Dracula Perfect Selection, in the view of just about everyone who’s ever had the pleasure of listening to the abomination, may be the worst video game music arrange album in history. Who really knows what they were thinking, or even the thought process behind its creation. Alas, it has taken residence in our universe, and so some own physical copies through no fault of their own. That doesn’t make it less enjoyable, but you’ve got to approach it with a certain mindset. If you come in a hater, don’t bother! I like it, personally; I find myself in this category for reasons I will divulge now.
On eBay, I became EXTREMELY lucky nearly five years ago. For whatever reason, thousands of damaged copies of video game musics CDs were sold in wholesale lots. The cases were cracked, destroyed, and discarded, leaving only the discs in their place. I assure you, I’ve looked high and low at the authentic versions and these were the real deal. I must have picked up hundreds upon hundred of the genuine article, gaining every Final Fantasy soundtrack (bar FFX Piano Collections), every Castlevania, Phantasy Star, and even Chrono Trigger. I spent a good lot, but definitely got at least 90% off their genuine retail prices. The Final Fantasy VII soundtrack even has the old Digicube print, as do many of the others.
In the Castlevania collection, I received all of the excellent arrange albums (Dracula Perfect Selection Battle I and II, but no symphony, sigh) and even some crazy dance “remixies” (Engrish is a heart). The black sheep, of course, was the picture listed above: some bizarre CD in a host of game music goodness. Why do we need a voice actor playing Dracula? Why does the whole thing sound like a giant Michael Jackson music video? Seriously, this isn’t a rap album so much as it’s a spoken word album with Castlevania music in the background. Well, it SOUNDS like Castlevania music, and if you can get past the hilariously cheesy voice acting, it’s not half-bad if you liked synthesized pop music of the late 80s and early 90s. The constants shout-outs and “UH”s, meant to be “cool”, only serve to make anyone involved sound dumb. It’s quintessential early 90s music, though, especially the first few songs.
One of the problems with the albums, other than those pointed out by Patrick Gann, becomes the length of said songs. Like Michael Jackson’s Dangerous, which quickly overstayed its welcome with seventy minutes of dance-pop, Perfect Selection Dracula holds this particular indulgence aloft for all to see. “Beginning”, the first track, clocks in at over five minutes. Castlevania music, as used in video games, was always known for both its catchiness and its brevity, neither quality of which finds any home in these mash-ups. The best tracks involve nearly no “rapping” at all; take “Mad Forest”, which somehow becomes a mixture of Latin dance beats, fake horns, a guitar solo (in the vein of “hey, Slash is playing guitar with pop star X” solos), and that lovely synth.
“Bloody Tears” has a horrible intro, which gives way to a traditional, and rather annoying, shouting session/vocal sample played on repeat. You know the type: songs that compare Dracula to Santa Claus and naming the hero of the games incorrectly (Who is named Simmon, anyway? Isn’t it Simon?). It’s almost blasphemous how they ruined Bloody Tears:
Shuddering! Still, it’s a delightful deconstruction of an excellent song, if you’re the ironic type. Perfect Selection Dracula shows us how much perverse pleasure can be taken through the destruction of perfectly good melodies. This had to have been a joke, right? Only now, twenty years after its original release, can we actually laugh and poke fun, but this stuff was HIP back then.
There’s moments of softness and light everywhere due to this factor. No one disagrees that Castlevania music rocks and rolls all night long; that there are two rock arrange albums, and that both light my fire, should attest to this. The experimentation on this album just doesn’t work. “Clockwork” sounds fabulous at the beginning, retaining the original flavor of the song while giving it an entirely different feel. The guitars don’t hurt either, but you’re always on edge waiting for the next horrible bit. Those vocals really get to you after a while when they do arrive – they ruin the songs they’re not even in! They set a mood and a level of disappointment that never fades. When “Vampire Killer” emerges in its bastardized variation, it’s hard to give the album any credit for anything other than hatred.
Overall, though, I’d say give it a listen. Don’t buy it, GOD NO, don’t buy it. I obtained this rare gift purely by accident, and I don’t hate my readers. Out of a sense of Christian love and compassion, I recommend buying any other album from any other game except this album. “Flashback” represents the absolute epitome of this style – wow, is this a spirit-crusher. It hasn’t aged well at all – if you enjoy a heaping helping of synth, jazz-fusion, and whatever electronic instruments they had in that century, this might work for you. If not (and you’re not insane like me), stay away. “Demon Seed” doesn’t work at all; I don’t even know what song it’s supposed to be, with random shrieks and screams, and not a whole lot of distinguishing elements.
And yet, for all my criticism of said album, I’m finding myself enjoying it just for the sheer bravado of the album. It’s funny, it’s hilarious, and it’s obvious not meant to be taken seriously. I hope, anyway (If you’re reading this and you were part of said album’s production, please correct me if I’m wrong)! Even if I’m critical of something, that doesn’t mean I am dismissing it or merely trying to destroy. Rather, we destroy to rebuild once again, becoming purified and rising like a phoenix from the ashes, reborn. As 1 Thessalonians 5 says:
…Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
We’re also to avoid evil, but this isn’t an evil album; that would be funny, for sure. Rather, it’s simply misguided in its attempts to remix classic Castlevania tunes. We do much the same in our attempts to please God; we stumble, we fall, we get back up again. We are sinful, we are forgiven, and that is the long and the short of it. Even bad music needs encouragement, eh? There’s good in everything if we’re willing to look.
9 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
– Ephesians 4