Post news RSS Speeding things up, slowing things down, and assault: The story of the More Dimensions soundtrack

A rundown of the making of the game mod's soundtrack, and all the techniques and events that led up to it.

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For those who are unfamiliar with the Quake Epsilon build, it is, or was, a free HD build of Quake 1 with recent-gen graphics. I've worked on it for about the past ten years, on-and-off, including doing soundtrack work for it and the expansions. My final release has been 'More Dimensions', which you can see info for here. And after that, I've decided to quit the quake modding scene, for various reasons, including ten years being a long time to focus on any one game. This is an explanation of the soundtrack for More Dimensions, including it's influences and the life events that contributed to it. The full soundtrack is now available here.


Back in 2019, when things were sane...r than they are now, I went around the factory complex within which my recording studio is located, began recording various bits of industrial equipment and processes using my field recording setup. This included flame-thrower-powered rock-tumblers (as below, designed for drying rocks prior to use in water filtration), various bandsaws etc, and a variety of other industrial sounds. My aim was unclear, I just wanted to see what I could find in the noise.

I slowed each section of audio down to various degrees - in some cases up to 16x. I was recording at a reasonably high sample-rate, so not a lot of artifacting or weirdness was introduced by doing so. In this process I developed a vast body of weird, alien, sometimes unsettling ambiences: some sounded like fireworks, some like steamtrains in a tunnel, though none of them quite like the real thing, just subtley different. But I hadn't found a use for them, yet. Later on, when I developed the plans for More Dimensions, I decided to use these sounds as part of the soundtrack. Obviously they weren't sufficient in-and-of themselves - they weren't musical works in any right - but they offered textures I couldn't find elsewhere.

The soundtrack began with a track called 'Speckled wildebeest fight-cannon' because of course it did. The track is basically head-on industrial rock. I utilised one of the industrial soundscapes, a slowed-down recording of a bandsaw cutting through wood, and effected it so it became like whispered voices. While not a prominent part of the track, it did add something odd to the otherwise balls-to-the-wall tone. The track's name comes from a particular animal in Serious Sam 1, and the main weapon used to take it out.

The next track followed a similar approach, but increased the use of the etheral ambiences. 'The Forgotten Sepulcher' was again industrial rock, but with large stands of ambience in between the sections of bombast. One trick I employed on both these tracks was making up for my lack in guitar/bass skill by recording each part at half-speed, then speeding them up using a particular algorithm which I found brought in interesting artifacts into the sound. The original name of the track was "Murder People", a joke taken from a David Firth cartoon, but eventually I renamed it after the level, "The Forgotten Sepulcher".

A couple more tracks followed in an odd fashion. I recorded some scratch takes of vocal and violin melodies and harmonies into the builtin mic of my laptop, not expecting to use those recordings in any capacity, just as demo takes to get my ideas down. The results weren't perfect, but by experimenting with slowing the results down I found the vocals turned into a kind of gothic drone, while the violin turned into something strange and ambient, the artifacts of the perfectly-terrible built-in laptop mic somehow transformed into interesting sonic qualities.

I took these slowed recordings and worked on them further, adding some of the industrial ambiences previously noted and effecting the results with reverb and EQ etcetera. The results were in keeping with the kind of gothic industrial ambience I wanted. Inspired by this, I started looking at some of the older recordings I had which I had never found a use for. One, a borked export of a track that somehow caught my attentions through it's weirdness, turned into another large gothic landscape once slowed down and combined with industrial ambiences (in case you're interested, what made the export misfire was exporting at a sample-rate different to what my audio unit was currently using, which messed with midi messaging somehow).

Another track which I genuinely thought I would never have any use for was recorded late one night back in 2019 in the kind of fever-dream state you get into when you're recording late and the ideas come thick and fast, and you don't differentiate between the good and the bad. The results, embarassing as they were, were again interesting when slowed down; unique in a way I couldn't have planned if I'd tried to construct it methodically. Combined with industrial ambiences, and a couple of slower rock tracks I came up with, this became "Leader of the Dead World".

I also did some brief work with digitally-altering recorded bass guitar, breathing into a laptop mic, and fake drums, which became the between-level track "Monsieur is displeased".

By this point most of the levels were covered. I reconstructed an older track I made in 1997 but never finished, which was made in tracker software (in this case modplug tracker). For those of you who are unaware, tracker software works at a very rudimentary level in terms of constructing music from samples; the format was popular in the 90's when CPU speeds were comparitively low. While the limitations of tracker software were keenly felt this time around, I also found it liberating - you can do many things faster in a tracker than in a modern DAW. This became the soundtrack for the secret level of the game, "My teeth are sharp and I am full of drums". BTW the secret level is easier to find than Nightmare mode entrance.

I had two final levels that I had yet to produce music for. The results came as the unexpected windfall of trying circumstances - to say the least. An altercation with someone in power caused the first - while not physically violent, she was an unpredictable and emotionally violent individual. Anyway, after a particularly scathing encounter with her argumentative side, I recorded the first part of the final track, which also became the backing for the trailer. I also started on the second half, but found it difficult to pick up steam.

Then a road-rage driver, out of his mind on something, assaulted me for 5 minutes after bumping into the back of my car, since he was tailgating me and I'd slowed down to turn into my driveway. The result, while shocking and distressing, forced me to funnel a lot of what I was feeling into music, since nothing else worked. This resulted in two good things: the first was a four-part improvised vocal performance, similar to what I had done on my laptop earlier but this time professionally in the studio, and with greater insight. Again the results were slowed down, combined with ambience.

The residual emotion was funneled into Carcinisation, extending the previous ideas and turning it into a 14-minute epic. It's the favourite I have of the tracks. Though I'm not going to thank the guy, and hopefully he'll go to jail, so score 1 to me, I guess. I did get a fractured thumb though. So maybe a draw? The title refers to the process by which many different organisms evolve separately into crab-like forms. Although I thought of it as just a cool name, I like to ret-con the title to mean the process by which we inevitably, through the general trauma of life, tend to harden ourselves and produce larger 'pincers'. Though this is far from an irreversible process.

After that two more tracks were made, the first of which was a fairly somber track for the hub level, "Xinjiang". For more information about that topic, see the plight of the Uighur people here, and here, and here. To help, you can spread the word or donate via Amnesty International here.

Lastly there was "Burn. Everything", an industrial alt-rocker along the lines of the earlier 'Murder People'. The most interesting part of this one was the use of a wind-up chime toy made by a catfood brand, which had been either damaged or mis-manufactured such that it produced the wonderfully-off-kilter faux-nightmare-childrens-toy sound you find throughout the song. I recorded it in stereo.

Anyway, I hope you found this interesting. The soundtrack's here now, and I was able to make it available at it's original hi-definition 24-bit/96khz resolution, which I'm pretty happy about. The differences between the in-game soundtrack versions and these ones is that (a) these aren't designed to loop and (b) they're at much higher quality and without volume adjustments which make them sound okay in the background of the game.

Peace out.

[UPDATE: oh, and one final thing for the mod - the Travail expansion has been updated with new textures. It now looks much better. You're welcome. Link is still the same: ]


The Travail link provided has a bracket at the end of it, which makes the link not work:

Fixed link:

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metamorphosis Author

Thank you

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