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MIDI Power Pro 6 ~ Akumajo Dracula X Nocturne in the Moonlight :: Review by Don

MIDI Power Pro 6 ~ Akumajo Dracula X Nocturne in the Moonlight Album Title: MIDI Power Pro 6 ~ Akumajo Dracula X Nocturne in the Moonlight
Record Label: King Records
Catalog No.: KICA-7928
Release Date: November 27, 1998
Purchase: Buy at Game Music Online


Back in the glory days of the original PlayStation, a game from the famed Castlevania series came out and turned everything on its side. Adding RPG elements and other interesting tidbits to the mix like leveling and stats, the ability to equip a variety of weapons, and for once, playing as someone who isn't a Belmont, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has become perhaps the most famous of all Castlevania games. Not only that, but its original soundtrack is regarded by many to be the pinnacle of composer Michiru Yamane's work as well as the series in general. In fact, it's my favorite Castlevania score. Interestingly enough, as much as I thought I would hate to see an arranged album for the original soundtrack, I find myself oddly drawn to this album. This album, just like the game when it first came out, turns what I'd expect from an arranged album for Castlevania and flips it on its side.


This album, just like the source material, adopts a variety of styles. Some maintain the sound of the source material while others elaborate and even fuse together a variety of styles. Perhaps the most true to the original comes in "Pearl Dance Song". Opening the album, it starts out like a record being played. The scratchy sound of the record brings back a feeling of nostalgia, especially considering the piano, the main instrument in the original, can be heard. From there, however, many of the instruments are upgraded or replaced. For example, harpsichord and accordion takes the lead, rather than piano, for the melody. It gives a sense of the Baroque era infused with some French influences. Combine this with the waltz-like nature of the composition and you have a very beautiful piece that highlights the strengths of the original, such as that air of mystery, and develops them further.

Continuing on with the album, "Golden Dance" is a dramatic transformation of the source material. While the style of the piece remains the same, there is an added sense of darkness to the piece that really can't be heard utilizing the original synth. In all the glory of the updated instruments in terms of strings and brass, they pale in comparison to the star of the arrangement, the piano. As the piece progresses, the piano only intensifies. Starting out as just a simple accompaniment to highlight the melody, it is developed into something that, not only accentuates the main melody, but surpasses it to the point where it actually takes over the melody at times. It's an extremely romantic work and the piano only strengthens this classification. It's definitely a highlight of the album, among a few others.

When it comes to Symphony of the Night compositions, my hands-down favorite was a piece called "Crystal Drops." Fortunately, it was chosen to be arranged. Like the two arrangements before it, it keeps an emphasis on what made the original an excellent piece. Deep bass guitar, a jazzy atmosphere with a sense of mystery, and enchanting piano form the basic ingredients of this aural concoction. If you want to make it even more powerful, all you need to add is some amazing choral highlights, some sinister organ, and some futuristic synth. Oh, wait. They did that already. I highly suggest eating something before taking this in. You might be drunk from its offerings before it's finished. In order to keep it sounding like an updated version of the original, they threw in some tempo changes here and there, giving it a bit of a frantic nature. It's a really good arrangement, but sadly, it pales in comparison to some of my favorites on this album.

"Symphony of the Night," the title track, is where things start to transform drastically. Originally an epic piece full of string and brass work, it was used as a backdrop to a brief story summation of the events between Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night. It had this air of dramatic evil about it. The arrangement, to my surprise, retained the epic nature of the original, but in a way I didn't expect. Taking the dramatic instrumentation from the original and replacing it with timpani drums and electric guitar, it creates a very different soundscape. Sure, the drama is kept intact, but there seems to be a longing heard from the electric guitars. It's hard to describe any other way. Towards the end of the arrangement, the electric guitar is joined by the soft sounds of an accompanying acoustic guitar. It ends the arrangement nicely.

"Strange Bloodline" is another arrangement that keeps more in tune with the source material. Arranged in a progressive rock style, it is a piece that is extremely high on the energy scale. Dominated by piano chords in the accompaniment and electric guitars and futuristic synth in the melody, the overall progression of the piece is rather chaotic. Throughout the piece, there are times where it does soften up a bit, opening up a nice section for the melody to really shine. It's not one of my favorite arrangements on here, but it's a highly entertaining piece of music if you are a fan of this style.

"Marble Corridor" is perhaps one of the most popular pieces on the original soundtrack. While the original had a very mysterious aura about it, through its use of classical instrumentation, the arrangement mixes up the styles quite well. While the beginning of the arrangement does keep the style heard in the original, it progresses quickly away from that. Returning to the progressive rock style heard in "Strange Bloodline" and adding some jazz influence, the arrangement has a very free flowing sound, alternating between the futuristic synth lines and the jazzy piano chords. It's also interesting to how the soundscape changes so drastically from the original, and even in the arrangement. The focus on futuristic and organic soundscapes provides a highly exhilarating experience.

