Reviews for "Facing the Foe"

With the incredibly long review you gave me this round, I almost feel like I'll be shortchanging you, but I honestly don't have a whole lot to say. You have quite simply outdone yourself, Lucid. Again.

In so many ways this brings to mind classic Final Fantasy battle themes, as well as other JRPG offerings of a similar ilk. Your track is easily as good, if not better, than most. The lack of repetition is fantastic in my book, not to mention the sheer variety of instruments that take the stage. To someone like myself who really enjoys a good video game dustup, this is like the blood that flows through my veins. It's precisely the kind of jam that gets me pumped and keeps me fighting with all I've got.

Ah, man. There are really only a few things that I want to bring up, and they're purely based on my own personal tastes. First and foremost, I do not like that closed hi-hat. I do like what you do with the transitioning from hat to snare, but as hi-hats go that one just doesn't feel like it fits the song to me.
Next, there's so much going on most of the time that it's almost overwhelming. I'm good with it, but it does make me wonder what a more casual audience might think and if they can keep up. In a way, I suppose this is a good thing, because it almost forces the listener to play it through more than once.
Which brings me to my final act of opining, which is simply a preference for songs that have an actual ending to loops here in the ADM. A crazy semantic sort of thing, I know. Not to mention the fact that I think it actually loops incredibly well, despite what you said in the Author Comments. That said, since this is the type of track it is and it loops well, it could fit very nicely in an actual game. Bonus! :D

So yeah, feel free to take most of that with a grain of salt or two. I love this track and what you do. Some of the key changes are really impressive, and they don't even last all that long! And the brass--so good. I'm kind of jealous of the instrument library you have at your disposal, and my imagination is running away with me just thinking of what I could do with a bit of EW at my fingertips....

Once more, VERY well done, LSD. I've probably listened to this a good half dozen or so times by now. I have absolutely no earthly idea what the judges will do or how they will rate our tracks, but I want to wish you the very best of luck even though we're up against each other. Excelsior~!

LucidShadowDreamer responds:

"I almost feel like I'll be shortchanging you"

He said, after having written a review that's only slightly shorter XD
Also, you've written reviews for tons of tracks lately! Great work o.O
I should get to my round of reviews tomorrow...

I totally used the same rhythm here as in several FF battle themes (including VII and X!), and in other tracks from other games as well. I must admit, it's a great rhythm (I think bassfiddlejones actually used it in "Unsung Hero" too)! I tried to write my melodies in a way that both references the FF/Kingdom Hearts feel, as well as making it feel battle-ish enough while still keeping a pretty light tone to the atmosphere, apart from a few parts.
Great to hear that I'm not the only one who appreciates a lack of repetition (there is some secret hidden repetiotion in this track though, muahahahaha)!

"Closed hi-hat"

=> I totally knew that pretty much everyone would comment negatively on this XD The simple truth is that I don't think I had a good closed hi-hat sample whatsoever for that part. But conceptually, I really wanted it to be there, so I included it despite my better judgement (also , time). It's one of the only intruments that's not EWQL (the other three are two atmospheric effects you probably wouldn't even hear if I didn't point them out, and the piano).
Hey, btw, did you find that flute trill?!? :D

As for the complexity, I am aware. But I think that even a less experienced listener would be able to enjoy this track; especially the highlights. While I have layers of melodies upon each other at points, I feel like the main ones are prominent enough to work on their own. I've actually tried to focus on listening to only certain parts of the track (also for mixing reasons), and if you just focus on one melody enough, you'll barely notice the other ones :)
Also, I imagine that in a game, people would hear this enough times to know it's every second by heart (while I am a musician, I am also partly a game designer, hehhe).

As for the looping, I get your point, even if I don't feel the same. The reason is that I don't think a battle track is much good if it can't loop, even if it's not featured in a game. Especially not a "random battle" theme. If this was for a cinematic sequence, I'd agree it should have an ending. The other option was to fade it out, and say that it would loop in-game, and I did NOT want to do that XD Even though this was made for a competition, I want it to stay as true as possible for the genre. Otherwise, I definitely wouldn't have looped it (at one point, the piano version actually had an ending).
That said, I think this is the wrong kind of loop for a (most a) battle track. Instead of starting with a climax, I think the track should start on a calmer note, then build up, and then at some point gradually turn calmer again, before starting over. That's because most battles themes start that way, slowly easing you into the battle. But I am okay with a loud boom that's really telling you that a battle is starting as well. It just takes away some of the seemlessness of the loop as a whole ;p

