Dark Nights: Death Metal Soundtrack
DC Comics x Loma Vista Recordings
Much like the “Dark Nights: Death Metal” comic series isn’t the typical superhero storyline, its musical counterpart isn’t the typical superhero soundtrack. Under the executive producer stewardship of acclaimed composer Tyler Bates (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Watchmen,” “John Wick”), Dark Nights: Death Metal is a first-of-its kind companion piece of original music, which adds further dimension to the series through a multimedia experience that includes custom limited edition comics, videos, and more. Artists such as Mastodon, Denzel Curry, Manchester Orchestra, Chelsea Wolfe, IDLES, and Soccer Mommy took a hands-on approach in its creation, contributing songs inspired by the text that depicts a hellish Earth twisted beyond recognition, wherein the Justice League is at the mercy of the Dark Multiverse and a diabolical Batman Who Laughs. Bates unites an array of artists across various genres to form his own musical super crew, creating a cohesive and towering collection that ultimately sounds like the Death Metal multiverse colliding into its sonic mirror image.
“This soundtrack and motion-comic series was made by fans of comics, for fans of comics and music,” enthuses Bates, who is beloved for his previous soundtrack work on several of the most influential superhero/graphic novel films of modern times. “‘Dark Nights: Death Metal’ is next-level storytelling by two incredibly talented artists in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. The visual aspect of this comic is entirely compelling, and resonates throughout each song on the soundtrack.”
Indeed, the Dark Nights: Death Metal soundtrack was a unique opportunity for each artist to step outside of themselves and their usual creative process, pulling inspiration from the comic. Created by the acclaimed team of writer Snyder and illustrator Capullo, “Dark Nights: Death Metal” reflects the tumult of a post-truth world ruled by leaders drunk on power. “‘Dark Nights: Death Metal’ is acutely topical in relation to the modern world,” Bates says. “We are in a time where conspiracies and cults have become more influential than facts and truth, which are subjective, at this point. The myriad concepts we now process daily, i.e., Good vs. Evil, Truth vs. Untruth, Power vs Altruism, etc, are baked into every note of music on this record. This is art imitating life.”
Bates first drafted some of the Dark Nights: Death Metal contributors, many of whom were already fans of the DC universe in their own right, to lend their voice talents to characters to the animated showcase for the comic, “Sonic Metalverse:” Chelsea Wolfe as Wonder Woman, Andy Biersack (Black Veil Brides) as Batman, Andy Hull (Manchester Orchestra) as Lex Luthor, and Denzel Curry as Darkseid Batman. Built on that enthusiasm, new music flowed organically from there, with Bates encouraging the artists to write based on how “Dark Nights: Death Metal” resonated with them personally. Some were driven to include character or plot elements extracted directly from the comics, while others drew inspiration from the artwork or the dialogue that was more abstract than literal. “I love that the songs are directly inspired by the material in one way or another,” Bates says.
Mastodon’s album-opening buzzsaw “Forged by Neron” sets the tone by name-checking a demon lord of Hell who appears throughout the series, while Chelsea Wolfe’s eerie “Diana” gives voice to the human being who became transformed into Wonder Woman. “She is the Wonder Woman who has seen the darkest of humanity yet she holds out hope for the greater good,” Bates says of Wolfe’s interpretation of the character, which has led the pair to start work together on two upcoming soundtrack projects. Rise Against’s “Broken Dreams (Dark Nights: Death Metal)” digs into the all-too-apropos notion of how villains are born, while Starcrawler’s “Good Time Girl” captures the explosive energy of classic rock’n’roll. HEALTH was so directly inspired by the third installment of “Dark Nights: Death Metal” that they wrote the song “Anti-Life” about a mathematical formula fabled to allow those who understand it to dominate all other sentient beings.
Hull, Curry, and Biersack are among the artists that brought deep DC Comics knowledge to the table for their contributions, with Bates joking that Curry probably knew more about the “Dark Nights” storyline than he did when he arrived at the studio. Biersack’s mid-album standout with Maria Brink of In This Moment, “Meet Me In The Fire,” is “an epic track that we really enjoyed writing and recording together,” says Bates.
As the songs took shape, Bates reveled in facilitating collaborations with often unexpected results. When HEALTH’s members professed a long-standing love of Deftones frontman Chino Moreno, Bates reached out to him, and, with mutual enthusiasm, Moreno completed a guest vocal for “Anti-Life” within days. “Everyone freaked out when they heard Chino’s track,” Bates says. “It was cool to be able to link HEALTH up with Chino, who is one of their favorite singers of all-time.”
Similarly, when British electronic trio GUNSHIP kept referencing a particular vintage Slayer drumbeat in conversation with Bates about their song “Berserker,” the producer simply called up the legendary former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, and asked if he’d be down to play on the song Bates wrote with GUNSHIP. “Dave hadn’t seen a soul besides his wife during COVID, at the time Robert and I masked up and rolled up to his house to get him set up to record drums on the track.” Bates says.
The soundtrack also includes contributions from other beloved artists such as Soccer Mommy and Show Me The Body, a blistering track from Dutch black metal legends Carach Angren, and a rare recording by late Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington’s pre-fame band Grey Daze in the form of a cover of Dramarama’s 1985 chestnut “Anything, Anything.”
As Bennington never got the chance to launch the Grey Daze reunion prior to his untimely passing, his bandmates, friends, family, and various collaborators have since helped fulfill the mission. The musicians—longtime members Sean Dowdell [drums, backing vocals] and Mace Beyers [bass] as well as Cristin Davis [guitar] recruited in 2017—selected and re-recorded eleven tracks from their catalog in 2019 to accompany Chester’s original vocals, presenting many never before heard takes from the vault in a whole new light. “Loma Vista Records president, Tom Whalley, called and expressed how much he felt the emotion of Chester’s vocal on ‘Anything, Anything’ was relevant to the songs being written for the soundtrack, and asked if I would go into the studio with Grey Daze to knock out a new take on the song,” Bates explains.
“One very cool thing about comics is that even during a pandemic, the flow of production and the excitement for the material from the fans is entirely unchanged,” Bates says. “This particular medium allowed for each artist to create music in the context of the DC Comics realm at a time where movie theaters were largely closed, artists were not able to tour, and many record releases were hamstrung or postponed altogether. This soundtrack was crafted by artists who love the DC Comics lore, storytelling, and characters. We are all fans!”