Requiem Reimagined & Reviewed
by Tristan “Eris Falling” Clark
Overall Rating: 8 / 10
I regret to say that while I have seen many PWADs in the six years since I got hold of the PC versions of the Doom series, there are only a small number that I have properly played to completion or at least finished most of the maps. Alas, Requiem is not one of them, but don’t write off this review just yet!
Requiem was released in early July 1997 (an excellent month, I must say) and its original soundtrack – by Mark Klem, David “Tolwyn” Shaw and Jeremy Doyle – joined the two Memento Moris to become quintessential classics within the world of Doom music, and even today it seems rare to find a megawad or community project that doesn’t use at least one MIDI from these WADs, and with opinions on what makes a Good Doom Map becoming steadily more polarised, the classic WADs aren’t looked back on as fondly now as they might have been ten years ago. In short, it’s the music that has truly stood the test of time.
So with that in mind, Requiem’s 21st anniversary is fast approaching, so what better way of celebrating it with the return of the musical triad, who over the last two years have put together a new rendition of the entire soundtrack, recorded with high quality VSTs and real guitars and bass. The veterans are back, and they want us newer musicians off their lawn!
In general, I love this kind of concept. MIDIs to me are never just MIDIs—I often wonder about how something would sound if it were given this kind of treatment. While I may not have the years of nostalgia tied to these compositions, I do know a bit about remaking MIDIs like this, so here we go!
Track By Track
Like the other reviewers, I’ll be rating each track out of ten. Two songs, both by Klem, are not present in my review copy so I can’t review them!
Barracus Returns (Intro/Intermission)
9 / 10
The music for the title screen and intermissions has tripled in length from 13 to 40 seconds for this rendition. Most of the extra length comes from a new introductory build up featuring some wacky frequency modulations and low hums before it launches into a pretty heavy rendition of the original riff which frankly blows the MIDI version out of the water. I’m flicking back and forth between the two as I write this and the MIDI just sounds mellow now! I think this does great as a prelude to the main album, though I do wish the transition from the ambient-like opening to the heavy riff hit me in the face just a little harder, there’s potential for more impact.
The Rhythm of Carnage (MAP01/26)
9 / 10
As I recall, there was a version of this from earlier in production that was shown publicly before the project was formally announced, and I had a number of gripes that I quietly passed on to Jeremy. Happily, I can say that the things I had complaints about are no longer present here. Similar to Barracus Returns, real metal knocks MIDI metal out of the park here. Right from the start we’re treated to some very loud and punchy drums before launching into some excellent rhythm guitar chugging from Mr. Doyle. The lead guitar sounds great, and the song loops for a second run to extend the track from its modest original length of 90 seconds, with the second pass featuring some additional flourishes on the lead guitar. Simple, effective and awesome, just how I like my opening tracks.
10 / 10
Sweet. See, this is why I like to imagine what MIDIs could be like when done this way. This is a song I’m not familiar with, and I listened to the original MIDI first and honestly, it’s a six or a seven out of ten for me. This version though is amazing! JD Herrera has done a fine job with the guitar and bass here and the mixing is pretty on point too. Overall it feels slightly faster than the MIDI although it might be just me. The half-time section that comes in around two minutes sounds absolutely awesome, a real headbanger of a riff that’s followed by a nifty synth solo and then an excellent guitar solo straight after that, both of which feel like they should have been in the MIDI to begin with. There’s even a second guitar solo towards the end of the piece, featuring a slightly cleaner and very beautiful tone. Excellent work.
Breath of Sin (MAP03/28)
7 / 10
Here we see a change of musical style—Breath of Sin sat very much in line with Bobby Prince’s darker-sounding compositions for the original Doom games with its classic twelve-bar-blues structure and lack of heavy guitars. The drift away from hard rock and heavy metal was to be expected here, though I was not expecting this reimagination to take things in a more electronic direction, with a lot of background synth work throughout and synthetic drums—including a snare drum that’s just a bit too loud for my liking. Although this doesn’t play into my musical preferences like the last two tracks, it’s still a well-crafted reimagination, and an interesting one, no doubt.
