While fa/tg/uys and ca/tg/irls by and large tend to be more film and literature types, every once in a while they may wish to set the mood for an adventure, get into a character's headspace, or just chill/rock the fuck out.
This page is to help find musicians and albums for just such an occassion.
Please note that soundtracks of Approved movies and television have been omitted as, generally, they count automatically. (We make a partial exception for Film Score composers, mainly because the really good ones are guns for hire, whose works can be found in some really terrible movies.)
As these are compiled opinions, they are by definition subject to personal taste and preference. Not liking anything on this list is a capital offense and you will be executed for HERESY for such incorrect beliefs.
Now, with all that said, let's begin.
- Amon Düül II - Yeti: See, they call it Yeti, 'cause this is a beast of a release. At over an hour long, this album is absolutely stuffed to the brim with crazy psychedelic textures and heavy jams that could even put Sabbath in their place. Fantastic for setting moods or getting into a headspace.
- Genesis- Most of it: Putting this here because their music, while primarily prog-rock, also verges off into much more standard pop, and much darker, slower stuff. They’ve done everything, and some of it’s even good. I, personally, would recommend “In the Cage”, “Firth of Fifth”, and most of their album “Duke”.
- King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King+: The original. Not that Crimson King. Or that one. The soundtrack of a medieval apocalypse. Classical and acoustic instrumentation mixed with rock music stylings, a sprinkling of jazz here and there, and lyrics that make fantasy allusions make for the perfect mood setter for your grimdark D&D campaigns.
- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Grimdark stories about murder, crime, rape and religion are par for the course, with the occasional love ballad. Fantastic music and lyrics that could inspire many characters and hooks, as well as set a pretty grim mood if ever it's needed.
- Nico: While Chelsea Girl is considered to be a stock standard sixties pop album (though a classic nonetheless), the rest of her discography is wildly different, thanks in part to her Velvet Underground bandmate John Cale as producer. Grimdark, apocalyptic vibes, as well as fantastical lyrics and droning medieval instrumentation help to draw you into an atmosphere of heavy dread and hopelessness. Seriously, there's a reason Nico is credited with being the first ever truly goth artist.
- The Residents: A deconstructionist art-rock band that have been making music since seemingly the dawn of time. Some truly weird songs and imagery in their lyrics. Perfect for pilfering.
- Slint - Spiderland: Edgy post-rock that walks the delicate line of being angsty but not whiny. Minimalist rock production with your typical verse-chorus-bridge songwriting with cool time signatures. All of this is in service to the dark tone with songs that cover topics of social anxiety, depression and abandonment. The lyrics alone could be used as inspiration for characters and adventures.
- Tom Waits: Songs about the freaks and underclasses of modern society sung by a homeless man who sounds like he's been drowning his sorrows in whiskey since before you were born. Excellent songs that are executed with flawless, characterful performances that are accompanied by top notch production and instrumentation. There are plenty of characters to be stolen from this music.
- Yes - Fragile, Close to the Edge, Tales from Topographic Oceans+: You'll be hard-pressed to find a more quintessentially prog band than Yes. Probably could be viewed as a noblebright King Crimson. Fantastical lyrics with ridiculously tight playing and songwriting and just enough of that prog cheese to keep it fun. Good luck finding a band that would better suit your 80s inspired fantasy games. < To Be ContinuedI \ I /
- Angra - Temple of Shadows: THE Nobledark album in power metal. Don't be fooled by the dark aesthetics of the cover and the fact the songs describe a world that could give original Warhammer a run for it's money, the overreaching message of the album is that any man can reach their redemption if they work towards it hard enough. Has great vocals and an interesting story to boot, with the main themes providing enough material to create entire campaigns around them.
- Alestorm: Pirates + Metal + Scotland. If you haven't heard this playing in your local hobby shop, you've never been to your local hobby shop. Period. Especially appropriate for playing Warmahordes to.
- Black Sabbath: The guys who made the genre. Any metalhead who isn't at least semi-knowledgable about them will be put to death by the masses.
- Blind Guardian - Nightfall on Middle Earth: A one-hour-long speed metal concept album about The Silmarillion. If that doesn't sound fuck awesome to you, then get the fuck off this website. Appropriate levels of cheese and manliness are expected.
