Monday, December 1, 2014

Soundtrack of the Month: December 2014


When I think of movies that were great but received very poor ratings, I usually think of two movies in particular: John Carter and Priest. Both are based on book series, and many who have read the source material (and many who haven't) felt that they just weren't good movies. From the perspective of somebody who has never experienced the source material of either, however, I have to wonder if they're off their rockers. Both movies have their flaws, but what movies don't? I think they are both excellent movies.

Priest is a gothic cyberpunk action adventure film with elements of horror sprinkled in, based on a manhwa. A manhwa is a Korean manga, and I have no idea why they don't just call it a Korean manga. The film uses a premise that could very easily have been sacrilegious, but it really wasn't, in the way it was presented. In short, it portrays a fantastical world where the government is basically made up of the church of Martin Luther's age.

One of the coolest parts of the movie—aside from the plot and the amazing visuals throughout—was the score, composed by Christopher Young. It flows with majestic, dark and sometimes quite eerie themes that very well reflect the universe of Priest. Young is particularly known for scoring horror films, and that came out a number of times throughout the soundtrack, but it was not the core focus of the music.

Priest is one of the bloodiest movies that I actually like. I've watched it at least twice, and both times I've come away from it thinking, "How can people ever think this is a bad movie?" (aside from how bloody it is). It was incredibly well done. If you ignore that it has source material, and just view it as a standalone movie, it's actually a great film. Some of the acting was sub-par, but that was a minor complaint compared to the spectacular rest of the film. The soundtrack made the amazing world of Priest come alive, and it stands as a unique piece of art.

Featured Tracks

Track 2: Eclipsed Heart – I read a comment on YouTube that complained this track was the only good thing that came from the entire movie. From that comment alone it was clear that the commentator had not even listened to the rest of the soundtrack. Or seen the movie, for that matter.

Track 8: The Vampire Train – Priest has vampires. Lots of vampires. They're pretty darn terrifying. The villain of the film travels via train, and there happens to be a lot of vampires on that train. It's actually really cool. And terrifying. The film's climax happens on this train.

Track 12: A World Without End – An incredible track to end the movie Priest. The film ended very much open to a sequel, but since it performed poorly in box office it is unlikely we will ever get one. This may be the final theme to the Priest story we will ever hear. It's fitting, and even the title of the track implies that the story will certainly continue, even if we won't get to see it.



Note: A 2-disc, largely expanded edition of this soundtrack was also released. I did not become aware of its existence until recently. Unfortunately, I do not own it as of the release of this article. You can check it out here.

Purchase the Priest soundtrack from Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on YouTube.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Crossroads

Crossroads
By Reuben Horst

I would walk the world wide
Just to stand here by your side
As we hold hands, I won’t let go
Let us dance across the snow

I stand here at the crossroads
Two paths that I could take
The brighter road, it calls to me
A feeling I cannot shake

As time proceeds in matchless haste
The snow has turned to rain
We must recall and then hold dear
The beliefs which keep us sane

If you asked the question
I would not turn you down
But I’m content to live my life
With that road left alone

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Soundtrack of the Month: November 2014


For some odd reason, I have not watched a lot of anime. I'm not exactly sure why this is, as one thing I've learned over time is that anime music is incredible.

RWBY (pronounced "Ruby") is a 3D anime-esque webseries that takes place in the fantastical and awesome world of Remnant. It focuses on the story of Ruby Rose, a fifteen-year-old girl who wants to become a Huntress in order to defend the kingdoms of Remnant from the nefarious creatures of Grimm. The music is composed by Jeff Williams, and the vocals on many songs are performed by his daughter, Casey Lee Williams. Some additional composing was done by Steve Goldshein and Alex Abraham.

Jeff Williams is previously known for scoring three seasons of the machinima webseries Red vs. Blue, also by the creators of RWBY. While the soundtrack was incredibly awesome for that series while Williams was the composer, I must warn you that both the soundtrack of Red vs. Blue and the series itself are incredibly unclean. Investigate further at your own risk. (Here is a clean example of the soundtrack, coincidentally featuring Casey Lee Williams.) RWBY, however, was intended to be clean from the very beginning, and the soundtrack only includes a few instances of mild language.