Somewhere Over the Horizon (MAP04)
The second Klem song in the album is arguably one of the best known pieces from Requiem, one of those that has gone on to see extensive use by mappers since. A Klem Klassic, you could say. It may be fair to say then that a lot of attention will be directed towards this piece, so it better be a good interpretation!
The song starts out with the ominous string arrangements that many of us are familiar with, though now a synth lead is introduced at around the 50 second mark, an unexpected addition, but I feel it’s a nice one. The percussion sounds great when it kicks in, and when the guitar is initially introduced, it stays at the back of the mix and let’s the orchestra stay in the foreground until its time is up, just like it did in the MIDI. The guitar is still very cool when it does take centre stage, but for me the orchestra-driven parts of this are by far the highlights for me. Substituting the staccato double basses for what sounds like a bassoon struck me as an odd choice though, nitpicky as it may sound. Very good overall.
Mystic’s Glance (MAP05)
7.5 / 10
I can’t recall anything about Requiem MAP05, but I do know this song from elsewhere; a really, really dark map in fact where that low celesta melody perfectly sets the mood of knowing there are many monsters hiding in the shadows, patiently waiting for their cues to rip you a new one. So that’s what I associate this track with, granted it’s less of a solid base for reviewing this than if I were instead associating it with the map it first appeared on.
Coming in at nearly seven minutes, Mystic’s Glance is one of the longer recordings on the album, and at first the initial celesta melody is nowhere to be seen, with the track starting off with an ominous choir instead before the main motifs show up. There’s a lot of “explosive” percussion elements present here, replacing the standard drum kit of the original song, and these work pretty well. Herrera comes in with a well-played guitar solo after the 4-minute mark, though its inclusion feels a bit out of place to me, and the synth solo that follows fits in a bit better. Overall it’s pretty good, but it is admittedly one I had to listen to a few times until I was sure of how I felt about it.
Path of Destruction (MAP06)
9 / 10
A very loud interpretation of another Klem Klassic here. The sweeping synths that fill up the background really add a new dimension to this piece. For the first two minutes or so I honestly wasn’t sure about the overall mix here, it felt like it was lacking substantially in the lower frequencies, but when the bass guitar finally kicks in it really makes its presence known – that tone is freaking beautiful. From there on out I love it, for pretty much the same reasons as Rage; an excellent bit of hard rock riffage, and also that ending is fantastic.
Jacob’s Staircase (MAP07)
8 / 10
Since the original has a length south of two minutes, Jacob’s Staircase gets a second run through its structure here so it’s not over as soon as it begins. It’s a pretty faithful reinterpretation, where there aren’t really any additions to the song until it’s well into its second pass, where we get some overdriven guitars added to the background, and a synth taking over the lead melody. There’s not a whole lot else to say about this one, there’s nothing actually wrong with it, but unless you loved the original, it’s not likely to be your highlight of the album.
Under Death (MAP08/30)
10 / 10
I love Under Death, so going in to this my expectations are high, and my expectations are met. The harp at the beginning sets the same dark and mysterious tone that the MIDI executed so well, and the rest of the orchestra-focused half of the song stays on par. New additions are limited, but among them is some smooth guitar tapping from Doyle around the two minute mark, which bounces around the stereo space a bit before disappearing again. True to its original structure, the song changes from its ominous orchestral beginnings into a mid-tempo rock piece with Doyle returning to provide some neat rhythm guitars. The overall mix is great – an excellent rendition of an already great track, what more could you want?
