About a day or so after I finished writing the last post about Counter-Life, I took a nap. When I woke up, I found out about this:
More CS:GO music kits.
Not only more of them, but practically doubling the total number of music kits from 16 to 30. I nearly fainted after that. This time it seems we’ve hit a big variety sampler pack, from returning artists to film composers, and even an interesting collaboration between Valve and a record company. In addition to the new music kits, they added “StatTrak” versions that keep track of the times you’ve become the MVP in competitive matches. It seems a bit silly, almost like a joke someone made to Valve without saying they were kidding afterwards.
Since I’ve written about the previous ones before, it’d be remiss of me not to continue the tradition. (You can see what I thought of the initial nine music kits here, and the later additions in February 2015 here.) Like before, I’m gonna write how I felt about each one, mentioning some of my favorite tracks, and whether or not it’s worth the $5-8 to grab, with a quick verdict at the end.
Now in the last collection, I had made videos of the new kits, but this time I passed on doing that. It’s not that it wasn’t fun to make, it’s that considering my meticulous nature for making these things, I would’ve been here all weekend working on something that’s already been eclipsed by other YouTubers for lesser effort. So instead I’ll be linking to the pages of the music kits on csgostash.com. just click on the album cover to be whisked away to a page where you can listen along.
So without further ado, let’s get started…
AWOLNATION, I Am
AWOLNATION Alternative Rocker AWOLNATION brings you a music kit for the ages. This kit is jam-packed with an eclectic selection of tunes and includes cuts from singles ‘I Am’ and multi-platinum hit ‘Sail’.
Over the past year or so, we’ve gotten fairly notable musicians: Noisia, Feed Me, that sort of jazz. For this series of kits, Valve teamed up with Red Bull Records to bring three notable artists from their label, including AWOLNATION.
AWOLNATION (yes, in all caps) is a notable artist because of their multi-platinum award winning song “Sail.” A lot of this music kit features tracks from their recent album Run, though it’s all instrumental with the occasional shout here and there.
Alas my knowledge of the band comes from “Sail” and little else, so I had to hunt down what songs were used for each track thanks to Spotify.
The kit is named after one of the songs, “I Am.” Surprisingly, it’s not the main menu track as expected, but another track from the album, “Windows.” Other songs like “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”, “Run” and “Jailbreak” are used for the Action cues, Bomb Timers and Lost Round/10 Second Timer, respectively. “I Am” shows up as one of the action cues, whereas their biggest hit “Sail”, the only song from their previous album, shows up as both an action cue and the MVP Anthem.
Yep, once you frag dudes and get the MVP, everyone will be hearing the keys along with Aaron Bruno yelling “SAIL!” at the end. It’s worth it just for that alone.
VERDICT: Chill but blunt. Worth it just for the MVP Anthem.
Beartooth brings an agressive back-to-basics hardcore stomp that gets crowds moving and breaking stuff. A perfect soundtrack for your no-scope scout frags. Rock ’till you’re dead.
Here’s Valve/Red Bull Records collab numero dos. Beartooth is, according to Wikipedia, a metalcore band by Caleb Shomo of Attack Attack! fame. (Just so we’re clear: We’re talking about the Attack Attack that did that awful guitar crab-walking to a song called “Stick Stickly,” not the Attack Attack from Wales that’s the infinitely superior band.)
I’m fairly picky about my taste of music. If there’s anything I hate about metal sometimes, it’s a guy screeching incomprehensible words into the microphone. If that’s all the talent you need to be a metal singer, then I should be auditioning to be one right now. Thank god the music kit is vocal free, which shows some pretty decent metal underneath.
All the songs here come from their 2014 album Disgusting. Their single “In Between” serves as the main menu track, whereas other songs like “Keep Your American Dream” and “Body Bag” are the action/round cues. There’s some pretty okay metal on these tracks, and if you loved stuff like Skog’s Metal, this is right up your alley. Now if only they released an alternate version of Disgusting that’s all instrumentals…
VERDICT: Great for those who want more rocking in their CS:GO soundtracks. Worth a try.
Daniel Sadowski, The 8-Bit Kit
Daniel Sadowski creates the first ever 8-bit Music Kit for Counter-Strike complete with authentic 8-bit sounds.
Okay, this is Sadowski’s third CS:GO kit. This, along with the DOTA 2 music kit he also did recently, makes me think he’s practically a official composer for Valve considering how much he contributes to their games recently. It’s great, really.
Considering the name, you can guess this aims for a chiptune approach, which is drastically different from his previous offerings (Crimson Assault and Total Domination). While we got fairly close to chiptune with an unused MVP track in Feed Me’s High Noon, this is the first music kit to actually go for the retro game music approach, and he does a fine job here.
Some of my favorites include the Start Round, Choose Team and Start Action tunes. A lot of these fit right in line with NES-era music, which I consider to be a fairly difficult thing to master.
After hearing this, I’d love to actually see notable chiptune composers have their take on chiptune game music for CS:GO, such as Rushjet1, or Danny Baranowsky. If someone like Sadowski can make a solid retro game music soundtrack, I’d love to hear someone else’s take.
VERDICT: Good for those who love chiptunes that actually are chiptunes and aren’t just someone adding samples to crappy MIDIs. Recommended.
Darude, Moments CSGO
Yield freely in the soundscapes of Finnish producer Darude’s familiar musical flavours and tones. Enriching yourself with access to a heavy fusion of progressive overtones and scores of tingling melodic structure from the sounds banks of one of dance music’s most renowned pioneers.
Ah yes, Darude. That guy who made that “Sandstorm” song that got popular in the early 2000s. Then it got popular again because Twitch chat users thought it’d be funny to go “DUDUDUDUDUDUDU Kappa” and make “Sandstorm” jokes on DOTA2 and CS:GO matches. It seems Darude has taken this in stride, at one point playing DJ at The International 4 after party and pretty much trolling the entire crowd by teasing “Sandstorm” the entire night before finishing it as the encore.
I’ll mention this upfront: No, “Sandstorm” is not in this kit. The kit itself has tracks that sound like “Sandstorm,” but none of the tracks are actually “Sandstorm.” Rather, it’s a unique track made specifically for the game, though it’s titled after his most recent album, I couldn’t find the song that matched the music kit. (No, “Moments” the song sounds nothing like the music kit featured here.)
A lot of the tracks have the same catchy beat to it, with additional instrumentation where appropriate. The first Start Round/Action has good instrumentation, and I like the slowdown touches on the Round Loss and Deathcam cues. But a lot of it sounds similar, which is slightly disappointing, but hey, this is a bigger get than when DOTA2 got deadmau5.
VERDICT: It’s not Sandstorm, but it’s got Darude’s style that it’s a good enough substitute. Worth a try.
Mixing pulsating strings and synths with pounding war drums, prepare yourself for battle with this thunderous soundtrack from composer Ian Hultquist.
So we’ve got the electronic artists, the game music composers, now we need a film composer to fill the gap. Ian Hultquist is our choice this time around, a former member of electronic band Passion Pit who composed scores for films like the documentary Ivory Tower.
If there’s anything I love about a score, it’s when it has powerful percussion. Lion’s Mouth fits that bill perfectly, having powerful drums mixed in with a good electronic beat, combined with swelling horns and sweeping strings, makes it have a nice dramatic flair. The Start Round cues along with the Bomb Timer gives a great action-packed feel. Not a fan of the 10 second timers – they seem too fast-paced – but they work with the rest of the kit.
VERDICT: Good dramatic score that evokes a modern action game vibe. Worth a try.
Kelly Bailey, Hazardous Environments
Kelly Bailey, composer of Valve’s Half-Life series, creates an arsenal of apocalyptic new music inspired by the darker side of the Half-Life universe.
If you know anything about Valve, you’re likely familiar with Bailey’s contributions to the Half-Life, Half-Life 2 and Portal soundtracks. He was at Valve for a long time and was basically Valve’s sole composer for many years until more people joined the fold like Mike Morasky, who’s done most of Valve’s game music since. Bailey left Valve around 2010 to join another studio with another ex-Valve developer, but apparently came back a few years later (if this video shot during Steam Dev Days circa 2014 is any indication).
The music kit opts for a very ambient approach with good action beats, with a few notable tracks like the Bomb Timer, which has a nice distorted guitar sound. The Main Menu sounds like credits music to a Half-Life game, with slow percussion and ambience all over. The Bomb Timers have a good fast-paced beat, almost fitting to a chase/fight sequence. I also fell in love with the Start Round/Action cues because of their quick, frantic pace.
