As a Heavy Metal fan of many years, I’ve found certain Metal scores to be half-baked, generic and almost obligatory in video games. A first-world Metal problem that is being discussed more and more these days is that ‘normal’ people consider us to be monosyllabic, long- haired freaks who celebrate pantomime theatrics while we smash beer cans on our heads to the sound of 80’s thrash guitar riffs while someone screams over the track like they’ve been knee-capped and thrown down a flight of stairs in a fridge. Lazy stereotype, because I have short hair. And you can’t fit easily into the average fridge, unless you’re Indiana Jones.
For long time Doom veterans, many will agree that the iconic soundtrack plays an integral part of the atmosphere and adrenaline-hit of the series. So it comes as no surprise that the outstanding 2016 reboot of the original game, a steroid injected monster of the 90’s classic, is backed up by an equally incendiary score, summoned in an un-holy ritual by the Australian videogame composer Mick Gordon.
Mick Gordon is the genius Aussie-man who knows exactly what his role is in the fine arts of Metal musicianship and videogames. His recent works include scoring Wolfenstein (The New Order and The Old Blood, Need For Speed: World and seasons 1 and 2 of the latest Killer Instinct games.
Doom is a different beast however, as it seems to hold its own as an album you can listen to as a separate entity if it’s been a rough shift at the office. Or, waging a Black Friday battle against hordes of the blood-thirsty general public for the last lazer-sighted Dyson dust cannon to redemption on the supermarket shelves.
For the most part, the album is sonically progressive and there are some clear influences from Trent Reznor (coincidentally a previous contributor to the Quake and Doom worlds). Distorted soundscapes and bludgeoning guitars layer to create an imposing and isolating atmosphere (Rust Dust and Guts), and fit in to the game, especially on some of the sections of the game where you find yourself precariously scaling the outer sections of the UAC Facility. Occasionally choir vocals seep into the mix (Damnation), adding a Biblical element to the endless fight against Hell.
The combat wave segments of the game initiate ‘battle tracks’. There are noticeable Influences from Tech-Metal gods, Meshuggah, tribal rhythm patterns reminiscent of Slipknot and machine-gun riffing found in classic Fear Factory records (Rip and Tear and BFG Division). The music is kept from going as stale as an imp’s decomposing corpse with electronics akin to Pendulum and just enough dub-step effects thrown in to the mix before wearing out their welcome. The repetition of the tracks does leave you craving a bit more variety later on in the game, and it would have sealed the deal to have had a few more bangers thrown in to the mix, given the existing high quality of the material provided. Strings are used sparingly, and in a way it makes sense given the pace and direction of the score overall.
The Doom reboot soundtrack is wonderful in celebrating the most current and creative genres within Metal, without losing its’ purpose in the game to work to powerful levels of demon slaying brilliance.
But in my most supernaturally evil Jeremy Clarkson of voice-overs, I will say: “there is a problem….”.
When the soundtrack gets so rad, the game seems to add another layer of difficulty. (First-World Metaller Problem coming right up….).
I mean, what happens when the riffs are slamming, your right and left trigger and pinky fingers start to elongate, and suddenly you’re throwing the horns whilst gripping the controller very awkwardly?
Head-banging to new levels of neck-breakage, poor in-game Doom Guy is reduced to lemming-like levels of autonomy versus the spawns of Satan, while you have all the fun slamming your head and air-moshing with scatter cushions in your living room.
The riffs are just endless. Downtuned to the fiery tones off Hell, it feels like the music summons Beelzebub himself through sheer demonic technicality. Gordon has his own take on the classic Doom theme, which he explains on his YouTube videos with much passion. Slow, foreboding and heavy, there’s just not enough guitar strings to go lower down the pentagramic scale to Asmodeus levels of barbaric heaviness. He mentions in ‘the making of’ series that the he has treated the series legacy with utmost respect, and it shines through the darkness like an energy pulse in a room full of cacodemons.
“Slow, foreboding and heavy, there’s just not enough guitar strings to go lower down the pentagramic scale to Asmodeus levels of barbaric heaviness.”
Demonically voiced interludes (I.Dogma and II.Demigod) ham the soundtrack up, in true Metal aesthetic. Hilarious and entertaining, this is theatrical drama timed perfectly before the onslaught of a track like ‘BFG Division’ explodes into your ears. Shotgun shells flying, bullets hailing gore and bloodshed upon sulphurous rocks and across metallic laboratory walls. It almost feels like you are an untouchable Death Metal brute as you deal out your own brand of unholy Gunishment. (*Gunishment– the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution against piss-weep spawns of the Devil, via the means of heavy firearms and/or futuristic energy based weaponry).
This is one of the few soundtracks that I would pay to see performed live with all the hellish backdrops, intense lightshow and half a dozen sweaty armpits smothered in my face: Doom The Stage Show, Live. Starring Dean Gaffney as ‘Imp no.23’, Mick Gordon as ‘Doom Guy’ and a final 9-string annihilation of Katie Hopkins as the ‘Demon Mastermind’. Maybe.
Some people I know would say Metal is daft, a bit like my review. My question is, are you going to be listening to Ed Sheeran when Elon Musk deploys a colony on Mars and uncovers what we all frankly know is lurking in the deepest chasms of the planets core, and are forced to don impractical lime-coloured body armour as the inhabitants of Hell descend upon Earth (probably screeching ‘Galway Girl’ in Latin)? Maybe.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Metal up, and let’s start kicking some demon ass, as Jesus famously quoted.