Williams is easily one of my favorite composers of all time. The music he writes is right out of a JRPG, and it fits perfectly with the world of RWBY. Additionally, his songwriting is incredible.

The soundtrack to RWBY, Volume 1 comes on two discs—Disc 1 is the "soundtrack", which contains all the songs that contain lyrics; Disc 2 is the "score", which includes sixteen tracks, one for each episode of Volume 1. The first disc includes a wide assortment of tracks. A few of the songs only appear in the series, in part, as brief credits music for individual episodes, whereas on the soundtrack disc they are complete songs. Additionally, some of the songs have multiple versions that are included in the same release.

For an example of how well the music and animation work together, I recommend you check out the Red Trailer, White Trailer, Black Trailer, and Yellow Trailer. These four trailers were released over time leading up to the premier of the series, and each one announced and introduced one of the four lead characters. Musically, the Red Trailer introduces Ruby's theme, the White Trailer introduces Weiss's theme, the Black Trailer introduces Blake's theme, and then the Yellow Trailer does a remixed medley of all three previous character themes before finally introducing Yang's theme in the final minute. Ruby, Weiss, and Blake's themes are heard instrumentally all throughout the series.

Incidentally, there's a specific reason why I chose this month to feature this soundtrack. One reason is that it's one of my favorite soundtracks, ever, and I couldn't wait to feature it. The more prominent reason is that the incredible lead vocalist of RWBY, Casey Lee Williams, turns sixteen this month. Just let that sink in a little. She was only fourteen when this album was recorded, and she had more talent than you will ever have in your life. Yup.

It's my recommendation that you watch through RWBY, Volume 1 before you listen through the soundtrack extensively. It's not a necessity; it's just my recommendation. Don't fret, though, because you can watch the entire series so far, absolutely free, on YouTube, the Rooster Teeth website, and Crunchyroll. Volume 2 of the series concluded a mere two days before this post was published, so we should be seeing the release of the next soundtrack quite soon as well.

Featured Tracks

Disc 1, Track 1: This Will Be the Day – The theme music for Volume 1 of RWBY. The first verse and refrain are played (along with an intro cinematic) at the end of the first episode, and then the refrain and a shorter shorter version of the cinematic play at the beginning of every other episode for the rest of the season. An epic theme song that fits perfectly with the story.

Disc 1, Track 3: Mirror, Mirror (White Trailer) – Weiss's theme is perhaps my favorite character theme. (I say perhaps because they're all very good.) Casey Williams is Weiss's singing voice, and while she doesn't sound exactly like Weiss, it's still an incredible song.

Disc 1, Track 9: Red Like Roses, Part II – Red Like Roses is Ruby's theme, first heard in the Red Trailer. The Red Trailer begins by showing Ruby visiting her mother's grave, as Casey sings a few poetic lines about each of the four main characters. Red Like Roses Part II is a standalone song that works as a sequel to Red Like Roses. Casey sings from Ruby's point of view, expressing her desperation and loss about the death of her mother. Casey's real-world mother, Sandra Lee Casey, sings from the point of view of Ruby's mother, expressing what she would have said to her daughter if she'd had a chance before she died. This is one of my absolute favorite songs to listen to. The first verse and refrain are heard in Episode 8.

Disc 2, Track 1: Ruby Rose – The score to the first episode of RWBY. It begins with the slow, dramatic music that accompanies the prologue (which is narrated by Jen Taylor), before transitioning into the beautiful and eerie cello and piano duo that introduces the villain Roman Torchwick. After that we hear our first battle music of the series, which sprinkles in a few instrumental bits of Ruby's theme, Red Like Roses. We then move on to an interrogation scene, and we end with being introduced to the theme of Beacon Academy. This track covers many moods and scenes, and there's not a dull moment.

Disc 2, Track 8: Players and Pieces – Episode 8 was arguably the most epic episode of Volume 1. It's filled with epic score and some darn epic battles. Be prepared for Nora's obnoxious (but hilarious) "I'm queen of the castle!" to pop in along the way. Additionally, Episode 8 was the episode that featured Red Like Roses Part II, and this track includes the instrumental build-up of the song that is not featured in the version of the song that's included on Disc 1. The track is concluded by reprising Torchwick's theme from the first epsisode.

