This week we celebrate the music for video games in Windows Central and iMore, from the songs to the composers who created them. For more musical evaluation, Press here.
Like the game it supports, Alan Wake’s soundtrack is an eclectic mix. There is hardcore rock’n’roll, fainted melodies and lullabies on the piano. It is a combination of a magnificent score composed by Petri Alanco and a collection of music by artists such as Roy Orbison, Poe, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and David Bowie. It’s a kind of soundtrack, so full of great artists that they almost threatened to remove Alan Wake from the shops because of licensing issues.
One notable band that appears on the soundtrack is called Old Gods of Asgard. It’s a band with only four songs in its repertoire, according to Spotify, but six albums from the 1970s, according to oldgodsofasgard.com. This fan site also explains that Old Gods of Asgard is “the best band in the history of mankind” thanks to hits like Children of the Elder God. But a band with such a short catalog doesn’t seem like the best candidate for the best band. Or does it?
Children of Remedy
If you haven’t heard of them before, it’s because it’s actually a band created by Remedy Entertainment that started with the 2010 title Alan Wake. He has since moved to Control, which, as we learned in the latter, takes place in the same universe.
In the Remedy universe, the Old Gods of Asgard is a group consisting mainly of two siblings: Odin and Thor Anderson. When we first meet them as players, they are dementia elders who have been assigned to Cauldron Lake Lodge, something like an institution or rehabilitation center for struggling artists run by the corrupt Dr. Emil Hartmann. Not only do they help Alan escape from the hut, but they also tell him that they have a song that can help him find his wife and fight the Dark Presence lurking in Lake Kotel.
Like anyone who has played Alan Wake, of course, artists have the potential to shape the world with their creations, and the Old Gods of Asgard were no exception. They were moderately successful in the 1970s, but ended up being locals who lived on Anderson Farm and made a moon out of the water in Lake Kotel. At some point, they did come into contact with the Dark Presence and defeat it, but at the cost of their own mental faculties.
However, their songs still have power for Alan. Children of the Elder God is a certified headbanger who shouts from giant speakers on an old stage in the middle of the field as the player fights against the sea from Taken. Meanwhile, The Poet and His Muse is a softer ballad detailing what Alan should do.
“And now, to see your love liberated / You will need the key to the witch’s hut / Find the lady of the light, mad with the night / Thus you reshape destiny.
The band seems to have the ability to correctly identify key moments in the plot of the Remedy universe. In Control, the band appears as one of Jesse Fayden’s favorite bands from her childhood and on the cover of the “Blink and Miss” album in the “Ordinary” section of the oldest house. There are many connections made between Control and Alan Wake made in the later game, but the revelation that the Old Gods of Asgard exist in a multiverse is one of the most amusing.
The Old Gods may also show another song called Take Control, which most people may recognize as the song Ashtray Maze. The melody itself becomes heavy, making the heart pump and blocking the hissing sounds as Jesse makes his way through an ever-changing maze. This is one of the best levels in the game and a lot of it is due to the sound design.
The ashtray maze is a stop as you pass through the oldest house. It is very likely that a player will encounter it too early and will not be able to continue, instead being redirected back to the beginning of the level. Only after you pick up a tape recorder from the Ahti janitor can you go through it. As game director Mikael Kasurinen said in an interview with GameSpot, “Music is the key to getting through the maze.”
The most impressive thing about Take Control, the song that plays through the headphones, is how it seems to last forever. No matter how long you are in the maze, the song continues to play without obvious interruptions, skips or repetitions. In a sense, it sounds almost as impossible as the maze itself.
Meet the group behind the gods
Much of the success of Old Gods of Asgard comes down to the partnership between the Remedy audio team and the Finnish rock band Poets of the Fall. Every time you hear Old Gods of Asgard, you’re actually listening to this band that shakes in time with Remedy’s surreal story.
This collaboration goes back to the time of Remedy with the Max Payne series. Frontman Marco Saaresto told Gamereactor that he and studio creative director Sam Lake have been friends since childhood and that he was drawn to write music for Max Payne 2. Fortunately, he has just formed the band Poets of the Fall.
Lake and Saaresto worked closely together to create songs for the game, one of which led to the song Late Goodbye in the final credits, which is now as much a part of Max Payne’s laurels as Max Payne himself. The melody can be heard periodically throughout the game, but players can hear the full version at the end. It is a beautiful acoustic melody that enlivens the feeling of loneliness on a dark, winding road in the middle of the desert.
Saaresto told PC Gamer that Lake wanted an original song for the game, but hadn’t written lyrics before. Lake gave Saaresto one of his poems, which became the basis for the song.
Like many of the songs that will later determine the connection between Poets of the Fall / Remedy, Late Goodbye is about the world and the characters, as far as the soundtrack is concerned.
“Making up these stories is a tortuous road,” Lake told PC Gamer. “You try something, it doesn’t work and then you go differently. In the beginning, the idea was for Max to be involved in some kind of traumatic event and forget everything about him – except for an excerpt from a song called Late Goodbye.
The long history of Poets of the Fall and Remedy has certainly contributed to how well the two formations combine, but Saaresto said Remedy also gives the band a lot of freedom to create, the latter often adapting the game to the songs.
“Apart from having brief information about the history and musical style, we had all the creative freedom while working on these songs. “The creators at Remedy understand that it’s usually best to give free rein to creative minds to get the best results,” he said.
For Take Control, Poets of the Fall had a slightly different experience and had to work directly with the audio team to create a song that could be broken into pieces that the team could then rearrange and use throughout the level. It actually adapts to the player’s actions, which makes it sound endless.
“Basically, we had to make sure that the song followed in a kind of arc, through certain types of movements,” Kasurinen told Take Control. “At the same time, we need to be able to react to whatever the player does. He or she can stop at any moment and the song just has to work with whatever happens. Still, at the same time it should sound natural like a normal song that we expect to hear in a club or somewhere. So he couldn’t break this immersion, he couldn’t break this sense of illusion about what we’re creating. “
Studio and his muse
Fortunately for Remedy or other fans of horror games, it seems that this collaboration can continue. Although it has not been confirmed that the group will return, Poets of the Fall was very excited on the announcement of Alan Wake 2 and the new goods of Old Gods of Asgard dropped out in 2021 (together with new Twitter account). While this could have been aimed at releasing Alan Wake Remastered, it could also mean that the studio is not ready to let Odin and Thor retire.
The myth of the Old Gods of Asgard is one that fits so well into the Remedy universe that it feels almost created by the oldest house itself. A duo of seemingly unrelated Viking maniacs made metal music in the 1970s and continue to face a supernatural, unknowable force. They then help a troubled author and a new director of the bureau to eliminate some bad guys. The fact that they are the result of a successful combination of a game studio and a rock band feels even more relevant and extensive. Poets of the Fall is as much a part of Remedy’s style as anything else.