The Helix (MAP09/29)
10 / 10
Tolwyn’s Helix is the second longest track on the album, coming in at eight-and-a-half minutes. The atmosphere has really been cranked up a notch for this rendition with the pounding percussion and bright tones of the piano swimming in reverb and all the background elements blend together fantastically well with a gradual build-up in this extended introduction. Things don’t really take off until about three minutes in when the main drum kit enters. That too is mixed well, the snare isn’t dissimilar to the explosive nature of General MIDI’s power kit, and it’s a very fitting sound for this track, even though the original MIDI didn’t actually use the power kit.
At around the midpoint of the track comes a completely unexpected turn—it threw me off the first time I heard it but upon a repeat listen I was able to appreciate that it really is pretty well executed and it’s actually not even out of place, though I’m not sure how die-hard fans of Helix will react to it. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that someone likes Phil Collins, heh. When that part is over, we get a fairly long guitar solo with some harmonizing for color, followed by an equally long synth solo, very well played and kept quite simple, complementing its smooth tone, and then a long outro brings the eight-minute behemoth to a gradual fade-out finish.
I know a lot of people are looking forward to neo-Helix—while only the first half is the song you remember, the second half is prog-rock at its best and a definite highlight of the album, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Lordly Might (MAP10)
7 / 10
Quite different to the original MIDI – I mostly like this but I feel like there’s something a bit off about it, and while I struggle to place it myself, others have noted that this track was not Herrera’s tightest guitar-playing, so I assume that’s it. The solos are very good though, no complaints there. This was good but had potential to be better.
Hunter’s Lair (MAP11)
10 / 10
Lordly Might barely gives you time to catch your breath; after the 8-minute Helix takes the #2 spot in track length. And now the #1 spot is eaten up by another Tolwyn piece, a nine-minute rendition of Hunter’s Lair—so basically it’s nearly tripled in length. Now you’re on my lawn, Tolwyn!
This version of Hunter’s Lair starts off by sticking pretty faithfully to the original, with the drumkit limited to just the hi-hats, and the deep bass line playing the slow variant of the gallop rhythm—reminds me a bit of Iron Maiden’s more-progressive side. At around 2:30, the original MIDI moves to a new segment that it ends on, but this version instead introduces some guitar layers—with Doyle on electric and Tolwyn himself on acoustic—before the drums come in fully.
The compression on the drums is a bit much for me at first, but this is in part down to the fact it’s mainly just the drums on their own with the bass guitar at first, and it sounds gradually better as the rest of the instruments are added on top of them. From around the four-minute mark on-wards, the song sticks mainly to the ending segment I mentioned earlier, and that ending segment can itself be split down further into two smaller segments—both of which are extended. That first one really cements the Maiden parallels to me, and the song reaches its full arrangement on the second loop. The acoustic guitar proves itself to be an excellent addition at this point, it fits in perfectly.
From the six-minute mark we get the second half of the original track’s ending, with that lovely melancholic guitar melody and strings backing up the end of each line in a bit of a power ballad-esque way. The song wanders off into solo territory after this – the keyboard goes first, but it’s Doyle’s guitar solo that will grab your attention. A reprise of that iconic melody rounds off this rendition, with some nice harmonies added to the guitar before the song cuts to just percussion instruments in a long fade-out ending. I think comparisons to Helix may be inevitable considering they are both the titans of the set, and whilst they total up to over quarter of an hour, both are worth every minute.
Breach of Madness (MAP12/31/story texts)
8 / 10
The song you may also know as “Mesmarine” is another part of Requiem’s soundtrack that still enjoys relatively frequent use in Doom levels today. It’s a similar composition to Under Death (also by Klem) with its eerie yet immediately recognisable opening segments before becoming more rock-oriented later on.
In this reimagination, no time is wasted in getting to the heavier part, with a start-to-overdriven-guitar score of ten seconds. I do feel it’s a bit of a shame that the eeriness of that keyboard melody, the most iconic part of the song (for me at least) isn’t really allowed to flourish here, but beyond that it’s a pretty well-executed remake and, intro notwithstanding, the structure is faithful to the original as well, but maybe this time that’s not such a good thing because due to that intro, the pacing now feels a little off to me. Towards the end of the track we are graced with an excellent guitar solo from Herrera – this one has got a fair bit of speed to it! Very good outro sequence too.
