#Writing #Music: #TwoStepsFromHell

Welcome back, fellow creatives! I hope spring brings you days of renewal and hope. I’m in a daze with all the conference work for university, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel! With the right music and support, I can pace myself to reach that light.

We all learned when we were wee that music carries a special storytelling power. Maybe there was that one movie soundtrack you listened to over and over again to relive your favorite scenes. Maybe there was a favorite musical where the songs of characters help tell the story, or an opera where the emotions of instruments and characters alike blended into one voice. I was very much a soundtrack child, but my father’s love of New Age music had its influences on me, too, and one album in particular got a play on our stereos: David Arkenstone‘s Quest of the Dream Warrior.

Now you may be wondering why I titled this blog post Two Steps from Hell and here I’m sharing New Age from the 90s. Hold yer hightops, I’m getting there.

In a highly, highly visually-charged culture like the U.S. of A., engaging in music that told a story–no stage, no movie, no book, just music–felt very unique to me as kid. Music like this feels more…more open to the possibility of telling multiple stories. Yes, Arkenstone had one story in mind when he composed the music, but because the visuals of the story were left to the audience, I felt like I could take those sounds and make a story of my own. (I did, too. It involved a band of bandits helping a kid thwart an evil sorcerer. At one point he became a giant eagle for coolness. Wonder where that story is…Anyway.)

This is where Thomas Bergersen comes in. Another kid from a small town, though his is in Norway. Just another soul who loved music. But while I enjoyed taking my lessons and then moving to words, Bergersen taught himself composition and orchestration. In the mid-2000s He partnered with Nick Phoenix, a composer based in the States, and together they created Two Steps from Hell. Their music has appeared in loads of movie trailers like Batman v. Superman, but I’d rather focus on their albums here, for what is this month of May but a time to celebrate the fantasy storytelling we love?

Yes, my friends, Wyrd and Wonder is back! Let us see how story-music of others may inspire your own storytelling.

Perhaps your characters are on a journey through a land of light and mystery. Perhaps danger runs as freely as the river alongside their road. Can’t you feel it in the strings, in the herald of the brass singing in the air?

Oh, don’t let the synth take you out of this moment. One of my favorite elements of Two Steps from Hell is their ability to bring voice and synth together with the orchestra. There is a timelessness here, a genre-bending that allows the music to reach those in the future, the past, or an Elsewhere altogether.

Like the sea. Perhaps your characters are not upon the land at all, but upon the water, their ship leaping with the crest of every tumultuous wave as they close in upon the enemy before it can attack the innocents ashore.

Fear is cast overboard as your characters take to the cannons, take to the ropes, take to the enemy’s hull and climb, swords divine with sunlight as they battle the enemy from hull to stern.

Two Steps from Hell have several albums available, and I wish dearly I could review them all here. While all albums are epic, each also carries its own identity. Dragon brings such an air to it through the strings without synth, for instance, while Skyworld embraces that synth to add the presence of technology to the setting. Dragon‘s trilling strings show us the dragon wings beating in large, sweeping motions. It cuts the clouds as the warring windjammers upon the water. When the violins run their scales downwards, you know the dragon is diving…to aid? To conquer? It is up to you, storytellers.

For that is the joy of music such as this. It is up to us to create the story, to share what we see when the story is told. Whether the story takes us on a journey of swashbuckling under the sun or through the shadowed realm of our own grief, music guides us into the unknown on wings of hope.

These are the days where we celebrate Impossiblity’s rightful place in our imaginations. All is never truly lost if we take heart. Even the courage of one soul can be enough to vanquish the darkness and rise a legend.


I’m really excited to share my pilot podcast episode next week! We’ll study the story-starts of some fantasy books throughout May–for of course we must–and hopefully by the end of May we’ll know if this hair-brained scheme of mine is, um, you know, going to work, and what have you.

I’ve got a publisher interview coming up as well as some ponderings about names and the importance of oral storytelling in the home. Blondie is also finishing up the illustrations for her story to share here about The Four Realms, which makes my heart smile.

Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!

29 thoughts on “#Writing #Music: #TwoStepsFromHell

  1. I came across Two Steps from Hell recently while hunting on Youtube for “Epic Writing Music”- and wow, do they fit the bill! (It was kind of a lifesaver as my replacement laptop doesn’t have a CD player. ARGH!) I knew nothing about the group though- thanks for filling in some blanks! I am going to need more of their music.
    Hang in there Lady Jean- summer is coming! (Wait, with the new gig, do you still work a summer term?) Either way- I’m amazed by all you’re doing! xxxxxxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • I do teach a summer term, but I’ll manage somehow, Ann, just as I know you will! We do what we can, right? πŸ™‚ Yes, I LOVE this group so far–I’ve yet to be disappointed with their albums! They were even the source of a debate between Bo and me, but we can’t yet agree on whether or not soundtrack music can truly be made without an accompanying film…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Right! Just keep chugging along!!! I hope you get at least a little time off in there, though, to breathe. xxxx
        Well, if a soundtrack plays in the woods without a movie to hear it…and then the chicken or the egg…nevermind. I’ve got nothing. I still think you win the debate, though, without any more information. Take that, Bo! πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

      • HA! I’ll Bo you said that–he’ll laugh. He just doesn’t understand listening to a score that has no movie with it. He feels like it all becomes the same. But then, this is the same guy who will read 12 different biographies on Groucho Marx and still feel like each book covers something different… πŸ˜‰

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  2. β€˜Tis interesting, young Ms Lee. Music does indeed tell it’s own wonderful stories. In many ways all manner of art does the self-same thing. Where music wins out, methinks, is β€˜mood’. Mood born of said music decides upon pertinent words for mood’s, often random imaginations, and thus a story unfolds. Splendid stuff, Regards, The Old Fool.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m going to give Two Steps from Hell a spin later! Hoping they might jog my current wip along a bit, especially as we’re going to find ourselves by a river! Thanks for sharing, Jean and looking forward to your podcast πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I should email you every day before I sit down at the computer and ask for a music queue for whatever it is I’m writing, Jean. I always love all you make note of. The music is also one of the best reasons I know of to go to an actual movie in an actual theater — can’t wait until we can do this again — because you just can’t replicate that sound at home. Good luck with the publisher interview and write on to Ms. Blondie! xo

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  5. Pingback: Quest Log the First

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