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article imageReview: Two Steps from Hell — The rebirth of real music, at last

By Paul Wallis     Feb 21, 2013 in Entertainment
Sydney - If there’s ever a Nobel Prize awarded for “Services to Music” these guys should be frontrunners. They’re gigantic on YouTube, with millions of hits. There’s some guy making ten hour mixes of their stuff, and people are asking for more.
Two Steps from Hell is two guys, Nick Phoenix and Thomas Bergermann. They’re not exactly your standard classical model musicians, in any sense of the word. Their website includes a few comments about themselves which are revealing on the About page:
Bergermann: ….I couldn't stand authority and that was probably the reason why I started composing music in the first place. It was the perfect way for me to disobey rules and do everything like Frank Sinatra, "My way". I was 6 years old and my piano teacher did not share that view. It didn't last very long. I sure showed her!%#! or maybe not..
Phoenix: …Over the years I have either scored or placed music in over 1000 major motion picture trailers. I have also scored TV shows and worked on films with Hans Zimmer. Living in Los Angeles gives me amazing opportunities to work with talented artists and I recently did a project with Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead. Thomas and I formed Two Steps in 2006 and I believe we have a great partnership. Working with someone as talented as Thomas inspires me to improve.
Many of the links go to iTunes, but check out a list of credits as long as a sermon for their work in media.
That’s not what I want to talk about.
The big contribution Two Steps from Hell has made is to finally, irrefutably, destroy the whole gruesome “business model” for musicians. TSFH, as they’re respectfully known on YouTube, have proven that real musical flexibility is viable. They’re not generic. They definitely haven’t become bovine, as so many “soundtracks R Us” musicians become.
What fascinates me is that so many people are independently finding TSFH for themselves and loving them. They’re getting so many hits on various YouTube channels and raves from the often musically ultra-picky YouTubers that it’s quite astonishing. This looks very like an actual groundswell, the sort that gets popular music moving again during times of enforced musical constipation like now.
TSFH has been evolving, too. The musical style and mixes are very interesting for those who know their way around sound recording. This lack of fossilization is also a major positive for their audience. It’s proving what real music can do, and proving that talent can break through where nothing else can.
Two Steps from Hell are the antithesis of what I call “kitchen appliance music”. They’re full on musical raves, with a lot of substance, not 50 year old patches, pathetic hype, infinitely predictable videos and tedious hooks for a non-existent so-called musical culture. To crack through that load of garbage is more than any real musicians have done in years.
Anyway, enough verbiage about how good they are. Check out these videos and hear for yourself:
The featured video, Archangel, is one of their flying orchestral pieces. It’s also a good intro to how far TSFH is prepared to take a piece of music that’s not part of a soundtrack.
This one, Titan Dream, is a fabulous mix. You have to wait for the second vocal part to hear it, but that’s not easy to do, mixing vocals like that and getting it right.
One of my favorites, Everlasting, is a sort of orchestral singalong for berserk orchestras.
This is one of the 10 hour mixes, Dragon Rider. It really is ten hours. I’ve worked listening to it for at least 3 hours solid. I seem to have some sort of relationship with this one. When I went to get the link to YouTube for this article, it started at 3:56:21, like it remembered where we left off. This thing as over 15,000 hits. That’s 150,000 hours of listening to the same track. Sound normal to you?
This is the one that got me interested in Two Steps from Hell. If you hear a sort of relative of Beethoven’s exuberant 7th, so did I.
Anyway, I hope you like Two Steps from Hell. If you’re a music lover, you have reason to like them. They’ve found the way out of this turgid mess of a music scene for future generations and proven it can work, and work this well.with the way it was made.
Liberty Rising: Listen to the harmonics, (as if it was avoidable) and try to guess what’s going on.
In true soundtrack mode- Men of Honor
This is Immortal. See if you can find a musical parallel.
Some rock, orchestral, and a bit of Chinese if you know it, Jump.
A piece de resistance- Undying Love. It’s about an eternity or so too short, but check out the strings/choir. 652,000 hits and counting, even if most of them are me in the last month or so.
Good luck to you, TSFH. Fantastic effort. Real music’s back in the game!
More about two steps from hell, professional music business model, breaking the chains, Nick Phoenix, Thomas Bergermann
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