Is there a more heavy metal friendly franchise in all the multiverse than Doom? Not since Brutal Legend has the blood soaked rampages and shoot em-up style mixed with Meshuggah-esqe riffs that kick the shit out of your insides appeased to metalheads quite like the 2016 reboot of the iconic franchise and its beloved sequel, Doom Eternal.
Composers for the acclaimed Doom Eternal DLC The Ancient Gods Andrew Hulshult (former frontman for Texas groove metal band Burying The Trend) and partner-in-crime David Levy caught up with Metal Injection ahead of the launch of The Ancient Gods Part Two – available March 18th on Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC and Stadia – to talk all things Doom, heavy metal influences and much more!
On Joining the Doom Franchise
Andrew: It's awesome, but at the same time there's an incredible amount of pressure. But just the chance for it has been amazing. It's something that you think about when you're a kid, like oh man, I'd love to be able to do something like this. And then it shows up. And at first you're terrified, but once you start dipping your toes in and you realize that not only are you working with an iconic franchise, but you're working with people who are awesome.
David: I remember once we got the call that we got the gig. I was freaking out like, oh my God, I can't do this. Once you start and you start talking to Chad (Mossholder) and everyone else and you start breaking everything down to like small little pieces and kind of zoom in more and more and more then it becomes doable all of a sudden. You start to get the hang of it and before you know it, like shit. I'm writing music for Doom right now.
Andrew: I was a giant, enormous fan of 2016, especially leading up to that because I'd become friends with a couple of guys there, Jason O'Connell and Mark Diaz. And not only was the game amazing and I loved it – it was everything that I wanted Doom to be as a reboot, it just checked all the boxes – but it was awesome seeing your friends on a project that was succeeding. But yeah, like 2016 and Eternal are two amazing games that I still play to this day. I'll boot up 2016 every now and then Eternal I play probably every other day, whenever I've got some free time for it.
On Succeeding Mick Gordon
David: One of the first things we're told is not to emulate Mick, not to try to copy him. Stay true to the tone that he developed and kind of put our own stamp on it. So some of the pressure was relieved at that point because no one can really do what Mick is doing. This is Mick, this is his sound. And I don't think we would want to do that anyway, because that's just not fair for anyone. So we have to do our own thing, but we have to stay within certain guidelines and make sure that everything still falls in place and fits thematically and sonically what's been before us.
Andrew: I'm a big fan of Mick myself, I loved all his work. His stuff on Killer Instinct i think is amazing. I listen to it a whole bunch. That being said, I don't think any artist would disagree with saying that you can't be expected to just completely carbon copy anything whenever you're moving into a franchise that someone has already established something with. But we wanted to be as respectful as possible to everyone, not just Mick, but like Bobby Prince.
It's kind of an amalgamation of some of the stuff that was written whenever we were kids and we've grown up with it the entire time. And we also got to hear a new idea of what it would be like with 2016 and Eternal. We get to ingest it all and we get to show you our own creative outlet for it. And I can only hope that, like with other games that maybe we go on to work on the future, that if we have to step away from a franchise for a little bit, then it's handled the same way, with the same respect.
On Challenges & Possibilities
David: I come from the film and television world. I've done some games, but not anything of this magnitude. The biggest learning curve was working in a modular form.
There's just so much that could be done here sonically just from processing sounds and there's so much creativity that we poured into it. And really the only limiting factor was time. And even after these two DLCs, I feel like I've barely even scratched the surface of what could be done, which is really nice. There's no limitations. And that doesn't happen very often in projects.
I found myself programming drums at like two in the morning and just distorting the shit out of synths and mangling stuff. I'm like, this is unbelievable! I'm having so much fun. I was just out of my mind, meeting the deadlines and making sure everything sounds as good as it can. But it was just so much fun. I have never, never had that much freedom and so many options to work with before.
On Heavy Metal Influences in Doom
Andrew: Coming from somebody who used to just basically write metal riffs all day long, being able to just step into this, it's crazy. It's another level of I didn't think I'd get here, but here we are. And yeah, it's a blast.
