And on our week to talk about music and composers, today I bring you the work of Casey Edwards – that I kept playing insistently during 2020 and now I’m on the same fate on 2021.
It’s very rare finding myself stopping everything I’m doing, staring at a wall and only listen to the song – I always do that with Muse and sometimes with Agust D, U2 and Coldplay – but Casey’s work did exactly that with me.
And also made me sing “BANG BANG BANG PULL MY DEVIL TRIGGER” almost during all 2020, besides definitely cursing me with the “I AM THE STORM THAT IS APROAAAAACHING” this year.
Once I’m very happy upon finding Casey on the music world – and thinking he is an absolutely incredible composer who should be known by people who enjoy music – today my wagon on the lunar train will be to shamelessly advertise his work and talk about why I went overboard with his songs, specially Devil Trigger and Bury The Light!
Who is Casey Edwards?
According to his own website – which you can find here with his contacts including for work purposes – Casey is a composer, producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, working for movies, TV, games and song industry. Currently, he lives in Los Angeles, California.
Casey started in pop and rock, eventually getting interested in movie scores and going towards classical music – which I understand 100%: during high school, my greatest joy was to set arrangements for movie scores on piano, so until today I have a huge list of my favourite composers! This formation, however, makes Casey available to compose music mixing both the mentality of something more popular as well as something more traditional and classic.
I’ve already said I like Muse, right? They are my favourite band, precisely because of their way of making symphonies with heavy guitars, Rachmaninoff style piano arrangements, orchestra mixed with dubstep, opera choirs with rock vocals and many things more.
I think what I enjoyed more on Casey’s compositions is seeing the same mentality of mixing and experimenting, not bounding in a certain style or concept!
I strongly suggest you to check out his work!
His Youtube channel can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/user/CaseyEdwardsMusic
And his Spotify page:
And bonus: he is married to the wonderful Ali Edwards – the voice behind Devil Trigger! Her page on Spotify is this one:
Devil Trigger and Bury The Light: The Devil May Cry Songs That Brought the Series Back
So let’s go, my moment to shine again being an incurable Devil May Cry fan, forgive me in advance.
But the songs are too good and that only goes to show the important role of a soundtrack to leave a legacy. You can have excelent movies or games with mediocre scores, but when you have a good one… That’s when you win the hearts of the ones consuming that type of media.
Starting with Devil Trigger: the song that exploded hearts on the E3 when DMC 5 was announced – with the incredible vocals of Ali Edwards, like I said above, Devil Trigger is pure energy: everything you’d expect from Devil May Cry.
Mixing pop and rock, having a few softer parts only to breathe and keep increasing energy until finishing with a – ok, I won’t resist – bang, the song has everything to get stuck on your head for days without being annoying.
Hello, Maroon 5, stay alert – because of sticky songs Maroon 5 understands masterfully and I absolutely adore them.
For those who were already fans of the series, the song also managed to bring a similar feeling to the previous game theme, DMC 4, Shall Never Surrender: theme of the main character Nero, as well as Devil Trigger is his theme in DMC 5.
Upon watching an interview with both, it’s interesting to notice the musical process. Casey, as composer, worked alongside Ali to bring the vocals to the song – and not always what the composer thinks will be the best for the song. She talks about how the pronunciation of some words are important, apart from the freedom of the singer to go beyond the composition.
What does that mean, Artemis?
Basically, when you’re writing the melody and even playing in an instrument – on my case, piano, because that’s what I know – you have all the notes. But, when it’s time to get the voice to sing that melody you thought about, sometimes it’s better to make some notes longer, alter them slightly, go “up” or “down” a tone among many other possibilities, which you can only know when the time comes to sing and interpret the song.
Because yeas: songs are interpreted, not sang mechanically. This was my biggest feud with classical music and my fear of conservatories to this day – a bit unfounded, but nothing more terrible than taking away the feeling and freedom from music.
By the way, one thing I think it’s funny is how he says some of the lyrics are cheesy and how it’s difficult to deliver this kind of lines on the song in a manner that it’ll sound good and cool, instead of cringy. That depends a lot on the singer’s work – and Ali does an amazing job of delivering a line like “bang bang bang pull my devil trigger” in a way that makes you scream alongside her instead of wanting to hide under a chair from shame.
“I’m a wildfire you won’t tame
Not even my temper can put out the flame
There’s no way to contain
This storm swelling inside me”Part of Devil Trigger’s lyrics. I always say DMC is the most Aries game in the world and no one believes me.
Because let’s all agree on something: Devil May Cry has a lot of cheesy things that wouldn’t work if it wasn’t DMC. The magic is that it works because it is DMC and Casey and Ali managed to get that very well in Devil Trigger – it works because it’s them and because they composed and delivered the song in the right way for the series.
