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Reviews for "Facing the Foe"

__--=***NGADM Review***=--__

I really liked the individual melodies in this, I think if taken a part and put back together in a slightly different way, this track would absolutely shine. There's also a ton of cool rhythmic work, the snare certainly gives it an energetic feel with the staccato/marccato strings and brass.
However, the track as a whole is a little messy I feel - there's always SO MUCH going on, I got exhausted listening to this quite quickly.
The ending too, it didn't make sense for me at all, the change in key etc was abrupt and messy. I wish you'd chosen something else to finish it off because I actually really like this piece.

I was torn when giving this a score so I settled for 7/10.

LucidShadowDreamer responds:

Hey! Thanks for your review :p
Great to hear that you enjoyed the melodies in this. I personally like the arrangement, but I think the production is somewhat weak instead. I do however agree that there is a lot going on, and that that might not be for everyone. I tend to try a lot of different genres, and this is the first battle track I've made, at least as an orchestrated version. I made it as a solo piano composition at first, which I'll upload at some later point. I wanted to use a lot of variation and a lot of intruments, switching it up constantly, especially as it's a piece composed for a competition.

The ending, I agree with. However, you do realize that it loops, right? You probably do, but it just sounded like you were referring to an actual ending, while this piece has none. It really sucks if you listen on your phone, as it will just cut off. However, even as a loop, I think the ending should be different. I would actually like both a calmer intro and ending, as the loop would be much more seamless and less "in your face" that way. But I didn't have time to make it that way, and the intro is also the first thing I made for the piece, so I kinda just wanted to keep it in there anyway :)

Thanks for listening and judging!

I know a lot of input has gone into this track already so i'm going to make this quick and sweet. (Being also 2 weeks old)

The intro, goes with out saying, amazing. the fact that i later found out this is a loop is also freaking sick!

fav section was 1:18 - 1:55 love it.

Your mixing.. dude I don't know what your talking about, your selling it. I don't know how much dynamics your leaving, but if this got mastered, it'll definitely fit in any classy video game boss fight haha!

Your nice gestures with your percussion and low brass staccatos really set the pace. ALSO the MELODIES you shred are.. wow. They flow so smooooooothly!! AND so much is happening all the time! I was taught to make a variation in my arrangement every 4 bars, you seem to do it in every bar!

If anything I would have made this song a little brighter (just due to my headphone maybe..)

One thing that did stand out was that cymbal rise at :58 a little volume adjustment down would have made it sit nicely.

Nevertheless!! STUPENDOUS!!!

LucidShadowDreamer responds:

Thanks for the nice review!

Yeah. I've had mixed reviews about the loop, but most people seem to actually like it, which is nice :D

Great to hear that you like 1:18-1:55, as it's one of my favorite parts as well XD

It's interesting, as many people seem to think that the mixing is actually okay. I have definitely gotten better; that much is for certain. It was a tough track to mix in general, so I would have to be a pro to get it just right. I think that this track has both "boss battle" as well as "normal battle" elements to it.

I definitely wanted the track to have a solid base for the rhythm all the way through. But the melodies are definitely the real focus of the track. As well as the structure in general. Hahha, the very 4 bars is a good rule. I just really like variation though. I often aim to keep some kind of repetition in there though XD

Hmm, there are pretty few highs, I guess. But maybe you meant the mood? Idk. Parts are darker, parts are lighter. I think the heavy brass may bring it down a small notch. Then again, I guess it's a battle too, so it'd be wierd if it's too light :D

Yeah, maybe 0:58 was a bit loud. That is actually a gong, I think, but it's not a bang, but a drag instead :)

Thanks a lot for the nice review! I'll review your latest track at some point too. I have heard it XD

Hmm...yeah, allow me to put in my *long* ***overdue*** ******input*****. Heh.

I love the sound design, the huge conglomeration of moods, the progression, the...well, the everything. It is a bit fast-paced at times, but at the same time, it could be made to fit a video game extremely well. The mixing here is also freaking excellent. You've demonstrated rapid improvement on that front, LSD! :O

I love all the string solos, though. Sometimes, they're a little hard-to-follow, but at the same time I'll commend you for tying all these diverse elements together so nicely. Still, 2:33 was a bit of a rushed solo, and 2:45 was almost comical IMO. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. This piece clearly has a lot of character and charm.

