Requiem Reimagined Review – James “Jimmy” Paddock

Requiem Reimagined & Reviewed

by James “Jimmy” Paddock

Overall Rating: 8 / 10

The Mighty Music Men of the Doom community’s youthful days are all back with a brand new feast for the ears. With the wonders of modern software and mixing techniques, they bring you an album of “reimagined” renditions of tracks they originally penned upwards of two decades ago under the strict limitations of General MIDI.

Here, the soundtrack for the classic megaWAD “Requiem” (1997) is given a unique and flavorful retake, but one thing I suppose I should seek to answer is: is it what we’re expecting? Does it hold up to the standards of today, and if not, are we willing to look past them and appreciate the original compositions for the simple way they’ve been reinterpreted by the men who wrote them initially?

I will attempt to avoid bias clouding my judgement, but readers should be forewarned that the presentation of musical compositions, while something I hasten to keep in mind, never sits at the forefront of my criticism, and my focus will tend to be on the macro, rather than the micro.

Per the request of the musicians who kindly considered me as an advance reviewer, I have labelled each track with a rating out of ten stars.

Barracus Returns
9 / 10

The album, a collaborative effort between David “Tolwyn” Shaw, Mark Klem, Jeremy Doyle, and shredder extraordinaire JD Herrera, opens with the familiar “Barracus Returns”. Prefaced with an ominous orchestral hum and various electronic noises, this track certainly serves as an adequate and satisfying taster for what is to come. The descending guitar melody is at the forefront, asserting its dominance firmly as the instrument that will be placed on a pedestal throughout this entire reimagined soundtrack. Those not partial to the “heavy metal” angle when it comes to this project (and many other interpretations by fans) will be urged to turn back here—there is no shortage of chugging, shredding and rocking-out-with-your-shotgun-out here. But as will soon be discovered, that’s not all this powerful quartet have up their sleeves.

Rhythm of Carnage
9 / 10

“Rhythm of Carnage” – a staple Shaw track from the Requiem soundtrack, opens things up proper. At this point the heavy angle has made itself clear, with the thrashing drum roll opening giving way to that iconic and powerful lead melody, and Doyle’s guitar here is suitably relentless. Of particular note is the way this track has been restructured, with secondary melodies and key modulations introduced – clearly Shaw did not see it fit to simply throw the MIDI file into his audio workstation and hope for the best. The track is brought to a screeching halt in impressive fashion. Very cool opener.

9.5 / 10

“Rage” follows – Klem’s most well-respected piece in this set, so I believe. As to be expected by now, the lead guitars from Herrera enter in full force and the track pretty much shreds from start to finish. The addition of not one but *two* guitar solos embellishes the track during its key-modulation-based progression. The track is let down microscopically by the lack of punch in its crash cymbals to clearly delineate its section-based composition, but all considered, this one’s damn solid as rock.

Breath of Sin
8 / 10

Up next is Shaw’s “Breath of Sin”. The mood changes quite dramatically here – gone are the guitars, in are the ambient sounds and fluid basses that almost give the piece a garage/dubstep-ish kind of vibe. The track is not let down by this, of course – why shoehorn in guitars where they didn’t exist before, into an already busy track? And busy this rendition is, too – chock-full with electronic textures – something of a far cry from the original’s spacious approach to its composition. This difference is not a bad thing, though it may tread the cusp of doing something where fewer elements may work well in simple, uncrowded unison.

Somewhere Over the Horizon
10 / 10

“Somewhere Over the Horizon” opens with Klem’s familiar dramatic strings in 6/4, but with the addition of an urgent electronic lead melody free-wheeling over the top of the orchestra. Pairing the acoustic-sounding instruments with freely interchangeable electronic equivalents seems to be the approach here. Things really start to shine when the rhythmic guitar enters, though, playing self-harmonising choppy licks to back up the strings and drumkit percussion in an offbeat, galloping fashion, and it’s bliss. If I were to split hairs here, it’d be for the woodblock-esque clicking sound that occurs when the otherwise gorgeous percussion drops in, but the number of points I’d deduct would be finer than half an integer, so full score it is.

