This of course, can lead to a shit load of fun moments. Since the two memories feed off each other, it leaves things open for some strange occasions. One of which occurred during one of my first playthroughs of God of War, way back when. My first run in with Kratos was a harsh one. I was in a pretty dark place in my life at the time. I was unemployed, single, and drinking heavily. In fact, things were fairly similar to the way you’d expect the opening scenes of a Max Payne game to play out. I was a mess, and in walked this bald, rage-filled, pale-skinned barbarian wearing a skirt. He was someone I could relate to… Except for the skirt part. However, his story was also dark, so his help alone would only channel more darkness. Luckily enough, this was the same time that I started listening to one of the happiest bands in my CD collection- The Misfits. I dived into their 1999 album, Famous Monsters, which acted as the ying to Kratos’ yang. On one hand I had a way of peacefully releasing my anger, by dismembering hordes of violent on-screen sprites in a horrific fashion. On the other, I had a host of jolly punk songs to sing along with and keep me in good form. Catchy choruses and cheesy lyrics based on even cheesier horror and sci-fi B-movies? What was not to love? Tracks like Saturday Night, Hunting Humans and Them, had me absolutely captivated. The simplicity of the riffs coupled with Michale Graves’ voice (still my favourite out of the Misfits’ entire revolving circus of vocalists) won me over in little to no time. The fact that the album was under half an hour long, meant that it got repeated tons of times during each of my God of War sittings.
It all came to a head though during the games’ Cliffs of Madness section. Huge, vertical sections of mountains appear before Kratos, which he must traverse in order to advance within the Temple of Pandora. This part of the game is incredibly large and maze-like, taking some time to finish. While halfway up the craggy part of the mountain range, splitting fuckers’ skulls wide open against the rock wall, I noticed the lyrics in the song Crawling Eye emerging simultaneously from my stereo’s speakers. “It’s such a steep climb up the mountain’s south side”. I almost collapsed into a pool of laughter as I realised what was happening onscreen was exactly the same as the actions within the lyrics, minus the skull smashing. Now, every time I play that section in God of War, I have to dig out my Famous Monsters album. And every time I listen to that record, I remember that steep climb, and I can’t help but smile to myself, knowing that even in such a dark period of my life, video games and music worked together to keep me on the up and up.
There is a track near the beginning of their early 90’s album, Demanufacture, called Zero Signal, which is probably best known for it’s long haunting outro, due to how it seems to simply surround the listener. For me though, this song is most memorable for it’s use during the Scorpion/Johnny Cage fight in the Mortal Kombat movie. After a brief battle in a wooded area, Scorpion drags Cage to hell and proceeds to spend several minutes beating the living shite out of him while this particular song plays in the background. It works beautifully, and suits the scene perfectly as Johnny finally gets his own back, scoring the killing blow on the ninja spectre.
So when Fear Factory played in Ireland a few years later, myself and my old friend attended both their gigs. They played all the classics that one might want from one of their shows- Replica, Linchpin, Edge Crusher and so much more. They were fantastic concerts! The showstopper for me though was when they played Zero Signal. It was one of those few moments that people experience where everything in the world just seems right. From the middle of a red hot mosh pit on a warm summer’s night, I was swallowed by purple lights as the band slowed down towards that epic outro. My brain was on fire with dreams, memories and fantasies surrounding the Mortal Kombat universe as the crowd were bathe in this hypnotic light and mesmerizing tune. It was all my favourite things, all at the same time. Once again, music and video games came together to make a moment that I’ll never forget.
At the time I was loving both Rap and Metal, so I was hugely interested in hearing the track that first brought these two genres together. I was listening to a lot a Slayer, Slipknot, and Metallica from the Metal side of things, and a lot of Eminem and N.W.A to satisfy my Rap needs. I also loved a lot of bands that crossed these two styles- Kid Rock, Rage Against The Machine, Biohazard. Around that same time, Nu Metal was throwing Rap and Rock into bed together faster than an internet dating site.
I still remember the day I finally picked up Anthrax’s Attack Of The Killer ‘B’s on CD. It was something of a compilation album comprising of a number of their rare tracks, B-sides, and live cuts; and it opened with Bring The Noise. I couldn’t wait to get home and throw that motherfucker into the CD player. This was it! The big one. The one that I’d been waiting so long to hear. I was gonna love it. I just knew I was. I hit play, cranked that son of a bitch up to eleven, and listened in awe as I discovered it was just the fucking background track from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater! I’d been listening to it unawares for ages as I sunk hour after hour into that game. I sat there gobsmacked at my own ignorance, until finally, I realised that it was actually a beast of a song.
Many games used music as a huge part of their gameplay mechanics. Guitar Hero/Rock Band and SingStar built their entire short-lived careers on it. The unusual, yet charming, Vib Ribbon was music and video games’ bizarre little love child. While Snoop Doggy Dogg’s XBLA game, The Way of The Dogg, is the bastard spawn of the rhythm based gaming genre. However, there are two games that stood out from the crowd when it came to marrying these two vastly different art forms, Brutal Legend and the Def Jam series.
Brutal Legend is a gem. It’s one that will be buried and forgotten about in the future, if it hasn’t already been. Cut down to it’s bare essentials, it was a game that took place inside a Heavy Metal album cover. You played a roadie (who’s voiced by and shares the likeness of Tenacious D’s lead singer, Jack Black) who wakes up in a world were music was king. You’d run into famous Rock musicians like Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, and Rob Halford, while building a team of mental meatheads to fight a war in the name of Metal. It looked and felt just like it should- over the top, and covered in spikes, leather, and clichés. Unfortunately though, it wasn’t very well received, as it didn’t know whether it was a comedy or a dark, moody game. It also didn’t know it if it was real time strategy, or another loose “action adventure” sandbox title. It was flawed and confused, but was alive with energy and full of charm. In many ways, the fact that it didn’t know itself, or where it was going; it inattentively embodied the whole concept of being a teenage fan of alternative music. You don’t know exactly what you want to be, you just know what you never want to be.
Music and video games simply go hand in hand for me, and throughout my life, they always have. They co-exist in perfect harmony. When I hear of Bon Jovi’s happy-go-lucky country rock track, I Love This Town, it automatically makes me think of stomping around a small town in Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, throwing trucks at helicopters. When I break out my SNES to play a few rounds of Killer Instinct it makes me want to listen to Metallica’s early records, as they were my favourite albums when that game was first released.
These are just a handful of examples of how these two worlds constantly collide, and I could honestly go on and on all day. Music adds so much to video games that it’s almost impossible to play games without a melody playing behind me. They are the two things that speak to me in ways that I could never describe; not even with a million words at my disposal or half a dozen languages. In fact, the only way I could express just how passionate I am about both of these forms of media is through music and video games. Whether it’s the game’s soundtrack or whatever I happen to be listening to at the time, the two art forms are damn near inseparable in my eyes. I find it very hard to play games without music, and therefore spend most of my gaming time listening to my favourite bands doing what they do best. But I play games a lot! This means that I listen to a hell of a lot of music. Spinning record after record, absorbing song after song, and even ploughing through a band’s entire discography in one sitting. Gaming doesn’t just mean having fun with video games, for me it also means enjoying hundreds of hours worth of music. So next time you’re shocked at how much time I’ve put into my favourite games, ask me how long I’ve spent listening to music. Chances are you’ll see my video gaming habits in an entirely different perspective. I’d imagine you’ll also leave with your tail firmly between your legs, and my boot lodged in your ass.