OH SHIT, no! The ending...the e- WHY! *struggles to hold back tears*

OH, WAIT. It loops. Never mind. My stupid MacBook can't accommodate the loop feature very well. I'm sure it loops well, too. I'll confirm that fact when I have access to a PC again...

Anyway, overall this is a freaking awesome piece. I suppose I'd like to see you slow down the pace a bit more at some point during the competition, but for now this is going to get you far! Best of luck, guys. ;D

LucidShadowDreamer responds:

Not as overdue as my response to your message you sent ages ago XD
But I promise, I have actually been busy! Apart from the three animes I watched. But that was research for the next ngadm track, I promise! I hurt myself really badly living through extremely dark animes, so that I could write an amazing track. It kinda worked, I guess. We'll see in 2 days :D
That is also why my response to this review is late; that, and a lot of school work... But I aced the fist test at least, so that's good, right? But we're nearly finished with the next track now! So I'll totally respond eventually, even if I have to write a blog post too... I also haven't reviewed your track yet, as I might take out... My revenge, on it. I'm not sure yet though. We'll see! I suck at time management these days XD

It's great to hear that you love the sound design, as I put a lot of work into it. As for structure and progression, and composing in general, most of it was made on my piano, which explains why it's a pretty complicated piece :p
I'm glad to hear that the mixing has improved. I know there's still a lot to do, but it's fine as long as I am getting better.

Yeah. I think this piece is easier to listen to if you hear it once or twice at first. I wouldn't call 2:33 a solo, but I get what you mean. It differs a lot from the rest of the track. As for 2:45, I'm not sure why it's comical, but I don't mind, as this is meant to be a lively piece anyway :D

Hehhe, yeah. No worries. I am not johnfn XD
The loops is pretty good, but not infallible.

Thanks a lot for the positive review! I'm the most glad to hear that you think my orchestral mixing is improving :)
Oh, and for the next track, I guess we'll slow down the pace, in one way at least, hehhe XD

=== This is an NGADM Round 2 Review ===

So, when I was scoring NGADM tracks, I realized 2 things almost immediately:

1. This was going to be my highest scoring track.
2. No other judge would even come close to agreeing with me.

So now I have to justify myself to make it look like I'm not insanely biased. Because, let's be honest, it's totally understandable that this isn't the highest scoring track. If I were to argue my point to any other judge, they'd say stuff like: the percussion is weak, the instrumental quality is low and fake sounding, the production value isn't very good. Why on earth would you score this track so high if it has so many flaws?

THE COMPOSITION, MAN. (This should be obvious by now.)

Most musicians just take a melody, drop it onto a chord progression and call it a day. (I find myself in that crowd often, unfortunately.) But not you. You drop a melody onto a chord progression, then you modulate it like 8 times, vary it like nuts every time, bring it through like 3 instrumental changes, to the point where it ALMOST doesn't even sound the same any more. Everyone else take note: THIS IS AWESOME.

Let me just go into a little more detail. The first time I really hear the main melody is at 0:56. (I hear hints of even in the intro - after a while, everything sounds like it - but I consider 0:56 to be the main expression of the melody.) When I first heard it, I thought it was pretty awesome and figured that was it. But no. After that, you immediately modulate it at 1:06 with a variation. Then you switch into piano at 1:17 and vary it so much that I can only really recognize the beginning couple of notes. Then you have a really quick but satisfying transition at 1:32 into yet ANOTHER modulation and ANOTHER variation on ANOTHER instrument. And yet we don't get tired of the melody - it's still just as interesting as it was at the beginning. HOW IS IT POSSIBLE?!? We move into the section at 1:50 to 1:55 which is fascinating because, in a very organic way, you've almost developed an entirely new theme through all the repetition. Then another very quick and awesome transition at 1:57 (with a few seconds of solo piano - note that the mixing here is a little shoddy, but we'll get back to that later). Finally you run out of modulations at 2:00.

...

LOL JK there's another one, and yet ANOTHER intriguing variation. Seriously, it blows my mind that you were able to do SO many equally interesting and expressive variations on a single theme. Then of course you have the 2:34 section where you modulate a hundred times in a row, just to blow my counter. Jerk.

