it into the best possible piece of music they can dream up. The Castlevania being as large as it is, this effort required two separate volumes. On tap for this volume? Symphony of the Night, Dawn of Sorrow, Order of Ecclesia, Curse of Darkness, Lament of Innocence, and much more.
This is a really great idea, particularly because the Castlevania franchise hasn't had arranged albums since ... I think ... the MIDI Power Pro albums for Symphony of the Night? And before that there were plenty, but it all stopped one day, and it's been nothing but OSTs for over a decade. There's so much great music begging for a decent arrangement. Really, two volumes hardly scratches the surface.
The arrangements are rather vocal-heavy. Whether solo vocals or choir vocals, I found them all over the place. And they fit the arrangements great. Whether neo-baroque, prog rock, dance-infused, or something entirely other, the vocals dominate.
However, one of my favorite pieces on the disc is a piano solo arrangement from Castlevania: Lament of Innocence. It's done by Kumi Tanioka, a most under-appreciated musician that really deserves more time in the figurative spotlight. Funny thing about this piece: the structure is much like "Succession of Witches" from Final Fantasy VIII. Take any minor chord, then raise the 5th a half-step, then another half-step, then decrease. Do this over a 6/8 arpeggiated pattern, and you have the backbone. It has a nice "haunting" sound. Tanioka makes this piece sing.
The absolute best track is saved for the end. Haruka Shimotsuki and myu arrange and perform their own version of "Nocturne" from Symphony of the Night. I was introduced to Shimotsuki through Atelier Iris and Ar tonelico. So basically, imagine if Gust got ahold of one of Castlevania's best pieces of music ever. End result? Something I could never have dreamt up, but I immediately cherish. This single track seems to make the whole album a must-have.
You may not recognize all of the arrangers' names, but it's generally a star-studded cast. Tanioka, Shimotsuki, Hamauzu, Kikuta, Kouda, and more. The first volume has some big names as well. The tracklist is "star-studded" as well: great choices, both in terms of the source games and the individual tracks.
Go buy this. Now. And if you're not as RPG-limited as this site is, go ahead and pick up Vol.1 while you're at it. This is an early contender for arranged album of 2011, no doubt about it.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann