Skull Timbrels

A music replacement mod for Doom 1


1. Info

Skull Timbrels is a full soundtrack replacement for Doom 1 which is a curation of public-domain pieces of music released by the band Bull of Heaven. The pieces come from a wide variety of genres such as ambient, drone, noise, psychedelic, post-rock, jazz, sludge, doom metal, and some which are harder to categorize. It's a more sinister-sounding, atmospheric soundtrack which has more in common with the music of Doom 64 and Final Doom than the heavy metal-inspired MIDIs of the original release.

Content warnings: Some tracks contain spoken-word samples that are distorted and may be unsettling or have disturbing language if parsable. These tracks are marked with an *asterisk, so if this is a potential issue, you may want to preview these tracks on their respective archive.org pages to make sure you're okay with them. One track title is a crude misogynist quote in Hungarian.


2. Downloads

All five wad files in one archive via moddb.com. Recommended.
Individual wad files via megaupload.nz, for low bandwidth connections or previewing purposes. Website may contain undesirable trackers or scripts; if you download from there, it is advisable that you use a script blocker application in your web browser.
A very sloppy "album cover" I put together, somewhat in the spirit of the band's. You can use this to imagine what a proper album cover might look like if I was good at things and didn't just use clip art and a font.

3. Instructions

There are five wad files. skulltimbrels0.wad contains the title, intermission and victory music. The remaining four contain music for each of the four respective episodes of Doom. Load skulltimbrels0.wad and the wad for the episode you wish to play in the manner you normally do. The mod definitely works in GZdoom and may work in other versions and source ports but I haven't tested them. In general, I recommend GZdoom for its quality. If you're using Windows and you have no idea what to do, just make sure DOOM.WAD is in the gzdoom directory, select the wad files and drag them onto gzdoom.exe.


4. Track list

Title Screen - C
Intermission - Qualia and the Dynamic Core [142]
Victory - Ex Umbra In Solem

E1M1 - Irato1 (mirror)
E1M2 - It Is The Parabola2 [334]
E1M3 - Szeretlek, Te Mocskos Kis Kurva! [227]
E1M4 - In Your Soft Authority [328]
E1M5 - The Ruin and Absence of the World [293]
E1M6 - Superstring Theory Verified [111]
E1M7 - Hypnosis, Drugs, and Mind Control - Excerpt [019]
E1M8 - Drums and Thigh-Bone Trumpets, Skull-Timbrels [122]
E1M9 - You Can't Buy Shoes In A Painting [335]

E2M1 - A Feeling For The Order Lying Behind The Appearance [261]
E2M2 - Driven By The Warmth and Force of the Imagination [294]
E2M3 - The Hollow Booming of Pieces of Ordnance [143]
E2M4 - Like The First Pine Cone [101]
E2M5 - Eighty Thousand Species of Mischievous Sprites [123]
E2M6 - Be Not Daunted Thereby, Nor Terrified, Nor Awed* [124]
E2M7 - Quos Amor Verus Tenuit Tenebit
E2M8 - Even To The Edge of Doom - Excerpt [028]
E2M9 - Good Night, Sweet Prince, Vol. 2 [339]

E3M1 - Self-Traitor, I Do Bring The Spider Love [299]
E3M2 - Weed Problem [001]
E3M3 - Approaching Them In The Darkness [128]
E3M4 - Insistendo (mirror)
E3M5 - Pitiless Light Over The Stony Landscape [236]
E3M6 - Ex Oblivione
E3M7 - Weed Problem II-V* [301]
E3M8 - Total Bliss* [351]
E3M9 - Like Waters Flowing in the River's Course [206]

E4M1 - Incalzando (mirror)
E4M2 - My Doctor Gave Me Some [139]
E4M3 - You Feel a Stillness All Around You, Caressing Your Face [138]
E4M4 - A Lovely Pear* [005]
E4M5 - A Foot In Place Of A Foot* [038]
E4M6 - I'm Not Here Anymore [105]
E4M7 - Candles Green, Heads and Skulls [018]
E4M8 - Blurred With Tears And Suffering Beyond Hope (excerpt D) [209]
E4M9 - Good Night, Sweet Prince, Vol. 1 [338]

1 Three of the tracks used (Irato, Inistendo and Incalzando) were originally posted as "puzzle tracks" which appear to be images instead of audio files. Click on the mirror links to get a version converted to Mp3.