Disc 2, Track 16: Black and White – The final episode of Volume 1. Many cool variations of themes, including a battle version of Torchwick's theme. The fact that the three tracks I picked to feature in this just happened to be the three that feature Torchwick's instrumental theme is mere coincidence. It is a really cool theme, though.



Note: Track 7 (I Burn), Track 9 (Red Like Roses, Part II), and Track 10 (I Burn Remix) contain brief instances of mild language. Additionally, the iTunes single version of I Burn contains explicit swearing.

Purchase the RWBY, Volume 1 soundtrack on the Rooster Teeth Store or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Garrett Vandenberg Interview


Hey folks. It's been quite a while since I've had an interview to share with the world. It's my pleasure to present to you an email interview with Garrett Vandenberg.

For those who do not know, Garrett Vanderberg is a freelance composer known for creating music for various projects including YouTube shows Messy Mondays and Say Goodnight Kevin. Additionally, he wrote and performed the "worship song written in five minutes", and helped found the hardcore band Elizabeth Crim.

Basically, he's a pretty awesome guy and you should check out his stuff.

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Reuben Horst: How did you get into composing?

Garrett Vandenberg: I got into composing at a very young age. I think I first started fooling around trying to write stuff on the piano when I was about 9. It didn't really amount to too much until later on in life when I got connected with my buddy Kevin McCreary. He really encouraged me to take music a little more seriously and try some new things. During the years I spent working on projects with him (from about 2010 until now, basically) I learned simply by doing. I learned how to write an album of music because he said, "Hey! Let's do it!" I learned how to score a radio drama because he said, "Yeah dude, you can do this." I honestly believe much of the reason I've gone as far as I have today is due to Kevin's encouragement and pushing me to see what I could really do.

RH: How did you meet the guys at Blimey Cow?

GV: Focus on the Family put on a live show for Adventures in Odyssey about 2 years ago, and Kevin and I decided to travel there and cover it for our podcast "The Odyssey Scoopcast". It was a ton of fun and we met a lot of great people—a couple of which being the Taylors. It was funny, because I think Kevin and I had only maybe seen part of one of their videos before, but they (especially Josh) were super excited to meet us because they were listeners of our show. I remember showing Josh the M'Kalister Park CD and he was really stoked on it and super encouraging. We talked for a bit at the show and exchanged contact information. From there it was just a matter of the way friendships tend to grow. We happened to have complementing skill sets, so we worked on stuff together sometimes. I really enjoy working with the guys.

RH: How did you come up with the “How to Write a Worship Song (In 5 Minutes or Less)” video?

GV: It was actually sort of a compilation of inside jokes my siblings and I have been making about the modern Christian music industry for years. One day I just decided to write it all down in the form of a skit, just for fun. I read it to my mom and she got a good laugh out of it, and I think I remember her actually mentioning that it was sort of similar to the style of videos Blimey Cow did. I'm not sure if that's what inspired me to talk to Josh about it; but regardless, I somehow ended up showing him the script. I wasn't even necessarily suggesting they do a video on it, but just wanted to share the skit with him because I thought he'd appreciate the sense of humor. When I did, he thought it was hilarious and asked me if they could do a video using my skit as the base for the script. I was thrilled to say, "Yes, go for it!" I'm really happy with what they did with the idea, and I'm super proud of how far they've come as a channel.

RH: How was Elizabeth Crim formed?

GV: Really, it was as simple as me hearing a dude at my church hardcore screaming during a worship set, and I came up to him afterward and said, "Hey dude, let's start a band."

RH: How did you come up with the name Elizabeth Crim?

GV: (I'm not super sure of the details of this story, but this is as best I can remember.) I actually didn't come up with it. Taylor, our lead vocalist, heard the name in a dream he had once about his grandmother (whose name was Elizabeth). In the dream he saw a demon screaming at his grandmother, but he heard God speaking to him and saying, "I'm going to use you to scream much louder than this demon," and since then he's been super inspired and focused on reaching the hardcore scene. The name Elizabeth Crim means "Violent Warrior for God".