Lamneth’s Ground (MAP13)
9 / 10
The introductory piano is new to this reimagining, and lifts Lamneth’s Ground to over seven minutes. It’s officially a big one now! It’s a welcome addition too as it sets a tone that is different from every song up to this point. The original arrangement kicks in just before the first minute’s up, and for me the Hammond organ is of particular note here – it has a more fitting tone for its purpose compared to the MIDI, I feel.
Overall it sticks close to the source material, with some minor arrangement changes, the organ sticks around longer, its brighter, cleaner tone contributing a nice layer even places where it didn’t play originally, whereas the choir from around the midpoint of the track is very faint, you have to really listen for it. Then comes the guitar solo, and it’s very close to the original, excellent stuff there although it would seem no one actually played guitar here.
Once again, solid ending, gotta love vi-i.
Devil’s Grounds (MAP14)
6 / 10
The Devil has more grounds than Lamneth, that’s for sure. (Sorry, had to!)
A shorter offering here, not an unwelcome change as too many long epics back to back can be a bit tiring. This was a very synth-heavy piece to begin with and that doesn’t change in this rendition – although the panning of the individual elements feels a bit extreme here. The song is ultimately building up to a guitar solo from Herrera which kicks in at 2:54, and it’s great… until it kicks straight back out again at 3:06. Twelve seconds!? It does return shortly afterward, but the shredding it seemed like we were in for doesn’t show, instead there’s some layered harmonising which leads the track to its abrupt ending.
I know I said it was nice to have a shorter track after the string of longer pieces, but I feel this could have had significantly more to it than it ultimately does.
Last Resort (MAP15)
8 / 10
Last Resort is the first track on the album to be composed by Jeremy Doyle. Already we’ve seen him do a fine job with some of Klem’s tracks, how will he approach one of his own? Well, naturally there’s more artistic freedom when it’s your own track – you’re allowed to call the shots with regards to changing things, and I think that shows in what Doyle’s done here.
The original song made prominent use of synths, and here things go a step further, adding lots of filter effects over the original bass line and melodies. The drums sound a bit more electronic, and that suits the synth-heavy sound well. My favourite part of this track was always the second half, where the guitar joins in, and the same is true for this version, although the song has been proportionally stretched to double its original length – the original MIDI will have finished playing by the time you get to the second half here. The transition is well-paced, giving time for the bass player to walk into the room, prepare the equipment and then launch into some super-funky slap bass. The original heavy guitar riff does show later, but here its appearance is split up by a reprise of the slap bass section, this time accompanied by a guitar with a wah-effect. It’s certainly a different direction, but the back and forth between the familiar arrangement and the new one is a nice touch, and keeps things interesting. When everything is twice as long, that’s a necessity really.
Reason for Nothing (MAP16/22)
7 / 10
This, I believe, was the last song to be finished for the album. I’m writing this with days (hours?) until the album launches, and Jeremy sent it over today as we were talking about playing bass – particularly playing fast – and ironically that’s something he decided not to do here, letting a software instrument take over instead, though when we’re talking solid 16th notes at this kind of tempo and the fact that this song is in the unfriendly key of F, you can’t blame him for not wanting to play it. The software bass has a nice bright tone that sounds great though, so it’s not a detriment to the track at all.
There isn’t really a whole lot else to talk about here, the arrangement of this song is exactly as it was in the original, down to the last note. Whilst conceptually I think it’s perfectly fine to do that – this wasn’t an ambitious track to begin with, and sticking so rigidly to the original when more adventurous remakes are chockablock on this album means it feels a bit lacklustre. It’s good for what it is though.