So basically, I agree with all of your points, and I was aware of them from before, but decided (perhaps unwisely) to make them as it is. The hi-hat still bothers me though, but I didn't have time to swap it out nor searching online for a better suiting sample. This track was divided into 7 different parts, due to both software and hardware limitations XD

Key changes have been my thing ever since I noticed one can do that. I try to use both new and old key changes (ones I've used before) all the time, because I love the extra energy or emphasis they can add; especially into a track like this. I basically started this track out with 4 changes (5 keys/not key specific chords, depending on how you want to look at it) in the first 9 seconds, so yeah...
But I tried so follow two (or three) main keys, while borrowing chords and jumping around a bit, as to not go too much overboard. This was originally written as a solo piano piece, but arranged to work for an orchestra. The base for this track took only 3 hours to compose on the piano. The rest took me more than 40 hours, because I had no idea what I was doing, and just hoped for the best, while constantly adding more and more, including new melodies, despite time limitations XD

Yeah. I got EWQLSOSE when it was half price. It was a very good decision, I feel. Not only because of the quality of the intruments (though some feel it's dated), but because getting myself an orchestral mini-arsenal really motivated me to write more, and bigger things!!! I definitely recommend buying something like this on sale ;)
Now, learning how to mix the orchestra is a completely separate deal that I'm still obviously working on... I am very happy with my progress on this track though, if you compare it to "Facing the Stormy Sea", which is my previous fully orchestral track. In a few years, I hope to be much better in this area as well :)

Once again, thank you very much for the long review, and for all the compliments! I've probably listened to your track more than 20 times already :D Not meaning that as a listening competition; your track is simply so relaxing and soothing to listen to that it's perfect when reading or doing something similar :3

Same goes for me. I just feel like I don't want to disappoint dem0lecule, but he said he likes this track, so that is good enough. If you win, I'll be rooting for you XD
Best of luck!

P.S. Sorry for my rambling in this response, it's already over 6am, and I'm still awake :p
This will be an interesting school day :D

Could just join neBSounds oppinion. The intro is awesome! It pulls you directly into the track and you´re right that this would definitely fit into a JRPG game. I have to say that the sounds actually remind a bit of retro PS1 games, which actually wasn´t that bad for this track. Actually I was surprised to read that this is EWQLSO because I always thought they sound a bit more... modern? But I never worked with EWQL so I don´t know. Composition wise there is not too much to say. You got a catchy theme and continue and vary it nicely without it getting boring. I love the fast marimba lines. Sometimes the transitions are a bit abrupt like around 43 sec. Actually this is the only part in the track where the melodies appear a bit random while they are very conclusive all along the rest of the track. It also sounds like you switched from minor to major without introducing it which feels strange but maybe my ears are tricking me here and I´m wrong... I have not the best ears sometimes :) The loop in general works fine. It loops more or less seamlessly. The only point is that you maybe realize the looping point because of climax in the intro but I guess that´s fine because there so much more musical content in this piece. Maybe some countervoices would help in some points to make the melodies a bit fuller. Sometimes you do this but sometimes the melodies feel a bit naked. I think already an unisono with different instruments in diferent octaves could help.
I think 40 hours of work is not too much time for 3:30 minutes of music with so many voices and much content. Of course there are people who might do this faster but they are mostly professionals, doing this there whole life every day (and probably repeating themselves a lot). Production wise I think it could definitely be mixed and mastered a bit clearer but I think as I read your text and I know from your other works you know this yourself already ;) I also wouldn´t give lower score because of mixing issues because I think a good composition is much more important. So... all this said. This is an awesome track again from you. Congrats!

LucidShadowDreamer responds:

Great to hear that people like the intro, even if it's a bit much.

This track was from the very start designed to fit a JRPG game, so I'm glad to hear that it shines through. Eh, the reason the sound quality is like that, is probably just because of my not so existent mixing skills. On one hand, I tried to mimic the sound I've heard in both newer and older games a bit. On the other, I probably crammed too much together, but still wanted to keep some kind of volume. Keep in mind too, that this is just EWQLSO Silver, which is pretty limited, even if you get around. I also used next to none reverb for this track, as I found that most of the sounds are pretty wet on their own. But for slower tracks that use less intruments at once (or if you can manage with it in general), you'd probably want a bit more reverb than there is here. But I am not displeased to hear that this sounds a bit old school in quality XD

I like that you use the word "catchy". That may come in handy for one of the judges, hehhe... I definitely aimed towards making melodies that stick with you, even if specific repetition is a bit lacking in the track.