Hazardous Environments would fit right at home in the world of Half-Life 2. Hell, I bet people are already theorycrafting thinking this is a tease for Half-Life 3. Oh, we can dream…
VERDICT: Probably the closest to a Half-Life/Counter-Strike crossover you’re gonna get from Valve. Bailey’s stuff has been amazing, and it’s the same here. Recommended.
Recording artist and DOTA TI4 performer, Ki:Theory drops BOMBS with this searing set of razor edge dark electronic rock.
Ki:Theory (pronounced “Key Theory”) is an electronic artist who’s done a few song remixes that have appeared in TRON Legacy and Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides. As mentioned above, he also performed at DOTA2’s The International.
His approach is techno with a pinch of distorted guitars for good measure. Each and every track feels particularly unique, which makes it feel interesting if a bit disjointed since there’s no “theme” to the overall tracks. Tracks like the Bomb Timer sounds action-packed with strong percussion that sounds more like chase music than suspense music, which doesn’t fit the mood. It doesn’t help that both 10 second timers are recorded as 15 seconds, so they cut off and seem ill-fitting in game.
I’ll admit, at first listen I wasn’t impressed. It took a few listens to really get into it, and I still am not really blown away by it. It’s got a few good parts, but is probably one of the weaker ones on offer.
VERDICT: A bit disjointed with annoying obnoxious tracks, not good to listen to but fits in game. Worth a try.
Lennie Moore, Java Havana Funkaloo
Game Composer Lennie Moore serves an aromatic, spicy blend of Jazzy Funk. Delicious when served cold, like the corpses of your enemies after you’re done with them.
Moore’s a notable game composer: doing arrangements of Marty O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori’s music for Halo CE Anniversary and Halo 2 Anniversary, as well as music for Rising Storm, the Pacific theatre expansion to Red Orchestra 2.
I’m gonna be honest, if I had any music chops, my ideal music kit was gonna be a funk rhythm that would’ve been right at home on a ’70s-’80s game show. Seems Moore had the same idea, as the main theme as well as the many cues are filled to the brim with funky guitar licks, soft synthesizers, and brassy horns.
The Bomb Timer is especially amazing, feeling like it belongs in a ’70s blaxploitation film, complete with a funky guitar rhythm. The Win Round and MVP Anthem are heavy on the horns, and almost sound like win cues from a game show.
The sound and feel is drastically different from all the others that it stands out, and it’s amazing as a result. This quickly became one of my outright favorites.
VERDICT: Highly recommended, especially if the electronic stuff is a bit boring to you.
Michael Bross, Invasion!
Michael Bross conjures epic / cinematic techno-grunge to make you feel like a true badass in battle.
Bross is another game composer, this time for composing the recent Ratchet & Clank games as well as Firefall, the unfortunate mess of an MMO. Alas I fell out of favor of Ratchet by the time it came to the PS3, so I can’t vouch for much of his previous work.
This is mostly an electronic kit, with techno beats mixed in with the occasional guitar and strings. The score definitely does have a techno-grunge vibe, and at times reminded me a bit of Dren’s Death’s Head Demolition from last year, while also feeling like some contemporary action game scores. This is something I realized while listening to the Bomb Timers, Choose Team and Round Win cues.
I don’t want to be too harsh on it, since it might take a while to grow on me, much like Crimson Assault did last year. It’s pretty solid, just not particularly outstanding.
VERDICT: It’s there, it’s not bad, but not amazing either. Worth a try, though.
Mord Fustang, Diamonds
Diamonds. They are forever. Dive into the arpeggiotron of Mord Fustang with this fresh set of grooves and atmospheres.
In what is probably the best “using a Spoonerism for a band name” I’ve ever seen, Mord Fustang is another EDM artist who’s made a minor splash on places like Soundcloud, He’s also an avid gamer, according to his Twitter profile, referencing Hideo Kojima’s “70% of my body is made of movies” line.
Diamonds has the common trappings of EDM music. The main menu sounds like the kind of stuff I’d hear at a dance club, and it’s a good song on its own. However, the other sections don’t really jell with me that much. Especially the second Start Round/Action, which has that WUBWUB bass I hate so much.
Props on the Bomb Timer going for a military marching kind of sound. For those who don’t want particularly obnoxious bomb timers while in-game, you might wanna go for this one. At least I’d jam to the main menu music while queueing up for a competitive match, but the rest sounds like generic forgettable EDM I’d hear during intermissions during CS:GO tournaments.
