Second Extinction

The Music of Second Extinction

Greetings, Extinction Elites!


Today, we have something truly special for you.

We recovered footage of the orchestra sessions when the soundtrack of Second Extinction was being recorded and worked together with Zach Abramson, the composer, to put it together and give it some fine tuning!

The soundtrack is an integral part of a great game, accompanying the player on every step they take. When the efforts of many people culminate in a work of art like this, it is important to highlight the result.

That’s why we’re happy to show you this behind the scenes look and announce that the Second Extinction Soundtrack will be released along with the game at Full Launch!

We also sat down with Zach to ask him some questions about the inspirations behind the music of Second Extinction and its evolution throughout the development process!

You can read the full interview below.


We hope you enjoy it!
The Second Extinction Dev Team


Interview with Zach Abramson

What directions were you given as to how the soundtrack for Second Extinction should feel?

At the beginning of my work on the project, I was given a creative brief by Dominic Vega, the Audio Director. A creative brief is a document containing information about the tone, mood, story, and gameplay feel of the game. The first page of it simply said “a Rock n’ Roll Dinosaur Killer”. I was already on board with that idea, but then the second page said “Evil, mutant Dinosaurs have taken over the world and you have to fight to take the planet back!”. With that, I knew the game was going to be over-the-top, fun, intense and gutsy.

We knew from the start that we wanted to use an orchestra to convey a sense of scale and importance, because the game is about risking your life for the greater good and saving the world.

Even though the game is set in the future, it’s not about being sci-fi or futuristic, so we didn’t use synths and techy sounds like you hear in so many space adventures. Instead, we went for a more rusty and gritty feel.


Talking specifically about “Reclaim Earth”, can you tell us a bit about how you created it?

The starting point and base of it all was the orchestra. It’s important to note the function of this particular song: Often, Main Themes are used in the Main Menu whereas here, it comes up when you’ve selected an insertion point and it serves to get the player amped up for the mission.

We had a lot of different ideas on how to make it as effective as possible, but none of them stuck. Then, one day, when I was walking to work on a cold winter morning, I noticed how I was gritting my teeth and leaning against the icy wind, thinking “I just have to get through this” and I thought to myself “This is exactly what our Heroes feel like when they’re preparing for a mission”. At that moment, the melody formed in my head and I hummed it to myself until I arrived at the office.


How does composing the Main Theme of a game differ from the rest of the Soundtrack?

For the soundtrack you hear during a mission, I wanted to write music that underlines and supports gameplay without distracting from it. You already have so much going on, for example dialogue, gunshots and Dino roars, that you have to keep the music subtle so the player doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

A main theme is different: It’s supposed to be the center of attention, you can pull out all the stops to push the music into the foreground. You want to create a memorable moment for the players, preferably with a melody that they will hum to themselves when they think about the game.

In stark contrast to this stands the Extraction Theme, the music that plays when players call the extraction ship. That one is supposed to overwhelm you and make you feel like everything is about to go horribly wrong, so I’ve used big themes in combination with the intense music you hear on the planet’s surface to create a sense of dread and urgency.


What did you take inspiration from when composing the soundtrack for Second Extinction?
For the Earth’s surface portion, we needed a way to support the idea of Evil Mutant Dinosaurs. We asked ourselves “What can we do in the music to make the player feel the size and primal intensity of these creatures?“

Going backwards a step, I think that one interpretation of the portrayal of dinosaurs in media is as a metaphor for the fear of the primal power within ourselves- that lying beneath all the trappings of society, technology and modern life, there is a dark, powerful primal energy in us all.

Igor Stravinsky explored these same themes in his ballet The Rite of Spring, which caused a literal riot at its premiere when the audience witnessed the primal and primitivistic choreography. So it’s no wonder that John Williams incorporated some Stravinsky-esque writing in his score of Jurassic Park, Goldsmith did the same in Planet of the Apes, even Disney used The Rite of Spring during the dinosaur segment in Fantasia.

Following in those footsteps, I also drew a lot of inspiration from Stravinsky for the score for Second Extinction- rhythmically, harmonically, and also a focus on instrumentation. I wanted to use some low woodwind tones to support the idea of dinosaur roars. My good friend and studio partner had just purchased a bari sax, so we went in and recorded some crazy bari sax multiphonic screams, growls and pulses, and then put them into the computer and started messing with them to get the monstrous and mutated woodwind sounds used throughout the soundtrack. You can hear one of them at the end of the “The Music of Second Extinction” video, check it out!


Can you tell us about any early ideas that you had for it that you had to scrap or that didn’t end up working out?

Creating a soundtrack, especially for a new IP, always starts with an “idea phase” where you go through many different approaches to see which one works. This process requires input from the whole team and a lot of trial and error.

For example, I wanted to use a trumpet with a Harmon Mute to create a distant and pinched sound, but my colleagues thought that made it sound too much like a Film Noir detective movie.

We also tried using more woodwinds, for example saxophones, in the space station menu. That didn’t end up working out, but you can still hear some of them in little melodic gestures.


How was it to work with Avalanche? Is working with a Game Development Studio different from, say, a Movie Studio?

I love working with Avalanche. So far, I’ve had the opportunity of working with the New York, Malmö and Stockholm offices and it’s been a great experience all around.

In general, creating music for a movie is like a sprint, whereas working in the Game Industry is more like a marathon, with many iterations and short bursts of creativity spread over its entire duration.

The other cool thing about working in Games is that it’s so remote work friendly. I work with studios from all over the world from my office in Brooklyn, New York, which gives me access to many amazing tools and contacts.


What was it like working together with the orchestra to record the Soundtrack?

It was a dream come true! My background is in orchestral writing but it’s not every day I get to work with a live orchestra. I also really enjoy collaborating with the orchestral team and hearing new perspectives. This is where working together with the amazing orchestrator, Ella Feingold, and a conductor who is interpreting my music really comes to fruition.


What do you think is the most important part of composing a good piece of music?

I can’t give a singular answer to that, so I will give you two part-answers:

On the technical side, it has to be a combination of a good idea and a good performance. People listen to sound, not ideas, so if an idea seems brilliant in your head, but you can’t do it justice in its execution, it won’t work.

In a more poetic sense: We hear a lot of music every day, on the radio, at work, on TV, and while playing video games. Most of it washes over us, but good music can move us. Emotionally, physically, viscerally. I want people to remember the music and to remember the experience of listening to it. The ultimate goal is for someone to internalize it and then externalize it again, be that by humming or singing it to themselves or by showing it to others. That is the kind of passion I want to invoke.


More News

Second Extinction releases soon

It is almost time to reclaim Earth!