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Doom Eternal Channels the Sounds of The Ancient Gods Through Andrew Hulshult and David Levy

The second half of Doom Eternal’s The Ancient Gods DLC (downloadable content, or in this case, an expansion to the existing game) is descending upon gamers tomorrow (March 18), and with it comes the epic conclusion to one of the biggest and best metal-tinged shooters of all time.

As one of the most awarded multiplatform games of 2020, Doom Eternal showed the industry that you don’t need to compromise on merciless aggression and demon-slaying violence just to win critics over. But no journey through Hell is complete without an appropriately badass soundtrack.

While Mick Gordon composed the base game’s score, id Software and Bethesda brought in series newcomers Andrew Hulshult (Dusk, Quake Champions) and David Levy (Red vs. Blue, RWBY) to handle the tunes for the expansions. With some drastically different previous catalogs and fresh ideas between them, it became clear that The Ancient Gods would have a new twist on the classic Doom soundtrack.

SPIN spoke with the duo to chat about their work on the DLCs and what it was like to add their own touches to the Doom universe.

SPIN: Seeing as both Doom and Doom Eternal are known for their relentless, aggressive soundtracks, how would you describe your work on The Ancient Gods DLCs? 
Andrew Hulshult: It’s just straight-up pure, aggressive energy, just like the entire way through. It stays close to what’s been established [in the base game], but with our own creative input directed into it. We weren’t told coming into it that this has to be XYZ or like what came before us. There weren’t these strict guidelines, so that gave us an open palette to work with. It’s been really nice. I think everything that we’ve come up with has been like “How can I make this more aggressive? Alright. Now how can I make this even more aggressive?”

David Levy: To build on what Andrew said, I feel like these DLCs — in comparison to the base game — are more cinematic and darker, so we took it in that direction. But of course, we’re still paying plenty of respect to what’s been done before us.

And how do you go about building up to and scoring those big cinematic moments without compromising on that really metal sound that people now expect with Doom games?
Levy: Well, there’s really nothing quite like Doom music and the universe that we got to play with. The amount of things you can do is just staggering. For me — coming from film and television — there’s a lot of cinematic moments, but never have I been able to push my music and my gear as much as I have on Doom. With Doom, I feel like I push things as much as I think that I can, and it’s still not enough. There’s always room for more aggression with Doom music, which is just so much fun because there’s no line. Things that I thought were aggressive before, well I started working on Doom and I realized that they were nothing. It needed to be 10 times as aggressive for this. Doom has a very unique sound as well, so not everything works with it. It took a little bit of time before I was able to hit the right tone for the game. It was a lot of experimentation and a lot of different things that I had to try to get that unique sound that’s been developed prior to my engagement with a game, but without actually copying it or mimicking it.

Since you both have fairly different experiences in the past, what was it like to come together and combine your talents this time around?
Hulshult: It was really cool for me. I think it opened a lot of doors for both of us. Creatively, we got to riff off of each other a little bit and share ideas on gear and our workflow processes. Before this — I’ll be perfectly straight up — I never would have ever imagined working with another musician and actually enjoying the experience, because I always felt like if I’m on a project, I want to see my vision all the way through. When I was told that I was going to be working with someone else, I was like “Alright…” I’m sure David was too.

Levy: I was very excited, actually. I said “Great. Andrew is awesome. I can’t wait to work with him.”

Hulshult: The second that we started talking, I was like “Oh yeah, this guy has not only the same humor that I do — which is perfect — but he has pretty much the same idea on workflow and everything.” We’ve just been having a blast. It’s been a blessing. I can’t believe how easy it is to work back and forth.

What was it like when you first found out you’d be working on The Ancient Gods DLCs? I mean, there are few video game series in history bigger than Doom.
Hulshult: When I first submitted my demos, it was like “Oh my gosh! This is a thing that’s happening. I hope I get it. That’d be great!” But at the same time, you’re thinking “What if I actually do get it?” It’s like this combination of fear and just being overjoyed.

Levy: It was the same thing for me. I’m submitting like “No way I’m going to get this. I’ll give it everything I’ve got, but no way.” And then when I got the call, I was like “Oh shit!” It was absolutely nerve-wracking and exciting and terrifying. It was just an amalgamation of feelings. It’s a huge game. I mean, Doom was one of the first first-person shooters I ever played as a kid. Writing music for it really hasn’t sunk in yet even at this point. I’m not really registering that what we’ve made is music for Doom.

Hulshult: I think the thing about Doom that’s grounded us more than anything else is being able to remain teachable. If somebody has an idea, you have to be willing to accept it. A lot of times when you’re on smaller projects, you feel like “Well, I really want it to go this way” and you’ll lean into that a little bit more. We had to be more open to a lot of new ideas with both of the DLCs.

Levy: You have to be a team player and cannot have an ego. When you look at it from the outside, it’s terrifying at first because it’s such a huge project. But once you start working on it, you zoom in more and more, and it shrinks down from this massive task — then you’re just making like a 10-second cue and things start to seem more manageable. It was terrifying going into it, but it’s much harder to panic when we’d just focus on one thing at a time.