Two Steps From Hell: Invincible Review
Invincible is the first public release by renowned trailer music company Two Steps From Hell.
It features 20 epic orchestral tracks compiled from their previous albums, along with two previously unreleased compositions.
When you ask the average trailer music fan what their favorite company is, chances are good that Two Steps From Hell will be one of the first names out of their mouth. Founded in 2006 by renowned composers Thomas J. Bergersen and Nick Phoenix, Two Steps From Hell has rapidly grown to become one of the most recognizable and respected names in the industry. Their music has been featured in some of the most memorable trailers in recent memory, such as in promos for Star Trek, 2012, Prince of Persia, Mass Effect 2 and countless others. Unsurprisingly, their outstanding work has earned them a huge cult following online, and for years fans have been relentlessly begging them to release their music to the public. After years of waiting, our wishes have been fulfilled!’
Formerly known as Genesis, Invincible contains 20 of the duo’s most popular tracks from previous albums, as well as 2 previously unreleased compositions. Don’t let the burly gladiator on the cover fool you into thinking that only epic and combative cues are featured. While there is plenty of action, it is joined by an array of softer, emotional and romantic pieces, several featuring beautiful solo vocals. Together, the myriad of tracks take the listener on a dramatic, epic journey through the spectrum of human emotions, tugging at the heartstrings all the while. After listening to the album, its easy to understand why it has built up such an incredible amount of hype in the community.
Thankfully, the album meets the lofty expectations set forth by the community easily, often managing to surpass them. For those of you hurrying to save the world from rampaging guinea pigs, I urge you to stop reading, buy Invincible, and listen to it while battling the ferocious beasts. Win or loose, your battle is guaranteed to be approximately 954% more epic!
Though I’m sure that just about everyone has a favorite song that didn’t make the cut, Thomas and Nick have done an outstanding job of assembling the very best tracks from their catalog. Though certainly not perfect, the album is an unparalleled 58 minute musical experience that stands as one of the finest examples of the genre as a whole. For those of you seeking to turn all of your friends into Trailer Music junkies, this should be your weapon of choice. Were I to give every track the attention it deserves we would be here all night, so I will only take the time to comment on a few of the most outstanding pieces.
The album opens with the dramatic sweeps of “Freedom Fighters”, one of TSFH’s most popular and recognizable tracks after featuring in trailers for Star Trek. The mix included on the album is the finest yet, with subtle percussion adding to the impact of the sweeping, emotionally charged theme.
“Master of Shadows” has also built up a great deal of anticipation since being featured in trailers for 2012. However, the version on the album is different then the version we are familiar with from the trailers, and the change is arguably for the worse. The version on the album features pronounced orchestral strings on top of the rock beat of the original, and at times they are simply overwhelmed and lost against the screaming chorus and pounding percussion. In addition, the smooth strings break up the sharp staccato pacing of the song. That said, the new version has been steadily growing on me, and either way it’s still an absolutely fantastic listen and certainly my favorite of Nick’s many contributions.
“Am I Not Human?” is the first of the two unreleased tracks on the album. Its an intriguing piece, combining an electronic techno background with a gradually growing orchestral melody. Nick lends his own voice to the track (seriously, what can’t these guys do?), and the result is a somewhat haunting, unsettling piece. It’s far from the best track on the album, although given the competition that still means that it’s nothing short of excellent.
“Black Blade” is one of the finest action cues on the album, and it sounds even better on here then it did in the trailers, benefiting from added percussion and vocals. It begins slowly, allowing the orchestra to build up tension before finally exploding with the full choir. The next time you are outnumbered and facing a mass of enemy guinea pigs, this is the song to propel you to victory.
Though known for their pounding epic tracks, TSFH also excels at creating pieces that appeal to the inner romantic in all of us. Nowhere is this more apparent then in “Fill My Heart”, which features beautiful vocals by Aya Peard. You know the burly gladiator on the cover? The story (as a guinea pig told me) was that he was listening to the album before the photo shoot, and when he reached this song he just collapsed to the ground sobbing and muttering “It’s just so beautiful!” Naturally, a crying gladiator doesn’t make for the best album cover, so they had to keep his face in the shadows. It still took them more then 20 minutes to get the guy off of the floor and keep his mouth in a straight line.
Before concluding, I want to single out “To Glory”. Taken from an upcoming album tentatively known as Eclipse, this track alone is worth the price of admission. After weeks of deliberation, meditation, and leaping around my house with a cardboard sword fighting guinea pigs, I have come to the conclusion that it is possibly the best song Two Steps From Hell has ever released. It’s a relentless 4 ½ minute ride that will prepare you for just about anything. This is what action music was always meant to sound like.
The biggest problem with the album lies not with the music itself, but the problems inherent in digital distribution of music. Fans have been clamoring to hear this music in lossless, and there are few albums more deserving of such clarity. Unfortunately the rules set in place by distributors means that for now it is limited to lossy mp3’s. Nonetheless, the music still sounds sharp and epic even with mp3 compression, and this is one album which even the most hardcore audiophiles should snatch up. It’s worth it.
Ultimately, Invincible is a musical triumph and a powerful testament to just how much Trailer music has grown and matured during the past several years. There isn’t a bad apple in the entire bunch, and each track will tug at your heart in its own unique and powerful manner. I won’t say outright that this is the best album I’ve ever heard, but it ranks very highly on my list. It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of trailer music or not; Invincible is likely to please any fans of orchestral and choral music (along with some who aren’t particular fans of either).The next public release, Nemesis II, will no doubt raise the bar even higher. Invincible represents the vert best of Thomas and Nick’s first few years at Two Steps From Hell, and if tracks like “To Glory” and “Ocean Princess” are any indication of what’s coming up, we have some truly unimaginable surprises in store for us over the next few years!