Release Date: March 2, 2010
If any game deserves to have a soundtrack written for it featuring some of today’s leading metal bands, that game is God of War III. Five years ago, the first God of War shattered the gaming world by incorporating everything awesome about action/adventure games into a cinematic gaming experience that pushed the PS2 to its technical limits and, more importantly, allowed players to brutalize their enemies in the most visceral ways imaginable. Now, Sony is poised to release God of War III, the first entry in the series to hit the PS3, and a host of Roadrunner Records artists are ready to reward the series’ dedication to the metal aesthetic by unveiling a six-song set of new music.
Guitar Messenger has had the opportunity to speak with Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Dream Theater and Opeth in the past, and so naturally takes an interest in hearing these bands in the fresh context of a video game album. Each band rises to the occasion in a unique way – some expanding on their recent work, and others taking the opportunity to explore new territory.
Killswitch Engage leads off with ‘My Obsession,’ a track that feels like a natural extension of the recent Killswitch Engage. The song starts with an open string pull-off motif that soon gives way to a riff onslaught worthy of a Kratos battle scene. Adam D. and company have set the bar high for their mixes and overall sound, and they maintain that standard with this track. In the song’s second half, they slow things down and breach new ground by adding a prominent texture that evokes Led Zeppelin’s ‘No Quarter’ – employing what sounds like a Leslie speaker to achieve a similar tremolo effect.
Trivium’s ‘Shattering The Skies Above’ brings things back up to ramming speed, with the blast beats and powerful drumming of recent addition Nick Augusto taking center stage throughout. Matt Heafy continues to improve his vocal chops on this recording, showcasing some of his best clean singing yet. The song features a cool breakdown in the middle section, but the predictable solo section is a missed opportunity to take the song to new heights. Afterwards though, Trivium give their memorable chorus new life by dropping it on two fresh grooves, and they finish strong with a return to the earlier breakdown.
‘Raw Dog’ is Dream Theater’s instrumental offering, and it begins with a grinding, fearsomely down-tuned riff that strays from the band’s usual style. This opening leads into a galloping section of mid-tempo thrash, followed by a riff in what sounds at first like the whole-tone scale (1-2-3-#4-#5-b7), but at times includes a natural 4th and a natural 6th. Petrucci makes good use of this unusual harmony with a memorable ornamented motif. After a ripping trade-off with keyboardist Jordan Rudess, he leads the band through a dizzying groove that harkens back to Systematic Chaos’ ‘The Dark Eternal Night.’ Dream Theater also deserves credit for referencing the God of War score when towards the end, in the reprise of the original riff, Rudess breaks out a choral patch that evokes the grand choruses used by Chris Velasco and other composers in the first game.
‘This Is Madness’ is an opportunity for newcomers Taking Dawn to make their mark on the metal world, which they take advantage of by delivering a ballsy slice of vintage-style metal. Thematically, they draw more on the story of the film 300 than on God of War’s lore, but the vibe is close enough that the song still fits in this collection. Their bridge pulls back on the tempo for a nice triplet feel, and leads into a memorable solo section that closes with bombastic vibrato and furious harmonics.
Opeth takes the biggest risk on the album with ‘Throat Of Winter,’ and listeners are rewarded with a song that’s grounded in a mesmerizing, shifting tonality that is likely to have people reaching for their Led Zeppelin LPs once again. The song favors 12-string acoustics and percussion over distortion and drum kits, and is complemented by a rich production style that incorporates backwards guitar parts and, in a new move for the band, what sounds like lap steel. Keyboardist Per Wiberg also moves into new territory, by contributing moog leads that recall Yes’ Rick Wakeman alongside the usual Opeth textures. The journey ends with a section that lies somewhere between acoustic metal and flamenco – an interesting style which feels like a groovier elaboration on the ending of ‘Burden’ from Watershed.
The fresh-faced Mutiny Within turns out the album’s most epic number, ‘The End’ – which is impressive, considering that it’s also the shortest track of the six. With a jagged arpeggio riff up front during the verse, and prominent but tasteful keyboards in the intro and chorus, Mutiny Within wins points for their strong arrangement ideas and convincing vocals. In a bold production move, the band drops out after the second chorus, leaving a single guitar part buried underneath a filter and a layer of environmental sound effects.
The God of War: Blood & Metal EP is being released both as a standalone digital release, and as a bonus for purchasers of the God of War III Ultimate Edition, which includes other goodies such as an art book, and digital access to music from the games and a full-length documentary tracing the series’ history. God of War has always had tremendous appeal in the metal community, so it’s great to see the franchise capitalizing on that fact by offering something for those many fans. Followers of any of these bands will enjoy hearing the new music on display here.