VERDICT: Stay for the main menu, leave after that. Not recommended.
New Beat Fund, Sponge Fingerz
Sunny surf rock with elements of hip-hop, punk and garage pop. Keep it real and get headshots.
Our third (and final) Valve/Red Bull Records collaboration, New Beat Fund is a surf rock/pop band which seems to be lesser known than the previous two, with not even a Wikipedia page about them. I like surf rock, and this could be a promising kit.
Like the previous two, the tracks are from their album Sponge Fingerz, with a few tracks coming from their ($) Coinz EP. All instrumental, no vocals. The Main Menu hits us with an instrumental cut of “Sikka Takin’ the Hard Way”, while “Beware of Phony Disco” and “Scare Me” are the main action tracks. The only track that seems out of place is the Bomb Timer, which uses a track called “Helena,” and it’s a bit too upbeat for a track like this.
Despite that, out of the three artists featured from Red Bull Records, I’d probably check these guys out the most. Anything that’s like surf rock and having a more lighthearted tone to their songs sounds good to me over silly metal and electronic music. The kit’s not bad too.
VERDICT: Funky surf rock/pop hybrid that stands out more than the others. Worth a try.
Russian Heavy Electronica Artist PROXY brings his own Unique heavy artillery to Counter Strike. Hybrid audio Weaponry fused with the finest studio technology makes this pack unique.
Another electronic artist. This time from glorious Russia. I’ll give anything Russian a try, especially electronic music.
I admit, the Main Menu starts out promising. Slow buildup, then hits a good beat. It does hit that sort of distorted noise that I’m not a big fan of, but it doesn’t ruin the track. The Bomb Timer music is especially great, hitting that suspenseful espionage sound to it, which is great. The Round Win cue became one of my favorites almost immediately, with the perfect mix of triumph with drama.
This is a damn good kit, especially out of all the electronic artists on offer. This music kit feels like it fits the world of CS:GO better than the others released, and it’s one that didn’t take long for me to like.
VERDICT: A solid action-filled kit. Recommended.
Jocke Skog, II: Headshot
Metal composer and producer Jocke Skog returns with an all new, hard hitting metal kit, turning the rest of the CS:GO Music Kits into something cute, warm and fuzzy. Now go become MVP so everyone can hear your awesomeness!
Our second returnee from the original nine music kits back in 2014, Skog brings his heavy metal riffs back for a second time round, going for something faster and more intense than Metal, his previous contribution.
While most of the music kit has a lot of fast metal tunes, there are a fair share of slow, wonderfully melodic tracks like Main Menu and Start Action. But a lot of the music kit is fast and hard, which is a nice contrast. However, I don’t think it fits the mood especially well, primarily because it’s a bit faster than Metal was. I will give props on the Death Cam sounding like a band doing a brief sound check before recording.
I’ll admit, speed metal is not my thing. It’s hard for me to really get into it compared to other metal subgenres, which is weird to say considering I like fairly fast paced tunes in other genres. That is not to say this music kit is bad whatsoever, it’s just not particularly my taste. It’s got good tunes, just like the last one.
VERDICT: Good speed metal, but jarring considering the CS:GO’s slow pace. Still worth a try, though.
Troels Folmann, Uber Blasto Phone
Triumphant Blastophones combine with contemporary Uberpulse in this explosive collection by ultra award winning composer Troels Folmann.
The name didn’t ring any bells at first. Then doing some research made me find out he did the music for the Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider games: Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld, respectively. (The music also reappeared in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, but he composed no new music for that game.) While the music in Legend was not amazing, it perfectly fit the mood for that game.
The Main Menu immediately hits with the strings and choir vocals, which gave me an E.S. Posthumus vibe, along with the first Action/Round cues. The bomb timer as well as the MVP Anthem had a vibe that reminded me a bit of his Tomb Raider work. It works out pretty well.
It’s a good music kit that brings nice dramatic action. Worth a try if you’re into that mix of techno and orchestra.
VERDICT: It’s like the score to a big action-adventure game we never got. Recommended.
Whew. That’s all of them. Now hopefully Valve will stagger these releases next time so I don’t have to write over 3,000 words for fourteen music kits.
Also I’m still bummed that despite there being so many musicians here on offer, still no Simon Viklund music kit. Oh well, Maybe next year…