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Friday, April 06, 2012

Sonic Mayhem - Methods of Destruction (1996)

Sascha Dikiciyan has had a long and successful career composing music for video games. Under the moniker Sonic Mayhem, he has creating scores for Quake II, Quake III: Arena, Tron: Evolution, M.A.G., Terminator: Rise of the Machines and James Bond 007: Tomorrow Never Dies. In 2005, Sascha started working with symphonic composer Cris Velasco. Together, the duo has composed music for a number of successful video game titles, including Dark Messiah, Hellgate: London, Splinter Cell 4, Prototype, Borderlands, Mortal Kombat, Mass Effect 2: Kasumi's Stolen Memory & Arrival, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine and Mass Effect 3.

Sascha moved from Berlin to Los Angeles in 1993, studying at Musicians Institute and The UCLA School of Music. In 1996, he self-published the first release under the pseudonym Sonic Mayhem. Methods of Destruction is a soundtrack add-on for the PC game Quake. This add-on replaces the Trent Reznor ambient score (available for download here) with Sonic Mayhem's electronics and guitar oriented alternative. Methods of Destruction caught the attention of John Romero, the co-founder of id Software, and Sascha was hired to compose the now-classic score for 1997's Quake II (available for download here).

For fans of Sonic Mayhem, Methods of Destruction has always been the holy grail. Released at the time in a small run, the title has been virtually impossible to acquire, either physically or digitally. Over at Quaddicted, there are some details tracking the history of the release and the fruitless efforts to get Sascha to release it on his website. In addition, the page hosts samples for a number of the tracks. More recently, on March 29, 2012, Steam Users' Forum member AHadley posted a link to a digital rip of the album that was given to him by John Romero himself. Two days later, he edited the original post to remove the link, as he became aware of the fact that Sascha had previously indicated that he was not interested in seeing the material released more widely. I was lucky enough to grab that archive before it was removed, thanks to Linda Gabriel, a visitor of PLM who gave me the heads up in time.

I emailed Sascha to ask if I could post Methods of Destruction here. In my email, I directed him to the work I'd done in compiling the Quake II soundtrack and made my impassioned plea: "I'd really like to post Methods of Destruction too. It seems to be pretty common that musicians who have created music for a number of years tend to dislike their earliest works. In this case, if that's how you feel, it's a real shame, as I've listened to Methods of Destruction a few times now and I think it holds up really well. It's totally enjoyable and I know a lot of folks are dying to hear it." To my surprise, I received a quick reply: "Really well done on the quake 2 music compilation. I'm going to mention that on my twitter. Regards MOD. Your correct. Early work is always difficult to swallow ;) However since ur obviously put a lot of effort on the quake 2 info, I will let you post it. Consider this is rare moment of weakness on my part ;)"


I got to work on the MP3s themselves. I was doing my normal routine with MP3s that I haven't encoded myself, which is trim the digital silence with MpTrim PRO, when I noticed that all of the tracks had a little of the previous track at the beginning.  For most of the tracks, it was literally 1/20th of second, which you can't even hear, but because it's there, the second of digital silence that follows couldn't be automatically trimmed. I was able to accomplish that by manually clipping the first 1/10th of second of each track so that MpTrim PRO could automatically remove the digital silence that followed. While examining the tracks, I noticed that the problem was more significant on the first track. Half of the word "ravage" gets cut off on track one and picks up on track two! That's no good. The easiest fix would be to open the two tracks in an audio editor, then cut and paste that last bit on. Unfortunately, if you do that, then you have to recode the track, which, for fidelity reasons, is always better to avoid. Fortunately, I remembered a program called MP3DirectCut, which lets you copy, cut and trim MP3 tracks without recoding. Long story short, I fixed that track without having to recode it.

Methods of Destruction closes with a track called "B7 (Reprise)." I took a hard listen and "B7 (Reprise)" is identical to the earlier track "B7". Because Methods of Destruction is an add-on soundtrack for Quake, my guess would be that the game was structured such that the only way to have "B7" play again in a different section of the game would be to include it on the disc twice. So I took that off. In addition to other samples, that Quaddicted page also hosts a link to a lossless version of "B7" that was tacked on to the end of the Sega Saturn version of Quake. It's kind of a remixed version of "B7," but all they really did was copy the last minute, flip the audio channels and paste it on to the end of the track to make it run a minute longer. Still, it's "different," it was "released" and the sound quality is better, so I encoded it to MP3, titled it "B7 (Sega Saturn Mix)" and included it at the end to replace the duplicate "B7 (Reprise)".

Finally, this rare treat can be heard by all!

Update 04/15/2012: Thanks to PLM visitor Charles-Aurélien Goulois, you can now listen to the entire album on YouTube! I wanted to embed three of the tracks here, so I tried to choose the ones that best cover the full range of the album. I went with "Welcome to Mayhem," the album's opener and the only track to include "vocals" (in the form of samples), "Ultimate Rage" and "Sounds of Decay." Check 'em out:

Sonic Mayhem - Methods of Destruction (1996)
1. Welcome to Mayhem (2:09)
2. Premonition (4:44)
3. B7 (2:04)
4. Ultimate Rage (5:38)
5. Military Installation (4:25)
6. Methods of Destruction (4:35)
7. Mental Anguish (5:23)
8. Sounds of Decay (4:19)
9. B7 (Sega Saturn Mix) (3:03)

85.6MB ZIP archive
MP3: 8x Constant bitrate (128kbps)
1x Variable bitrate (211kbps average)



Steve Engler said...

WHOAH!!!! It's great to see you posting again.

Kevin Sartori said...

Thanks, Steve! Unfortunately, it'll be sporadic at best for the next year or so while I finish my degree. Someday soon I hope to have more free time!

Anthony Hadley said...

Glad I could help. It seems we've done a great service to the Quake community between us :)

Kevin Sartori said...

I'm really glad you were able to get the tracks to begin with, Anthony! I can only imagine how much effort that took! Thanks again for that!

To be honest, I didn't think I'd even get a reply when I sent that email out to Sascha.

Pretty cool that it all came together the way it did!

Tom said...

Ask Sascha if he has the Q1 skins for the MOD clan, a proud frag-happy bunch we were. : )

Anonymous said...

Rispeck! One thing tho': u got too much posts on one page dude, makes your page low slow, makes my browser crash.

Kevin Sartori said...

Thanks for the feedback, Anonymous. I changed the number of posts displayed on each page to 6. Let me know if this speeds things up on your end!

Anonymous said...

Great to see you posting again Kevin! I can always count on you to broaden my musical experience!

Kevin Sartori said...

Thanks, Anonymous!

Relaxtronica said...

Nice review man!

Unknown said...

Make Your Choice -SAW

Mugwump said...

128kbps?! Even back in 2012, this crappy-sounding bitrate was terribly outdated. Is it possible to have 320kbps? Or even better, FLAC?

Unknown said...

+1 on FLAC

Kevin Sartori said...

+1 for reading comprehension fail. I realize this is a long post, but if you read it, you'd know that I didn't rip these tracks and they literally don't exist in the wild any other way. Believe me, I wish I had a higher quality version of this as well! When I was emailing with Sasha, I asked if he still had a CD of this hanging around and, while he told me he'd look, he never got back to me, so it's safe to assume even he doesn't have it (or didn't want to share).