Another Halloween is upon us soon, so it's time to get into the spirit of the haunt with another Castlevania ReMix! But this one's no horror show, as Neon X (Martin Höglund) gets surprisingly thought-provoking while also coming through with his most creative and interpretive electronic VGM arrangement yet. This musical pondering of the life of Dracula has a deep and lengthy backstory, with distinct areas evoking distinct imagery for the artist. "What is a ReMix?", Dracula muses to himself. Neon X explains:
"Before I started producing this, I read about Dracula and wanted to base the atmosphere and content of this song on that. I know "Bloody Tears" often refers to totally different scenarios in the games, but... well, this is my way right now.
I pictured his castle, intimidating and terrifying (represented by the fearsome laugh at 0:29). I can't imagine the feeling if I should stand outside its gates and hear that laugh. I also pictured how lonely Dracula must be, and that he, for almost an eternity, has been a resident of that vast castle. Dracula himself says a lot about love and life of men in books and movies, how he envies the simple life of mankind and the short lifespan (Dracula has kind of eternal life) while he struggles against time and, most of all, against his own sanity.
I sampled a sound (at 2:01) of night crickets, humming monks, and finally a church bell, sequentially, to create a feeling of nightly calm, spirituality, and Dracula's nocturnal life, which I think plays a part in Dracula's nature connected to his sanity.
You know, the hardest part during the work of this piece was actually putting together all sections and make smooth transitions between them. The arrangement of this song has ups and downs, just like the sanity I picture within Dracula.
It has hope and despair - what if Dracula just tries to live among us, with us, and create a "normal" life, seek love, and dedicate himself to whomever he loves. Oh, but he can't, the eternal life that he has been given just doesn't fit among us. And his knowledge of the past comes with deep prejudices and certain ways of how one should treat and behave. Can he adapt to the present?
It has anxiety and harmony - who can he love? Will he be forced to curse his loved ones with eternal life to commit to love and dedication? What if his life is a gift just as it is? The extraordinary abilities, eternal life, and knowledge absorbed from ages ago until today. They are, with no doubt, useful. Can he make himself available to mankind without consequences or misuse?
It has denial and acceptance - Dracula always had two choices, he could shield himself off from the rest of the world, or he could accept who he is, and fight for himself to be a part of the world of mankind. But will mankind ever accept such a terrifying creature, so dangerous, but yet so polite and mature. His purpose and actions must be very clarified and transparent, but can he be trusted despite that?
To get more serious:
On top of that, Dracula wants a Halloween party - every year, which my straight 4/4 beats in this song represents. The end of the song which is in half tempo represents how Dracula, despite all invitations sent, ends up dancing by himself in laser beams, smoke and lit up candlelabras, high on drugs and wine, just floating through time within the walls of his castle in large halls.
I kind of sectioned the song and tried to create more or less unique details for each section. And, for example, those glitches was totally intentional. It's an arrangement of Dracula's possible feelings and would represent how Dracula felt like an outcast, not belonging to this society, also not having a parallel being beside him (like a one true love of the same kind). Think of the glitches as a small detail of him feeling very displaced or not connected to the rest of the world. :) By the way, the chiptune sound at 2:19 is actually an original sound effect from Castlevania II on the NES I embedded into the music.
Thanks for reading the description and story behind this, I think it's the most in depth I ever had so far. Congratulations to you who had the strength reading through. But it was very interesting to write music while leaning my mind on that story. It's a collection of thoughts I gained from reading a lot about Dracula. Right or wrong, this is only my thoughts with some added discussions. Please continue the elaboration if you like, or just listen and enjoy."
Nice groove here (groove bias!), and I loved how arranged segments of the "Bloody Tears" melody first used at 1:03 combined with the full (and classic) countermelody. I wish the original bassline writing cut through more, because it's also very smartly written when you pick it out and it combines so well with the others parts; when you hear it more at 1:47, it's an incredible detail. The frequent changes in the textures (e.g. 1:03. 1:32, 1:46) while maintaining a consistant tempo were so capably handled as well. While all of the judges had praise and critiques, DarkSim's POV most closely echoed and summarizied my same level of appreciation:
"I love it how you've also got this idea in your head for how the emotion of the song should feel when writing it - I think it's important to bear in mind such things when composing, as it can subconsciously translate into the music and make an impact on the listener.
Once again I love the lead choice here - which synth are you using? It sounds great, and the harmonies work beautifully in the chorus sections. The source works really well in a synthwave style, and although you say you've chosen a straight 4/4 beat, you've kept it interesting for the whole chorus section from 0:48-1:02. The offbeat snares add urgency to the chorus, and that makes the smooth transition to the 4/4 beat in the verse all the sweeter. You've mixed up the choruses too, adding the lead harmony line for the second one to keep it fresh, and added some stronger glitch effects. I gotta admit the glitching did seem a little harsh in that second chorus - Around 1:34-1:35 it sounds a little too choppy for my personal taste. If I was being extra critical here I'd say you could clean that part up a bit by adding some smoothing to the stutter, or bouncing the audio off to a track and playing with the volume manually.
Moving on, the half-tempo part is super chill, and you're doing all the right things with the glitter and effects (love that synth at 2:22!). Then the solo kicks in and just caps off the track beautifully. I like how you decide to keep the mellow half-time beat for the rest of the song, too - a stylistic choice fitting the vision in your writeup.
Overall, I think this track is fantastic. It's got everything I would hope for from a video game remix. It pays homage to the source, yet has enough of your own style in it to give it a fresh new quality."
"Overall fantastic" indeed! On the production side, the mixing was a little shrill/hot with the high-end, but nothing off putting. As indicated by DarkSim, the judges weren't sold on the glitching first used at 1:33, feeling it appeared unintentional, but I actually didn't mind it and respect the experimentation; artists should never be afraid to try things! As also made clear by DarkSim, however, I also recognized and admired Neon X's added level of interpretation here, which was a first glimpse of his unleashed creativity.
There was nothing at all wrong with the more conservative approaches of his first three featured ReMixes, but with OC ReMix being a community and concept that also encourages and embraces more liberal and unique VGM arrangements, this ReMix is a great example of beefing up the textures of the original music, retaining the melodic nostalgia we know and love, but also weaving in original part-writing and sound design alongside more interpretive arrangement of the source tune, ending up with a well-developed result that stands apart as a unique vision and presentation. A fun ride, an intriguing inspiritation, and an encouraging example of artistic growth from Neon X, just in time for All Hallows' Eve!
Sources Arranged (1 Song)
- Primary Game:
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (Konami
Music by Kenichi Matsubara,Satoe Terashima
- "Bloody Tears (Street-day time-Stage BGM)"
- Electronic,Sound FX,Synth
- Time > 4/4 Time Signature
- 5,714,289 bytes
- Size: 5,714,289 bytes
- MD5 Checksum: 915fe81044d0acc7240b63a2ebd014a0
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