Posted 20 November 2008 - 09:19 AM
I realize I'm late to the party, but since The Dark Side Of Phobos was the site project that motivated me to get a forum account just to post a review, I figured I'd chip in with my two cents on the sequel.
What I like best about this album is it's cohesiveness. The Dark Side of Phobos was a big 2-disc collection of songs where I could take the ones I liked and leave the ones I didn't; a buffet of Doom related tracks, if you will. Delta-Q-Delta, since it's shorter, uses crossfading, and isn't so spread out among genres, is truly an album, to the point that while I have favored tracks, I'm happiest just listening to the whole thing in one sitting. You're to be commended for managing to get ten different people's songs, developed independently, to flow together naturally.
Instead of sound effects like last time, it's a filler track that plays a short song. Well, it does what it's supposed to do, in fading into the opening song, and if I find it underwhelming, that's ok since it's over soon enough and we're on our way into...
Running From Evil (Entryway)
I gave Evil Horde no end of praise for his version of Doom1's first level, Hangarmageddon, and it makes sense for him to tackle the first level of Doom 2. But, no matter how much I wanted to like the song, I just couldn't, and I think I've figured out why. The distortion used on the guitar just rubs me the wrong way. It's, I dunno, scratchy. I call it the Master of Puppets effect from where on an otherwise outstanding album, The Thing That Should Not Be pulls this with its guitars, irritating my eardrums severely. Except for replacing the bass guitar part with rhythm guitar, I like the arrangement, the whole verse-chorus-solo structure, but it's just doomed from it's basic building blocks. It's probably just me.
Adrian's Sleep (Bloodfalls)
Now we take it down a notch with a slow, brooding, texture-filled piece, that sounds like a journey, or a soundtrack to a scene. With the gradually building layers, the filtered guitars and piano, and the sudden collapse back to quiet at the end, it sounds like it could have come right out of The Fragile, and that's a compliment.
Westside Archvile (Gotcha!)
Mazedude's remixes of songs from Doom2 were how I found the site in the first place, so I was psyched to learn he'd be contributing to the album. This song is slow, quiet, and atmospheric in the game, built around the "dun-dun, dun-dun-Dun" bassline, which is transplanted from the realm of midi quite admirably. The song gets into a groove for it's nearly 6 minutes, working in each "verse" of the song, and adding plenty of new things on top of the established bass + drums. And then some lovely crossfading and sound effects bring us to...
The Countdown (The Gantlet)
Hmm, a closing sewer door and dripping water bring us to a new level, and the tempo has picked up considerably. The choice of instruments is surprising (is that a flute and violin in the lead over the distorted guitar loop and pounding bassline?) but they work better than I'd expected. For every new part added in, it includes a melody from the midi that I'm familiar with to balance it, so while this has been the most "experimenty" song yet, that's certainly not a bad thing. The "Watch Your Back" and "Countdooown!" vocal samples thrown in seem kind of cheesy, but they're only there for a few seconds, so no big deal, and the song gets ever more intense the longer it progresses, until we suddenly crash into...
Crushing Headache (The Crusher)
Just like Westside Archvile above, the base midi for this song is a slow, quiet, atmospheric track built around its repeating bassline. The Orichalcon rearranges said bassline, to great effect. He builds some synths on top of it for a little while, and then strips them away for a breakdown heightened by samples of imps waking up and wandering around, which makes for a coo-AHHH BARON OF HELL ROAR!! That little "jump" moment brings us back to the melody section for one more go round, and then...
Silent Healer (Underhalls)
We arrive at my favorite track of the album. Taking the quietest song in the game and turning it into a relentless industrial demonic hymn was a stroke of genius. "Silent" Healer is anything but. You're strapped onto a conveyor belt speeding through a factory in hell, watching mancubi get guns grafted onto the stumps of their amputated arms, revenants's skeletons getting wired up with rocket launchers and cybernetic gear, and the plasma-gun armed, arachnotron walkers get assembled. It's a dangerous ride, but as long as you keep your hands and legs inside the vehicle until it comes to a complete stop, you should survive. Probably. I love how the melody is almost atonal; just off enough to suggest that something is wrong, without being annoying, and the pounding drums carry the whole thing and keep my head banging.