RH: What are some of the musical projects you are most proud of?

GV: I've really loved all the projects that I've been able to work on with Red Chrome Media, and I think I'm the most proud of the different projects we've worked on together. I also have really enjoyed and am proud of the stuff I've had the opportunity to work on with the guys from Blimey Cow. The project I'm actually most proud of is a sort of indie rock/alt rock/acoustic album of some of my own personal songs. The problem is I'm still working on it and am not planning on sharing it with the world for a while. Someday, though.

RH: Have you ever considered composing music for video games?

GV: Yes, and in fact I have done music for a few different games. Sometimes more 8-bit chip tuney stuff, and other times more cinematic type scores. I'm really pretty eager to give anything a shot if I've got a client willing to hire me.

RH: What are some of your favorite composers and soundtracks?

GV: I don't listen to a lot of movie soundtracks, but some of my favorite composers are Luke Howard, Keith Kennif, and Robert J. P. Oberg. My absolute favorite classical album ever (and quite possibly my favorite album period) is called "Sun, Cloud" by Luke Howard. It is absolutely worth a detailed listen if you have the time to sit down with a good pair of headphones and take it in.

RH: What are some of your hobbies not related to music?

GV: I like juggling, yo-yoing, pogo sticking, snowboarding, video games (particularly platformer, puzzle, and RTS games), spending time with my heavenly father, and loving people.

RH: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

GV: I think that music is a reflection of who people are. I don't think I would change anything about the industry directly, because the way it operates is simply a story about how the people behind it operate. There are plenty of beautiful albums out there by really genuine people; by terrible, selfish people; by talented people; but untalented people; by people who love God and want to glorify him in everything they do; by people who hate everything and are totally broken; but I think all of these albums have their places. I find I appreciate any music that reveals truth about someone or something. I suppose if I could change one thing, I would change people to be closer to God and have a deeper understanding of beauty and love and life, so their music and the way they distribute it would reflect all of those things more.

RH: If somebody were to murder you in your sleep, how would you react?

GV: I don't think I would.

RH: What is your favorite food?

GV: I like too many kinds of food to pick a favorite. I like a lot of kinds of pasta and my sister makes a really mean taco soup.

RH: Thank you for your time!

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If you want to want to find out more about Garrett and his projects, check out his website and the website for Elizabeth Crim. If you need a composer for your project, definitely check him out.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Soundtrack of the Month: October 2014


Welcome to the third installment of this blog series. In honor of a certain film's 20th anniversary, I present to you David Arnold's incredible score to the 1994 film Stargate. The film would spawn what was to become one of the greatest science fiction franchises of all time. I will be specifically covering the deluxe edition of the soundtrack, which contains a few track title corrections and several additional tracks.

David Arnold composed the music to the film, but when the rights for the Stargate story were later transferred to television creators Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner to create the TV series Stargate SG-1, the job of composing was also handed off to Joel Goldsmith (son of legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith). Over time Goldsmith would create many incredible themes for the ever-growing franchise, but from the beginning a lot of the music was heavily based on Arnold's score from the original movie. The title theme of SG-1, remaining through all ten years of the series's run, was a rendition of one of the original film's themes.

The point being made is that while the television franchise differed greatly from the vision of the creators of the original film, much of the original music remained all throughout the series. It was that memorable, and it was that good.

If you know me, you know I'm a huge Stargate fan. In fact, I recently rewatched the entire franchise, from beginning to end (over 350 episodes and three movies). In addition to that, I own every Stargate soundtrack ever released, aside from the non-deluxe edition of this movie score. There were only a total of six releases (plus this deluxe edition), but it certainly cost me to collect them all. Only two of the releases are still in print. I'm a collector, though, so I just had to get them all.

Something that sets aside the original Stargate film from its television legacy is the sense of mystery surrounding the Stargate itself. What is it? Where does it lead? What will they find on the other side? All of this mystery and intrigue are incorporated into the score. Ancient Egyptian themes are throughout, providing a unique feel to run alongside and fit in with the movie. Overall, there are few movie scores as majestic and unique as this one. We can only hope that Arnold returns to score the upcoming Stargate reboot trilogy.

