Wait, what? A soundtrack for an old video game on a list of Halloween albums? Damned straight folks! Not only that but I had missed a few days due to being busy so today is a double Dracula blog drop with the likes of Bauhaus and Super Castlevania IV.
Super Castlevania IV – SNES (1991) – Composed by Masanori Adachi & Taro Kudo
What a horrible day to have this as your cover. Hideous.
Anyone who might not understand why a list of albums would contain a soundtrack for a 16-bit era video game should stop reading immediately and find a complete version of this game’s music to listen to. Or, continue to read because I’m not the boss of you. Simply put, this and almost all of the music in the classic Castlevania series is superb.
Initially I had planned to write about the first game in the series’ soundtrack as it is my favorite overall but the quality of the vinyl pressing is so awful that listening to it almost instinctively makes me want to shatter the record and send it back to the stooges at Konami Kukeiha Club with an open invitation to sit on the shards. It is such a shameless example of trying to make money by trying to capitalize on people’s nostalgia for video games and the resurgence of vinyl that I felt the need to warn people against buying it and making the same mistake that I made.
With that warning out of the way I should mention that I’ve read that subsequent releases have improved with the third game even having it’s Famicom Disc System counterpart soundtrack on the B-Side. Still, I don’t own any of them as I feel burned by the relatively large asking price of the shoddy first. “Fool me once” and all that. We live in an age where music can be streamed and downloaded so I consider it their fault for trying to hose fans of collectibles. I guess what I’m saying is download it and don’t feel bad. Evidently I’m in a bossy mood today so forgive me, or don’t. Disregard reviews who claim that the sound quality is good. I have a feeling they are simply referring to how cool it is to have the soundtrack of a video game in this format. The audio is compressed and loud to the point that it muffles and peaks constantly.
If this had been the cover I might have purchased this record instead of being a filthy pirate. It is okay to be a bit dirty sometimes though.
Now, finally onto Super Castlevania IV’s masterpiece of a soundtrack. Compared to all others in the series, the music here is a lot more experimental. There is an eerie vibe that permeates and the large amount of variety is something to marvel. It is nothing short of incredible how these composers utilized the sound chip of the Super Nintendo so early in it’s life cycle. There are synth versions of everything from bongo drums to organs, electric guitars and jazz flutes. Yes, jazz flutes!
This soundtrack opens with the creepy ambiance of Dracula’s duel themes before completely busting into the heavy-hitting, bombastically brilliant Simon’s Theme. It is a diverse collection of songs that perfectly fit the classic horror aesthetic of the game. A standout for me is the hauntingly chilling Forest Of Monsters which is probably my personal favorite song in the entire series. Considering that these games are over three decades old at the time of this writing, that’s saying something. It has an extremely interesting somber groove that is incredibly well orchestrated and performed.
Super Castlevania IV isn’t a cheap record but it might be the go-to option for fans of the earlier games in the series as it also contains shorter remixes of songs from that NES era. All in all this is a great package that my hyperbolic praise can’t do justice to. Just give it a listen as the entire thing is up on YouTube. Personally, I’m not a fan of most music on the Super Nintendo as I find it too reverb-driven and muffled as a result but somehow these two composers mastered the technology in a way that is compelling enough to be listened to at this time of year on loud speaker. Oh, and the game is pretty good too.