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Liontamer

OCRA-0016 - Castlevania: Sonata of the Damned

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The sound quality and presentation of this album are very professional. The style of each song is consistent with the overall theme album. However I am not a fan of the arrangement. The whole album sounds like elevator music to me, but that is only my personal opinion. It looks like a lot of people here like your Castlevania easy listening style.

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I cannot say that I am impressed by this at all. Indeed, I find it rather underwhelming as a whole; Kuwaykuwatsu statement about it sounding like elevator music is rather apt, I feel.

Nothing much at all jumps out to me, aside from the fact that it is a one-person album featured on OCremix--which, I admit, is quite a feat in and of itself. There's no doubting that at all.

But Unchosen Paths this is not. At only 7 tracks it is far too short to cover all the memorable tracks of the Castlevania series, as well as not properly showing off the wide skills that I know Mr. Morse has. Every track seems cramped, trying to fit too many styles at once, and the work suffers for it; it comes off as both disjointed and same-y at every turn, as if he couldn't decide on how to remix each track.

For a Castlevania remix album, and the first for OCR, it is a rather poor introduction.

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Vampire Snap - Seasonal bells fill me with love and hope and make me wanna sprout angelic wings in a beam of light (too bad the sound field gets kinda muddy while they sing). I love the variety of leads playing the source, from harpsichord to bells to a buzzy synth (2:13) and even an oddball "birdy" synth (2:22) (I wouldn't mind hearing more of Vampire Killer played through this li'l sucker). We also get a taste of a swampy, bubbly bass that gargles its own cute "wahs" throughout. Following a melody that's so happy it makes me wanna dance the Caramelldansen (3:11-3:40), the percussion's led by a sweeping/overture-ish synth (3:43-4:15) and then by the mud monster bass as it does its baby talk thang.

Demonic Conception - Two pervasive elements command this mix: 1) misty swirls, the first of which sounds like a demonic spirit sucking me into the abyss, and 2) castanets so snappy they can bite your fingers off if you try to pet 'em. Of all the candidates playing the bass part of Demon Seed, I can sense the root of all evil the strongest when it's the shredding guitar's turn. Then again, it's not trying to fight with the melodic lead of the source, and thankfully so - using a Halloween store-sounding ghost whirl as a lead (0:43) just blows my mind (and it only gets more intense at 1:50). A fresh synth at 2:40 commands the tension like a charismatic leader when playing that repeated note (and the rising notes after) at the tail end of the source. Sensing that it's improv time, a wah synth then takes the stage and flexes its mouth muscles, "wow"ing even itself *snicker*.

Madd Forest - Love the bass - warped and grimy at 1:05, smug everywhere else. The eager piano overpowers it at 0:11-0:15, but it makes amends by leading the source in a pub-cheerful key, which turns even more sunbright at 0:49 and dispels all my fears of owls hiding in trees, waiting to swoop down on Trevor. Arrangement garnishes are plentiful - beat-joining 16th notes via normal organ, echo-y reeds (prominent at 4:08-4:23), and of course record scratches (at 1:18 it sounds like it's speaking). But the ball game organ is where it's at - sounding like a funkalicious hybrid of a xylophone and skeleton bones, it busts out pearly notational liberties at 1:51+ and 3:11+ when it's not bridging sections with dolphin-like leaps/runs.

Wandering Latinas - Bread-tasty drums and a ball game organ kick things off, accompanied by frisky, leathery "swishes." Certainly the string- and wind-based instruments are declarative and vibrant, but I have a soft spot for the more humble guitar lead. Organ chords are a bit piercing when they're held forcibly at 1:47-1:54, but at least we're still in a swingin' mood when we jump out of that interlude. Light piano bass is supplanted by reeds to play the same descending notes at 2:41-3:27 while a mass of eager percussion pieces (bubbly wah bass, reverbed claps, etc.) join in. The organ at 3:28 and the piano at 4:14, both of which end at 4:43, seem to drag the groove past its prime, like it's run out of ideas and hopes these two melodic loops will hold the fort until the closure via treble-y bass.