One more thing that sets apart the composer of the film and the composer of the television franchise is that, while they use many of the same themes, Arnold and his full orchestra give a feeling of grandeur to the score, whereas Goldsmith's score is often a lot more subtle. They're two very different styles, yet both sound incredible.

Featured Tracks
Yes, I know this section is supposed to be set aside for three of my favorite tracks, but sometimes soundtracks have so many tracks it's next to impossible to select only three. I created the rule, so I can break it as I see fit. In fact, next month I plan on breaking it even further (but for good reason).

Track 1: Stargate Overture – This amazing theme is how the movie begins. Many years later, after Stargate SG-1 would run its ten-year course, the series received a television movie to conclude the story. That movie's score began with the exact same composition, this time arranged by Joel Goldsmith. The difference was that where the original version deviates at a certain point to an incredible choir section representing the villain Ra, Goldsmith's version deviates to an incredible choir section representing the Ori (the then-antagonists of the television series). It's a great throwback to this film.

Track 3: Giza 1928 – As with "Stargate Overture", this track is filled with themes that would later be used throughout the television series. This is, however, one of the coolest renditions of these themes ever arranged by either composer.

Track 22: Ra - The Sun God – This is the theme of Ra, the villain of the movie. This incredible piece of score was later rearranged for the pilot of Stargate SG-1, no longer representing Ra himself, but instead simply representing his race, the Goa'uld. (Note: There are some... differences between the continuity of the original film and the continuity of the television franchise. Those will be addressed at a later time.)

Track 32: Battle at the Pyramid – This track scores five (rather awesome) minutes of the film's climax. Quite memorable, and flows through a number of the film's musical themes.

Note: I highly apologize that there is no Spotify link, and that only a portion of the soundtrack is on YouTube. Unfortunately, in order to listen to the soundtrack as a whole, you will need to purchase it.

Stargate: The Deluxe Edition is out of print, but you can still purchase it digitally from iTunes.
You can listen to it, in part, for free on YouTube.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Reuben's Ramblings: Departing Friends

It's always sad when your good friend or a family made up of your good friends move away. It's not like you'll never see them again, but you also know that that person will never again have a large part in your life. Their role is reduced to "recurring character" status, and by recurring I mean you only get to see them once every year or less.

And, of course, in some cases you never will see them again. They move to whatever state or country, and then you never, ever see them again. You can keep in touch by email or social media, but then sometimes that just doesn't happen. Sometimes you forget about each other, and sometimes your friends move on with their new lives, feeling no need to keep in touch.

This isn't just the case for people moving, either. When a friend transfers to a different school, or even a different church, sometimes they're all happy with their new friends and find no need to associate themselves with the likes of you. As far as they're concerned, you're now irrelevant. All your friendship was for naught.

But then some of them put forth an effect to keep in contact for as long as it can last. They make sure not to forget your existence. Those friends are the best friends.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Happy Birthday to MEEEEEEEE

It's my birthday! I'm now 18! I'm a legal adult! I'm no longer an illegal adult! This is so exciting, guys. No, really. Of course I don't feel 18. But, like, dude, I am!

I honestly don't know what to talk about in this blog post. I was planning on typing something up about my birthday, but I really don't know what to type up.

Except, well, my mom made gluten-free cake, and it was reeeaaally good! (For the record, I am gluten intolerant. I'm not one of those weirdos who go off gluten just because they think it's a good diet. Seriously, I'm not that big of a joke.)

(If I just offended someone, I apologize. But seriously, if you are not intolerant to gluten or allergic to wheat, you should not be cutting gluten from your diet.)

Thanks to my amazing parents, I can now add the Hyrule Historia to my bookshelf, next to The Art of Brave, which I purchased for myself after this last Christmas. In a few years I'm sure I'll have quite the collection of amazing concept art books. It will be awesome.

I also got Arrow Season 1 (DVD) and its soundtrack, along with... wait for it... a bag of Doritos! Yeah! Don't I have the best friends and family in the world?

Now I'm kind of unsure how to conclude this post. Um... yeah. Have a great day!