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Castlevania Lament of Innocence Sampler :: Review by Ashley Winchester

Akumajo Dracula Curse of Darkness Original Soundtrack Album Title: Castlevania Lament of Innocence Music Sampler (US)
Record Label: Konami of America
Catalog No.: Promotional
Release Date: October 18, 2003
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Over half a year ago, I sat down to write about two Castlevania scores: Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness. Dissecting the contrast between these works was nothing short of interesting: one soundtrack would prevail in an area where the other would fall short and vice versa. Despite believing my opinions were solid enough to materialize in text, only my thoughts about Curse of Darkness would see daylight as the remnants concerning Lament of Innocence would be brushed off to the far corners of an untitled text document. Soon after, the album would be surrendered from the hands of one uncertain listener. However, much like Dracula himself, this was hardly the end of the story.

Half a year later my interest in Castlevania music was tapped once again, its influence as unrelenting as the denizens of the night themselves. Armed with knowledge of what the original soundtrack had to offer, a solid yet bloated banquet filled with some rather undesirable additives and preservatives, the Castlevania Lament of Innocence Music Sampler seemed to be a fitting solution. Still, the question remains: why would anyone settle for less when the main dish offers more? The answer lies somewhere in between what both releases offer; such a realization being the missing piece of the puzzle that was previously believed to be complete.


Containing a little more than one-third of the pieces that appear in the game, how can a sampler feel more fulfilling than a complete soundtrack? The biggest addition found here is actually an omission — the omission of the music Yamane's wrote for the game's cut scenes. It was by no means horrible, but despite achieving its desired effect in-game it severely disrupted the flow of the original soundtrack. It's worth noting that Curse of Darkness was set up in similar fashion yet the size of these "speed bumps" was minimized and the overall transition eased by incorporating some of the game's area themes into such pieces. With this in mind only having one-third of the tracks doesn't come off as a big loss and the ability of the score to go from stage theme to stage theme or stage theme to battle theme makes a world of difference.

Of course, while the track choice may not appease everybody the more important and prominent themes, like those from the game's first five main major areas, all make an appearance along with the more straightforward battle tracks like the powerful "Melancholy Joachim" rounding out an impressive core. Some will undoubtedly miss pieces such as "Rinaldo's Cabin," "Prelude to the Black Abyss", and "Death Flower Succubus," though the only track I find myself truly missing is "Statue Enchanted by the Darkness" where the listener is taken aboard an evil, orchestrated train ride to hell as the crazed skeleton captain at the helm laughs manically. Additionally, "Elemental Tactician" and "Dark Night Toccata (Walter's Theme)," tracks that were somewhat under the radar when listening to the soundtrack are given more of a chance to stand out here even though the whole set of pieces can fly by before you know it.

There is another factor involved with the above, however: the tracks here don't loop. On the soundtrack, most tracks make at least one and a half loops before the fade, with shorter tracks usually making the full double. As it is, why would anyone want to limit these pieces so they only play once? With Yamane's compositions being as powerful and thick as they are (Lament of Innocence being no slouch when it comes to being bombastic) small and concise auditory experiences are ultimately the better alternative, creating a brisker listen rather than an extended tour-de-force road-trip where the temptation to drifting in and out is more likely. Even if such an idea was applied to the soundtrack as a whole it would be a moot point: issues with the shorter tracks would arise due to space limitations and the cinematic tracks would still be there to break up the action regardless.

Following the picks from Lament of Innocence is the arranged three track suite from Aria of Sorrow that can also be found on the Japanese equivalent of this disc (the Castlevania Special Music CD) and the second disc of the original soundtrack. This material has only gotten better since it no longer precedes the lackluster "Music inspired by Castlevania Lament of Innocence / another Castlevania story´┐Ż suite from the previously mentioned albums. There really isn't one particular track that excels beyond the others here; with the pitch and emotion maintaining a steady level it forms a nice intermission between the main features.

When it comes to the selection for Symphony of the Night, what can be said that hasn't already been said? It's easily one of the most defining soundtracks of the 32-bit era but looking beyond the accolades it doesn't feel as bulletproof as it once was. Often praised for the vast variety of moods expressed within, such strength seems to have slightly weakened the bonds that bind over time, leaving one to wonder if a little more uniformity amongst the ideas presented could have prevented something like this. Change Symphony? That's tantamount to VGM treason! True, but by the same token it's fine the way it is; it's just the right mood has to strike me for this music to be effective as it was originally.

Given the score's stature and number of area themes presented there's a lot more at stake here than there was with the beginning of the disc. Accounted for are rocking classics like "Dracula's Castle" and "Young Nobleman of Sadness" as are the soaring angelic numbers such as "Requiem of the Gods" and "Lost Painting". "Strange Bloodline" is an interesting pick but others like "Wood Carving Partita" and "The Final Toccata" have become victims of time (the latter is due to its overuse in the game). As expected, this is no substitute to owning the complete soundtrack: summing up a favorable cross section of Symphony's music is one hundred times harder than using the Alucard Shield / Shield Rod combo to obliterate the last stretch of the game.


If you feel the original soundtrack for Lament of Innocence is bogged down by the elements described above you can't go wrong with the Lament of Innocence Music Sampler. This is a great little CD that just might change your prospective about this music as it did mine. Despite being a promotional item released over four to five years ago, it is not too hard to come by and usually sells for a fraction of what the full soundtrack goes for. Regardless, when it comes to the music of Lament of Innocence — and music in general — this sampler proves that less is sometimes more, much more.

Overall Score: 8/10