Hit me, if you can.

M-m-m-multi- post. Different fights call for different music, and I couldn’t pick just one song, so we’re going to look at a few, and the kind of fights I think they fit best with.

First up, the training/sparring/friendly fight scene. Needs to be upbeat, not angry. At the end of this everyone is going to be, if not friendly, at least mutually respectful. The scene works best if the characters look like they enjoy the bout, whether because they enjoy being tested, because they are becoming comfortable in their mastery, or just because the fighters have a history (usually either as brothers in arms or as rivals). The music, therefore, needs to be something where the lead singer could smile or smirk and not look like he’s lost his mind.

Linkin Park, Bleed it Out

Wait, what? Yeah, pretty heavy lyrics for a “fun” fight, but the lyrics are discordant from the overall feel of the song. I’m not really listening to the lyrics when I write a fight scene, I’m paying attention to the action while the music gives attitude. First, it opens sounding like some dudes hanging out, having a few beers, and generally being guys. The claps come in about halfway through the intro, like something is starting up (two guys about to throw down) and the crowd is circling them to watch. As Mike’s intro ends, Chester comes in, the second participant. They have different styles, different attitudes, and the song hands off between them, like a fight swinging back and forth. The pace is pretty quick, they’re working. The bridge is Chester pulling out something impressive, the end is all him, he is leading the pace and direction now, and it ends with laughter in the background. Bros are brohugging and cold ones are cracked open.

Next up, a fight where everything is going well for team good guy. Usually early, possibly their first real fight together. We’re finding out that they’re pretty badass, the mooks are all shook up and if there are any dark lieutenants or captains present for team bad guy they were not expecting this and are on their heels.

Pantera – Cowboys from Hell

I don’t think this one needs a lot of explanation. Upbeat, driving, but not friendly like the sparring scene. Team bad guy had better run or stay down, they’re getting shredded from start to finish. This isn’t a fight, it’s a rout.

Next, the desperate struggle. It’s looking pretty rough for team good guy. They’ll probably pull it out (because team good guy), but the odds are against them. Maybe the last fight, maybe just a big one, but at some point the good guys are probably making eye contact with each other wondering how they’re getting out of this one. We’re not having fun anymore, team good guy is no longer smiling as they fight. There’s probably at least an evil captain here to lead the charge of team bad guy, if not Big Bad Evil Guy himself.

Stone Sour – Children of the Grave (Black Sabbath cover)

First, I know, sacrilege using a cover of Sabbath instead of the original. But hear me out. I used this version specifically because it has both lead and rhythm guitar in addition to the bass. Tony Iommi is great, but even he can’t give the more chaotic feeling that two guys playing at once do. It’s busier, even with the simplified drum line, where the chugging drive helps bolster the bass, giving the feeling of a locomotive bearing down on our heroes. C#, but downtuned a step and a half, has that characteristic “evil” sound that you recognize but can never place.

Finally, the last stand. Maybe just our protagonist, maybe a small retune, but we’re pretty sure they’re not going home, or at least not all of them. Maybe it’s a rearguard action to give the good guys time to achieve total victory (or simply escape, if a sequel set up). Maybe the hero’s luck has just run out, you can only beat the odds so many times before they catch up to you. Whatever the case, team good guy isn’t going out without a fight, and it’s going to be an epic one, as they’re fighting without hope or plan of escape.

Bon Jovi – Blaze of Glory
Just kidding. I wouldn’t go all Young Guns II on you.

Genus Ordinis Dei with Melissa van Fleet – Nemesis

Suitably epic, it’s about Armageddon. Starts slow, with softly spoken female lyrics, our hero is contemplating the end. Death growl vocals and guitar hit, and it’s on. Contrasting ethereal vocal from van Fleet, combined with orchestral backing, almost feel like Doomguy standing against all of Hell while Heaven looks on, approvingly.

You don’t have to have music when you fight, nor when you write fights. But it really ties the war together.

Just like the Pied Piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes
Swaying to the Symphony
Of Destruction

– Megadeth, Symphony of Destruction

4 thoughts on “Music for the End of the World – Fighting Music

  1. WordPress always eats my comments unless I’m signed in beforehand. I had a long reply that was really fun to write, but I don’t have time to try redoing it. 😦 I’ll just say I enjoyed this post and am well into a binge of Genus Ordinus Dei right now. Hadn’t heard them before, and I’m liking them a lot.


  2. Cowboys From Hell is the best ever for kicking ass and having fun doing it. And Symphony of Destruction is probably my #1 pick for a fight that’s fueled by cold, murderous rage (although Megadeth has quite a few that could do it).

    Testament has a lot of great ones for that purpose, too. This is a great one for kicking ass in righteous anger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlWiXyY7lhU

    I hadn’t heard anything from Genus Ordinus Dei before, but I like their style. That’s a cool song. A good one for a battle where some characters you love aren’t going to make it out. Gonna have to listen to a lot more of this band. (Aside: if symphonic & death metal are in your wheelhouse, check out Septicflesh.)

    The grand crown for battle music, though — which isn’t necessarily the same as fighting music — has to go to Mars, Bringer of War, by Gustav Holst. The most epic composition ever written, imo. I’m convinced (without a shred of proof) Tolkien was listening to this when he wrote the battle of Pelennor Fields.


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