Tides of War (MAP17/32)
Two-minute MIDI becomes the third-longest track on the album, rounding up to eight minutes. I’m suspicious!
The first 80 seconds consists solely of the percussion that the original MIDI started with, but with some different instrument choices, it has a more tribal feel to it now and there’s a nice sense of a build-up with a background noise that gradually evolves from a distant rumble to a harsh, mid-range hiss, at which point the main drum kit enters, with a low synth, later followed by the clean guitar part from the original. Shortly before the 3:00 mark overdriven guitars are introduced – a new addition for this version. They later retreat, as do the drums, leaving the tribal percussion and the synths to do the work for most of the song’s remainder, though the guitar and drums return for the last minute and a half or so.
There’s one flaw with this though: It’s all done on that one motif. That same chord progression repeats over and over again, and whilst the changes to the arrangement are well-executed and do their best to keep things interesting and varied, I don’t believe the song needed to be approaching eight minutes to do what it does. There’s some interesting stuff that shows up in the second half, but I feel it could’ve been worked into the first half quite easily and things wouldn’t feel as drawn out.
Dry Rot (MAP18/23)
9 / 10
Well this one is just nuts. Herrera plays guitar and bass on this track, and whilst I wouldn’t say it’s his tightest playing on the album (though I’m not sure, it’s hard to tell when this song already had some odd rhythm stuff going on in the first place), Dry Rot sounds to me like it was a total bitch of a song to play, just check out those ascending bass arpeggios at 1:33! There’s so much going on in this track that it’ll probably take a few listens to make sure you’ve heard everything, and apart from the drums it’s all recorded. Impressive stuff, and probably safe to say it’s the most “technical” piece here.
Skinny Puppy (MAP19)
5 / 10
The original MIDI lies somewhere outside of my musical tastes, so I was a bit apprehensive when loading up a seven-minute reimagination, but this one starts off very differently. The original opening synth bass is still present, but here it’s slower, and it pushed to the background, running underneath dreamy synthesised strings that bring a pleasant atmospheric feel. Stylistically, I prefer this ambient section to the electronic feel of the original, but as with Tides of War, there’s pacing issues here: The ambient introduction, pleasant as it may be at first, takes up the first four minutes of the song. It’s a bit much! The track finally gets going after the four minute mark has passed, introducing electronic drums that go further away from my musical tastes than the MIDI, and while the dreamy strings are retained, you start hearing elements from the original track start to crop up in the closing stages.
Eh, sorry Jeremy, I’ve tried to avoid genre bias as best I can with some of the more electronic oriented pieces here, but with that and the fact that the pacing issues make the track much longer than it really needs to be, I can’t say I liked this one all that much.
(Small addendum: It probably goes without saying, but as I said, genre bias affected my view of this track more than any other on the album. If electronic music is your thing already, you’ll probably like this more than my review indicates)
Take All (I Have More) (MAP20/25)
8 / 10
Interestingly, this one is a different key to the original, having been lowered from G# minor to E minor, a pretty big jump. Like the original, the song repeats its simple, jam-like main riff, but where you’re expecting the brass section to come in, instead there’s a guitar solo, which starts off quite simple, but Herrera can’t resist his speedy scales! After the solo, the track starts to deviate a bit from the original structure, and considering this is a pretty rock-focused album, and that the instrument in question has already been heard in previous songs, 2:47 gives us the one thing I was still waiting for: a Hammond solo! It’s an interesting one, not entirely sure if I’m hearing two organs or one rapidly bouncing from left to right in the mix, but regardless I’m glad of its presence.
The Everlasting Negative (MAP21)
8 / 10
Hey, I helped with this one! Sort of. Jeremy sent me an early version of this not long after the album was publicly announced. I’m not sure if I advised on anything other than the tone of the harp, but oh well, that harp sure sounds lovely 🙂
In all seriousness, I like orchestral pieces but MIDI can struggle with them at times, and that’s not meant to sound like it’s bashing Mark’s original, but my initial statement of “MIDIs are never just MIDIs” is something I feel applies to orchestral work even more than the rock and the metal. The bassoon and cello complement each other well, especially in the lower notes.
