The power of music is an incredible thing. With merely the hum of a familiar tune, entire moments are re-lived in an instant. Some songs recall nights of romance, like Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight (which flashes back to every prom ever held). Other ballads, like Under the Boardwalk by The Drifters, enshrine the carefree, youthful days of summer. But some melodies conjure the dark times in our lives; when fear would rise in our hearts, and every passing shadow was a terrible creature on the prowl. Horror movies and video games often rely on these tunes to reinforce the terror conveyed in a particularly frightening scene. So it goes that whenever I hear Paint It Black, my heart rate rises, the hair stands on the back of my neck, and I am transported to the world of Twisted Metal: Black once more.
When it hit store shelves in 2001, Twisted Metal: Black proved a departure in style from the previous titles in the series. The first four games featured over-the-top art, reminiscent of comic books from the 1990s, laid over demolition derby gameplay. Twisted Metal was Mario Kart for grown-ups: bright environments, colorful characters, and plenty of explosions and violence, all put to a heavy metal soundtrack. But the journey to the Playstation 2 drained all of the slapstick and color from the series, until a dark and foreboding world remained.
The familiar characters adapted to survive in this bleak new realm. Sweet Tooth, the mascot of the series, was once a jovial devil of a clown, bent on gleeful mayhem and destruction wherever he drove. In Black, he transformed into a bulky and solemn serial killer, cursed for the numerous lives he has taken and searching for a cure to the fires of damnation upon his head. Other drivers followed suit, with fresh backgrounds and futures filled with sorrow and death. To my recollection, not a single story from Twisted Metal: Black concludes with a happy ending.
And so, whenever the familiar chords of the Rolling Stones’ hit start strumming, my world gets a little bit darker once more.