That leads to the choice of the singer in the composition process: both talk about how important it is to write with a singer in mind or to know that a person you always work with might be a bad choice for the song – as they put it themselves: choosing someone to sing a composition is like casting an actor for a role in a movie. Interesting, right?
It’s the same thing when you get the songs Sia wrote and were sang by different artists: if you listen to the songs, you can notice it’s by Sia, because even the way they must be sang are a trademark from the singer – like Diamonds, with Sia and Rihanna.
Now let’s go with Bury The Light.
The difference between the songs is a lot but not so much – and that’s what made me more like “heavens, what is going on here” when I heard it for the first time. To compose, specially for games, musicians must think about the character and the final song must fit perfectly with the personality and story.
And boy, did this song fit Vergil’s character the same way Devil Trigger fit Nero.
(Because Nero is a short tempered Aries guy who explodes with anything and then gets all soft and kind in a corner because he is ashamed of himself and Vergil is a blunt drama king, owner of the whole world, fight me)
Personally, I pay a lot of attention to lyrics – and the most meaningful to me end uo being my favourites. The entire lyrics to Bury The Light is amazing – again, personal opinion here – and that makes a lot of people to identify with it.
Casey made a lyrics breakdown of the song in his channel – in a live that can be found here – and mentions many scenes, from older games to the newest ones and mangas, that inspired him to understand and translate Vergil’s character to a song.
“I am the storm that is approaching
Black clouds in isolation
I am reclaimer of my name
Born in flames
I have been blessed
My family crest is a demon of death”Bury The Light riff
The whole lyrics is how a writer would describe his own character: the song paints a scene with images through words and feelings brought by sounds. That’s the goal.
And now we got to the composition itself!
I think the part that impressed me the most was the fact that accidentally one of the parts from Bury The Light has an extremely similar sound – I believe even the same notes, but I still haven’t had the time to sit on my piano and play it by ear, so just you wait – to Vergil’s song on DMC 3, Devils Never Cry and, which to me is more obvious, the piano solo from Total Result on the same game.
That brngs in the middle of the song a nostalgic feeling that fits perfectly with the character and his journey until that moment.
What didn’t impress me was the fact of writing everything on piano at first before producing the rest of the song – that’s something my mother talks to me a lot, getting into a more personal thing here.
I usually play songs by ear and generally are the ones I like, doesn’t matter the style, from waltz to metal and hip hop, for instance. What she always says is that she likes to hear the arrangements, because on piano you can have a better idea of the song’s melody, without the other instruments catching your attention: more or less like a pure melody in which you can actually hear the harmonies, chords, notes, dissonances and etc. that maybe you’d miss with all instruments and effects together.
On piano, it’s much easier to understand the song’s arrangement properly before starting to assemble the rest upon that composition, even if it’s a simple one.
So, points for piano as best composing instrument, I’ll defend that until death, thanks for coming to my TED Talk.
Instrumentally speaking, it’s the mix of symphonic aspects with rock and even metal that makes this song a balance of everything the character presents. While Devil Trigger is a song that explodes like a bomb, led by Nero’s adrenaline and rage, Bury The Light has darker and heavier tones, as well as a musicality at the same time intense and delicate – with violins contrasting with heavy and distorted bass lines.
And will I bring more references? I will, judge me.
The bass at the start of Bury The Light reminded me a lot of the type of distortion used by Muse, specially in Uprising – when I was on high school, one of my favourite hobbies was to come back home and watch making ofs from Muse’s albums, so this post would be about Casey’s compositions for DMC or the making of the Resistance album. I just put together the best of both worlds.
But, besides the bass, another aspect that gives more weight to the song is the drums: I’m a 100% convinced we have a douple pedal, typical from metal drums, on this song, but once I’m still getting better at hearing percussion on songs, I assemble the drummer readers of Lune to tell me what you listen there and if I’m right or wrong! Anyway, it’s a certain element for the darker and heavier tone that gives all that powerful and unreachable characteristics on Vergil.
And how to bring refinement, then? Because Dante is as powerful and badass as Vergil, but his song is a rock and metal track with high energy and pure destruction – very Dante style on the series, to be honest (because the man fights with Rebellion, a sword of his size that must easily weight 8kg). Vergil is the oppposite: technique, discipline, agility, refinement. If it was a RPG game, Dante would be more focused in strength while Vergil would be more on dexterity.
And that’s where we have the orchestra I told you about: we have violins right at the start of the song that give space to the drums and bass, but soon after you can hear strings that bring the chords a gothic vibe. And even though the song has its pauses to focus more on the “symphonic” part, let’s put it like that, it also mixes with the guitars – forming a symphonic metal, perhaps? That’s how I classify it on my world.