The structure is true to the original, although when the guitars kick in, the orchestral instruments are pushed further back than they were in the MIDI, which makes them seem a little drowned but it’s not a huge complaint. If anything I wish we got to hear more of the orchestra on its own, while the piece as a whole is great, at just two minutes, I want MORE!
9 / 10
Klem’s Slider is the last of the “main tracks” on the album. The intro of the original was certainly unlike anything else in Requiem, and the weird sound effects have been recreated with surprising accuracy, barring the improvements over the MIDI sounds, of course. It’s uniqueness is perhaps less pronounced now what with other tracks opting for additional atmospheric elements, but still, everything sounds pretty great here: the guitars are well played and overall it’s probably one of the best tracks in terms of mix quality.
6 / 10
The name certainly rolls off the tongue better than REQ-JD12.mid. Elegant Tension, along with Bucket of Fear after it, is an unused music track that Jeremy Doyle wrote for Requiem, and it wasn’t heard publicly until Doyle returned to the Doom community in 2015. Both tracks were reimagined and titled for inclusion as bonus tracks at the end of the album.
If you’ve never heard it, the original Elegant Tension is certainly worth a listen, a well-made, albeit short piece with a dark tone. Better than one might be expecting given it comes with the “unused” label. Straight up, I don’t think this rendition does the track justice, particularly the drums, which I don’t feel are a good match for the darker sound the song aims for. The song begins its ending sequence at around the 4:30 mark, and the inclusion of the harp there feels like a nod to the original nature of the track. While I like that, it’s also teasing me with what could have been.
Bucket of Fear
8 / 10
The second unused Doyle track is Bucket of Fear, also known by the catchy title of REQ-JD08.mid. Like Elegant Tension, the original track is perfectly fine, and once again I’m left wondering why it didn’t see use, considering several tracks in Requiem appeared more than once.
The eponymous bucket makes an appearance in this recording, playing a terrifying major role in the percussion section for the first two minutes. It’s joined by other elements to keep things interesting, though it still goes on for a bit longer than I’d like it to, but no worries, heavy guitars to the rescue! The riff is killer, and the stabby synth introduced at around 3:35 makes a good transition back to a quieter part of the song, though the guitars later return to finish things off. Pretty good overall.
Lounge of Carnage (not rated)
get off, you’re shit <3 x/10
This was an ambitious undertaking, and one that was two years in the making, but I’m glad to say the hard work that was put into this has paid off without a shadow of a doubt. There are a couple of misfires, but they’re outnumbered by the hits.
Klem’s tracks play things pretty safe and stick close to their original counterparts, whilst the tracks by Tolwyn and Doyle tend to be a bit more adventurous, and there are examples of both approaches working well and not working so well.
Coming in at over two hours, the album is by no means a short listen, but even if, like me, you aren’t as familiar with Requiem as some people, I’d highly recommend giving this a listen. You know, Requiem has its name for a reason. It was supposed to be the last hurrah of Doom modding scene before the world moved on to fancier things like Quake. The fact that this album—a celebratory work put together over 20 years later—even exists is truly remarkable, and if you read through the liner notes included with the album as a PDF (a very nice touch I must say), it seems clear to me that the guys feel the same about that.
The album is officially finished as I write this conclusion, so of course, I’d like to say great work to everyone involved and congratulations on completing this project. I know redoing even just one track like this can prove to be a challenge, and so the amount of love, care and effort that has gone into doing twenty-six tracks is not lost on me. Special thanks to Jeremy Doyle for approaching me to write this review, sorry it turned out so huge!
I’m still not getting off your lawn though, Tolwyn :v
FINAL SCORE: 8/10
Track-by-track average score: 8.14