- Bolt Thrower: Worth mentioning here due to their connection to Warhammer 40k. It's a death metal band, so pretty much a "love it or hate it" deal, but yeah... Neckbeards making 40k-themed music, yo!
- Burzum - Filosofem: Trve kvlt shit from Norway made by a white nationalist who stabbed his bandmate and label manager to death because he "had it coming" and eventually wrote a racist as fuck rpg. Unlike Myfarog, however, this album is actually good with super noisy production, heavy atmosphere and awesome grooves...well...at least in the first half...
- Dragonforce: Power metal par excellence. Best known for Through the Fire and the Flames, which you would literally have to have lived under a rock for the past decade and a half to have not heard. The rest of their work is similarly brilliant and fast enough to delight even the most jaded of Speed Freeks.
- Gloryhammer: A swiss-scottish power metal band lead by Christopher Bowes, the lead singer of Alestorm. Their music is cheesy as fuck, but the lyrics sound like a D&D campaign gone off the rails.
- The Hu: Mongols + Metal = Awesome. Wolf totem could be used as the White Scars theme tune.
- Opeth: If you want a metal band that doesn't stay on a single metal type, them for all means listen to Opeth. These guys have done almost everything: From Doom Metal to Power Metal and Alternative Metal, they have it all. Their themes varies, but they do have a great number of musics about legends and places which can give a good inspiration for a campaign. Also, their magnum opus, Blackwater Park, fits great in a Vampire: The Masquerade-esque world.
- Powerwolf: A German metal band whose music centers around 3 things: Gothic Horror, Satanism and Christianity back when it was a lot more purge-y. They have this whole twisted Catholic/Satanic clergy thing going and their music is pretty fucking sweet for a variety of inspirations. Not many bands can get you pumped for playing a righteous Paladin as well as these guys can.
- Sabaton: And them the winged russairs arrived! Iconic power metal band with a focus on the most awesome moments in history, perfect inspiration for a historical fantasy or war campaign and all around great for pumping your testosterone up. The only negative part is that /pol/ has adopted a few of their songs about the german army and infected it's comments with cancer and nazi propaganda (Just like everything else /pol/ touches), but as long as one ignores that Sabaton has one of the most friendly metal fanbases you will see out there. Also has a surprisingly good number of /a/nons who are fans of the band due to their association to military-themed anime.
- Tool: Their fanbase may suck and be full of cringe, but at least Tool can stand on their musical merits. Catchy riffs and songs with enough time signatures to keep the hipster who pretends he knows music theory happy.
- Wind Rose: Dwarves that play Power metal, they even turned a Minecraft song into an Awesome Metal song. Basically If you’re painting a dwarf army give them a listen and you’ll be done in minutes.
- Comus - First Utterance: Folk-prog that's dark as fuck, covering topics such as rape, murder and heresy. This album is special though in that every single song on it seems to relish how evil it gets. If you need to get into character next time you play an evil alignment, this is the one.
- Current 93: David Tibet's Neofolk spoken-word outfit. Definitely not a band for everyone. Much of the dark and folky tones of the music, on top of David Tibet's surreal and dream-like poetry gives this music something of a psychedelic medieval vibe. A good portion of the imagery here in the words could also be easily appropriated into a DnD game, should the DM wish it.
- Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea: IT'S A POTATO!!!!! I LOOOOOOOOVE YOOOOOOOU JESUUUUUUUUUUS CHRIIIIIIIIIIIST!!!! SEMEN STAINS THE MOUNTAINTOPS!!!!! This album is the rosetta stone that will help you decode /mu/ should you ever feel yourself patrician enough to enter such a magical realm. Though on the surface it may seem like esoteric hipster trash, give it a few listens, and it soon becomes an incredibly engrossing and heartfelt album that has been known to make grown men cry. Seriously, there is a reason /mu/ goes so crazy over this shit.
- Joanna Newsom - Ys: Though her voice may put some off, the music and lyricism of this album is well worth it. Articulate and poetic lyrics with lots of metaphor and allegory, and long-form songwriting combined with classical-style production makes this album sound like something out of a fairy-tale or a Tolkien novel, and is thus a perfect mood setter for any fantasy game.
- John Fahey - America, Fare Forward Voyagers: The guy that turned finger-style blues/folk guitar into an art-form. His best songs are long and effortlessly incorporate classical composition stylings mixed with the free sound of improvisation, as well as a lot of blues and folk scales and styles. A lot of his stuff is truly epic in its length and ambition, and is definitely worth a listen if you're a blues guitar fan.