(Casey himself mentioned on the stream that is “Tchaikovsky-esque” in some parts of the song and I, as a good Tchaikovsky fan – like I mentioned on my Nutcracker post – couldn’t be happier)
Another thing that got my attention was almost the same that got my attention on Muse: the guitar is melodic in a way that resembles classical music scales. I’ve never studied musical theory in depth, my understanding is more of what I can hear and that’s why sometimes what I say doesn’t make much sense with theory or what it really is. But, listening to Muse’s songs, you can notice that the guitarist and pianist from the group, Matt Bellamy (love of my life, that’s all) applies very well what would be used on piano to write guitar solos. And Bury The Light brought me that same feeling.
All that contributes not only to bring Vergil’s strength and refinement, but the chords and instrument choices also build the melancholy and sadness of his past that reflected on his life – perhaps the strongest character on the game, yes, but with a tragedy behind him. And the song is so well written it reflects that.
The tempo of the song, compared to the others – yes, Devil Trigger, I’m looking at you with Nero running up and down – is slower, precisely because of the character’s personality. But well, clearly a song doesn’t need to be fast to seem that soon you’ll be struck by the storm that is approaching and fly away with it. That’s the magic of musical composition.
And that also relates to the rule Capcom itself set right at first (and ends everyone who likes songs leaning towards rock): no guitars unless it’s in the riff. If someone said that to me, I think I’d die – but I also think that’s what made everything I spoke about above to come together at the final song.
Regarding the production itself, it’s interesting how we have a different poinf of view than “it’s just record and put it all together”. As it’s expected, it’s not that easy – but it’s definitely fun. Currently, music production softwares might be used with MIDI keyboards to put together all the needed instruments – through plug-ins and aditional softwares. That brings the possitbility of recording many instruments in different “layers”, assembling the track as if it was a puzzle until you find the sound you had in mind.
With the complete song sketch on the piano as a guide, for instance, it’s possible to add many layers on the own song until getting the expected result. Watching to the production stream of Bury The Light, it’s that layering that gives the grunge aspect and body the song needed, without it being a mess of sounds recorded one on the top of another with a cellphone recording app that you can’t even make out what the singer is saying.
Besides, there’s nothing more fun than to play around with the effects plug-ins and listen to which sounds they’ll create.
That’s what I like most on music, composing and producing: the possibility of simply GO NUTS with some things and manage to get some great sounds. Want an example? In Bury The Light, Casey used in a moment an special effect he did while dragging a paper towel dispenser on the marble kitchen counter and then working on the sound design to find the sound he needed.
If that isn’t fun, I really don’t know what fun is.
At the very end of the song, we also have a part which is a conection to Devil TRigger – the notes are very similar and were intentionally re-harmonized at the end of Bury The Lgiht. And then, after that, a guitar solo that reminded me of what?
To close this post with a golden key: Stairway to Heaven, by Led Zeppelin.
After all, every epic journey with nine minutes couldn’t leave out the rock band with absurdly huge songs that start one way, finish another and you’re just like that Keanu Reeves’ “wow” meme.
I think after all this journey talking about songs, references and a bunch of random things that on my head come together as an epic thing and made me completely awed when listening for the first time (and on repeat until now, because it turned into THE motivation song on my life, judge me), it’s a good moment to leave the video with lyrics again: so you can understand better how melody fits what’s being said, completing, then, the work of a composer and songwriter.
*Brief Pause to get a Cup of Tea While Taking Deep Breaths After That*
This post was a little different because I always go definitely overboard when I talk about music – and I’m super in love with the backstage aspect – meaning, composition, songwriting, producing, sound design and everything it comes with creating music in the world, even though I have almost no technical knowledge. So all my opinions and references here are mostly because of what I hear and naturally understand than the musical theory.
I pity my piano teacher trying to have me read the sheet music, while I’d just write the notes later on it and use my ear for the rest. I should’ve been a more dedicated student on that – but my teacher, Sandra, was a love of a person to understand me and teach me the way I’d understand better. Certainly the best person in this world, my best friend when I was at school and who made me know my passion for music!
Anyway. Bury The Light has a wonderful melody which I’m still going to do on the piano, as well as Devil Trigger (that I’m only postponing and sometimes I just sit on the piano during 3h, playing the same 2 notes and running away after).
If you got until here with me going overboard in all possible manners regarding music, I stress what I said above: check Casey’s and Alie’s work out! Recently, he released a song of his own, called Vacant Surrender (that again, staring at the wall like “what Muse vibes is this” right at the start, but that’s my life now) which is as good as his other productions.
For those who understand English, he sometimes hosts streams explaining all the process of writting his work. Which for those with interest in learning a little more about the topic, he is a very kind person who answers questions and explains well about the songs he makes!
Who knows, maybe someday I’ll get an interview with him, right?
Until then, I hope you liked this post! And feel free to tell me your opinions, what you like most, what you thought it was interesting, references and all that – the comments are open to all musical discussions!