Link to the free cover song and geeky technical details

Sorry about the delay. Here is a link to the song on the band camp that Travis set up for his podcast: our tribute cover of Megadeth’s “Holy Wars… the Punishment Due” in honor of the 25th anniversary of the release of “Rust in Peace”. If you want some more tech-nerd insight into the recording, scroll down past the links and I’ll geek-out about it a bit

We made this song free for everyone, so if you want to support this effort and future efforts, you can support us here:

ME: Kick me a few bucks by grabbing a digital version of one of my band’s albums at Solamors Bandcamp or Aletheian Bandcamp . Or if you don’t like death metal… use the paypal donate button at the bottom of the blog front page

Travis: Trav has a patreon.com account to support his podcast. he intends to do more special one-offs like this, so if you dig it, support him at his patreon

Bruce: grab a Living Sacrifice music or merch for yourself or a friend. You can also contact Bruce for all your merch and merch-service needs at Manhead Merch.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RUST IN PEACE!

megabruce

The geeky technical details:
Since we were recording a modern rendition of a classic song, he driving factor behind the recording/production of this song was to keep one foot in the old-school and one foot in the new-school in terms of sound and technique. That philosophy made for some interesting challenges. I’ll explain:

The modern metal listener’s expectations are quite different (and mostly at odds with) the old-school listener’s expectations in terms of technical perfection and overall tone/loudness/punch/etc. For someone who was a fan in the 80’s and 90’s, they became accustomed to minimal editing, raw sound and overall ‘human’ feel of metal recordings. That sound mostly came down to cost/gear/facilities: it was simply too expensive for all but the top metal bands to afford the time, facilities, and manpower necessary to produce a flawless recording. Many recordings were simply a multi-tracked live recording, printed directly to tape or ADAT, maybe with a few punch-ins for vocal layers and solos.

However, in the last decade or so, digital editing became fast and cheap, gear became better, and sound-replacer, audio-quantizing, auto-tune, virtual hardware, etc all became widespread and easy to use. So suddenly a small studio or home-recordist could produce a ‘perfect’ recording with cheap gear, bad recording facilities, poor band performances or poor band equipment. So the expectation became that every recording performance will be doctored inhumanly-perfect, every tone will be great, and every mix will be squeaky-clean and balanced.

This has led to a rift in the metal camps: the old-school fans like the organic nature of those old recordings and think that the new recordings sound mechanical and lifeless, but the new-school fans think the old recordings sound bad and tend to bad-mouth bands who don’t digitally-doctor their performances to perfection.

While there is nothing inherently WRONG with either philosophy, we chose to straddle the two in order to TRY to appeal to both camps. So the (loose) guidelines were to leave the tracks as natural as possible apart from noise/technical-issues/etc, but then tinker with the mix in a more modern way to get a tone/clarity/punchiness that modern fans will not hate, but also try to keep as much warmth and midrange fat/peakiness as we could.

Some examples would be: DON’T replace the snare with samples, but DO use modern tools to make it sound fat and punchy, or DON’T doctor the guitar tracks digitally, but DO record a D.I. and re-amp it until the tone is exactly what you want, etc. That might sound like a no-brainer, but it ends up being difficult to pull-off without ending up with a recording that both camps dislike.

Here is a breakdown of the individual tracks for those who are interested in such things:

Vocals: Not too much to say here since Bruce recorded the tracks with Jeremiah Scott at his studio and sent me the tracks for mixing. They already sounded great, and Bruce’s performance war spot-on, so I didn’t have to do much. I got two sets of vocals from them: one that was more growly and compressed harder, and one that had a hint of melody and was less compressed. I used the compressed version as the main sound and just tweaked it with EQ/reverb/delay to get it sitting in the mix right. The other track I used as a double, and automated the levels and effects sends to bring it up and down for flavor in a few parts. That track I squashed pretty hard, split it in two for stereo delay, and panned it hard left and right, then added different effects to each side before merging them and squashing it some more.

Drums: Travis recorded the drums With Phil at Beercan Studios in his home town. Consequently, he used Sam West’s old Stavesacre drum set. You can hear about that story on his podcast at As the Story Grows. He used a minimal setup of 2 toms, 2 Cymbals, ride, hi-hat, bell, snare, kick. I got a mic for each shell (two on the snare and kick), 2 overheads, and 3 room mics.
-For the cymbals and room reverb, after compressing them to get the ambience right, I blended the room mics with the overheads and cut some lows and 2k/4k. I put a clipper on the channel to lop off a few unruly attacks. The whole thing was side-chained to the vocals to duck them down a few dB in the parts where Bruce is singing.
-The toms are pretty raw. I panned them a bit, scooped some midrange, added some lows/attack, compressed them lightly to bring out the attack and then used a DIY transient shaper plugin of my own design to dial in the attack and sustain. Then i automated them up and down in the mix when I needed them to poke through stronger.
-Snare was a bit more involved. There were a few phase and clipping issues to be fixed up, and a pronounced pinging that didn’t work in the mix. I used a spectral plugin to find the ringing harmonics and EQ’d them out, EQ’d the mics to cut out bleed, gated them a bit, compressed the top head to hell, summed the two mics and then parallel-compressed the bus before running a transient shaper to dial in the punchiness and sustain. I added a short gated reverb to make things super fat, but with the room mics in the overheads and all the compression on the snare, the reverb on the tracks was pretty intense already, so I didn’t have to add much.
-Kick is always important in metal. It has to be big enough to fill out the lows, without being too fat and stomping on the lower mids, as well as having enough attack to punch through the mix. The kick was very aggressively processed in 3 stages, so it is a bit too involved to list here. The core philosophy was to make it big and thump like an old school recording, but punchy and even like a modern recording. I think it turned out well.
The drums were all bussed together and smoothed out with a vari-mu compressor and a clipper.

Bass: DI split into 2 channels and processed separately. The original recording had very prominent bass guitar, so to make the bass fit in this mix, One channel was set up with a fat tone that filled out the lows, and the other channel was set up with a clangy tone with a lot of attack. I automated the balance between the two, and ducked the fatter sound with a side-chain from the kick.

Guitars: The rhythms were quad-tracked (2 separate takes per side). It is easy for things to get mushy with a quad-track, but when I originally just double-tracked, the tone got too scratchy, so I just played the parts a zillion times until they were tight enough for the quad-tracking to not feel spongy. The guitars were recorded D.I. One track from each side went to one of my DIY amps/cabinets (you can see the details in my past posts on this blog) and was mic’d with an SM57 and an i5. The other track of each side was sent to a DIY preamp and guitar cabinet plugin of my design. There were no effects on the guitar apart from EQ and some multi band compression just on the lows to keep the chugs from getting tubby, and some saturation to warm up the channel (also DIY plugins). I ended up scooping a decent chunk of kids out of the guitars near the end at the request of the guys.. they were stomping on the mix a bit.

MIX/MASTER: 2 compressors (fast and slow), 3 min-phase EQs (pre, between compressors, post), 2 clippers (after each compressor), saturation, limiter. I shot for a good mix and then only hit it with the limiter to where it was just squashing the drum transients… it ended up around 8dB RMS or so including transcoding safety margin… pretty hot by traditional standards, but on the quiet-side for a modern metal record. I tried to keep the polishing to a minimum to give a slightly-raw, late-90’s feel, so I just focused on controlling the peakiness in dynamics and EQ rather than squashing everything out to make it glassy and even. I didn’t add any artificial widening, so it might sound narrow compared to modern mixes, but I did make a complimentary EQ plugin to add more separation between the left and right.

Thanks for reading.

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About alexkenis

Guitarist, philosopher, tinkerer

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