Mystic’s Glance
9.5 / 10

Shaw’s “Mystic’s Glance” is a delve into the serious and adventurous territory of choirs, horns, tribal percussion, and distorted noises of uncertain origin. While these instrument choices may not be considered adventurous for the average Doom map, here the tone shift is quite noticeable. Does it pay off? Yes – it’s still a fantastic interpretation of the original, and there’s a skilful blend of acoustic and artificial here with the instrumental and percussive elements mostly all being paired up with intense reverb and bitcrushing effects. Fans of guitars will still get a treat as a freeform solo from Herrera enters just after the halfway point with masterful major harmonies. This entry gets massive points for atmosphere alone.

Path of Destruction
9 / 10

“Path of Destruction”, appearing to be based on Klem’s own re-interpretation of it from a few years back, makes itself known with a hard-hitting drum roll driving over some fluctuating acidic bass. The track’s ominous outro is a seemingly all-new addition and will certainly linger with you. The synthesized angle for the majority of this track works excellently, and yes, it is backed up with the addition of solo guitars. The drums do feel a smidgeon overcooked in terms of their mix presence, though – the only minor complaint I have here.

Jacob’s Staircase
8 / 10

“Jacob’s Staircase” is a fairly “safe” reimagining of the original, or so it feels – it could be my unfamiliarity with the source material – the track was never a grower for me like “Lordly Might” or “Lamneth’s Ground” were – but it would seem that there’s very few new additions here aside from the latter half which enters with re-recorded guitars and synth solo. Nonetheless it works well, with sweet keyboards and pleasant guitars. The drumkit has been reworked in places to make for more impactful transitions between sections, too. Solid entry, this.

Under Death
9 / 10

Klem’s “Under Death”, as you might expect, is suitably demented. Like the original, pitch-bending and delay are employed to make everything deliciously off-kilter. The celeste by itself is spine-tingling. A guitar noodling away in the high register enters at the transition point, wherein meaty drums make their presence known. The raunchy guitars from Doyle continue to lift the piece to new heights, and while structurally the piece seems identical to its source, there’s no denying a huge amount of care went into this interpretation. Very nice.

The Helix
9.5 / 10

“The Helix” opens with some distant and reverberant flowing female vocals, offering another tribal, mystic feel. The icicle-like keyboards and pianos offer a huge amount of atmosphere on their own, and together these elements blend gorgeously. Highly-reverbed drums smash their way in at the 3:00 mark. While the heavy guitar-driven interlude from the original is gone, we’re instead graced with a long and flavorful couple of solos at the end, and a dancing synth melody plays us off. It’s all here—marking this piece high seems a necessity, as here we begin to see genuine fun being had by Shaw—watch out for the interlude in the middle, if there is any watching out for it.

Lordly Might
6.5 / 10

“Lordly Might”, is again based off a prior Klem reimagining. The chunky slap bass found here was an utter necessity I think, considering the source MIDI—although it is not the focal point, entering for a mere four bars before disappearing again. Herrera’s guitar soloing is definitely the high point of this track, exploring all sorts of different harmonic territory. Some freeform/atonal synthesizer melodies play off during the outro, which I am indifferent to—before a slightly abrupt ending. Overall, this one is by no means *bad*, but I really think the guitar work could’ve sat more tightly in its surroundings—it definitely needed at least a touch of manual quantising.

Hunter’s Lair
10 / 10

“Hunter’s Lair” is the longest reinterpretation on this album. It paces itself carefully for its entire 9:17 duration, and it may be the highlight for me in terms of overall song and mix quality. Everything is just really nicely balanced and polished. All the original source material is quoted verbatim here, though embellished and lengthened with care. Shiny synths in the high register lift everything up during the refrains, and the unique fills on the drums keep interest and momentum going. We get a fabulous keyboard solo from Dave towards the end, as well. Top marks here.

Breach of Madness
9.5 / 10

“Breach of Madness” is an infamously ubiquitous Klem track, if you’ve spent any length of time playing classic Doom WADs. Gotta say I was waiting for this one. The ominous keyboard instrument sets the stage, then the rhythm guitar-driven opening that promptly follows is brutally in-your-face. The drums are also especially tasty from the get-go. The piece’s mood swings and modulations are all present and correct here, with wailing lead guitar and crunchy bass filling out the sonic space neatly. Herrera graces us with a Yngwie-esque guitar solo, and plays us out masterfully with crunchy rhythm guitar madness. Expertly done.