Sparkle - Thanks to some sexy synergy, this take on Emerald Mist hops lively but stays mellow, kind of like the ideal vacation. The organ acts as a warm undercurrent, the piano belts out serene runs and proud chords, and of course the ukulele is the paper umbrella atop the tropical punch concoction. Conversely, the harmonica feels more like a "me too" staple than an active mood benefit no matter how I slice it. Also, the periodic "pang" (shot) gets tiring quickly, despite serving as a delicate touch like rainwater. I really dig 1:12 (marching drums + chords = powerful), 2:39 (reminds me of Heart of Fire, a.k.a. the Grim Reaper stage in CV1), and 3:15 (simultaneous pizzicato + piano breakdown = magical).

Fear of Haze - Set to a frantic pace, a skeleton bone xylophone and a plethora of cauldron-esque synths and percussion set the stage and take our emotions for a tense ride. 1:19-1:29 and 3:37-3:48 are climactic pinnacles with choir upping the stakes considerably, and in the former section (and elsewhere) we get an endearing rubber synth whose tone could be either silly or serious depending on the context. I like how 2:00 doesn't even try to hold a legitimate breakdown, going "organ and drum and... nah, screw it. Let's jump right back into the insanity!" And it does.

The Solace of the Daylight - My favorite elements of this mix are:

- galloping drumwork

- light jingles trailing the leads (sugar-sweet when exposed at 1:56)

- glassy chimes/vibraphone in the breakdown at 2:55+

- guitar strums (they craft a most refreshing outro)

- fluttery burst of effects in the end

Unfortunately, these aren't enough to get me to look past the quirks that rub me the wrong way:

- There's no graceful transition from crying organ solitude to fruit punch patio in the beginning; the vibes are so polar opposite that I can't help but view the starting organ as a choice that didn't work in the preliminary stages but forgot to be swapped for something smoother.

- Some of the louder sounds bleed uncomfortably and intrude on the sound field, for example: the held notes alongside the main organ notes in the intro; the whistling synth at 0:48-0:56 and 1:45-1:53; the flutey synth at 2:34-2:53; and even the vibraphone at 3:13-3:26.

Flaws aside, this album's definitely got the festive flavor and variety that Joshua Morse knows how to bring. An admirable job, sir.

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Nice album Joshua. It wasn't what I expected to hear and not quite the style I was hoping for, but the songs were all very well done. I can certainly appreciate the time you put into it and the fantastic results. :smile: Congratulations on the release, and thanks for the music!

By the way, my compliments to whoever designed the album art.

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I like Josh's music, and I like Castlevania, but... I just can't get into this one. I won't say "elevator music", but I guess it just doesn't have the feel I was expecting when I d/l'd it. I'm a bit disappointed in it.

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After a few weeks I have to say this album has really turned into a nice surprise for me. To start off, it was a great idea to have it come out unannounced on Halloween like that, I was sort of expecting maybe a Halloween mix, but an album, nicely done.

This is definitely one of those "you listen to the whole thing through every time" kind of albums. It has a consistent style, and I've always been a fan of smooth mixes like this. Not really sure what to call the genre but I dig, it's got jazz, it's got funk, it's got smooth, it's got awesome.

My actual familiarity with the sources only goes up to the Castlevania III tracks, but the tracks that I can't place are just as catchy, particularly Wandering Latinas.

Overall I'd have to say I'd love to see more smaller album projects like this, not that I don't love the expansive ones but, a focused effort like this is pretty great too.

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I have only been able to download the three songs posted on the site (my college does not let me use torrents or they'll shut off my internet...:?)... So I'll have to wait until I get home to get the full listing.

However, from what I HAVE listened to, and what i have listened to on this site, I'll say this right now:

These are probably the best CV remixes I have heard to come from OCremix, counting everything else that has been made here.

Full of energy, and i love the jazzy-rock textures, along with the great use of percussive/jazz organs (gotta love them), these are really sights to behold (or is that sounds to be-hear???). Admirable job on them, and this definitely makes my "listen to often" selection from OCremix.

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This album is nothing short of inspirational. I'll admit when I first downloaded it, I was expecting rock or metal -- the typical response to Castlevania. But I was pleasantly surprised and introduced to Joshua Morse's music through this album. The man never ceases to amaze me. I can't wait to hear what he has in store for the future. I also support the idea of single-artist albums, as mentioned by Radiowar.

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I thought it was a collaboration between at least 3 people. I guess I didn't read the page too well.

If that is the case, then this album got even more badass.

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With all these nice arrangements, I can't help but wonder why nobody bothered to complain about the sound so far.

