A quick EP of melodic metalcore/techdeaf – Arreat Summit’s Frostburn definitely hits all the expected points of 2008’s darling fusion – high levels of technical proficiency, candy coated melody, constant breakdowns, haphazard composition, and so forth. Usually this sort of thing doesn’t even rise to the point of being worthy of discussion (and I did find the actual music went almost unnoticed as I listened), but in this case, it resonated with me how eerily similar this is to playing the video games in the Diablo series that inspired it.
A quick primer – The first two games in the series are surprisingly atmospheric titles, at least by the standards of their age. In fact, I would go as far as to say that much of their potency is a result of Matt Uelmen’s excellent soundtrack work; Diablo II in particular frequently demonstrates his ability to mix coherent thematic development into unsettling ambient soundscapes. Back when I was most thoroughly engrossed in the game (read: 2008), though, my attention was instead turned towards repetitively grinding the game’s bosses in the slim hope of locating a powerful item that would allow me to do so slightly more efficiently. That was a much shallower and less fulfilling experience, albeit a powerfully addictive one more capable of destroying productivity than heroin. When you remove the setting from Diablo, it turns the game into a series of tangentially related and nonsensical murders. Similarly, when you remove the ‘setting’ from metal music, you’re left with what is little more than a technical exercise.
In summary, Arreat Summit’s successful portrayal of the grinding postgame of the series (to the point that they are named after a valuable piece of treasure that has no real lore attached to it) is a dubious honor at best.
The rise of a new medium catches everyone by surprise, especially those who are trying to make it succeed. In the case of video gaming, the medium existed for many years before it came to maturity with the full-featured video games of the late 1990s, spurred on by the massive success of first-person shooter Doom, itself a followup on the renovation of the classic 1980s video game Wolfenstein with Wolfenstein 3D. Then, for reasons unknown, someone made a movie based in the world of Doom, and… it was good.
At the point in time when Doom III, the most proximate inspiration for this movie, emerged, video games had transitioned into something like a film which required user engagement. With full plot lines, accessories for the characters (we might blame 1980s Star Wars figures for this), ability to use in-game utilities to uncover plot, and complex goals to hide the banality of constant machine gun warfare, the new games hybridized all of the successful tropes of video games of the previous decade with the gestures of action movies that succeeded. This gave them new complexity and made the transition to movie more challenging if the film hoped to differentiate itself from the game. Early efforts were often horrifyingly bad. Doom corrects this with a fast-paced, tight-edited movie that keeps the plot of the game at its center, and pays extensive tribute to the game without becoming a string of in-jokes. This film could be watched without any knowledge of the game and it would be as compelling, as it is in fact brainier and more compelling than the average action film.
Doom begins in California, where a team of Marines are heading out to Las Vegas, NV, where an interstellar portal that opens on Mars has been discovered. Borrowing this idea from Edgar Rice Burroughs, the film mixes in bits of Stargate, Aliens and Starship Troopers to show us a group of hard-fighting colonial marines sent on a mission with few specifics. They discover an outbreak of a zombie-like disease which turns out to be a genetic mutation. The wrinkle is that this mutation does not so much change people as reveal what they actually are, and this creates a layer of character depth to the movie which proves instrumental to its plot and steers around the worst of the endless waves of enemies effect that early first-person shooters demonstrated. That being said, this film is designed as an action movie for young men, and so it adheres to the requirements of pleasing that audience. The hammy Dwayne Johnson delivers his usual stern facial muscles and straining deltoids, but his performance is not as central to the movie as the posters might have you believe. Ultra-gruff cinematic violence expert Karl Urban plays opposite to alternatively plain and striking Rosamund Pike, with whom the filmmakers pander to anticipated audience taste by ensuring that her relatively reserved clothing reveals the outline of breasts and nipples in every scene. That is the pulp fiction nature of both video games and action movies, however, and Doom pulls it off by being good-natured but not obsessive. The characters are part of the scenery, albeit scenery that evolves with the plot. As the film progresses, the character drama takes over, and then in one of the most enjoyable breaks in film history, the movie goes into first-person shooter mode for a finale that pays full loving tribute to the original video game.
Perhaps Doom will never be mentioned in East End coffee klatches or fashion magazines, and it may never attract more than a small die-hard cult audience, but it can be appreciated for its renovation of an otherwise uptight sub-genre of film and its ability to make what might otherwise easily deviate into idiot territory into a thoughtful and suspenseful film. The violence of raw first-person shooters here distills, as in Aliens but with less emphasis on pure suspense, to a game of anticipation in which characters must react suddenly to unexpected threats while in the midst of confusion and incredulity as they discover what is going on. The result is part mystery, mostly action film, and part the oldest type of sci-fi which is the exploration of the human being as revealed by his technology, in this case genetic engineering and 21st century violence.
As society circles the drain, some notice in art, music, literature — and video games. Increasingly misanthropic and world-cynical games like Hatred show us the direction things are going and possibly, give us a reason to fight back. Destructive Creations CEO and lead developer Jarosław Zieliński was kind enough to give us a few minutes to discuss this antisocial video game and its connection to evil metal…
What made you decide that the market was ready for an “un-PC” game about slaughtering other people seemingly at random?
I didn’t know if it was ready, actually. But observing all the shitstorm around since our reveal trailer, I think the market is ready. We’re small team from the middle of nowhere and now everywhere you have news about our game. Even Forbes! We don’t care about all the hate that is thrown in our direction. People who would like to play this title, now recognize it.
