Why Metal: Hellsinger is one of the most metal video games of all time
If you’re a metalhead and a gamer, we’ll bet you’ve turned down a game’s built-in soundtrack and turned on your own music blaring and loud to blast your way through hordes of exploding demons/zombies/polygons. So, good news: upcoming video game Metal: Hellsinger It’s about providing you with that perfect soundtrack to break through the forces of hell.
“I was playing Doom 2016 and listening to Meshuggah’s Bleedsays David Goldfarb, founder of video game studio The Outsiders and the man who invented Metal: Hellsinger‘s, ultimately serving as the project’s creative director. “Most of the time I was trying to get my shot in line with the beat of the song.”
Admittedly, squeezing your way out of the polyrhythmic hell of one of Sweden’s most esteemed extreme bands is an easy sell, but there were plenty of hurdles to bring Metal: Hellsinger to life, especially to understand how the game would actually work. The answer came in making it a “rhythm-based first-person shooter”. If you can shoot to the beat, you’ll unlock cool stuff and better beats, the songs themselves revealed in layers based on the player’s performance.
“I threw it like Loss meets Rock band basically,” says David. “It was the vibe, but also to feel like an album cover comes to life.”
As cool as it sounds, the whole idea hinged on being able to produce a soundtrack that was dynamic and unique enough to bring it all together. Enter Two Feathers, a studio specializing in music and sound for games that was created by massive metalheads Elvira Björkman and Nicklas Hjertberg. Founded while the duo were studying (Elvira game design, Nicklas sound design for games), Elvira met Nicklas when she joined his band, Overwatch.
“We both had a love for metal, but we also wanted to do video game music, so we started playing around with those concepts together,” Nicklas explains.
They have already worked on a range of titles, including Hammer watch and Aragamibut Metal: Hellsinger This is the first time the duo’s love of metal has been brought to the fore in their songwriting work. On board almost from the start, Elvira and Nicklas enthusiastically pitched the idea of creating original music for each of the game’s levels.
With a vague description from David to do something with “elements of groove, technicality…melodeath”, they created some basic tracks to use as a sample. Then they had another idea: why not have famous metal singers sing? With a melodeath foundation already in place, the obvious first stop was one of Gothenburg’s sound pioneers, Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquility (and, more recently, The Halo Effect).
“Everything was prepared: the songs, the lyrics, everything,” recalls Mikael. “It was just my voice there, basically. And then I asked, ‘Do you want more singers, or should I sing more songs?’ They said, ‘Well, other singers would be cool! Do you know any? I was like, ‘All!’ “Elvira and Nicklas made full use of Mikael’s phone book to assemble a cast of star metal singers to sing on the Metal: Hellsinger soundtrack, including Serj Tankian, Matt Heafy, Alissa White-Gluz, Tatiana Shmayluk and Randy Blythe.
“We wanted it to be expansive, to take you on a journey through metal subgenres,” Elvira explains. “We also wanted it to feel like a real album.”
Mikael Stanne is not the only one to support the project either. The release of a two-tier demo in June was met with overwhelming approval, including by one of the soundtrack’s stars, Matt Heafy.
“It’s very innovative and the songs sound great. It sounds like my favorite Swedish bands of all time,” he says. “Gaming was my first true love. I remember playing the first Loss when I was a kid and I was like, ‘I want to make music like this’, so to finally be on the soundtrack of a metal game is huge.”
A passion project for seemingly all involved, Metal: Hellsinger was praised for its innovative design and intuitive gameplay. But if there’s one thing all parties agree on, it’s that the game’s most exciting prospect is that it could introduce a whole new generation to the world of heavy metal, every song and level offering insight into a different subgenre, from the symphonic hues of the brow Serj Not tomorrow to the pure brilliance of Gothenburg Stygiastarring Alissa White-Gluz.
This is not an unfamiliar concept in the gaming world; In the late 90s and early 2000s, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series introduced teenagers to the worlds of hardcore, alternative rock and beyond.
“I just assumed players would like metal because those things go together,” Matt explains. “But then, I found out that a lot of players and streamers don’t know what metal actually is, and I introduced this to them – hopefully this can attract non-metal players and make them think, “Hey, I love that!”
Elvira adds: “If Metal: Hellsinger can be the gateway for people to enter the beautiful world of metal, I can be really proud of it.
Metal: Hellsinger releases September 15