- Vashti Bunyan - Just Another Diamond Day: Very naive, very positive, very noblebright album that has a very pastoral vibe. Good for relaxing, and good for mood setting, provided that the setting your playing in is noblebright to the utmost extreme. Seriously, there's no describing how positive this album is.
- Aphex Twin/AFX: The guy that made modern EDM. There's a bit of everything electronic here. Ambient, downtempo, hardcore, acid house, Drill and bass, etc. His discography is as diverse as it is big.
- Autechre: The music robots will be listening to when they rise up and take over the world. Techno music executed with cold precision. Sparse, metallic textures and synthetic timbres, as well as pure, straight-forward rhythm.
- Biosphere - Microgravity, Substrata: Microgravity is a minimalist techno album with a theme of space and space travel with plenty of samples from classic 60s sci-fi and Gerry Anderson TV shows. Substrata is a purely ambient album meant to build an arctic atmosphere. Both are approved as classics of their respective genres and would make great mood music for any appropriate campaigns.
- Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children, Geogaddi: Ambient techno and hip-hop beats with an emphasis on building a nostalgic atmosphere with obscure tape samples and vintage synths. Great mood-setting and chill out music, with some cryptic sampling and references to keep fans invested long-term. Tomorrow's Harvest is also an approved album as it's basically a John Carpenter rip-off that would be great background music in your 80's inspired post-apocalyptic campaign.
- Depeche mode - Violator, Songs of Faith and Devotion, Ultra: Synthpop that is equal parts moody, gothic and oh-so sensual. As such, it is a sin to play a Vampire: The Masquerade game and not hear one of these songs at least once. Also, some real catchy songs in here, so be prepared to be singing them for the next week.
- Merzbow: Harsh noise at its harshest. Walls of static devoid of any discernible or consistent rhythm or melody or even humanity. In short, Slaanesh approves.
- Perturbator: 80s-themed synthpop/synthwave that's absolutely dripping with grimdark cyberpunk atmosphere and 80s sleaze. There would be something fundamentally wrong with any Shadowrun game that doesn't have this playing in the background.
- The Prodigy - Music for the Jilted Generation, The Fat of the Land: The Prodigy did a lot to help rave culture and music make its way into the mainstream conciousness, and it's easy to see why. It's breakbeat. It's jungle. It's fucking badass (or at least it was until the 2000s came along and they got shit). This is some psychedelic shit full of anger and some pretty oppressively heavy atmosphere, which is perfect for your cyberpunk role-playing games.
- Death Grips: With a fanbase that has as many /b/tards screaming "NOIDED" as pseudo-intellectual hipster fucks pretending they understand this music, there's no doubting that Death Grips have secured a place in the 4chan-verse. Super noisy production with rapping from MC Ride that borders on mad, paranoid screaming and drumming by Zach Hill that is as dangerous as it is frenetic, it's easy to see why their sound sticks out it in the modern hip-hop scene. The overall abrasive textures and atmosphere of paranoia, as well as lyrical themes of technological ghettos and the horrors that lurk on the deep web make this music perfect for any dystopian cyber-nightmare setting you choose to run a game in.
- DJ Shadow - Endtroducing: Sample-based hip-hop that's absolutely dripping in atmosphere and an omni-present sense of nocturnal, urban dread and paranoia. Most songs on here would be perfect for an Old World of Darkness game, or really any grimdark campaign that's set in a modern city setting.
- Johnny Cash - American Recordings I-VI: Not all Johnny Cash, mind; a career as long as Cash's has a non-trivial amount of crap. But at least the American Recordings series of albums are useful if you're doing anything that's either going for something to score a "Western Genre" piece, or for that matter, anything with Apocalyptic overtones, the AR series is worth a check to see if it covers what you're looking for.
- Marty Robbins - Gunfighter ballads and Trail songs: Utterly classic cowboy music about (what else?) gunfights and ridin' the trail. Honestly, if this isn't the first place you go for music for any western setting, there's something wrong with you.
