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OCR03371 - *YES* Gradius Gaiden 'The Heavens Are Calling'

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revised version 1/26/16

old version

Remixers: Ivan Hakštok, Sixto Sounds
Name of game(s) arranged: Gradius Gaiden
Name of arrangement: The Heavens Are Calling
Name of individual song(s) arranged: Snowfield (Beyond the White Storm)
Link to the original soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6yo5u2RcZ8
Composer: Norikazu Miura
 
I consider the source tune for this song to be one of the best pieces of vgm ever, and the Gradius Gaiden soundtrack itself is a masterpiece and probably one of the most underrated video game soundtracks. I originally made this remix for the July 2014 DoD free month and recruited Sixto to play the awesome guitar solo you can hear halfway through the song.
 
This version has the same arrangement as the DoD one, but with lots of changes to the mixing and samples. This is probably my best song of 2014, so I wanted to make it sound as good as possible before submitting, which is probably why it took me a few months :)
 
Hope you enjoy it!
 
 
 

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This track is mastered HOT.  (this is an edit, initially I saw clipping on my meter.  It was my error, it is not clipping.  But the track spends a huge majority of the time at 0db.)  Easing of the master limiter a bit is recommended.

It's a good track, guitar playing is very good.  The track feels a little long overall as the energy level stays mostly the same throughout, and despite the great guitar work, the arrangement seems to repeat the ideas over and over.  

I'm having issues with some of the leadwork in this track.  The lead at 1:02 is just barely there, being hinted at, and it could be just a bit louder from 1:02 to 1:22.  At 1:22 the square lead is a bit plain but it works, it cuts through just fine.  Then at 1:32, that glassy timbre makes a terrible lead.  The guitar lead is great whenever it is playing.  The lead timbre starting at 2:06 doesn't cut through the mix very well since it is a wide sound and it is competing with everything else at that point.  At 3:48, the lead is barely audible, it is that same wide sound.  Same for the lead starting at 4:25, it is the same glassy bell-like sound from 1:32, and without an audible lead the track seems leadless from 4:25 until 5:03.  The lead at 5:03 is also not the strongest.

Drums also feel a little buried in the mix, but this doesn't bother me as much as the weak leadwork.  The guitar leads are great... it's the other timbres that aren't doing it for me.

This can be an awesome mix.  Ease off the master limiter, maybe spiff up the non-guitar leads, and let's hear this one again.

edit 1/26/16:  It's less loud overall now, the limiter volume came down, but the song still sounds really overwhelming to me, lots of competing frequencies.  The leads sound a little bit better, still not blowing me away.  Drums still sound buried.  I think it squeaks by now, though.

 

YES(borderline)

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Straight up, I feel this mix was mastered too hot, I had to reach for my volume control to properly evaluate the track. If this mix is indeed clipping, we would certainly need a version which is properly limited before posting.

 

The combination of two guitar OCR guitar gods does not disappoint here as far as general riffage and energy is concerned. The energy does stay up for the majority of the track though which can be exhausting to the ears, but I did notice some subtle changes in pace here and there. I would have really liked to hear a point in the track that relaxed things for a longer duration to change things up (the acoustic sections helped).

 

I also thought there were a few mixing problems. Most things are ok until we get to the more dense sections where there are several guitar tracks running simultaneously fighting for attention, all while drowning out the drums beneath them. The mix also gets a bit cloudy and individual elements become lets audible when the track gets busy. Most synths stuck out and were relatively clear but some were a little masked like the portion at 2:08 and 4:26. I have a feeling that the limiting may actually be the culprit here, and that easing off on it may do the trick and fix the problem.

 

The source usage was clear and I liked the arrangement, although I felt more originality could have fit into here considering the duration. I won't say this felt cover-like, but some repeated ideas did detract from the originality of the overall arrangement.

 

It breaks me to hear a track thats too hot. If nothing else, I would really like the limiter eased off to bring back some of the dynamics into the track and to keep it from peaking. If this happened, I could likely look past the other crits. As it stands however, its a 

 

NO (borderline)

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Loving the intro on this one. The use of sound effects is ace, I admire how you actually integrated them rhythmically with the track instead of dumping a few one-shots over the track and calling it a day. It makes me feel truly immersed in the track. Moving onto the meat of the arrangement, this is a classic Hakstok formula that really ticks all the boxes in a very satisfying fashion. In general, I felt like the guitar work outshines the synths (but that’s pretty much what you sign up for when you bring Sixto on board – that solo was mean!) and in my opinion, it took a little too long to bring a lead instrument into the mix (it wasn’t until around 1:25 that a dominant lead entered the arena and I was definitely itching for things to progress by that point.) All in all, those are minor quibbles, and the mixing sounds much improved. I dig it!

YES

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Emu hits pretty much everything I wanted to say here. I think the lead synth does feel a little weak, especially when compared to the guitar here. I also agree that it takes a bit of time before it comes in and I get a little impatient after a bit, wanting it to come in sooner. Both those issues are overall not in any way dealbreakers, and overall the soundscape is nice and full. The guitar is well done and the solo is fun and tasteful, as per Sixto's usual awesomeness :). The upbeat atmosphere is really great as well, this could fit quite well at the end of an anime series or something.

I'd also like to nitpick the vocal notes that comes in at 4:22 don't quite match with the bell synth timing wise. Again not a huge issue overall, but it is noticeable.

 

YES

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Intro was really promising. The FX immediately took me into the world of the game, and set the stage. I like the entrance of the bass, but when the drums come in, they are a little weak. It gels together at 0:57 and with that bassline, it really reminds me of Devo. I think there could have been some better mixing on the intro, especially by not starting the FX section so loud. The lead at 1:02 was super weak - is it even a lead, or just a pad? The fade-in on the guitar was strange but when it started playing a rhythm, I was digging it. The song is pretty strong for the next few minutes. The square lead at 1:22 was a better choice for lead, and the lead guitar work was even better. The solo was the highlight of the song and really grabbed me. The glassy bell lead at 1:32 was another misstep IMO, but a small one. It doesn't quite fit into the song. The second half had some acoustic guitar that didn't sound like it lined up rhythmically; this was especially noticeable in the outro. And out of the many instruments used in this, the vocals at the end were baffling. The usage as a pad was fine, but the staccato usage really didn't fit what was going on.

It's a tough decision. There's a lot I really like in this song and a few things that nag at me. Mixing-wise, it sounds like the revised version fixed a lot, because the majority of the song sounded great to me in that regard. I guess I'm in Kris' camp. There's enough to like here that I can pass it, but I feel like the song could have been a lot more focused and polished. It has a lot of potential that is not being realized.

YES (borderline)

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