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OCR03540 - *YES* Super Castlevania 4 "Selva Oscura" *PROJECT*

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This track is going to be part of the Vampire Variations III album.
 
Contact information:
 
Remixer name: Jorito
Real Name: Jorrith Schaap
Email: 
Userid: 3899
 
ReMixer name: Furilas
Real name: Mac Hunter
e-mail: 
forum id: 17903
 
ReMixer name: Tuberz McGee
Real name: Callum Kennedy
e-mail: 
forum id: 25576
 
Submission information:

Name of Game(s) Remixed: Super Castlevania 4
Name of Arrangement: Selva Oscura

Names of songs arranged: The Forest Of Monsters (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVN8CA-Ufkk)
 
Link to the remix: 
 
Comments about the mix:
 
I stumbled upon the Vampire Variations III recruitment topic on the forums, but all the tracks that I actually knew were already taken. Since I never played Super Castlevania 4, I’m not familiar with the soundtrack. However, Forest of Monsters was still available and inspired me, so I threw together a 4 minute WIP and auditioned for the job. 
 
Needless to say I got the gig and a few months later my WIP turned into this 7+ minute long monster of prog rock with orchestral instruments, rocking guitars, choir chants, guitar/synth solos and lots of (cliché) sound effects to create the setting of an dark forest. Hence the title Selva Oscura, which is actually one of the places in Dante’s Inferno.
 
Since the only instrument I play is my DAW, I obviously needed some real instrumentalists to replace my midi parts and really bring the track to live. Fortunately both Furilas (bass guitar) and Tuberz McGee (rhythm and lead guitar) offered their help in the VVIII topic and after a few back and forths it was done. Their performances really bring the track to the next level.
 
When asked for comments about the mix, Furilas kept it short and to the point: "I was just happy to be playing. This was a pleasure.” I hope that the listeners feel this pleasure too. Personally I had a blast making this remix and I think it fits the theme of the album and the game nicely.
 
Source breakdown:
 
0:00 - 0:47 - original intro
0:47 - 1:11 - forest of monsters lead that starts at 0:43
1:11 - 1:35 - forest of monsters lead that starts at 0:05
1:36 - 1:47 - original buildup
1:47 - 3:47 - forest of monsters lead and structure, 0:05-1:43
3:47 - 4:47 - original solo part
4:47 - 5:11 - original break
5:11 - 5:35 - subtle cameo appearance of Castlevania’s “Wicked Child”
5:35 - 5:59 - forest of monsters lead that starts at 0:43
5:59 - 6:41 - forest of monsters lead and structure, 0:05-1:43 with extra harmonies
6:41 - 6:47 - forest of monsters break, 0:37-0:42
6:47 - 7:23 - original outro
 
Not counting the Wicked Child cameo it makes for ~240 seconds of direct source material (with some rounding errors). On a total of 443 seconds that makes for about 54% of source usage so I think it’s enough :)
 
Cheers,
Jorrith
 

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Inbox thoughts - very ambitious arrangement and great performances, the sections that are more rock-dominant seem strongest, the sampled instruments feel dry and lack synergy with the mix and often feel rigid (choir, harpsichord) . Some moments of muddiness, but it's hard to deny the amazing arrangement here. May be a pass in my book just on those merits. Will definitely have to let this one stew for a while, I love what I'm hearing but the production is far from perfect. 

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I think Wes is pretty correct in his short notes here.The arrangement is really nice, and the live performances are good, but the sampled parts feel blocky. The contrast between the live parts and samples only highlights this further.  I think the track would really benefit from another pass to humanize those parts more. I'd also like to hear the drums get beefed up a bit. The snare sounds weak, and the kick even more so. Working on the drum writing a bit to emphasize the arrangement would be good as well, sometimes the drums feel a bit too much on autopilot.

I think this is close, but needs just a nudge more to get over the bar. I can see this going either way, though. Good luck!

No (resubmit)

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This arrangement is really good.  I enjoyed every bit of it.  I have to agree that the choir and hapsichord samples weren't the greatest, but they aren't used quite as much or too prominently, with the exception of the hapsichord intro. Outside of the choir, the quality of the sampled elements wasn't too distracting for me.  I think the mix isn't perfect either but it's definitely good enough.  I was also fine with the drums, They could be a bit more powerful maybe, but for the arrangement they work well.  The guitar and bass performances were on point and they shone in their own moments.  They were well incorporated into the mix and I didn't feel much of a disconnect between the live and sampled parts.

