Anatomy of VGM #7: Quake II (PC)
Really had you going after last week’s post, didn’t I?
In my defense, the soundtrack of Quake II is a pretty good match for what you might’ve expected from the soundtrack of Quake I if you were a rampant id Software fanatic back in the day trying to rationalize from the style of music you heard in Doom. It’s also a good match for what you might’ve expected after Broken or The Downward Spiral if you were a rampant Nine Inch Nails fanatic. Instead, the convergence was blessed with an unsettling ambient soundtrack, a Quake fan decided they’d make their own OST, and that’s how Sascha Dikiciyan (aka Sonic Mayhem) got the job for Quake II. Fascinating how things happen, eh?
This is a straight up work of industrial metal. The more direct approach jives well with Quake II‘s less horrific and more aggressive atmosphere compared to its predecessor. As far as I’m concerned, it leans more towards what contemporary mainstream metal bands were doing at the time than some of the more electronic-thinking acts of the time; the emphasis is on metal instrumentation and the synthesized parts are reserved primarily for sound effects. Like most things in life, there are exceptions, like the stompboxy boss theme (“Climb”), but ultimately this game’s soundtrack caters more to the Pantera/Machine Head sort of metalhead than their riveted friends.
The results are… to be honest, pretty basic at most times. Quake II (without expansions)’s soundtrack is brief, clocking in at less than half an hour and being organized into compact, if conventionally structured songs. Songs here are composed of a handful of midpaced riffs arranged in easily predictable orders. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more it pales in comparison to Invisible Blog‘s usual fare; while it’s certainly appropriate for the style of gameplay, it’s lacking that spark of variety and vitality that would make it rewarding outside of its background. Most of the artists who perform in this style usually delegate this ‘having a spark’ thing to their vocalist, but that’s usually not a great option in the world of video games, especially if you’re repeating the same tracks over and over and over again…
So I guess that when I actually think about it, Quake II‘s music is a bust. Unfortunate, really. When I actually play Quake II (which isn’t going to be that often, since I’ve never ventured into its multiplayer), I don’t actually have to pay the OST much mind, though, so that’s some level of consolation?