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Akumajo Dracula Curse of Darkness OST :: Review by Ashley Winchester

Akumajo Dracula Curse of Darkness Original Soundtrack Album Title: Akumajo Dracula Curse of Darkness Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Konami Digital Entertainment
Catalog No.: GFCA-34/5
Release Date: November 30, 2005
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


I have to admit the first time I heard what Castlevania: Curse of Darkness had to offer musically I was in no way impressed. Jumping right into Curse of Darkness after completing Lament of Innocence during a Castlevania gaming binge, initially it seemed quite inferior for someone of Michiru Yamane's talent. However, an odd thing happened. After completing the game, several tracks from what I thought was a terribly "plain and uneventful" score took up residence in my head and held my mind hostage. It was at this point I knew there was something more here, something I needed to dig for outside the game itself.

Even after becoming hopelessly infatuated with this soundtrack, listening to it over and over again like a mindless drone, I was still at a loss. Writing any kind of review was the furthest thing from my mind; how could one write about anything without understanding the underlying reasons behind their displeasure or enjoyment? Thankfully, something said by a fellow enthusiast made it clear enough for me to sit down and write. What was that one thing?

"I feel like it's 'slightly below average' game music that isn't offensive or bad to listen to... it's just kind of there, you know?"

When you get down to it, this statement is a "bare-bones" summarization of what Curse of Darkness has to offer the listener. However, as with most things in life, it's hardly this simple. While sifting through the tracks presented on th game below, I will try to explain why at the right time, the right place, to the right ears and person how a seemingly inferior soundtrack can seem superior — a case where one's initial perception can be nothing but an illusionary curse (pun definitely intended).


The electric guitar-infused tracks Yamane has become known for come out in large numbers on Curse of Darkness. Where past entries like Symphony of the Night's "Festival of Servants" and "The Tragic Prince" brought the power pound for pound, the guitar usage here is much more subdued and restrained. Ironically, the guitars only seem a small step above those in Symphony of the Night (which was good but rather synth heavy). While one could argue it's the result of laziness, it's most likely really artistic choice and direction. The remaining instruments don't come off as such unless one compares theoverall sound to a score such as LoI, a soundtrack with it own set of issues that is at least two years older.

Even when taking the above into account, the majority of the guitar driven battle themes are worth listening to. The "Followers of Darkness" series starts out with the exceptionally strong "-The First-," a straightforward (although slightly repetitive) rocker that successfully draws a mental image of dark, brooding enemies emerging to block your progress. The series' two remaining tracks, used for normal boss encounters, lack the slight edge to push them beyond their less rock-ified predecessor. It's the special boss themes that really come off as dead-on musical representations of the battles they play in. "Legendary Belmondo" really gives one an idea how savage and ruthless a Belmont can be in battle even without the guitar being as forceful as it could be. The composition contains a powerful yet controlled sense of cool compassion and hot blooded rage; a frightful sight that is clearly still in the name of righteousness. We see the opposite side of this spectrum in "Young Nobleman of Madness," where a somewhat unwieldy guitar line invokes the scene of a loose-cannon battle filled with hate, spite, and insanity. Some stage/area themes also hop on board the guitar express as well, the most notable (and my personal favorite) being the moody yet content "Cordova Town" that is truly befitting of a town lost to the creatures of the night.

Some listeners may also come to find the series' orchestrated style is literally left out to dry, being nowhere as full or bombastic as it was in previous incarnations. "The Dark Holy Man" and "Garibaldi Temple" remain true to the Castlevania formula in this sense but most stage/area themes ("The Forest of Jigramunt," "Eneomaos Machine Tower," "Aiolon Ruins" and "Aiolon Cave Temple") choose to flirt with the orchestration instead of fully embracing it. The resulting mellow vibe is the element that sets Curse of Darkness apart from its brethren. Battle themes such as "A Toccata into Blood Soaked Darkness" also fall into this category and show these laid backed tracks are hardly one trick ponies despite their numbers. "The Visitor in the Silk Hat" and the noteworthy "Legion and Nuculais" give into tradition reminding us that strong, orchestrated battle themes are far from a dead art form.

Curse of Darkness contains a few experimental tracks as well — experimental as far as Castlevania music and style is concerned. While attempts like "Mortavia Aqueduct" fizzle before they really get anywhere, the odd "Mortavia Fountain" surprisingly depicts the playful nature one would associate with water. "Baljhet Mountains" also falls on the playful side as it almost seems like Yamane forgot that Hector's trek though the surrounding mountains would hardly be as carefree as the piece itself implies. "The Cave of Jigramunt" and "Infinite Corridor" also fiddle around with new ideas but are reminiscent enough of past pieces to avoid such a label. A steady techno-like beat accompanies shallow hymns in "The Cave of Jigramunt" as the synth simultaneously weaves an aura of wonder, fear, and mystery — you can feel the air within the den of evil crackle with current (OK, so I stole that last part from Yamane). "Infinite Corridor" works on a similar level but uses sparse instrumentation to create a hollow sound that is interesting yet altogether forgetful.

Throughout the two discs one will find the pieces used for the various cut scenes. I usually don't pass judgment on such tracks as they usually work better in-game than anywhere else; however, the musical continuity of the tracks used for Julia's (a NPC) appearances ("Encounter with a Certain Witch," "The Siblings' Sad Destiny," "Julia's Advice" and "Epilogue ~A Time of Hope and Resolution~") have with her shop/character theme �Sarabande of Healing� is well executed.


So, after picking this soundtrack apart am I any closer to knowing why it attracted my attention? Not really. Even though I still believe I failed in conveying why I like what is presented here, does one really need an answer to enjoy an album of any kind? If nothing else, Curse of Darkness's music works best when one doesn't need to over-think/analyze what they're hearing. I'd honestly have a hard time recommending this album, not because I don't have faith in what is here but more or less out of fear of misrepresenting it. Despite writing all this, Curse of Darkness's music still remains an enigma to me — it's a guilty pleasure, a not-so-horrible curse full of hidden virtues.

Overall Score: 7/10