Who Do I Pick for Doom’s Next Top Composer?

So, the next Doom game won’t be having Mick Gordon as the lead composer.

Image for post
Image for post

Thanks to a dispute between Doom developers id Software and Gordon, it would appear that the heavy-metal composer won’t be returning for id Software’s subsequent Doom entries. The separation has already taken effect, since id Executive Producer Marty Stratton stated in an open letter that Gordon is unlikely to return for Doom Eternal DLCs.

Naturally, id now has to look for talented composers elsewhere.

Here’s the thing: plenty of fish in the pond, but few actually worth catching. Not only that the next Doom composer be a talented music producer, they will need to have that bizarre sense of musical creativity in order to uphold Doom’s incredible musical legacy set by Gordon and Bobby Prince. The game’s music is more than just metal, it’s unquenchable rage and violence translated into metal.

Doom fans seem to propose Andrew Hulshult and Trent Reznor to replace Gordon. Hulshult’s has worked on familiar territory in Rise of the Triad and Quake Champions while Reznor is already an Oscar-winning rock songwriter. Both are valid picks in my opinion and I won’t be surprised if one of the two get picked to compose the Doom Slayer’s next adventure going forward.

However, I’d be more surprised if any of my picks below made it as the next Doom composer. While they are all uniquely talented composers in their own right, these composers might have a different style than the one Doom fans are accustomed to. Still, in my experience they have the capability of taking over Mick Gordon as Doom’s next composer, and that’s why I’m pitching them right here.

Bobby Prince

Image for post
Image for post

Like a police procedural drama, the one we’re looking for can be the one we’ve met before — and we would have been none the wiser.

Bobby Prince is a familiar name for Doom and video game fans everywhere. I’ve even mentioned him earlier in this story. He was the composer for the original Doom and Doom 2: Hell on Earth. He was the one responsible for the legendary E1M1 and E2M1 tracks. If Doom is one of the reasons people fell in love with video games, then Prince is surely one of the people responsible for that love story. He’s one of Mick Gordon’s main inspirations when composing Doom and Doom Eternal’s soundtrack(the main riff for At Doom’s Gate is basically E1M1 beefed up). If there is anyone that can carry the Bobby Prince and Mick Gordon’s torch, it’s, well, Bobby Prince himself.

The story behind E1M1’s inception is also interesting in of itself: the main riff sounded very similar to Metallica’s Master of Puppets. That’s no coincidence, as it is said that Bobby Prince copied Master of Puppets’ riff for Doom’s OST but made enough subtle changes so that he — and id Software — can avoid copyright infringement. This is backed up by the fact that Prince is a lawyer (he passed his bar exam in 1980) who can navigate his way through the muddy waters of copyright law. Then again all these information save for the fact that Bobby Prince is a lawyer was never confirmed, so take it with a grain of salt.

Then again, it all clicks when one takes another look into it. Doom designer John Romero confirmed in 2005 that Doom music was taken (or rather, inspired) from bands such as Pantera and Alice in Chains. Pantera in particular, whose riffs in Mouth for War can be heard in E3M1.

So how does Bobby Prince fit into the newest Doom iteration? Well, I think Prince’s quasi-cover style of musical composition can make for a great Doom soundtrack. He’s done it TWICE before after all, what’s stopping him from doing it again? Think about the possibilities: Metallica’s Enter Sandman, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, or Iron Maiden’s 2 Minutes to Midnight. How cool would it be to hear those legendary rock songs and more melded into the next Doom game?

However, several factors make this comeback unlikely. For starters, it’s been a while since Prince last composed for a video game. His last outing as a composer was in 2014, when he composed for Final Boss Entertainment’s Wrack. He still dabbles in the music industry as an independent musician but I doubt he’s on the top of id’s composer bucket list. Also, copyright law has become such a convoluted web that I don’t think he’d be able to take five notes from another song without getting sued. Still, it would have been a comeback to remember.

Junkie XL

Image for post
Image for post

Real name Thomas Holkenborg, Junkie XL is primarily a film composer known for his works in Mad Max: Fury Road, Deadpool, Batman vs Superman, and Alita: Battle Angel. He’s done a bit of video game scores as well, though it’s mostly sports and racing games such as Need for Speed: ProStreet and FIFA 18. A Brian Tyler-type of composer if you will, the one that has tried a bit of everything. Except for JXL, he hasn’t done TV shows yet.

Even though his video game composing resume might not sound impressive, his musical contribution on the silver screen side is quite remarkable. I personally find his work on Fury Road to be especially impressive. The way he was able to convey the chaos and destruction that happens on Fury Road is a highlight for me. It helped take the movie to a next level, even when the movie itself is already an exemplary action flick to behold.

