Trent Reznor: Quake Soundtrack (1996)
Throughout the ’90s it was virtually impossible to escape the music of Trent Reznor. Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral was as much a staple as Nirvana’s Nevermind and in everyone’s CD collection at the time. His particular blend of synthesized industrial metal spawned hundreds of copycat groups as well as a moderate amount of controversy. His earlier material didn’t appeal to me in the slightest but there is simply no denying his genius as a multi-instrumentalist and composer.
Quake was id Software’s follow-up to the incredibly important video game, Doom. At first I had considered putting Doom on this list instead as I have a lot more nostalgia for that title and a more memorable soundtrack for me, personally as a result. While the music for Doom is fantastic, it borrows a lot of ideas and riffs from a variety of different heavy guitar influenced groups so it doesn’t sound as wholly original as Reznor’s Quake. Also, Doom’s music sounds a lot like a video game soundtrack whereas this one can be enjoyed on it’s own.
Reznor’s work on this soundtrack is criminally overlooked as video games weren’t taken quite as seriously as an artistic medium back then as they are today. Where Nine Inch Nails’ earlier albums fell short for me was in the overly hostile, angry vocals and synth-lead compositions. I can appreciate and respect albums like Broken and The Downward Spiral without fully enjoying them. In fact, I own all of Reznor’s discography on CD and partially on vinyl. What attracts me to his newer material and this Quake soundtrack is the restraint he has developed over the years.
This soundtrack is best heard loud on a dark, damp October evening. The complexity in the arrangements play serious tricks on the listener as subtle sounds ebb and flow throughout. There are moments where the music physically appears to affect my body, particularly in the quieter sections where tiny gurgles or tinny noises occur repetitively. In a lot of ways it sounds as though Reznor was channeling his inner Coil as the music definitely takes on a more ambient, almost noise-based quality compared to his main catalog of Nine Inch Nails productions.
In conclusion, Quake is not only a near perfect Halloween experience to physically play in video game form but also a fantastic album to simply enjoy on it’s own merits. Trent Reznor is one of the last living geniuses in the world of music who deserves all the love in the world for his consistent efforts of shaping and reshaping the formula throughout the past few decades.