As Wes pointed out this arrangement is very ambitious, as it takes the source and expands it over 7 minutes and a half, but every minute was put to good use and there's no filler or wasted potential here in my opinion.  The soloing with the violins, guitars and synths were great.  The arrangement was well-paced with effective breaks and buildups to powerful sections.  This remix is a very close approximation of how castlevania music sounded around the ps2 era, and that's a great thing.  

Overall I agree with the issues mentioned by the other Js but I think the amazing arrangement and live performances trump the sample shortcomings.

YES

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Ah, I do remember giving a shorter review on this for the album evaluation. The source is certainly there, and the arrangement itself was absolutely great. I can't say too much on that front that could be improved.

The production is pretty good. There are some moments that could have been mixed in a manner where the instruments were more clear individually (such as at 1:36 and 2:24 - some really cool guitar stuff that gets lost in the background especially at 2:24). It's not terrible, but it's something that could use some improvement.


The samples were not handled the best. I hear the effort that went into them, but it often sounds like the background textures were humanized for one line, then are copy/pasted from there. It doesn't take much to tweak your copy/paste moments just a hair from line to line to make the instruments sound more human, overall. It's minor, but it's noticeable. The solo violin sounds pretty good, but that vibrato sounds inhuman - people don't sustain the exact same vibrato for every note, for the exact same lengths of time. I suggest either tweaking your vibrato to sound different for long notes than for short notes however possible, even if that means adding vibrato using pitch bend yourself. Since the violin is such a central part of this arrangement, it's important that it sounds as good as possible.

The organ bleeds into itself just a little bit too much at 1:36 - the release could be lessen'd just a little bit there. Also, it hits a funny note at 1:47, so you should correct it so it matches what the bass is doing. If you really want that major 3rd from the organ in that chord, make sure the bass isn't playing the minor 3rd at precisely the same time. Either fix would sound fine, but it does need a fix.

Despite all the commentary that I gave, I actually REALLY like this track. You put out a whole lot of great effort with the live playing, and the arrangement itself sounds great. The synth work that's there too is just great - compliments the piece just perfectly. I would've given this a YES, if the samples used were used strictly as background elements (and thus less important to the piece overall), but the solo violin is simply too prominent for me to ignore. It's a close call, but I'd like to hear you address the sample issues present, and perhaps clean up the mixing when things get too cluttered. Also, that organ note - you should fix it.

NO/RESUB

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Okay so first off, I agree that the sample work could be improved, but I don't think it's that bad at all. Mechanical harpsichord don't bother me, because I personally think that's how the instrument is meant to be played most of the time. The violin is the most noticeable one, and could have used more expression in the sequencing, but the writing is great. Also, the drums didn't bother me. The kick and snare could have a tad more presence, but are definitely easily audible even in the busy sections.

I don't think those issues are dealbreakers, especially with such an awesome arrangement. The progression is excellent, and the source is handled very skillfully. No hesitation from me even with the aforementioned issues. I think this is still an easy

YES

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Nice intro build up. Arrangement is definitely strong here. Great guitar tone, and nice bass work, very enjoyable - they move around a lot which really drives the song forward. I also enjoy the changing of the instrument makeup, which adds a great level of variation to the mix. I agree that the orchestral instrument additions are the weaker portion of the performance, with the actual played instruments feeling a little separated from their sequenced counterparts. This divide is more noticeable because of the quality playing of the artists here than the samples IMO. Yes the orchestral samples could be stronger but they are used well for what they are trying to achieve. I agree with Deia that some more humanisation would help out here, although it didn't feel like a dealbreaker to me.

Production wise things were solid, good use of panning. I will mention that some parts did step into the space of others pretty regularly, which made the mix crowded at times. I'm not sure if this is due to some of these instruments being stereo when they do not need to be, or there is just so much going on that there isn't enough sonic space to accommodate everything clearly. Overall though, nothing felt super lost, and parts were able to poke through and be heard when they needed to.

YES

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Production issues have been covered pretty well already, so I'll just say that I felt what they were saying. The violin in particular was problematic, but the harpsichord intro, the choir, sometimes some of the other strings just didn't even have enough realism. The arrangement is really epic, and the move to the synth solo was delightedly unexpected. I'd love to see you polish this up by humanizing some of the elements or finding stronger samples. May even be worth having someone handle that part of the production for you. 