Seriously.

It's obnoxiously loud in the same way as those insanely loud, overcompressed commercials inbetween an average-volume programme on TV.

When opened up in Audacity, one can see just how many times Fear of Haze goes through the red to the point it's surprising it doesn't distort as far as I'm able to hear.

The more frequent the 'clipping', or the highest peaks getting cut off by the digital limit on a loud audio file, the higher the chance of distortion will become, and the higher the chance of losing finer detail in the loudest parts, essentially reducing these to digital bricks.

I like the album, but this is one seriously annoying blight upon it.

Just avoid this kind of loudness in the future, period.

That's what the volume knob is for.

If I could recommend a maximum volume peak, I'd try 94 dB at its very loudest; trust me on this.

Anyway, 4 stars given for the album, 1 taken for the distractingly loud sound.

I hope you'll at least check out this feedback; I'm not trying to bring you down in any way, but it needs to be said.

Edited by Motorblender
Do I need a reason? Good grief.

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It's one thing to say that you don't like the way the songs are mastered, but it's another to make factually incorrect claims. This really isn't fair to Josh, especially when you don't know what you're talking about.

1. Fear of Haze is not clipping. None of the drum hits are. They're getting limited/compressed a bit, as you would expect in any piece of music with drums.

2. It's not that loud. Average of -7.88dB in the left channel and -8.09dB in the right. Compare to the following mixes:

* The most recently posted FFXIII mix: -6.58/-6.74.

* tefnek's "Drop and Roll" from Streets of Rage: -7.29/-7.27

* Tetris Thirty-Plus Mix: -7.91/-7.84

* Sixto's recent Mega Man 2 mix: -7.61/-7.56

* Goat's "Froggy Mosh": -6.83/-7.34

And so on. I could find plenty more examples. This album is, objectively speaking, no louder than countless other mixes and projects on the site. If we were to compare to popular electronica, you'd be even more shocked as tracks like Pendulum's "Self vs. Self" has an average loudness of -4.78/-4.90 (and, IMO, it still sounds absolutely amazing. Nobody complains about the loudness.) That's literally twice the loudness of Fear of Haze (+3dB = loudness increased by a factor of two.)

If I could recommend a maximum volume peak, I'd try 94 dB at its very loudest; trust me on this.

3. This doesn't even make sense on so many levels. Digital audio - and sound in general - is not measured like that. You can't say one song is '80 dB' and another is '90 dB'. Digital audio files have a variable amount of dynamic range depending on their bitrate. For example, 16-bit audio (which is everything on the site) has a dynamic range of 96dB. This means that the difference between the quietest sound and the loudest sound can't be any greater than 96dB.

Audio files thus are measured starting at -96dB (or lower, depending on bit depth) and have a digital limit of 0dB. Anything above 0dB is clipped audio. Practically speaking, this has little to do with peaks. The "peak" just refers to the single loudest point of audio. A song could be at -50dB the entire time, and then a single snare could peak at 0dB. In fact, it is standard practice in any genre of music to normalize the audio, bringing the loudest peak to 0dB anyway. So, it makes no sense to tell anyone what the "maximum volume peak" should be. It should always be 0 dB.

But not only does that not make sense, but using numbers like 70, 80 and 90 dB don't make sense either, due to the way sound is measured (as I described). You're most likely referring to the dBSPL scale, which is based on the threshold of human hearing (0 dBSPL = silence, 130 dBSPL = threshold of pain, etc.) However, you can't compare pieces of music on this scale. For example, if I put on "Fear of Haze" and turn my speakers all the way down, it's 0 dbSPL. If I turn them up to a low volume, that might be 40 dBSPL. In other words, dBSPL can't be used within a piece of music to measure loudness. It's more of a measure of the volume output of speakers or headphones.

So, what you really REALLY mean to say is that the average volume level (RMS - root mean square) of the track is too high. But, as I said earlier, that isn't really true either because there are plenty of tracks with as high or higher average levels.

Edited by zircon

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When opened up in Audacity, one can see just how many times Fear of Haze goes through the red to the point it's surprising it doesn't distort as far as I'm able to hear.

So basically it sounds like it doesn't distort, but you'd rather moan about what the waveform looks like (which is fine btw, no clipping whatsoever).

It's audio, listen to it.

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