The name Mick Gordon may not mean much to the average gamer, but it definitely should. The man behind the soundtracks of Wolfenstein: The New Order, Killer Instinct, and the recently released Doom reboot, Mick Gordon is a sonic force to be reckoned with. In recent years he has gained praise for his ability to craft intense, visceral soundscapes that stand as some of the best original scores in gaming, seemingly getting better with each score he produces. His methods can be unconventional, but there is no denying he has range, and a bright future ahead.
Gordon has been working as a composer for over a decade, but his first big project in video games came in 2009, when he collaborated on the soundtrack for Need for Speed: Shift. By no means his best work, he continued working on the franchise until 2013, when he put his talents to use creating the score for fighting game reboot Killer Instinct. At this point he really seemed to stretch his creative wings, putting together varied and unique themes for each fighter in the diverse roster. From the monk-like Jago, whose theme features pounding drums and intense chanting, to the villainous Sadira, who has a theme full of hard riffs and ambient noise, the sound of each track felt considered in a way that few soundtracks do. Of course, what would his work on Killer Instinct be without the main title track, which has itself become something of a modern gaming classic?
Then came Wolfenstein: The New Order. While there are many good pieces on the soundtrack, one of the best is Ransacked. Taking place during a pivotal moment in the story, it evokes tension with its fast-paced acoustic opening, before breaking down the musical door with heavy drums and electric guitar. It even features accompanying vocals in the latter half of the song, fitting the tone of the track perfectly while escalating the emotional resonance it has in the context of story and characters.
In the pantheon of video game soundtracks, few are more evocative or memorable than those of the original Doom games. With their MIDI beats ripped from the likes of Metallica and Black Sabbath, their pounding rhythms provided the perfect score for killing demons in 1993. Reinventing those classic songs more than two decades later was no small order, and Mick Gordon was certainly the right man for the job. With his musical sensibilities already firmly grounded in high-tempo rock and metal, Doom was a natural fit for him. Not only did he manage to satisfy generations of fans, but in many aspects he surpassed the original. Once again, the entire score is spectacular, but if there’s one track in particular one should listen to, it’s the end credits. Part remix of the classic E1M1 music, part industrial metal, it is a track that embodies everything about the spirit of the game, and the philosophy of the musician behind it.
Oftentimes, it feels like the composers behind our favorite games don’t get their due. Mick Gordon has earned his. Matching the tone and feel of a game is one thing, but to amplify the feeling of playing it, to evoke actual emotion through music is another thing entirely, and is something that Gordon has come to excel at. In merely three titles, he has shown depth and creativity in how he approaches his art, crafting some of the most unique and exciting scores in the last few years. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.