- Townes Van Zandt - Our Mother the Mountain, Townes Van Zandt: Want proof that country can be poetic and personal and not whiny? This is your guy. Songs and stories about poverty, alcoholism, love, crime, and death, quite a few of them inspired by Townes Van Zandt's own life. While none of this is out of the ordinary for country music, good lyricism and generally good production help to elevate him above other artists, and his tendency to use naturalistic imagery mixed with the fantastical helps make him /tg/ relevant.
Yes, classical music has a certain...image, but come in with an open mind, and you might just find something cool.
- Claude Débussy - Prélude to the afternoon of a faun, La Mer, Book of Préludes 1&2+: If only for the atmosphere. His books of préludes alone are so characterful, they could be turned into settings or characters on their own.|
- Edvuard Grieg - Peer Gynt: You've heard it before, many times over. Very emotive and picturesque music, so much so that it's often used in modern media.
- Erik Satie - Trois Gymnopédie, Gnossiennes: The music you hear when you type "melancholic piano music" into YouTube and click the first result. Also, Satie was the grandaddy of minimalism, so don't take the simplicity of this stuff for granted.
- Johann Sebastian Bach: Baroque counterpoint daddy. Listen to his cello suites at the bare minimum.
- Joseph Haydn: The daddy of symphonies.
- Gustav Holst - The Planets: Where Star Wars music came from. In particular, the big cliffhanger moment where the Death Star is about to be blown up is a heavily reminiscent of the climax to Mars, the Bringer of War. Alternatively, don't say we didn't warn you when you start crying during the Jupiter Hymn.
- Hector Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique: Arguably the first ever concept album. Tells the story of an artist who, after years of unrequited love, does a just little too much opium and trips the fuck out. Rich orchestration and imagery here. Have fun.
- Igor Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring (at the very least): The piece that was so good it caused a riot in the theatre and started the modernist movement in music. Despite how old this music is it's metal as fuck, and we're not just talking about the original ballet's plot.
- Olivier Messiaen - Turangalîla-symphonie: A truly gigantic orchestral meditation on love, both on a cosmic and personal scale. Has a uniquely alien sound, especially for an orchestral work, thanks to it's use of the Ondes-Martenot as a solo instrument, as well as the dissonance found in a lot of it's chords and harmonies. Honestly though, when it wants to be, this piece is fucking epic! Give it a chance, please.
- Richard Wagner - Der Ring des Nibelungen: Yes, Wagner was an anti-semitic piece of shit who probably inspired Hitler with how much of a cunt he was. That being said, his ring cycle is to Opera what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. This shit is BIG, totalling FOUR. WHOLE. OPERAS. each one three hours long AT LEAST, totalling 15 hours of playing and telling a story that spans several generation's worth of time. Musically, this work pioneered the use of Leitmotif to represent characters as well as emotions and ideas, and hearing these be incorporated, re-incorporated and evolve over such a huge piece is something that is yet to be replicated in any other media to this day. It's one hell of a party.
- Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians, Different Trains: Minimalist daddy, and the composer you should start with if you're ever willing to try out classical music. Music for 18 musicians is so groovy it's almost hypnotic, with so many layers and instrumental variety that you could really do a deep-dive into it's sound world, yet repetitive enough that you could just have it playing in the background. Different trains is different it that it is a work with a story, one that you could similarly pay attention to, yet still able to be put on in the background.
Film Score Composers
- Bernard Herrmann: Like the films of Alfred Hitchcock? This man worked with Hitch on many of his best films and single-handedly popularized screechy violin strings as a scare theme. Also scored Taxi Driver.
- Danny Elfman: AKA Batman theme guy. He's done tons of other stuff too, like Marvel junk, plenty of Tim Burton films (including Nightmare), and interestingly enough, The Simpsons of all things. Its fascinating to see how he goes from playing stuff as zany as is in these weird animated movies he's done, to something much more serious and dark, back to happy again. His old alt-rock (for want of a better category) band Oingo Boingo is fun too.
- Ennio Morricone: One of the pioneers and innovators of film scoring, which is fairly impressive, given that he started fairly late into that arts' existence, and it shows; the dude's style is old-school classical music. Most famous for his Spaghetti Western scores, but Morricone had quite a large array of great scores besides that, his most famous outside of the Dollars trilogy being "The Mission", which flawlessly blends Amerindian folk music with baroque chamber music.
