Ryan van Eerde
Updated: Nov 24, 2018
The purpose of the track teardown is to analyze ElectroMetal production techniques and to apply these to a film soundtrack. As I have mentioned in previous blogs I will be analyzing a Killer Instinct game soundtrack which is the main theme for the character Fulgore. Unfortunately there isn't much or any information out there about how this track was created so I will be purely deconstructing the elements that I hear and what could possible be beneficial to implement into my movie soundtrack.
Killer Instinct is a fighting video game which comprises of multiple soundtracks to represent the different playable characters, with the tracks being composed by a guy called Mick Gordon, go here for more information ("Killer Instinct (2013 video game)", 2018)
The song follows a relatively complex structure with multiple parts being played only once or repeated only once, I have colour coded each section of the track to better highlight this. Due to the fact that this is an instrumental soundtrack it did find it a bit tricky working out what would be considered a verse and chorus especially when there are so many completely different sounding sections. I also believe there are two very different chorus sections as indicated by Chorus A and Chorus B which are separated by one verse each, apart from the last one where there is a 4 bar pre-chorus build up. Each section goes for a varying amount of bars as well, from 4, 13, 16, 17, 20, 40, and 50, but most of the time they are knocking around 16-17 bars. As a result of having so many varying sections with them predominantly being completed within 16-17 bars the song is always changing and evolving, coupled with some meter changes (which I’ll get to later) this produces a real driving feel that never stagnates in one part for to long keeping the listener interested for longer. I believe this constant change in the track is necessary for listeners engagement because it doesn't have any vocals for people to follow along to.
Tempo, Meter, Key
It has a consistent Tempo of 200 throughout the track producing a fast and driving feel, also due to its ever changing nature there isn’t a consistent Key during the song but there are clear distinctions between Major and Minor tonalities, even within the different sections.
The Meter of the track is mostly 4/4 with a few changes between 3/4 and 5/4 and 7/8 for the Outro, as shown in the images bellow.
This creates a disjointed rhythmic feel in the sections by accenting the beats that would not be consistent with a straight 4/4 progression, this is especially evident in Verse B where it moves between 3/4 and 5/4 one after the other, even though they both make up the same amount of beats as a 4/4 progression when you listen to it with a metronome it doesn’t feel right because of the accent points. Coupled with the two sections of 7/8 for the Outro these Meter changes only add to the ever evolving feel of the track and never creates a moment where the listener knows what's coming next making it more enjoyable and exciting.
Instrumentation & Production Elements
The track is based around an 8 string Electric Guitar, acoustic and electronic drum sounds, and various synth tones. There is no Bass Guitar in this track which had me stumped for a while because there is definitely more low end in the guitar sound then what a normal guitar can produce. So I did a little bit of research and found a technique of pitch shifting down a guitar track by an octave to create a Bass guitar sound (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLYyKkwtvFQ), I believe this is the trick Mick Gordon used to create more low end without having to record or programme a Bass guitar track, which I think is very clever.
Like everything else in the track the synth elements vary from section to section, the intro is all synth which builds up for the guitars and drums to come in when Verse A hits using only minimal synths as sound FX. Verse B contains more synth pad sounds that follow the guitar melody and cut out for the more rhythmic guitar parts. Chorus A has the synth pad sound are higher in the mix creating more focus on there melody and emphasising the guitars less with them taking on more of a driving percussive role. The synths in this part act more like a vocal track.
Leading on from this the synths cut out again for Verse C focusing heavily on the guitars again which makes the transition to Chorus B more impactful when it comes in with epic sounding choir vocals taking up the forefront of the mix with the guitars now mixed at the lowest point they have been in the track so far. Out of this chorus goes to another verse which is dominated with guitars again to build up for Chorus A again then to the double Chorus B at the end with the choir vocals being louder still in the second section, then dropping off for the riffy 7/8 guitar outro. The constant change in the synth sounds and how they are present or not present in the different sections accentuates again the evolving/changing sound of the track.
The guitars themselves are dual tracked (2 different guitar takes) and panned hard left and hard right leaving room for synths and drums which are predominantly in the center. I used a spectrum analyzer on a section of the track that had only the guitars playing and found that the bulk of the guitar energy is around 100hz to 200hz and a hard roll of from 5Khz which again provides space for when the synth and drum elements.
Another spectrum analysis of the whole track shows how the guitar sound is filled in by the other instruments but still having a lot of focus around the low end frequencies.
The drum sounds used are relatively sparse with just kick and snare in the center, and hats paned to the left, with all of them being from samples as each hit sounds exactly the same. The drums also don’t have much sonic content below 250hz and with not being that high in the mix they don’t take away from the guitars which are the focus of the track. When I was using a HPF to work this out the drums become a lot more prominent when the guitars lose their low end energy which just goes to show again how important this low frequency range is for them in the track.
The only FX on this track is a small amount of reverb on the snare apart from that all the other elements sound dry with the space and atmosphere coming from how the synth sounds are created.
The main purpose of this track is to represent the character Fulgore, who is A cold and heartless killing machine that follows orders and directives without question and finishes its opponents with deadly accuracy ("Fulgore", 2018). I believe the composer has successfully managed to represent this description of the character musically. The fast tempo with fast, low tuned (from having 8 strings), distorted, rhythmic guitars that change frequently between major and minor keys really sets this ominous robotic tone that has a very industrial vibe. This vibe coupled with the many different section and meter changes really helps to put the listeners on edge and make them feel uneasy towards the character, which is done purposely to musically explain that Fulgore is not a good guy and he is a character to be feared.
There are a lot of FX synth sounds that are not used melodically but to further enhance the robotic sound, such as quick build up/wined up sounds, metallic anvily hits, sirens, and various others scattered throughout which really help bring the track, and Fulgore to life. The main synth sound is a buzzy, distorted, saw synth that is purposely designed to sound a little unpleasant and jarring to reinforce the industrial, mechanical sound and feel of the character. These synth sounds really contrast the epic choir vocals in the Chorus B sections which not only makes the tracks progression and changes more prominent it has the effect of making the track feel grander and more epic which directly translates to the feel of the character.
Everything that the composer has done in this track is to make the listener identify with what the characters is and what he's about, its heavy, its electronic, its ominous, its fast, all things that could be associated with him.
The main thing to take away from this track is that how much it changes between sections and how it builds up with synths then comes back down with guitars just to smash you back up again for epic sounding choruses, which done purposely by Mick Gordon to create intrigue. There are fewer synth sounds than what I thought there was before doing this analysis, probably because the track changes so much it’s hard to work out what's going on without breaking down each section. I will definitely take on board how Mick uses different sounds in different sections to create flow and progression throughout the track keeping it feeling alive and moving, not giving the listener time to rest between sections.
Fulgore. (2018). Retrieved from http://killerinstinct.wikia.com/wiki/Fulgore
Killer Instinct (2013 video game). (2018). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_Instinct_(2013_video_game)