When Metal Gets Heavy
This blog will go more into why I chose the metal style I did, and what made me want to recreate that sound myself in conjunction with Electronic Music Production.
Before I go into the specifics of the genre I will discuss my thought process right back at the beginning of the project. When the project brief was originally given, which was to create ourselves and EMP track my mind instantly went to "Cool, how can I do this and be metal at the same time" (side note, I'm always thinking of how I can be more metal). So I started thinking about all the bands I listen to that incorporate EMP with there music and how I could potentially replicate that sound in a project of my own. The very first band that came to mind was Fear Factory, who I have already mention in a previous blog.
Fear Factory are a band that relies heavily on fast, driving, rhythmic guitars that don't often play much melodically but create intrigue by creating a feel and a groove, but then utilising EMP elements and synths to create melodic sections to complement the guitars. I wanted to create a track that does this but focuses/incorporates more electronic elements. Another key aspect of Fear Factory's sound, mainly in there later albums, is that they use 8 string guitar which produces a really low heavy sound and everyone knows that low tuned guitars are metal as all hell. A good example of a Fear Factory track that incorporates EMP within the song is Regenerate from the album Genexus, see video below.
So what exactly do I like about Fear Factory's sound and other bands like them. Defining what a bands genre is, especially in metal, can be somewhat problematic but most of what I listen to and compose can fall under the banner of EXTREME METAL.
But what is Extreme Metal.
Extreme metal's sonic excess is characterised by high levels of distortion (also in the vocals – grunting or screaming), less focus on guitar solos and melody, emphasis on technical control, and fast tempos (at times, more than 200 beats per minute).
("Extreme metal", 2018)
That definition basically sums up what I'm about musically and Fear Factory was a good starting point to figure out the sound for this project, and I knew I wanted to compose something heavy, fast and rhythmic using my own 8 string Guitar (a great Cash Converters purchase). Coincidentally (or maybe to so coincidentally) the Killer Instinct track that I'm using as the reference for the end goal sound also incorporates an 8 string guitar.
Another band to check out who take this ultra-heavy rhythmic sound to another level is MESHUGGAH
In my own personal opinion because this style of music has such low sounding relentless guitars with minimal melody it has a space for synthy electronic elements to create the melodic parts in the track to evolve and fill out the sound even more, which is basically my whole ethos for this project.
Now that I have established what sound I wanted to create lets talk about how I decided to go about achieving it. I knew from the very start that I wanted to record my High-Gain ENGL Powerball II because I know it will give me that really focused distorted tone that is required for extreme metal. Check out this video to see what sounds this amp is capable of (providing you are a good sound engineer that has the ability to extract, record, and mix the sound from the amp well)
But for the purpose of creating a scratch track and getting decent sounding rough guitar tracks to use for loops I initially used a DI guitar that I put an amp simulator on so I could go ahead and start composing without having to worry too much about making and recording a killer guitar tone straight away. I used a High-Gain amp sim in a program call Guitar Rig to do this because I have been using it for a while now and know what its capable of. For people out there who know a little bit about metal amps this sim was modelled of the Peavy 5150 (Eddie Van Halens signature amp) with and Ibanez Tube Screamer overdrive pedal in front of it.
Here is a link to the guitar riffs/loops I composed
I came up with various guitar riffs all written in F# Locrian with a flattened 4th at 190BPM, now why did I choose that key and tempo. Firstly the Locrian mode, a passage from Kahn-Harris's 2007 book Extreme metal sums up nicely why I chose it.
"Certain modes have long had particular connotations, with the Phrygian and Locrian seen to have the 'darkest' sounds. The Locrian is the only mode to contain a flattened fifth, the so called 'tritone'. Famously, the use of this interval was discouraged by the medieval Catholic Church and refered to as the diabolus in musica. Extreme metal represents a sustained and austere exploration of 'darker' modes that have long been associated with danger and evil."
I added in the flattened 4th to give an even more darker sound, and played it in F# because the top string of and 8 string guitar is an F# so that makes it easier for me to play of the root note, but basically at the end of the day I just really dig dark and evil sounds. The reason for recording at 190BPM is because its a relatively fast tempo that I could record some heavy rhythmic guitars to, after I finished making the scratch track I actually re-recorded the guitar parts I used at 210BPM just to make it even more F*$^ metal. I still did this with the same DI amp sim technique so my next step now is to re-amp my DI guitar tracks into my ENGL Powerball II, and hopefully get a killer sound from it .
I found a video where an audio engineer talks through the process he used to create and record a Meshuggah guitar tone and I shall be using this as a reference for creating and recording my own guitar sound. Have a look at the video below.
Unfortunately I don't have an Overdrive or EQ pedal so I'm might go and see if I can either find someone to lend my one of them or research what other things I can do to tighten up the low end.
So, that's it really, I will be posted a blog after my re-amping session to discuss how the process went (good, hopefully), then start mixing that sound in with the synth elements in the track.
Extreme metal. (2018). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_metal
Kahn-Harris, K. (2007). Extreme metal. Oxford: Berg.