Two Steps From Hell: the film composers you’ve never heard of
If you can think back to the time when the trailer for STAR TREK grabbed audiences' attention (in what can only be measured by warp speed), you may also recall the piece of music that accompanied it. Its ethereal chorus. Its booming horns. Its building emotion and power. In one word, epic.
My first reaction, besides "how can I get my film score geek hands on this so that I may listen to it on repeat as I drive my car pretending I'm Kirk maneuvering the Enterprise?" was "who is the composer behind this powerful piece of filmic sound?" My first listen led me to believe it may have been a track from Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's score for THE DARK KNIGHT. This was mostly due to the heavy use of horns, which are also very present in Zimmer and Howard's soundtrack. But I had never heard it in my many and frequent listenings of said score. And thus, a mystery had begun.
So, I did what any investigative journalist would do. I dug. And dug. And dug. And my search caused me to realize that it was still difficult to find things on the all-knowing Internet. Finally, my query prevailed and I discovered the source of the music.
The piece was appropriately titled "Freedom Fighters." The composers were Two Steps From Hell.
Read on to find out more about Two Steps From Hell!
The name alone was enough to further my intrigue. Two Steps From Hell? Normally a moniker like that is reserved for indie rock bands and hardcore metal bands alike. As most musicians do, Two Steps From Hell had a website. A website that prompts you simply with a Gothic book donning the head of Medusa and their mysterious name. And so I opened the book and further into the rabbit hole I went.
And what I found was that, not only are Two Steps From Hell responsible for the piece from the STAR TREK trailer, but for many other recognizable music cues from many other well-known films. UP, WATCHMEN, THE DARK KNIGHT, HARRY POTTER, I AM LEGEND, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, TWILIGHT. And that is just to name a few of their credits.
That is because trailer music is what these guys do. And they are damn good at what they do. Two Steps From Hell is the brain child of composers Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix, who describe the musical effort as a "one stop shop music licensing for Motion Picture Advertising and Movie Trailers." With genres ranging from "Production Music, Epic, Action, Adventure, Romantic, Comedy, Horror, Sound design, Electronica, Rock, Romantic Comedy" and everything in between. In other words, there's a really good chance you have heard Two Steps From Hell...you just didn't know it.
The idea of two composers getting together to create music, not for a film specifically, yet for a genre of film - furthermore a feeling, a tone, a mood - is a fascinating one. Not to say that stock music and music libraries have not existed for quite some time now, but in a manner this cutting edge and hip is new territory. Like the rock stars of the film composing world, Two Steps From Hell are the next generation of film composers.
Unfortunately, their music is not available for consumer purchase. That is, unless you want to license some for a film, which I imagine is getting more and more expensive as these gentlemen get more and more popular. To this date, they have 10 completed compilations that explore every genre of film through powerful, scene-setting music. They have said that they may release a compilation of their most popular work in the future, so if you want a reason to hold your breath, now you have one. In the meantime, you can check out their website HERE to preview these compilations, as well as see their past credits, check out video of their work in use, and more.
If you really want to check out a few key pieces from Two Steps From Hell, I suggest you do a YouTube search for their name. And don't be surprised if you hear something familiar.
"Freedom Fighters" from J.J. Abrams' STAR TREK
STAR TREK: Trailer # 3 ft. "Freedom Fighters"
Watch Two Steps From Hell, live in the studio, composing "Down With The Enterprise"