NO (resubmit)

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The strings and also the choir sound dry, inhuman and terrible to me.  Luckily neither of these plays for long enough to be dealbreaker.  The vibrato on the violin, while not natural sounding, doesn't bother me too much.  This is an outstanding arrangement, with fun details, enjoyable and varied all the way through.  Great guitar work.  There are a few sections where there is minimal leadwork so it sounds random, such as from 1:35-1:55, where it would be better to have something focused playing a lead. The good outweighs the bad for me though.  Please take these crits into account for future submissions, though.

YES

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I definitely have to agree that the strings and woodwinds sound fake and mechanical in most places, and as up-front as they are, it's a pretty strong detractor.  I felt the choir was passable.

The section that starts at 3:54 gets very busy; to me it sounds like a guitar, drums, and then a bunch of indecipherable noise.  It's a short section, though, and I can live with it.

Gario's right about that one off note, of course.  And to my ears, the choir at 3:42 hits a super low note that doesn't sound human--a human could hit that note, but this is like reverse-chipmunk effect.

Overall, this really is an amazing, exciting arrangement, and the musicianship on the guitars takes this to a totally different level.  I loved the Wicked Child cameo, and the interesting harmony work throughout.  The late additions of the choir and synth took me by surprise at first, and I didn't feel like they belonged, but they grew on me.  It's really just those strings, both the ensemble and the solo violin, that give me significant pause in passing this.  They're really not the worst strings, though, and there's just so much good going on here.  I wouldn't mind at all if this got sent back for tweaks, but for my part I'm OK giving this a

YES (borderline)

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I didn't count many of the extended gaps/rests in the theme, so I timed this out just to be sure the source tune dominated the arrangement. Thanks to Jorito for the very thorough breakdown.

The track was 7:23-long, so I needed to hear the source material used in at least 226.5 seconds of the arrangement for the VGM usage to dominate the arrangement per the standards.

47.5-56.75, :59.75-1:08.25, 1:12-1:35.5, 1:47.5-2:21.75, 2:23.75-2:33.5, 2:35.75-2:45.75, 2:47.75-2:59.75, 3:02-3:21.5, 3:26-3:46, 5:11-5:45.25, 5:47.5-5:57.5, 5:59.5-6:09.5, 6:11.5-6:20.5, 6:23.5-6:33.75, 6:35.5-6:47.75 = 232.5 seconds or 52.48% overt source usage

Onto the overall track itself, there was noticeable stiffness in the wind lead introduced at :46 (which otherwise had a nice tone), but that was masked better once the guitar came in at :59. The string articulations and sustains from 1:11-1:35 were very stiff and unrealistic, exacerbated by being so upfront. Small thing, but there were some odd notes with the organ from 1:46-1:47 that didn't click.

From 1:36-2:12, I'm hearing Furilas's bassline stand out, but the organ, electric guitars and strings are just mudding together indistinctly and the track sounded like it lacked direction and focus for that time. It's really strange how the source theme was there, but just pushed way, way back compared to the bass.

The new string lead for the melody at 2:12 was a good addition, though the writing of the core drum pattern behind it felt plodding, especially by the time it finally changed up at 2:52.

Good, distinct changeup at 2:59; the sequenced string lead sounded sluggish but wasn't a huge deal. The addition of choir at 3:25 seemingly appeared out of nowhere, had some stiff-sounding timing (that was decently masked), and also sounded pretty muffled and not mixed in a way that seemed to share the same soundscape as the other instrumentation; not saying it was a huge issue, but there was a bit of a quality disparity there.

Tuberz' guitar at 3:55 was my favorite part. It should have sounded cleaner/clearer, but the energy in the performance was strong and added some good variation to the source melody. The synth soloing joining in from 4:24-4:48 with the guitar overpowered the guitar somewhat, but the combination worked overall.

Smooth integration of the "Vampire Killer" cameo. Later on, I liked the melodic doubling and interplay from 5:36-6:45, which left the arrangement with a stronger finish in terms of the execution, even though the first faux-guitar synth had weird, blocky timing.

Back to the choir at 6:49 and then a random wolf howl at 6:56 at villainous laughing + more wolf at 7:05 that all just sounded lo-fi and felt awkwardly tacked on. I honestly chuckled at how unnecessary it was the first time I heard it; if those samples were cleaner and fit into the soundscape more, it wouldn't have been an issue though.

What's here was pretty promising, and the arrangement itself was a solid pass, so I definitely understand the YESs. It'll make it as is, but IMO this needed some production TLC on the mixing, some timing/articulations, some more sophisticated drum writing in spots, and better integration of the SFX/voice samples (or you could have iced them, since you didn't really need them). Still, a very well developed arrangement, and no big issue with seeing it posted.

NO (borderline)

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