So anyways, the reason I like this, aside from part of it where I just like modulations and theme variations because I'm a music geek, is because you have nailed the "having an interesting arrangement" part SO HARD. This song is ALWAYS doing something interesting. It's always switching up or between instruments in a way that I always half expect (the theme) and half don't (the variation). This is exactly what you want to do. Of course, it certainly helps that the main theme is catchy as heck.

Alright, so I clearly love the composition and arrangement of this track. What's the problem, then? Well... the other stuff. :P

First off, the production quality is a little low. Obviously, the instruments sound fairly fake at times. It's particularly obvious when the main melody comes in at 0:56 and the attack on every note is exactly the same. Furthermore, the mix is pretty weak at points. Consider the point at 1:57 - the piano should really stand alone there, but it's kinda covered up with reverb tails and stuff that shouldn't really be there, so it takes away some of the impact. Also direct your attention to 2:20 - the oboe (or whatever it is carrying the melody) is a touch too quiet. Second, the drums are too quiet. As you well know, the drums are ALWAYS too quiet.

While I'm talking about drums, I felt like you could have done a much better job on the percussion. The primary percussion through out the song is just a single snare getting hit CONSTANTLY, and the only other thing I really hear is cymbal crashes, which I think you overuse. I know you can do better than this. :P Percussion can add so much to a song! For comparison, check out a song like this - similar concept, but percussion is fantastic:

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQnY7L8ucCk

Particularly pay attention to 1:20 and how much the percussion adds to the track! It gives it so much more drive. Also pay attention to the more low key parts like 1:50 and how the muted percussion adds a really neat feel to the song.

I have a few small complaints about your melodies, like at points they get a little too long winded. One good example is the quick piano section at 1:20 - it goes on a couple of bars too long and I forget where it's trying to resolve too. It would have been more powerful if it resolved faster, I think.

Now maybe you're wondering why I gave this such a high score if I have so many problems with it. Well, in the end, the truth is that I *enjoy* listening to this song, so I'm not going to take off points to make it score less than other tracks that I enjoyed less. That would be missing the entire point of scoring tracks.

I told myself that I'd only score a song greater than 9.0 for the NGADM if I found it to be compulsively loopable - like, if I found myself wanting to listen to it even outside of the context of judging. Well, congrats on being the first member of this exclusive group ;-) Don't let it get to your head!

Score: 9.0

LucidShadowDreamer responds:

Dude, are you trying to compete with Step? In that case, you're actually doing quite well, because you've already left some seriously detailed and super long reviews. Great work!

I agree with pretty much everything you're bringing up here, but as I think it's only fair for the receiver of a review to reply thoroughly, I will proceed to do so and go more into detail, hehhe. Let's see what happens (Edit: Prepare yourself >:D).

To start off with, I was very surprised to see that this is the track that you gave the highest score. I was sure that you'd be the judge to take away the most points for production, and especially for the percussion. But I totally misjudged your judging (so funii), but am very happy to have been proven wrong!
It's okay if no other judge agrees with you fully on this point, because you're easily the one out of the judges that I am the most happy to hear enjoyed the track ;)

I think it's mostly about preferece, which aspect you decide is the most important to judge. And good production sure does help a track get that extra awesome sound!
But anyway... Time to begin :p

Melody.

I feel like I've always had a relatively good grasp on melodies in general. I mean, of course I've improved over the years and so, and I am striving to make both more complex and more simple stuff, but I've never had a period in which I didn't really realize what sounds good in terms of melodic value. I guess that is because I've always been around a lot of music. With that context in mind, I've become quite fast at making everything from modulations to variations to interesting chord choices and progressions. For tracks like this, I tend to try to either use the same chord progression (in whatever key I'm currently in, as that tends to change), with a variaion of the melody, or the same melody, but a variation of the chord progression, or both. I like this kind of less obvious repetition.