2 It Is The Parabola was released as a reversed music track with spoken word samples on top of it. The version in this mod has been "fixed". Some backwards speech starts about 25 minutes in. I seriously doubt anyone's going to spend that long in E1M2, but fair warning.


5. Q&A

Q: Why?
I wanted some interesting music to play while I streamed Doom, and I wanted music that wouldn't get me copyright strikes on youtube. I like Bull of Heaven, and I intended to mute the in-game music and play tracks in Winamp, but after looking up how to make a music mod and discovering how simple it is, I decided to give it a shot.
Q: How?
After deciding what music should go with which levels, I renamed them to the format required by the game and normalized the volume with Mp3Gain. I then used the SLADE Doom editor to create the wads. You can use the same method to make your own custom soundtracks out of whatever music files you wish, as long as they're in a format supported by your version or source port.
Q: What are "skull timbrels"?
"Timbrel" is an archaic term for a tambourine-like percussion instrument. The name of the mod comes from the piece used for E1M8, Drums and Thigh-Bone Trumpets, Skull-Timbrels. The title comes from a line in The Tibetan Book of The Dead. I thought the name evokes imagery of the Doomslayer rattling his enemies' bones in grisly celebration, so it seemed appropriate.
Q: Why so big?
Bull of Heaven is known for long songs. Although some of them repeat the same loop over and over for millions of years, I selected tracks that are shorter and more dynamic. For Bull of Heaven, even a "short" track is typically 30-60 minutes long. I didn't edit the tracks for length, so although the player will usually only hear the first few minutes of each track, they can linger in the level and hear as much of each track as they wish. I like the idea of clearing out a level and wandering around the barren, silent hellscape like the beginning of 28 Days Later.
Q: How big?
There are 39 unique tracks: one for each of the 9 levels per episode, plus three more for the title, intermission and victory screens. The full playlist is thirty-three hours long. The average track length is 50 minutes.
Q: What are the numbers after the titles?
Most of Bull of Heaven's 400+ compositions are numbered by release order. I've included the number after the track title when available for reference.
Q: How do I get the Mp3s?
Open the wad files with SLADE, select all the Mp3s, and from the menu at the top choose entry -> export. Note that the episode 4 files all have identical filenames to previous tracks, so you may want to extract those into their own folder. If you wish, you can use a tool like ID3 renamer to automatically rename the files based on their metadata.
Q: Can I load all 5 wad files at once?
Theoretically, there shouldn't be any reason you can't. Depending on your system's memory, it might chug a little bit during loads, but it should be fine. However, I doubt the engine is intended to load 3GB of music at once, so there may be unforeseen issues. Also, note that episode 4 originally didn't contain any new music and reused tracks from episodes 1-3, so the file names used in skulltimbrels4.wad are identical to files in the first three, and I'm not sure which track will take precedence if there's a conflict. (the music for episode 4 leans more experimental, so if you don't like it, you can load wads 1-3 and it'll reuse music from previous episodes instead.)
Q: Can I use this in Doom II?
It's doable; you would need to rename the mp3 files to fit the Doom II naming scheme and create a new wad using a program like SLADE. Unlike Doom, the sequel isn't divided into episodes, so releasing it as four separate wad files makes less sense. When I get some time, I plan to make a smaller download version with each track edited to about 20 minutes, and when I do this I'll post a Doom II version.
Q: Do you plan to make a similar wad for Sigil?
Maybe. I think the core 39-track mod is a solid one, and I don't know if I could find nine additional tracks I'd want to include. I may make a version of the episode one wad (what I feel is the strongest of the four) that will play in Sigil.
Q: Do you hate the original Doom music?
I think that with a good sound font, the Doom OST sounds pretty dang good, and they're good (if maybe a little derivative) compositions. I still think the game can benefit from a spookier, more atmospheric soundtrack like this one or the Doom 64 score. There's room for both takes!

6. Acknowledgements

Thanks to Bull of Heaven for everything. You can see their full catalog at bullofheaven.com.

Thanks to Hakita at Rate Your Music for their dedication to reviewing each release, and compiling a list of the group's best material. You don't know me, but your help has been invaluable.

The high-res texture used for the logo image is by Hoover1979.

Rest in noise, Clayton.


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