It’s Not Death Metal, I Promise

Two Steps From Hell

Art by Suzy B. Ae

When battles happen in movies, you usually expect an appropriate score to match. No important scene would be complete without exciting battle music. While this same music might bleed into other dramatic scenes and trailers, one has to admit that it’s rare to find such music outside the setting of movies, TV shows, and video games.

However, if you know where to look and want to find it, great soundtracks are not confined to movies. The genre, called epic music, while ignored by most, is still enjoyed by some. While most people might know of epic music from non-music media, most epic music is released directly as songs, without ever appearing in any other sort of media.

There are many bands that produce epic music, and while it can be found all over the internet, one in particular stands out. Two Steps From Hell is one of the most prominent companies dedicated to epic music and is my personal favorite. Founded in 2006, Two Steps From Hell has released over 30 albums, containing a total of more than a thousand songs.

Two Steps From Hell is not a band in the traditional sense. They don’t have concerts. They don’t tour. In fact, on their website, they refer to themselves as an American production company. However, its main oddity is that it is run by composers, not by instrumentalists.

Although they have released many songs, Two Steps From Hell is comprised of only two composers: Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix. Bergersen is the more popular of the two, with more than four times as many monthly listeners on Spotify, and it makes sense. Because Bergersen’s music is more exciting and fast paced, he has captured the favor of many fans, myself included.

One of my personal favorites, “United We Stand – Divided We Fall,” is one of Two Steps From Hell’s more well known songs. Throughout its entire duration, “United We Stand – Divided We Fall,” like most Two Steps From Hell songs, includes no lyrics. However, it does have a rhythm more telling than any words can be. It starts out slow and quiet, but slowly grows louder and faster, until the beats of the song almost feel like words.

It’s also one of the more cheerful songs. It features a wide variety of instruments—too many to be able to pick out all the individual ones—and its complexity is captivating enough to make you not realize it doesn’t have too much to say. Although an entire orchestra of instruments is used, one “instrument” stands out from all the rest. Like many songs by Two Steps From Hell, “United We Stand – Divided We Fall” uses voices, not as the center of attention, but to make sounds and act as just another instrument.

Most Two Steps From Hell songs are similar, but each are a little different in their own ways. Songs like “Strength of a Thousand Men” are more serious and slower, but no less beautiful. Songs like “Heart of Courage,” Two Steps From Hell’s most listened to song on Spotify, are slower and more somber.

However, despite how interesting the genre of epic music is, it remains virtually unknown. Whenever anyone asks me what I listen to, I always struggle to think of the answer. Sure, I know what I love, but a problem I’ve often found is that no one else does. If I respond with the name of my favorite band, Two Steps From Hell, most people have no idea what I’m talking about, or assume I’m into death metal. Epic music is a genre that no one has heard of, so that doesn’t work as an explanation either. Usually, I just end up saying, “It’s kind of like movie music.”

In some ways, epic music’s anonymity isn’t surprising. It’s hard to find unless you look for it. Most music distributors won’t even suggest epic music songs unless your history is full of similar songs already. Spotify lacks a section for epic music in its Genres & Moods section of its browse section, despite its hidden abundance of epic music artists. In fact, the only way I’m able to discover new artists is when Spotify suggests artists based on the songs I’m currently listening to.

There’s no reason that epic music should be forgotten. While it is a little different from most other genres people listen to, it’s interesting and makes great background music. It’s good for long trips, as the variations in music are interesting, and studying or doing work, as it has no lyrics (I’m listening to Two Steps From Hell as I write this article).

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