Icon of Sinwave (Icon of Sin)
I said the previous track was my favorite one, but this is a very close second place. Whereas Silent Healer was compact and to the point, Icon of Sinwave meanders and goes through stages. I absolutely love the intro, with the choir presiding over a beeping heart monitor, but then All Hell Breaks Loose. Best use of sound effects in the album. There's the high-pitched, oscillating whistle, just as unnerving as it is in the game. And then the song kicks in, and by making the song fast paced and relentless, it could easily be the soundtrack for the fight scene against what has just been unleashed. Then the heart monitor flatlines, and all seems to be coming to an abrupt end, but a jarring arch-vile's roar, a string buildup, and a marine's scream lead into part two, which is more straightforward than the constant improvisation of the beginning, and less oppressive as well. Again we hear imp snorts in the distance, followed by their roar as they discover the hero. It's turned from fight music to describing a chase scene now. Another breakdown has the hero almost getting away in a tense moment, but the backwards speech of the titular Icon of Sin brings us back-AHH THERE'S THAT BARON AGAIN!-sorry, back to the first melody, and at the end there's ever-more-desperate marine grunts of pain over top (reminds me of being helplessly trapped in a pit of ooze), until a Dr. Betruger sample (actually from Doom3, but I can let that slide) brings the saga to a close.
31 Seconds (The Pit)
A pretty nice track, or it might have been. A mostly piano-driven song that takes on the harpsichord loop of Into Sandy's City in a variety of ear-pleasing way. Every iteration only lasts a few bars before switching to the next one, so it doesn't last very long, although on the other hand, it doesn't get old either. Of course, with the random pointless movie samples peppered in ruining the song, it's a moot point. It makes a nice filler track because of it's strangeness and brevity, or you could cut it out entirely if you desired, since it's mercifully not crossfaded with the surrounding tracks.
The End of Hell (Endgame)
This one appears to start with the aforementioned harpsichord from The Pit, but it turns out it's instead the background for the text screen music, which takes the song and puts it through the familiar Mazedude filter: maintaining the melody while mutating it into an industrial version of itself. I'm not familiar with the other remixer, Ailsean's work, so I can't comment on their contribution. Even if it's not a standout, it's still a solid song and deserving of a place on the album.
No Smoking Area (Barrels O' Fun)
The original song has a nonstop guitar riff and is one of the most fast-paced songs in the game's soundtrack. phoenixdk's version changes it up, by starting quiet, and having a pause between each part of the riff. As the guitar's pitch gets higher until it sounds like it's about to explode, the background effects build in tension, until it's unleashed in a full-out metal assault during the chorus. This also helps distance the song from its Alice In Chains roots. A mellow guitar solo keeps us in heavy-land before crushing our skull with one or two last runs through the chorus. I like jagged synthesizers and programmed beats as much as the next guy, but it's nice to really return to rock. And then we stay firmly there, with...
The Duel (Tricks And Traps)
There's no echo effect on the guitar, and no descending, warbling whistle in the background, and the drums are different, but to avoid sounding like your typical "omg it's not a straight cover so it sucks" kind of poster, I'll examine it for what it is. It's pretty sparse, just guitar and drums for the most part, and despite a kind of cool bridge, it falls into the same mental trap that Running From Evil did: The guitars go DUN(squeak) DUN(squeak) at every iteration, and that irritates me to no end. Sorry, Evil Horde. I loved your stuff on The Dark Side Of Phobos, but couldn't get past your guitar tone this time around.
Red Waltz (Intermission)
Well, we had to have one token break from theme, and here it is. It makes a nice bonus or epilogue track, since it's separate thematically from the rest of the album, and that means you can end it one track early if you just want the main experience. I can barely detect the original song inside the Waltz, so I usually give it a pass.
Ablaze (Refueling Base)
So, he plays the Refueling Base riff [meaning, the After All (the Dead) riff], plays a song he made, then plays the Refueling Base riff again once he's done. It's a good metal song but phoenixdk could have just cut off the intro and outro and released it as his own work. Then again, it does say Bonus, so maybe I'm just nitpicking.
As I said, Delta-Q-Delta differs from The Dark Side Of Phobos by being a kickass collection of mp3s AND a kickass CD, even if I rearranged/cut things to suit myself. Even just the Adrian's Sleep - Icon of Sinwave arc is worth the price of admission. It was totally worth the wait and makes me glad that I can get such good music for free from this site. Thanks for putting out stuff of this quality, and remember to keep your shotguns loaded, stay out of the radioactive sludge, and watch out for spectres. Invisible bastards...