Interesting point about 0:43. While I don't think it's random, it is different than many of the other parts in the track. As is the next part, with the trumpets and horns. The different segments were generally inspired by different tracks from different composers/from different games, roughly. While there are parts that follow a kind of a main feel of the track, I tried to include other things in between as well. I don't have a real breakdown in this track (a slower part with strings would be pretty nice), but instead, I try to keep it varied, and killed the percussion (mostly) at a few spots too. 0:43 is kind of a segway in between that leads to the next part at 0:54, I guess. 0:43 uses a bit more Kingdom Hearts:y melodies, I'd say, while most of the rest has a more Final Fantasy vibe (though with more KH-ish feels, as well as some other stuff). Maybe this part sounds better on solo piano though, on which it was originally composed? (Oh, and this track constantly moves between major and minor, so I don't know that it needs any specific introduction every time, as this is more of a fast paced track, than one that progressed gradually, except for a few points). As for other seemingly random parts in the track that are just kinda there, there's 2:33 too :S

Yes. I agree that there is too much climax in the intro. As a standalone track, that's fine. But if this really were to be in a game, I'd change that, and make the intro (and the ending) slower parts, so that the transition would not require as much attention from players. I just wanted to include that intro, as it was the first thing I made for this track, and ended up being the last thing I tweaked too.

I get your point with the countervoices, although there's a reason I didn't do this for the most part (at some points I did though, as you mentioned). If you pay close attention to the track, you'll hear that more often than not, there are two or more melodies, playing at once. A bit like you might hear in a slightly more complex piano solo piece. Mostly, I used the french horn, or the backing track in general, for the second melody. A good example is 0:54, where while the trumpet holds the main melody (in two octaves, if I recall correctly), the french horn is playing a slower, similar melody, more in the left ear, and at a lower octave (or simply the last big segment of the track, with the violas and horns). This goes on in various forms throughout the track, be it at 2:09, where the backing track is playing a completely different melody in a different rhythm than the solo viola, or be it at 2:47, where there are at least 3-4 melodies playing in the same rhythm. At other points, like 1:34, I really wanted that solo violin to bear the entire main melody, though a piano is layered more in the background, playing the same thing. There are several other parts too, like 0:43 that was mentioned earlier, where the marimba is partly playing the same thing as the cello. Also, nudity is okay in my book if the melody looks nice, hehhe... (Forgive me, please).

May be that 40 hours is not all that much, especially if you consider the pace of the track. But it felt like a lot, especially since I just started my studies :s
I also know that indeed, some people could do this in waaay less time. That is what I am aiming for, as I couldn't hope to be putting this much time into every NGADM round ;)
Thanks for the encouragement though!

Yes, mixing especially I feel I still need to grasp. In general, I'm fine with the balance between the intruments. All of the marimba/harp/piano (even a secret timpani) aren't necessarily meant to be super clear, but more aim to help move the rest along. But the sound quality in general, could be so much higher!!!

I do think this needs to be judged partly on mixing too, of course, as it's part of what everyone is being judged by in the competition, even if I definitely agree that composition is more important. I wish that my complex composition will make up for some of the worse mixing, but you can't erase all of it. I don't feel like the mixing is horrible though, just that there's tons to improve. I've, so to say, both heard and done worse :3

Thanks a lot for the pretty long and awesome review, and sorry for the super long answer! XD
I promise I'll get to your track at some point in the relatively close future ;)

I actually notice a lot of repetition in the song on my second time listening. I don't know much music theory but I still enjoyed the song a lot.

The loop sounds normal to me, but maybe more experienced composers will notice the flaws.

I listened to this on headphones and I think the mixing is acceptable, but it needs some adjustments to make certain instruments sound clearer.

LucidShadowDreamer responds:

Nice! It's cool to hear that you noticed the subtle repetition! Many people listen through my tracks without really appreciating the repetition in structure, melody or chords that I use, because it's not exactly the same as earlier. Thanks for this :D

There's nothing really wrong with the loop, other than the fact that it's too noticable for something that is essentially an active background track. That is, I should probably not have put a climax at the loop XD
But the beginning was the first part I composed for this track, so I felt I kinda needed to leave it in, as the rest of the track was born from it :p

Sure, I agree about the mixing. Thanks a lot for the review, dude :3!!!

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).

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