Manuel Soruco: “Riffs from Mars and Hell” – a roaring game soundtrack!

One of the things that makes videogames unique as a medium is that they combine a lot of other mediums into a single cohesive whole, when done right. A good videogame uses visual art, video production, writing, and music all to express some idea or theme. During the late-’90s rise of CD-ROM gaming, Nintendo stubbornly held onto cartridges for many reasons. One lesser-known reason was the company’s fondness for dynamic soundtracks. Nintendo wanted MIDI songs in N64 games that could transform based on action and player location, with elements like tempo and instrumentation changing on the fly – Super Mario 64 introduced this concept, and Banjo-Kazooie ultimately perfected it.

We hadn’t had a dynamic soundtrack that good in years, but the closest probably came in the surprisingly awesome Doom reboot, whose backing tracks were composed as sections that could turn ominous, eerie, or outright violent based on gameplay moments.

The soundtrack quickly excited fans of ’90s-era industrial rock with its mix of quiet, intensity-building passages and outright brutal guitar and synthesizer riffs, courtesy of gaming music composer, Mick Gordon. Prior to Gordon the original Doom music was composed by Bobby Prince in 1993. Prince’s credits also include Wolfenstein 3D, Doom II, Duke Nukem II and Duke Nukem 3D.

Recently I came to hear of “Riffs from Mars and Hell” – This is the full soundtrack for the PC game miniDoom 2, which is a fan-made version of the legendary game Doom, but as a 2d platformer, Super Mario style. The music is very metal influenced, and was all written from the scratch, except for track 1, which refers to Bobby Prince’s original Doom theme.

The soundtrack “Riffs from Mars and Hell” was created by Manuel Soruco, who also played and recorded all the instruments, while the mixing and mastering was done by Matias Berdiales. Soruco is a composer, producer and multi-Instrumentalist from Bolivia with 28 years of experience in music, and credits in over 50 CDs, DVDs, Videogames, Films and Theater Plays.

This is a soundtrack that holds a devastating and killer production; a powerhouse that could potentially blow the foundations of your house given you had a decent sound system to crank the thing to 11. But taking its obvious strengths out of the equation, it’s a very experimental album, and one that seamlessly blends death metal, and industrial elements in such a natural way.

It’s completely ominous and bone-crushing throughout, and rarely gives up an inch. This 13 track behemoth ranges from unsettling mood building to teeth shattering clanks from overdriven guitars, drums and bass.

Every instrument gets a chance to shine: be it the rumbling bass found on “Processing Power” or the electric guitar work on “Molten Metal”, there is always a moment on this record where something stands out.

However, the guitar and drum work on this thing is something else entirely and the rhythm and compositional flow of tracks from these two instruments creates such a satisfyingly heavy chaos; the kind of heavy I haven’t enjoyed from a metal record for a long time.

The fact it comes from a game soundtrack makes it as much a surprise as the game itself. The flow of the album is largely composed of energy-filled, rampage running riffs and rhythms, with gaps for the slighter slower and darker stuff to shine. This doesn’t diminish or dull anything said previously, on the contrary, it makes the heavier tracks like “Ambient Chaos”, “Trails of Perdition” and “Welcome To Hell” stand out ten times more.

It knows just how long to keep the murkier pieces going before slipping into some head jarring orchestral swoops and fat drum kicks, finishing you off with euphoric guitar chunks for an extremely satisfying listen. If you’re a fan of heavy metal music, this is a must. It’s one of the best fan made soundtracks I’ve heard in a while.



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