How much was this influenced by 1998’s Postal, a game with a similar theme? Any other game influences?
It was very influenced, obviously. There are many other games we played for entire life and many of them had influence for our creation, but the main inspiration is the first Postal game.
I noticed you’re a Black Witchery fan from the t-shirt in the Destructive Creations team photo. Are you the only metalhead on staff? How much did metal influence your choice of this career path?
I don’t like the “metalhead” word. I don’t listen to “metal”; I listen to some of its genres while I actually hate the others. I don’t really think there’s a link between living with this music and working on video games. Actually modding games was first in my life, since I got the first Wolfenstein 3D editor. I was like seven years old at the time. And I really doubt that making games influenced what music I listen to.
Can you name some death/black/etc metal favorites you have?
Umm, that would be a shitload of bands. I’m a lot into stuff like Revenge, Truppensturm, Bestial Raids, Black Witchery, Teitanblood, Archgoat, Wrathprayer, Goatpenis, Inquisition, Bestial Mockery, Dead Congregation, Ad Hominem, Nocturnal Graves, Goat Semen, Demonomancy etc. The list is in random order, from the top of my head, but I do have quite a spread in my taste, from Disgorge or Devourment to Enthroned or Urgehal, if you know what I mean. But it’s all in the black-death line. Someone may say that it’s dull to stick only to these genres, but I would tell him to fuck off, I don’t need more (it doesn’t mean I didn’t ever try). There’s still plenty of bands to discover.
Which genres do you dislike?
Actually: all the others. I respect thrash metal, for example, but I don’t listen to it, because I don’t like it. And I really don’t understand how someone can listen to heavy metal stuff like King Diamond or Manowar, it fucking hurts my ears, the music is cheerful and vocals sounds gay. Well, let’s say I like “evil” metal, not “cool” metal, I hope you get it. If it’s a low-distorted blastbeating about satanic tanks crushing graves of christians and hordes of MG42-armed hellspawns spreading genocide then it’s most likely my taste. :)
Why do you think “Hatred” upsets people? Is it similar to the reasons death metal and black metal at least used to upset people?
No, I don’t think so. I think metal used to upset people because they don’t understand the music itself, rather than lyrical themes. Hatred is making people crazy, because of its context, not because its shell. If we were to make the same game but with any other plot, they would accept it with no problems.
Why are people drawn to dark themes like in metal and video games? Do you think that this attraction will mean that Hatred will become a household name?
Because every one of us has some side of evil nature deeply-rooted inside. Some of us like to get along with the dark side, which is why brutal music sometimes makes the evil grin on your face or you get chills. I want the same player’s reaction while playing Hatred. I have no idea whether it will become a household name.
Can you tell us about yourself, when you got into metal, and how you ended up becoming a video game developer?
I don’t really feel like talking about myself, I have a lot of something you might call “underground nature.” Most parts of my life were strongly tied with death/black metal and still are, but I don’t like connecting it with my job publicly. My engagement with the metal scene is my private thing, while making games is my occupation (and a hobby too). You know, I’ve comercialized one of two of my biggest passions, and I will never do the same with remaining one.
Most products are designed for people who want to get along with others. They make you feel happy and successful like you are the center of the universe and your narcissism is validated. They both make you passive, and make you cheerful, like opium or politics.
Some products are designed for gleeful misanthropes. We are the people who recognizes that in accord with Sturgeon’s law, 90% of humanity is basically chaff and the 10% are endlessly persecuted by the rest who realize they look mediocre in comparison. Imagine the slaughter of the herd…
The original Carmageddon came out in the mid-1990s just as black metal was burning and murdering its way across Europe. Inspired by the 1976 movie Death Race 2000, this video game emphasized carnage. To the horror of uptight parents, it gave points for every pedestrian killed — with bonuses for multi-kills and shattering pity objects like nuns and orphans — as well as for smashing other cars. It was followed by Carmageddon 2 in 1998 (using the dubious tag line “race war”) and then Carmageddon Total Death Race in 2000. But the Carma camp has been silent for awhile.
The wait is over. Carmageddon Reincarnation has not only been announced but is in public beta for those who wish to purchase early and murder their way to virtual happiness. For more information, click over to the Carmageddon website and begin the unholy slaughter.
Barbaric Softworks has signed a licensing agreement with Austin, TX-based continuation thrash band Birth A.D. to use Birth A.D. songs in Barbaric Softworks’ newest title, Blocks of Explosive Dismemberment.
Unlike most video games, Blocks of Explosive Dismemberment has no winners. You just lose a little less, and survive a little longer. American and European ratings authorities will have a field day with this violent game notorious for its irreverent mockery of death, suffering and humanity’s pretense of individuality.
In a similar vein, Birth A.D. has rocked the house with mockery on its latest opus, I Blame You. Recalling the golden days of DRI and SOD, this band nonetheless forges on in a continuation of what those bands created and does not rehash the past like the retro bands who are so thoughtless that it is tempting to lace their Capri Sun with antifreeze.
The combination of Birth A.D. and Blocks of Explosive Dismemberment should thrill even the most dour metal fan with its high splatter and body count, and the corresponding middle finger to all values that society holds dear. The game is due out in a later quarter of 2013.
(To get the full effect, hit “play” on both videos at the same time.)