The solo piano verion of this track is actually one of my quickest works ever to be this good. I focused very little on left hand arrangement for the piano, as the rhythm pretty much IS the arrangement, and made all the compositional and melodic parts in about 3 hours, in one sitting. The reason I kept the intro as it is, is because that is what I started making this track with, and then I just kept going until I was done. I feel it would've been unfair to remake the intro after it sparked so many ideas in me :p

Alright. I actually would say that this track is built out of three parts. There's one rhythmic theme that is there 3 times (of course, with variations), kinda to lay a base for the rhythm and the track, and to have something to return to other than the main melod/y, -ies. Then, there are the main melodies, which are similar to eachother. I was actually afraid that people wouldn't realize just how tied together they were, but apparently my fears were unfounded.
The third aspect is the parts that are there just to fill in, and to get some variation other than variation, if you know what I mean. That is parts like the intro, 0:43-0:54 and 2:33-2:46, which are kind of unique for the track.

So I'd actually argue that the first time the main melody enters is at 0:25. The closest variation of this specific melody (a variation with the same chords but different yet similar melody) doesn't show up before the end of the track, at 2:57.

I would agree that 0:56 is the main expression of the melody. It's the most full one (what I mean is, it is pretty clearly defined, and stays rhythmically the same through the different chords). Other than that, it was the first melody I came up with during those three hours when I made the composition that I was happy with and knew that this would be a thing. Originally, this track was meant for the first round, but things would've gotten too complicated and rushed if we would've tried to work with it, so we saved it for here.

My own favorite variation of the melody from this track is probably at 1:33. It's the most free one, and it's the one that most easily sticks with me. Most of the different parts of this composition were inspired by several different JRPG battle themes, and while the 'main expression' was inspired by the battle theme from Final Fantasy X, I'd say that 1:33 was inspired by the battle theme from Final Fantasy XIII (one of the few really good tracks from the game). The main rhythmic parts that repeat were inspired by the battle theme from Final Fantasy VII. The intro is mostly inspired by Dancing Mad from FFVI, and there's some Clash on the Big Bridge (FFXII version) over the track as well, mostly in the snares and the marimba. Other than that, there is a lot of Kingdom Hearts hidden in miscellaneous aspects of the piece. So as you can see, I had quite a heavy list of inspirations for this track. Of course, there are some other (mainly retro) games that were part of my inspiration as well, but those are the main ones :p

As for 1:06, I wouldn't call it a variation. You're right in that there is a modulation there, but as it's the exact same intruments as before, and the same rhythm, I'd say it's tied together enough to be a part of the same main theme. But that's free for anyone to interpret how they like to :D

The variation at 1:17 with the flute and the piano is one of my firend's favorite parts. It uses different (and longer, such as B minor add 9 [but the 7 can be included if one wants to], and C# minor 7 and such) chords than some of the simpler parts of the track (though most of the chords in the entire track, now that I think about it, are rather complex chords). This gives it a bit of a separate mood from the rest of the composition, somehow. I'd say that this is even more prominent in the solo piano version :p
Interesting how we noticed that the basic melody from this particular part is actually not that rare XD

1:50 to 1:55 is indeed a bit different, though I still feel it's connected. Here, I actually used some pretty neat chord changes (again). The three chords from 1:48 to 1:55 are Badd9, D6, and C#7, which are only used in this particular way at this point in the composition.

2:00 is one of those spots where I take a short break from the main melody, and instead return to the rhythm I originally included at 0:20, but of course, with variations in the melodies. I have that same base running, but I also play like 3 different melodies on top of each other, while the marimba has some fun (and is actually moving its panning live, which would be very difficult to replicate in real life).

As for how I make every melody remind you of the earlier melodies, I'd say it's all hidden in the rhythm. I mean, part of it is in the melodies, of course, and part in the chords. But I'll see if I can do a montage here...

0:26-0:27 | 0:56-0:57 | 1:01-1:02 | 1:06-1:07 | 1:17-1:18 | 1:34-1:36 | 2:10-2:11 | 2:59-3:00 | and 3:06-3:07 |

Yeah... By listening to those parts, one can actually hear exactly how the melodies mainly tie together. Another thing that unites them are those two cool notes that usually comes before that quick upwardsgoing thingey that I don't know how to explain. Come to think of it, I totally missed out on that same rhythmic melody going downwards instead! Now I made myself a bit disappointed... Those two first notes could go from down to up instead, and then that other thingey could go down, and then there's be another awesome melody... Oh well, maybe next time XD

I'm actually not happy with the volume balance at 2:33. Maybe I'll return to this track in 20 years when I actually know what I am doing?
But otherwise, yeah. What is it, 9 modulations in 11 seconds? I'm not even sure if that counts as modulations, but it sounds pretty cool. Actually, I made something similar in my pirate track earlier, but with different chords and a different rhythm. NO KEY CAN CONTAIN ME!
I try to return to the original key by the end of a track though, unless there's a storytelling reason for me not to. Of course, as this is a loop, I made something that leads back to the first chord at the end.