"Our Festival" is definitely one of the highlights on the album. Opening up with wailing electric guitars, it progresses into one of the best battle themes on the original soundtrack. The pumping synth and percussion only helps to accentuate the melody and the electric guitar work. Surely, though, this would get rather boring quickly, given it's an almost exact transcription of the original. Fortunately though, the arrangers were very clever in disguising the true nature of this beast by misinforming people with a half-correct title. In addition to "Our Festival," this arrangement also includes an arrangement of "Wood Carving Partita," the theme played in the library of Dracula's Castle. So, how do you improve upon an already impressive piece of music? Well, I find the arrangers did a fantastic job personally. While it does open up like the original, with updated instrumentation, it, like many others, quickly changes styles. Take one part progressive rock, take a splash of classicism, and provide a hint of rock and you get one of the most entertaining experiences on the entire album. The piece definitely benefits from a change in pace and towards the end, it seamlessly transitions back to "Our Festival." It's one of the arrangements in the upper echelon of the album. This one shouldn't be missed.

If "Marble Corridor" is one of the most popular pieces on the original soundtrack, saying that "Dracula's Castle" is the most popular piece on the original soundtrack wouldn't be a stretch. Like the iconic first stage themes before it, such as "Vampire Killer," the beginning of the true game features "Dracula's Castle" as the backdrop. It's an exhilarating experience full of strong percussion, synth leads, and some awesome rock/brass harmonies. Who can really blame someone for finding this to be the best piece on the soundtrack? So, when I found that it was being arranged, I did have my reservations at first. Can they really take such an iconic track and keep the essence of the original intact? When it comes to arrangements, I tend to find arrangements that do the unexpected to be extremely well thought out. This arrangement is no exception. Pinpointing a specific style would be nigh impossible when it comes to "Dracula's Castle." Not only is there so much going on within the piece, but it all blends together into the perfect recipe for success. Opening up with some electronic tones and moving into an almost disco-infused rock / jazz arrangement, it provides perhaps the strangest of all soundscapes on the album. Sure, there are still those elements which made it famous, such as the synth, rock, and brass heard in the original, but the additional layering of all these elements makes for an excellent piece of music. Guitar solos, that chaotic, yet addictive, piano accompaniment, and the energy of the piece make this a highly ambitious arrangement that, in my opinion, works wonders. The transformation is one of my favorites on the soundtrack, and while it may put some people off, I find the new peppy arrangement to be one of my favorites on the entire album.

Ah yes, "Young Nobleman of Sadness" is another iconic piece from the original. For the most part, this sticks fairly close to the source material. An orchestral melody with rock elements in the form of electric guitars helps to craft another epic area theme. One striking thing about this arrangement though is the subtle things you hear, such as the heroic brass accents. They really add a bit to the piece. As the track progresses, it leads up to a nice little dueling electric guitar solo. It's nothing particularly elaborate, but it only adds to the overall energy of the piece. My one minor complaint with this arrangement is the inclusion of a drum solo. Sure, it is different and does fit along with the arrangement, but the lack of melody makes it sound just like a drummer going out of control. In the end, though, it's an extremely pleasing arrangement that accentuates the original quite nicely.

Lastly, we come to my favorite arrangement on the album, "Awakened Soul." The original was a nice amalgamation of many elements, such as jazz, techno, and classical soundscapes. However, when I think Castlevania, the last thing I think of is an ethnic-inspired arrangement full of flamenco guitar and free-flowing woodwind passages. This Spanish influenced arrangement is a superb addition to the album. The flamenco guitar work is absolutely amazing and contributes to the overall atmosphere of the piece. It's the second best instrument on the arrangement, providing a nice exotic flavor. Most stunning though is definitely the flute work. It flows like water and creates an aura brimming with lightheartedness. In addition, the inclusion of mariachi-style brass helps give it a jazzy edge at times. For a Castlevania arrangement, this, like "Dracula's Castle", defies the odds and succeeds in pushing the boundaries of the source material.


When I first heard there was an arrangement album for my favorite Castlevania score, I was rather skeptical. I couldn't imagine taking some of these pieces and adulterating them into something that could make me think less of the original material. Like the game, this arranged album took what I expected to be a rather lackluster attempt at providing some new life into the soundtrack, and flipped it on its side. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined so many different styles contrary to what makes Castlevania's unique sound. While rock and classical influenced arrangements that stayed relatively close to the originals can be found on this album, I found myself most entertained by those that pushed the boundaries. The Spanish-influenced "Awakened Soul," the disco-influenced jazzy rock "Dracula's Castle," and the variety of stylistic fusions in "Our Festival" and "Marble Corridor," are what really struck a chord with me. When arrangers take risks that end up succeeding, I am much more impressed. This album showed me that taking a big gamble with an extremely popular soundtrack can pay off, if thought is given to each arrangement. All the arrangements, whether they retain the sound of the source material or completely flip it on its side, offer a highly entertaining experience that strengthens the pieces heard. I strongly recommend this album.

Overall Score: 10/10