Riff and Tear Until it is Done – Doom(Video Game) as a Vehicle for Metal Culture

Pantera released their seventh studio album, Far Beyond Driven, in 1993. Norwegian black metal continued its notorious rise in the metal subculture. Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer were breaking through to the mainstream. Finally, on Phobos, a moon of Mars, a cosmic anomaly occurs, and the gates of Hell are opening. Demons are being summoned, and around the world, users got ready to “Rip and Tear” until it was done.

The history of the video game Doom by id Software is heavily influenced by the metal genre. The two co-founders of id Software, John Carmack and John Romero, were both heavy metal fans, and in the spirit of metal, were rebels in their arena of choice: software and game development. Brutality and metal are at the core of design, everywhere from graphics and gameplay to, most relevant, the music, done by a computer game musician named Bobby Prince.

What you’ll find in Doom is what you’d find anywhere else in the metal genre: an overall sense of driving rhythm, distortion, and, of course, aggression. An entire generation booting up the game is greeted with the first track of the game, “At Doom’s Gate.” But the music isn’t meant to induce fear in the player; rather, this particular MIDI sequence is meant to encourage you to become a nightmare to the very demons of Hell sprouting forth from the gates of Hell.

To a whole generation, “At Doom’s Gate” can be considered their first foray into Metal music. Id Software‘s own Bobby Prince makes it clear that “The id Software development team originally wanted me to do nothing but metal songs for DOOM.” Making it evident that there is no room for interpretation, this is the culture and influence that we want front and center for the game itself.

 At Doom’s Gate” itself is said to be inspired by all number of Metal tracks, but to you, dear reader, I would suggest putting on Metallica‘s “No Remorse” and finding yourself at around the timestamp of 1:32, tell me you don’t hear the similarity between the two pieces. A classic example of the thrash sound, urgency, power, tension, and sharp overdriven tones.

You can see an entire generation awakening to the Metal Subculture and embracing these same ideals. After its release on December 10th, 1993, it gripped American culture at all its levels with its violence, its gore, the fast pace, and three-dimensional views that had never been seen before. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails would step off the stage straight for his tour bus just to boot up Doom. The game famously crashed the network of the University of Wisconsin on release. With no ad campaign, marketing, or advance hype from “the mainstream media,” Doom would present a hostile takeover to the very culture of its time, very much like the origins of the Metal Genre of music.

The very origins of id were meant to overthrow the status quo just as the musicians from the co-founders’ youth had done for the music industry. While Doom Metal is in itself a genre of metal music, I wanted to focus on the influence of this video game franchise that started in the early ’90s and would continue to have a presence in the popular imagination until this very day.

Doom from 1993 would go on to have two direct sequels, with Doom 3 releasing on August 3, 2004. The franchise lay dormant until 2016, where the new Doom (2016) would be released, and with it a new entry to more modern sounding Metal. With Doom (2016) and its sequel Doom: Eternal having its OST’s designed by Australian Composer Mick Gordon, the audience of Doom would begin to hear more Industrial Metal Influence and be introduced to the Composer’s alien-sounding synths and electronic elements. The entire game would go back to its roots in being a Heavy Metal Album Experience. Mick Gordon‘s soundtrack would embrace modern Metal elements, utilizing “djent,” a distinctive sound that is achieved from high-gain, distortion, and palm-muted heavily down-tuned strings.

It cannot be overstated how symbiotic the relationship is between Metal Music and early Video Game Culture. Doom is notoriously famous for many reasons, the computer nerd inside me could write a whole other article about the technical achievement of its revolutionary graphics engine. But I find myself always being drawn back to the franchise because the music is so entrancing, so powerful. So I encourage you, if you are a Metal Fan please listen to some of the tracks from throughout the series, you will be in a familiar place and sometimes pushing your boundaries of what Metal music is, [*Rip and Tear*] until it is done.

Written by: Shaker (guest writer)



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