Arrangement.

I'd say that if you ignore the percussion, this is the part I spent the most time on. I tried using as many instruments as possible out of the ones that were available to me, as long as they fit the track. Thus, I couldn't really use clarinets and such, but different kinds of strings, and some horns and trumpets. And apart from the piano version, I actually added a lot of secondary melodies below the main ones, to keep this interesting to listen to several times. So when I didn't use the french horn as a main melody, I tried to have it do interesting things on another layer, like at 0:55 or 2:58. And at parts like 2:09, you can actually hear the entire backing track playing a separate melody from the main one if you focus on it. Other than that, there's the main rhythm that keeps everything together, as well as the piano at parts, a well hidden harp, a well hidden timpani (I only wanted it to give some extra power to the rhythm, so I kept it super silent but strong enough to make a difference), the marimba, as well as a few atmospheric effects that are just kinda there at two hidden parts, but don't take much room. The percussion, alas, is indeed severely suffering :(

That is the intrumental part of the arrangement. Other than that, it's the structure, but I've already gone over my thoughts about how I feel it works and goes.

"...production quality low."

=> HOW DARE YOU!!!

Jk, of course. I already knew I'd lose a lot of points due to this and the percussion. But given the time we had, and how overly complex I chose to make the track, we didn't have time to make dem0lecule's version much good.
As for humanization and such, I really didn't have time to do a full job of it. The attack is indeed the same for most of the trumpet hits at 0:56, and the same goes for many other intruments at many other parts. The velocities, I had time to vary the most, and for some of the solo strings, I did do a few things to make them less stale. But for the most part, I would've needed much more skill, but mostly, time to do this properly. It doesn't help that this track is divided between 7 different Cubase projects, due to several reasons either XD
As for the mix, I barely managed to make it work at all, so making it good is a whole new step. I should really practice by using less intruments to learn the basics, instead of by cramming 20 different ones together at the same time!

For 1:57, the problem is probably that I have the harp (the very backgroundish harp) from the earlier section here, as it plays all the way until 1:56, and I probably forgot to kill the volume of its remains, so to say...
The other intruments leave something in the air too, so you probably have a good point here :D

At 2:20, I intentionally made the solo viola (*cough* oboe *cough* such was the day when johnfn decided never to guess orchestral intruments again [I mean, I know the quality is not good, but dude...]) quieter, but maybe I shouldn't have. I did this because I wanted the backing track to grab some more attention here. Now if that is what you were talking about, it's a french horn, some trombone (basic brass) hits, as well as a few other things.

I actually think that 2:33 is worse in its balance though. It just feels like the track gets quieter for no reason when the percussion goes away. Should've done something about that...

Either way. I agree with everything about the percussion. There are 3 problems the way I see it. I don't have much in way of percussion vst's yet. I am really not good at using percussion yet. And I definitely didn't have time to use much else than the snare, the closed hi hat, the crashes and a gong. I should (and will) definitely do my best to improve on this in the future. I'll make sure to check that video (track) out as reference!!

As for 1:20, I see what you mean, even though I don't feel it is a huge issue. Especially not as my friend said that it's one of his favorite parts :p

Oh, I'm entirely out of characters, hahha XD

Man. This may well be the most awesome review I've ever gotten. It made me super happy, and it is constructive as well. Thanks a million johnfn!! Made my day both yesterday and today ;)

hehe, a little on the happy side this time, eh? Different sound than from your previous tracks. Intersting fast rolling melodies. Not too sure how I feel about those drums though. I guess it's ok for JRPG style but you boys could do better ;D

LucidShadowDreamer responds:

Thanks! Yeah, we try to stay varied XD
It's great to hear that you like the melodies. I totally agree about the drums; I simply don't have any other drums that suit this, hahha. When I get more money, I'll probably buy Stormdrum 3 or something like that :)
(Also, I didn't have time to humanize the drums either, so they could definitely be better).