Lamneth’s Ground
9.5 / 10

“Lamneth’s Ground” by Shaw is up next – an understated but (as I understand) highly-rated piece. The minimal piano was an apt choice for the opening here, but don’t worry, the iconic rock organ makes an appearance—how could it not? The guitar solo also shows up and is as faithful to the source material as they come. Solid drums in this one, too! The exclusively minor-chord progression that plays out towards the end is a really nice touch—especially on the vibrato-heavy steel guitar—and leads us seamlessly into a cool and memorable outro.

Devil’s Ground
9 / 10

Klem’s “Devil’s Ground” follows – what some might know as my favorite entry in reqmus.wad. The delay-heavy buzzy synths get the party going in true Klem fashion. Herrera has a field day with the guitars in this one, from the buildup to the chromatic solo, and we’re treated to some yowling bar-by-bar arpeggios at the end. I do feel like this piece could’ve been fleshed out a bit more, perhaps to four minutes? It does end a little abruptly – oh, well, no complaints here aside from that – this interpretation definitely does it justice.

Last Resort
9 / 10

“Last Resort”, the album’s first offering from composer Jeremy Doyle, opens with an undulating synth that may well be what the original MIDI was trying to accomplish, and here it’s very cool to see the musicians clearly having fun with the modern tools now at their disposal. I really enjoy the drums – a combination of acoustic and digital, if I’m not mistaken? Slap bass and wah-wah guitar also make an appearance here, transporting me straight to Vice City or some suchlike place. Overall, this one is pretty masterfully done – it almost seems understated compared to the original’s unmistakably heavy metal angle, but it uses the material wisely, and certainly hasn’t lost its groove.

Tides of War
7.5 / 10

Doyle’s “Tides of War” is next. Its percussion kit and guitar tone would have to be high points for me, but I have a hard time justifying the 7:41 length when the original material is not really explored in great depth. The main melody goes unchanged and unvaried, beyond the guitar counterpoint that plays during the section towards the beginning. I do feel the introductory section may be too lengthy, and while we get an explosively heavy outro that sounds really cool, it really should have come in sooner. Overall I really love what this track does with the ideas it has, but the pacing of those ideas and the trimming of the fat could perhaps have used some seeing to.

Skinny Puppy
7 / 10

“Skinny Puppy” certainly didn’t open in the way I was expecting—daringly, it’s the first track reimagined in a different tempo to its original, kicking off with some tempoless floating chords and frigid textures that certainly pull otherworldly industrial settings to mind. While it gets great points for atmosphere, I’m not so much a fan of its buildup and overall structure. The bass that opened the original enters around the 2:00 mark, no percussion enters until 4:00, and the second familiar bass melody (played on a very fitting TB-303 here) doesn’t kick in until around the 6:00 mark. I understand the concept of the slow burner, and certainly an album as substantial as this needs breather tracks, but even so, the original’s bouncy, pulsing mood seems to have been foregone here in favor of a very steadily building piece that structures its elements a little too sparingly. Perhaps some key changes would’ve been welcome—it stays in E minor for the entire 7:12 duration, so maybe swapping to C minor or G minor at opportune points would’ve been wise. The percussion fadeout also needed a little extra tender loving care, I think. Overall, I was really left wanting more.

The Everlasting Negative
7 / 10

Back to Klem with “The Everlasting Negative”, and this short-and-sweet waltz of a track from Requiem’s long-and-bitter MAP21 is here in full, embellished with appropriate guitars courtesy of Doyle that play in close harmony. Things are nicely balanced here. There’s honestly not much to say – it’s a straightforward re-recording, keep all the original’s elements intact, offering no brand-new material or daring musical detours. I guess a short and simple “interlude-type” song in the midst of all this extended and heavily-remixed music is a welcome detour of its own, but with the track clocking in at only 2:03, I was left wanting so much more again.

