(Submitted by our Happenin’ Ho-rror Ho-mie, Mr. Andrew J. Peters…Thanks, Music Manster! 🙂 xoxo)
Mondo continues the Castlevania soundtrack bloodline with Super Castlevania IV, which marks the game’s soundtrack first foray into the 16-bit era. While music on the Sega Genesis had a tin, metallic clink sound to it, the Super Nintendo was much more bombastic, energetic and honestly, more clear and able to emulate a more orchestral score. Aside from Symphony of the Night, Super Castlevania IV is my favorite game and coming off the 8-bit games, I remember this soundtrack very well and couldn’t wait to listen to it again.
Immediately, it did not disappoint. The memory of running home from school on a Friday night and heading to the video store, picking this game up and playing it with the step-father late at night (we were big into playing the right games at the right times). I remember the eerie music droning over a black screen, keeping you anticipating what you are about to experience, followed by the opening text crawl over fog to the opening of the game. Not only did the visuals set the mood for a very ominous playthrough, but the music really brings it altogether. Combined with the graphics, you know that this is going to be a spooky experience with some action and right from the start when the Theme of Simon Belmont slowly starts as you make your way inside the castle and upon entering, the game brightens and the music kicks into full gear. You get a rush and feel like the ultimate vampire killer.
I just wanted to illustrate a picture in your head about how impactful soundtracks are to a game, especially something like Castlevania. Now that it’s on the Super Nintendo, it’s much more grandiose, allowing it pack much more of a punch. This is a soundtrack that really showed off the SNES’ musical capabilities and was just as much of an experience as the gameplay, because honestly, I don’t think this game would have totally worked if the soundtrack, well, sucked. When there are cooldown moments in the game, The Cave stage’s song is very relaxed, but something about it says that danger could still be lurking around the corner. The Waterfall has a very dooming and ominous tone to it, like you’re already at your funeral. The boss fight tunes are incredibly hair raising and nearly give me an anxiety attacking, making it harder to control the game. It adds a certain panic to the already difficult boss fight. Even Bloody Tears makes a return with much more gothic organ vibe with electronic drums, making it an interesting combination and although it’s not my favorite iteration of the track, it’s still pretty cool. Overall, I would say that this soundtrack has a very Fabio Frizzi vibe going on, making it feel like if Fulci had made the game in his prime.
Moving down the bloodline, so to speak, Mondo has been slaying (okay, okay, I’ll stop with the vampire puns) their video game soundtrack releases with the Contra series, Silent Hill and, of course, Castlevania and since we are moving on down the line with the sequels in this particular series, we finally get what is arguably the best Castlevania game’s soundtrack, Super Castlevania IV. The artwork is very, erm, eye catching, but not in the sense that you would think. Now I don’t dislike the artwork, in fact I think it’s fantastic and has a very Metalocalypse aesthetic to it, but it doesn’t look or feel like something of Mondo’s caliber… or Castlevania. Going to box art of the game, it’s very action oriented and features creatures as well as some of the castle in the game. It screams what a Castlevania game should represent. I’m not really sure what to feel here. The image on the back is lot more in the direction of what you would expect from a Castlevania game and the inside of the jacket is the map (keeping with that tradition as with all the Castlevania soundtrack releases), but I feel like this artwork misses the point. Even had said all of that, keep in mind I do like it, but I just don’t feel it properly represents the game.
The record itself is more representative of the game, with a flat grey that reminds of the rocks the castle would be built from or the oppressive nature of the game, splattered with blood red. It’s simple and maybe some would say dull, but I like the simplicity of it. It says more without saying too much and by that I mean it doesn’t need loud or wild colors to look attractive. As I look at it, I can’t help but think of the violent Gothic Hammer horror clicks and the old black and white monster movies with spider-webs and bats. Mondo really did their job here or perhaps I’m just overthinking it.
Super Castlevania IV’s soundtrack is one prime example of just how important a soundtrack can be. It walks a fine line between chilling and action oriented, appealing to both the horror and action genres. Fans will be pleased with this two 12” 180 gram LP set, featuring all 29 tracks from the game. It’s exciting, it’s haunting and I can see folks playing it at Halloween parties instead of spooky noises soundtracks. Artwork aside, I feel like this one is a masterpiece that is needed for every horror or video game aficionado’s vinyl collection.
So, what’s next? Rondo of Blood (always loved that title)? Symphony of the Night? Fans are clamoring for what should be next and the series seems to be getting released in order, so I guess we will have to lay in our coffins and wait.