If you’re going to run a chainsaw through the torso of a demon, you’re going to need an appropriately metal soundtrack for which to rev your bloodlust to. DOOM 2016 and DOOM Eternal did just that and then some, with one of the very best collections of axes and throat-screaming orchestras to ever get their sound digitised into a video game, resulting in an atmosphere that’d make you want to headbutt your door every time the action got turned up to 11.
You can thank Mick Gordon for that, as his metal mind pumped out hit after hit across two games while he was employed at Id Software for the rebirth of DOOM. It’s most likely also the last time that Gordon will work with Id and big daddy Bethesda after that soundtrack took some controversy-buckshot to the face.
The story began with the release of the DOOM Eternal Soundtrack on the collector’s edition of the game, with audiophiles noticing that the sinful sounds weren’t up to scratch. Digging deeper, it was discovered that the soundtrack was a mashed mess, with Gordon barely involved with the majority of them. Another company had taken over, the album was a poorly mixed collection and fans began a “Release the Gordon Cut” campaign.
There’s always two sides to a story though, and DOOM Eternal’s executive producer Marty Stratton has weighed in on this with an open letter on Reddit. It’s a lengthy chunk of text, but the gist of it has Stratton claiming that Gordon wasn’t exactly easy to work with. According to Stratton, Gordon needed an extension of the deadline and Id Software’s lead audio engineer Chad Mossholder, was brought on as a backup in case things went south. Mossholder did the best that he could do with the OST, while Gordon completed fine-tuning work on around a dozen songs.
On February 24, Mick reached out to communicate that he and his team were fine with the terms of the agreement but that there was a lot more work involved than anticipated, a lot of content to wade through, and that while he was making progress, it was taking longer than expected. He apologized and asked that “ideally” he be given an additional four weeks to get everything together.
He offered that the extra time would allow him to provide upwards of 30 tracks and a run-time over two hours – including all music from the game, arranged in soundtrack format and as he felt it would best represent the score in the best possible way.
As we hit April, we grew increasingly concerned about Mick delivering the OST to us on time. I personally asked our Lead Audio Designer at id, Chad, to begin work on id versions of the tracks – a back-up plan should Mick not be able to deliver on time. To complete this, Chad would need to take all of the music as Mick had delivered for the game, edit the pieces together into tracks, and arrange those tracks into a comprehensive OST.
While the overall soundtrack does have an undeniably lower-quality mix, there’s a good reason for that. Without the original stems and source material, there was only so much that Mossholder could do in the editing room.
It is important to understand that there is a difference between music mixed for inclusion in the game and music mixed for inclusion in the OST. Several people have noted this difference when looking at the waveforms but have misunderstood why there is a difference. When a track looks “bricked” or like a bar, where the extreme highs and lows of the dynamic range are clipped, this is how we receive the music from Mick for inclusion in the game – in fragments pre-mixed and pre-compressed by him.
Those music fragments he delivers then go into our audio system and are combined in real-time as you play through the game.
Alternatively, when mixing and mastering for an OST, Mick starts with his source material (which we don’t typically have access to) and re-mixes for the OST to ensure the highs and lows are not clipped – as seen in his 12 OST tracks. This is all important to note because Chad only had these pre-mixed and pre-compressed game fragments from Mick to work with in editing the id versions of the tracks. He simply edited the same music you hear in game to create a comprehensive OST – though some of the edits did require slight volume adjustments to prevent further clipping.
“I’m as disappointed as anyone that we’re at this point, but as we have many times before, we will adapt to changing circumstances and pursue the most unique and talented artists in the industry with whom to collaborate,” Stratton wrote.
Our team has enjoyed this creative collaboration a great deal and we know Mick will continue to delight fans for many years ahead.
Well that’s just an added twist for the saga. It’s a shame that one of the best soundtracks of the year has been somewhat tarnished by this hot mess. DOOM Eternal’s score may not be entirely up to scratch, but considering the ordeal that everyone involved went through and how Mossholder still managed to salvage a product that honestly only sounds a bit off if you’ve got the ears of a safecracker, it’s still a headbanging miracle.
It’s a disappointing end to a fantastic partnership, as upcoming DOOM Eternal DLC won’t see Gordon return to slap together some tracks for that extra content. That relationship, is well and truly over.
Last Updated: May 5, 2020