John Romero / James Paddock / Buckethead – Doom: Sigil (Game / OST) (2019)

Imagine how hyped I was when I found out that this 5th episode of Doom was a thing! As someone who has played through the first 4 episodes countless times as a kid and then as a teenager, this WAD, billed as the unofficial 5th episode of Ultimate Doom, but created entirely by John Romero, was the icing on the cake when I started looking for reasons to play through Doom again.

Those of you who are casually familiar with Romero’s levels probably know him for the legendary level design on Doom’s 1st shareware episode from 1993, and also for some of the more notorious levels in the 4th episode, Thy Flesh Consumed. Romero contributed a low number of maps to Doom II, but his style is recognisable, especially against that of the other “main” Doom mapper, Sandy Peterson. Colour me surprised then, when firing up Sigil, to find instead of tech bases, to find the tightest, winding corners of Hell displayed before me.

Now, to clarify, Sigil is fucking difficult. A lot of which, is attributed to the map design, rather than the enemies on display. People have criticised the use of the Doom 1 IWAD content only whilst building this level pack, but considering its a follow on to episode 4, that suites fine with me. No, its the intensely packed, crammed and narrow levels, entire levels floating in lava, impossible ledges and mind-boggling red textures and dark spots that make this so difficult. Granted, I”m using Brutal Doom, which makes the enemies hit that little harder and move that little faster, and also make the levels a little darker (I wish it didn’t fucking do that), but Sigil is an absolute task. That being said, I enjoyed all of these levels, where a lot of other people online didn’t, it seems.

Music wise, this wouldn’t be Lines In Wax without a mention of the soundtracks. I had the version of the WAD without Buckethead’s OST, so I had to go to Spotify for that, and gave it a listen whilst driving to work. I’m no expert on Buckethead, but out of the four or five albums I’ve heard, they are all mostly the same, and his Sigil album is no different. I found his sprightly, repetitive riffing and intense guitar solo’ing a strange match for Sigil’s creepy and terrifying atmosphere. As always, there is no doubt in Buckethead’s musical proficiency, and something drags me back to his records every now and then, but I think the decision to have him on board for Sigil was a mismatch.

The MIDI soundtrack which comes with the free WAD, composed by long-time Doom modder James Paddock is much more fitting and eery. The compositions, especially those on the later levels, are particularly of note. If your into horror or dungeon synth kinda soundtrack stuff, and don’t mind the MIDI compositions, then I implore you to check out James Paddock’s Sigil OST on YouTube. Or, better yet, give this wonderful Doom ’93 megaWAD a play-through. It’s fucking great.