Yes, this is a guy that’s focused primarily on movies rather than games and yes, his resume of video games musical composing doesn’t look so convincing. But I try to look on the stakes side of things: JXL has always been involved with big projects with big names and big responsibilities. If he is given responsibility on a big game such as the next Doom entry, I’m quite sure he will pull it off. He’s done solid work on the big screen and since he’s done a bit of video game music, he’ll be on familiar grounds. He might seem out of place in a demonic heavy metal environment such as Doom, but that’s because we haven’t seen what he can do given the opportunity.

I mean, he might seem out of place in a movie about a post-apocalyptic chaos of a wasteland called Mad Max: Fury Road, and he pulled it off anyway. I suppose the point I’m trying to get across here is versatility. Also in his defense, the video games he’d worked on are (almost) all simulation games that don’t lend themselves to a lot of expression. If he lands the role, let’s just hope id gave him the creative freedom he needs for such an involved video game entry. When in doubt, put in more heavy metal goodness. Easy as.

Simon Viklund

Image for post
Image for post

My personal favorite candidate, the man who has entertained virtual clowns, heisters, and thieves all across the world for five years, the contract broker and criminal mastermind himself, Simon Viklund.

Simon Viklund is primarily a musical composer for video games and he’s done a plethora of video games, the most notable being the Payday series. Payday 2 in particular is where Viklund shows his ingenuity as a video game composer, and I believe majority of heisters agree that his music helped elevate the game from good to greatness.

To this day, Razormind is my all-time favorite Payday 2 soundtrack and one of my favorite video game soundtracks of all time. So much so that Payday 2 players would rather play their heists the loud way a.k.a. the hard way, so that they can listen to Razormind being played in the background at its full capacity. This applies to most of Viklund’s work, but Razormind especially for me.

Like Holkenborg, Viklund knows his way around instruments. Most of his tracks in Payday 2 are electronic in genre, but there are some exceptions for some heists where players can get a grasp on his versatility. For instance, Trouble Always Inbound’s chill and upbeat rhythm pays great homage to Reservoir Dogs, as is the heist where the soundtrack made an appearance. There is also Break the Rules that serves as a love letter to Scarface with its 80s melody and arrangement. Both of these tracks serve as example to Viklund being able to understand what made a track great and eventually come up with his own version that doesn’t sound like a ripoff. And yet, players listening to those tracks will know exactly what he’s trying to reference.

More on the nitty-gritty details, Viklund is my pick because he would’ve known how a Doom soundtrack should work. See, the way Viklund’s Payday 2 soundtrack works is that it’s divided into four main sections: stealth, control, anticipation, and assault, reflecting the phases a player go through when conducting a heist. ‘Stealth’ is when players are sneaking around without attracting trouble, the calmest part of the soundtrack. ‘Control’ happens when the player has gotten into trouble, but before the police actually arrives. ‘Anticipation’ can be seen as the build-up before the action starts, signifying the police starting to arrive at the scene. Finally, ‘assault’ is the track’s punchline, delivering all the loud noises and chaotic beats to accompany your high-octane heist shootout. Then the track simmers down into ‘control’ and the soundtrack goes over the whole process again until the heist is complete.

I found that Doom’s soundtrack works similarly: there are some insanely intense moments where Doom Slayer was pitted against the biggest demons in the level, but there are also places in a Doom level where the enemies are at most cannon-fodder level, not as dangerous as the Marauders or the Doom Hunters. Then there are also sequences where there are no enemies at all, such as the puzzle-platforming sections. This segmented level design can’t be treated as a binary quiet-loud scenarios, they require different musical treatment while also keeping a sense of cohesiveness within the soundtrack.

Looking at Viklund’s previous work with Payday and Payday 2, one can see that he already knows how to make that level-aware type of soundtrack. What he needs is that little bit of craziness that enables Mick Gordon to use a chainsaw in his arrangement. Rock might not have been his forte, but judging from his past works, I have faith that Viklund can pull this off should he choose to accept it. After all, he’s still working with ex-Payday dev Ulf Andersson on 10 Chambers Collective as game designer and composer.

***

There you have it, my three nominees on the next Doom game composer. Obviously it’s entirely up to id to decide on who will compose the next Doom game, which I believe will be released in the next 4–5 years. And who knows, Mick Gordon might have a change of heart and return to id, I’m sure fans (including me) would’ve been delighted to hear that. Or maybe they’ve already secured the services of someone we don’t know yet. Whatever happens to the next Doom’s music, I’m sure it’s going to be a hellishly great experience. Pun intended, of course.

I write about what I like. I like video games, movies, and a little bit of anime.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store