10 / 10

Klem’s “Slider” follows. This has always been a favorite track of mine from the soundtrack – underappreciated, I think. Happy to report that it’s been done justice in all the right places here – a chorus of giants’ footsteps, haunting howls and siren-like tones bring the track inward, and powerful drums dominate the mix once things kick into gear. These introductory sounds gradually ebb into background noise, but are consistently serving to keep a busy and ominous undercurrent flowing throughout the entire thing. Doyle’s guitar deftly thunders in at the 2:10 mark, strictly adhering to the source material all throughout, with the heavier melodies at 4:18 being rhythmically sound and clear as crystal. In fact every instrument and background element shines brightly in this highly eclectic mixture of different but undoubtedly very “Doomy” sounds, so I have to highly commend the mix quality here. The drums’ reverb tail might just be a little fat. I also feel like the opening melody on the polished brassy synth has been altered subtly – either that or I’ve been hearing it wrong all this time. Otherwise, superbly executed.

Elegant Tension
6 / 10

Next up is “Elegant Tension”, a track by Doyle that didn’t see inclusion in Requiem, but has since seen use by the community since he put the original MIDI up for grabs. An unexpected but intriguing addition to this roster. I do have a problem with the synth usage here, though. The delay-heavy main synth sounds a little bit too “retro”—almost like a downgrade of sorts! Also not a fan of the drums and effects here at all, I’m afraid… They’re just too noisy—I have to reach for the volume dial at 3:38 every time. Once it picks up beyond that point, though, the individual elements seem to gel together a little better. Things strip away slightly before the 4:30 mark, and elements such as warm pads and harps are introduced—I wager this would’ve been a brilliant basis for more of the track! Overall I can’t say I’m a fan. Sorry, Jeremy!

Bucket of Fear
8.5 / 10

I feel foolish for nearly forgetting about “Bucket of Fear”—another file from Doyle’s late-nineties cutting room floor. I mean, it’s not a track I would associate with Doom, for sure, if anything a piece of performance art. Listening, I can easily picture a New Simplicity artist performing “Music for Metal Bucket in D Minor”. Jokes aside, this one took me a little while to get into due to its repetitive introduction and the cartoony nature of its percussive sounds, but I really dug it in the end, especially the bouncy groove that it’s got going on both rhythmically and melodically. The heavy guitars come out of left field, but I am very glad they do. The effervescing acid bass is also a fine addition—this plus the shuffling heavy drums give me “Command and Conquer” vibes. A very strong piece, overall.

Closing the album with a moment of levity is the curiously self-deprecatory “Lounge of Carnage (Live)” – a piano interpretation of Shaw’s “Rhythm of Carnage”, presented as an intermission piece in a crowded lounge/bar setting, ambience (and audience) provided. As one of the booing wankers in this track, I can assure that the opinions vocalised herein do not reflect the opinions of any real persons.

Overall album rating: 8 / 10

To quickly recap: The compositions have been shown decent care and attention by their original creators – to be expected, of course. Our three core composers are clearly showcasing undeniably that they’ve Still Got It. Mark Klem and David Shaw are still having a lot of fun with the extensions and extra flourishes they’ve added. We see Jeremy Doyle showing no small amount of manpower in his guitar playing on tracks like “Rhythm of Carnage” and “Rage”. Across the board JD Herrera’s contributions are second-to-none and his guitar and bass tones fat and juicy – a fine addition to the veteran crew behind these pieces, lifting every track he features on with masterfully fluid playing and the odd creative flair. They plainly make an excellent team.

In only a few cases was I “disappointed” (too strong a word, that, really) by material that seemed out of place, or mix quality, which seems to vary dramatically piece by piece. But I reckon I can look past these. Fun was obviously had, as I’m sure was done two decades prior, and honestly, that’s the thing I seek out more than anything, in my own work, and in that of others. It wouldn’t be fair of me to make scientifically-precise comments on each individual track when the project as a whole is clearly born out of an undying love for the game, and for the art – twenty years later, no less.

This album is by no means flawless, but all the same I would have to recommend it as required listening if you have any fondness for the classic megawad soundtracks at all – which you should. Judge it on your own merits – there’s assuredly at least something for everyone in this package.

That’s Jimmy signing off for now. Many many thanks to these guys for considering me as an advance reviewer, and for continuing to contribute to the community all this time later. I’m certainly looking forward to the proper release, and what you guys plan to do with “Reason For Nothing”, “Dry Rot” and “Take All (I Have More)”.