Music of MEGAWEAPON: Stylistic Decisions and Creative Parameters

Early in the game’s development, a throwaway comment about a “Doom-esque soundtrack” prompted Gibs to hire me on as composer for Megaweapon. Almost immediately after, a conversation was had about just how much like Mick Gordon’s iconic 2016 masterpiece should this effort strive to be? It turned out the answer was, “only a little bit.” Megaweapon needed a soundtrack to reflect its own artistic style and pace of game-play. In our conversations, Gibs and I kept returning to the idea of “groove metal,” a relatively self-explanatory style of metal that can be applied to various bands who otherwise share allegiance with other sub-genres. Often moderately paced, cyclical, and brutal, the sound that has often been associated with bands such as Pantera and Meshuggah seemed like the perfect match for Megaweapon. There was also a conscious decision to avoid being overly complicated or pretentious, with an emphasis on ideas that would be relatively “singable,” while also being a tier or two above being simple, meat-headed chuggery (although that still occurs from time to time because I love that shit, too).

color-coded guitar tracks in Reason

The second conversation determined a significant portion of the creative process and is a great example of a creative parameter being a creative catalyst- “How long should these tracks be?” Well, the matches are 10 minutes long, so there seemed to be an obvious answer, even if that run-time is normally associated with prog-rock concept albums. It’s common in timed games to have some sort of demarcation at the halfway point and final two minutes of the timer, so I decided to play with that in the tracks. The best way to deal with this was to choose tempos that line up evenly with the second-count of 60 BPM, the idea being that the music would change precisely at the 5:00 and 8:00 mark and still be on the beat without changing the tempo. Determining these tempos had somewhat of a domino effect with further decisions like “What should the form be? How many themes and variations of those themes should occur? How many seconds is an 8 measure phrase? How many measures total are in the track?” Having the track length more or less tied to 10 minutes (with some flexibility for outros) made other decisions very obvious down the line.

instrument hits laid out over measure markings

A limited amount of time, as well as a lack of access to a top of the line studio, were two potentially limiting factors. Fortunately I have no real life outside of music, so the first one was relatively easy to work around. And while it would have been lovely to have acoustically perfect rooms and a bevy of the finest amplifiers and synthesizers, with the right hardware/software you can definitely make some pretty decent sounding music in your home studio. For recording guitars and bass, I used software from Neural DSP, the choice of bedroom shredders the world over. Most guitars were recorded with the Nameless Suite, while a few cleaner tones were recorded with the Cali Suite and, more recently, the Archetype: Rabea was used for some lead sections. The bass was recorded through the Darkglass Ultra. The drums were made with EZ Drummer, using a drumkit modeled after Meshuggah’s Tomas Haake’s. My DAW of choice was Reason, a decidedly less popular program than it used to be, but one that I know and operate fairly well. Plus, I like the UI a lot, even though it’s a little overkill.

a little overkill

Those, in summation, were the early decisions that shaped the direction of the soundtrack. As more tracks are released, I’ll get into more specifics in future articles.