- Hans Zimmer: Award winning guy from The Lion King who has also composed sheer awesome music for films ranging from total fail to pure unadultered awesome. Jack Sparrow theme anyone? How about Gladiator? Maybe Inception has your tastes right now? All Hans Zimmer. Specializes in, and pioneered, a blend of traditional orchestral arranging with modern compositional software, leading to his signature synth "BWAH"s and instense, stabbing string textures which are all oh-so present in much of his work. This has lead to some instances of skub within the classical community, but you'd be a fool to say that he isn't influential, at the very least.
- Joe Hisaishi: The Studio Ghibli music guy. Everything from Nausicäa to Spirited Away was soundtracked by this guy, and his skills as not only a composer, but as a conductor and arranger are on full display. Lush, rich textures, incredibly well-balanced orchestral sections, as well as music that matches the tone, themes and atmosphere of the movies they're written for perfectly. Also, unlike some of the other composers on this list, his soundtracks are listenable on their own without the film they were written for.
- Jóhann Jóhannsson: Scored a lot of stuff for Dennis Villeneuve's films, so expect large amounts of atmosphere, grimdark and awesome. Also worth mentioning is his synth-heavy, unsettling and totally badass score for Panos Cosmatos' Mandy. Rip in piece, sweet Icelandic prince.
- John Williams: The Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and 80% of anything Spielberg guy. Has done everything, from the Grimdark tragic music of the prequel trilogy to the heroic themes of Superman and The Goonies. The man just has a talent for this that you can simply spend hours appreciating. His music is considered to be the "real spice" behind all the films he puts sound to. If you have heard of Star Wars and not of this man then you are either a mongoloid or extraordinarily sheltered.
- Ramin Djawadi: Game of Thrones, Westworld, Iron Man, Pacific Rim. Hans Zimmer's protege and has worked on many other projects with Zimmer. He's been around since the turn of the millennium, and has already gathered himself a nice shelf of awards.
- Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica: Rock music made by a Malkavian. Actually, is it even rock music? Is it Jazz? Is it Blues? The truth is nobody really knows, since the guy who wrote it was trying to make something as completely unlike anything that had become before as possible with standard instrumentation and vocals. What further adds to the confusion is that this thing has been cited as the best album of all time by some very notable music critics. As such, it is prime shitposting material on /mu/. Weirdly enough, it's actually got moments of not only being catchy as fuck, but also strangely quotable and can be used to judge the patrician levels of any passing normie. MY FROWN IS STUCK, I CANNOT GO BACK TO YOUR FROOOOOOOOWNLAAAAAAAND!
- Munir Bashir: The master of the Oud as well as Maqamat music. The guy was so strict about keeping the musical traditions of Iraq pure that he quit his home country after discovering that a lot of performers were starting to take heavy influence from western pop music in order to please the masses. If you want to experience quintessentially Arabic music, this is your best chance.
- Paco de Lucia: One of the greatest flamenco guitarists of all time. Even legendary guitarists in the rock-jazz-blues tradition would think that they didn't know fucking shit about how to really play guitar after listening to his music. He was made prisoner as a kid by his father and made to play guitar all day. His musical feats are made even more impressive when you consider that he was completely self-taught and contributed a lot to the sound of modern flamenco music without even being able to read traditional notation (he did it all completely by ear). Legends say that he didn't play electric guitar because he feared that he would make it a musically respected instrument.
- Triarii: A musical group whose work can best be described as Roman Legion Marching Dirges. You might recognise one of their pieces (We Are One) as the opening theme for the Emperor's Text-to-Speech Device. Dark and Imperialistic, most anything you pick from their albums fits the Imperium of Man to a T. Like Sabaton, their comment section tends to attract a great deal of /pol/ garbage, but so long as you do the right thing and ignore them, you'll be treated to some of the finest Grimdark music you'll find anywhere.
- Two Steps From Hell - All of it: A music production company that makes epic trailer music. Every time you saw a movie, video game or TV show trailer with epic music that didn't appear in the actual show or game, it was these guys. Despite movie trailers being their day jobs, they regularly release albums of epic instrumentals. Chances are, you've already heard them and said "This is epic".
- Miracle of Sound: Music based on various aspects of geek culture, primarily video games and TV shows. An Irish solo act, he changes styles to suit the subject matter from metal (Doom) to synth (Cyberpunk 2077) to sea shanties (Assassins Creed Black Flag) and more.