It was just more of what's going to sound awesome while you're driving a chainsaw through someone's chest? It was kind of that and you know, l want more aggressive, more aggressive, more aggressive. As you can see with some of the stuff with the blood swamps that the people kind of dug on the first DLC. But it was just how do I take the knob from like six where this is pretty heavy and then just keep going and then we'll figure out when this stops at some point. I don't know when that is, but we'll just keep turning it up.
David: I feel like the way my brain works is like I've been ingesting all this heavy metal music since I was like 12 or 13 years old. And it's all in like the back of my head. And this time I got to channel it and it's kind of subconscious. It kind of turns into soup and then something new comes out and it's just a weird combination of a lot of things.
I can't pinpoint anything in particular, but I think that's the beauty of it. This process is that you sit down and you work and you channel it and things come out. There were a couple of instances when I wrote something like, no, that really sounds really familiar and that'd have to go. But every now and then those things come out like that. But you gotta keep it as original or as fresh as possible.
On Why Heavy Metal is Perfect for Doom
Andrew: I think it's perfect. For the whole and as far as the core audience and everybody that kind of takes it in, I don't think anything else would work with it. Playing on stage is very close to the same feeling that you want. Whether you're in the audience having a blast or whether you're playing to those people, you want that same rush and you want that music to give the player a rush.
It's like almost curling your toes whenever you're playing. You get that holy shit moment. 2016 did it for me. Eternal did it for me. And now I'm like I really want to be able to do that for people on the DLC where they're like oh shit playing through. But at the same time they've got that huge adrenaline rush because what they're hearing is just like a soundtrack to basically murder demons to. I want that same experience for everybody with it. And I feel like that's the correct soundtrack for Doom.
David: It's a brutal game and it needs brutal music (laughs).
On Performing in Bands Influencing Current Creative Atmosphere
Andrew: My entire experience, good and bad with playing with a group of individuals that had kind of a rotating lineup for a handful of years, shaped me who I am. And I would not be able to do any of this had I not had those experiences … These are all just people that had little tiny impacts on my life as a musician playing live where you learn something from everybody. And it's just, man, it's everything. It really is everything.
David: I just always was writing music on the side for fun. I was completely burnt out from the studio world and I decided to kind of make the shift to composing. And then I had all this background in engineering and that helped a lot with everything I was doing. It's a combination of the experience that was building over years from every project and every band that I recorded and every riff that I wrote, everything kind of built up to this moment.
Andrew: 2016 I actually was working with easily the most talented musicians I've ever worked with in terms of playing live music, which is Matt Pfiffner and Sean Sherrow. Amazing guitar player. I'll never even come close to anything that Sean is. And like Matt's technical abilities on drums were crazy. And it was weird because at that time we were about to finish another record and we were really proud of it. And like, I was just burnt. I was like, I don't want to do this anymore. I think I really want to be able to see and experience a different way on how people listen to or how people digest music that I'm working on. And this has been amazing since.
On Lasting Metal Influences
Andrew: I kind of digest what my friends throw over to me. And it's not always like a bunch of heavy stuff. I actually try to limit that just because whenever I do listen, I want it to be something really cool and something really special and be able to pull something out of it. I want to listen to other stuff like the entire time and not just get totally beat down by listening to the same heavy, heavy records all the time.
But if I was going to pick a couple that I still go back to to this day and still can listen to, the first two or three Devildriver records I'm a big, big fan of. I feel like they actually, without knowing that they were doing it or maybe they did, they were pretty much setting a sonic tone for the next 10 to 15 years with those first three to four records. It definitely shows the production value on some of the kick drum and the guitar stuff. It's all really smashed together, but it's all really punchy at the same time.
David: My teenage years, I think that heaviest shit I've ever listened to was Cradle of Filth. It's good! Kind of the usual though. I used to listen to a lot of Slipknot and obviously Meshuggah. You know who I've been enjoying a lot lately is Periphery. They're awesome.