Are metal mixers just... not as good as other genres?

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by JohnIce, Jul 24, 2018.

  1. fps

    fps Kit

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    I listen to a band like Aborted, just put on a random track to check I meant what I was posting, The Extirpation Agenda, and I have to say, I don't see how this could be recorded better, from the *listenable/well-mixed/shiny* direction. It's brutal but really clear and has great energy, to me.

    Could someone else do something else? Maybe. But, a random example from a different heavy area, Baroness got a lot of polarised opinions about their Purple mix, which is definitely an attempt to do something else (I love it)
     
  2. karjim

    karjim Set the World Afire

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    Ramnstein comes to mind when I think about pop arangement production. I m surprised no one mentioned these guys.
     
  3. Matt Ress

    Matt Ress SS.org Regular

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    Just discovered this thread, gonna read and listen to all examples provided.

    Breaking Benjamin - Phobia is an example of excellent production. I know it's not metal but a lot of the riffs are proper headbangers.
     
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  4. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoil Enthusiast

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    Good call! I've been lucky enough to talk to their producer a couple of times. According to him it's an incredibly perfectionistic process and he's said something to the effect of "Everytime we finish a Rammstein record, I need a vacation" :)
     
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  5. fps

    fps Kit

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    A lot of hip-hop and pop also begins with cream-of-the-crop samples and sounds. In contrast, every guitarist, drummer etc wants to use their own gear, plays differently (this simply doesn't happen when you're MIDI-ing and quantizing samples, so much more universally accessibly), and frankly needs more to sound great in the first place.
     
  6. fps

    fps Kit

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    See, they are proper sonic perfectionists - they aren't interested just in music as the notes being played, they're interested in music as the sounds you hear. There are maybe more metal musicians than any other genre who fail to recognise that these elements are equally important.
     
  7. Marv Attaxx

    Marv Attaxx ಠ_ಠ

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    Off the top of my hat, these would be my best metal mixes
     
  8. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoil Enthusiast

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    That's a really interesting point to me! Having your own sound and the intricacies of tone is such a glorified concept in the guitar world, yet very few guitarists really care or know much about how to actually play to make a band or mix sound its best anyway. I weep for mother earth when I see a guitarist militantly defending the use of rainforest woods in their guitar for "tone", then write their guitar parts in such a way that it sounds like garbled ass as soon as the bass and drums come in.
     
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  9. Andrew Lloyd Webber

    Andrew Lloyd Webber Custom Title

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    Mother Earth: RAPED AGAIN.
     
  10. isispelican

    isispelican SS.org Regular

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    IMO a metal mix shouldn't have to compete with other genres, that's only going to homogenize things and make everything sound too similar and neutral. What it should do though is serve the music and have a unique character to some extent, making it stand out from the rest. Sometimes it needs to be super clean and polished and sometimes it needs that raw and dirty feel. I don't see much of that happening in the last decade in the metal world, most mixers tend to just play it safe and try not to strive too far away from what the other guys do. Below are two examples, one on the raw side and one super clear. I think these are excellent production choices, truly serving the music, but only for these specific albums.


     
  11. Stijnson

    Stijnson SS.org Regular

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    Been following this thread since it came up, and I thought I'd stir the pot a little here, by reversing the questioning of it. Is metal mixing just... harder then mixing pop?

    Bear in mind, I'm not saying it is! Just wondering if there is any truth to it, considering all the aforementioned points. (raw drums vs samples etc)
    One could also wonder if a top metal mixer (pick your favorite) could get equally good mixes of let's say, the Dua Lipa song. Or vice versa, could Josh Gudwin (mix engineer on that song) get a metal mix that is either better then your favorite metal mix, or equally good?
    Obviously that is hard to answer, the principles of mixing are the same, but experience with certain sounds, and how to process them undoubtedly influences this greatly.

    I personally listen to a lot of pop music, just because of the awesome production and mix, (and as a consequence it's inherent catchyness will get stuck in my head haha) but there are some great metal mixes out there, and especially some stuff that crosses the lines between the 2 shows what "metal" mixers can achieve.
    ie:
     
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  12. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    I think we all came to a consensus agreement pretty early on that at least half of the challenge here is yes, it is - there are unique challenges in metal, between the density of the arrangements and the, how to say this, transient density, I guess, of the performances - a lot of stuff is getting rammed into a mix and a lot of that stuff is challenging to work with (metal guitars are basically tonal white noise, when you get right down to it, and getting an electric bass to sound "stable" in the low end is a nightmare that after nearly two decades of recording basses as a hobbyist I STILL don't feel like I can do consistently).

    I don't think that's the full picture, though, but certainly a big chunk of it is that metal typically comes with a lot more problems that need to be solved than a pop-rock trio.
     
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  13. fps

    fps Kit

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    People are so concerned about their own tone, but then don't mic it properly, or their tone doesn't through properly in a mix because actually they were listening from a different place, or didn't dial it in for a band, or...or...or...

    Also, let's be honest, a lot of metal guitarists write stuff they can't play to a proper standard. I've been tracking some acoustic guitar at home recently, fingerpicked stuff. Sounds like nothing on record, hard as a bastard to actually get a good tone on it with the fingers. It's like Phil Rudd in AC/DC - yeah, it's just 4/4, but the way he plays it and makes it sound, it's goddamn rock perfection.

    Tone, writing, playing - very few musicians have all three.
     
  14. axxessdenied

    axxessdenied :: 2077 ::

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    I would much prefer to just get a DI track for mixing guitars than a mic'd up / axe / kemper stem. The drums and bass will dictate the kind of tone you need for the guitar and you have no idea what will really fit until you actually do mix the drums and bass. Then you can reamp the guitar to make it work in the mix. if a guitarist you're working with is set on a tone. Let them record with that tone so they feel comfortable. grab a di as well (should be standard practice to always capture a di in the metal world imo) and then let them think their tone is what you'll use and just do what sounds good. Guitarists are dumb (speaking as a guitarist who moved to mixing, we are dumb! lol).
     
  15. axxessdenied

    axxessdenied :: 2077 ::

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    But then you got drummers who will want "natural" sounding drums and reference tracks that have samples all over them. *shrugs*
     
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  16. dozicusmaximus

    dozicusmaximus SS.org Regular

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    Interesting read as I am just starting this path of recording and mixing.
    I have nothing to contribute to the conversation.
     
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  17. IGC

    IGC Guitar farter arounder

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    I think some bands are more into an "old school" sounding vibe. One of my favourites are: Skeleton Witch - Beyond The Permafrost is a great example. They even said in some interview I saw on line somewhere " we are old school" . That to me means less refined, honest, straight forward, no frills, not perfect, more "real world everyday people" sounding. Not all done up, don't care if I miss a note.
    And why do they fancy that approach? Maybe because they aren't perfect people, don't fit into society, don't like the criticality of being a perfect person and don't want their music, or it's production to reflect them trying for perfection?

     
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  18. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    While I'm all for getting guitarists to think more "how will this work in the mix" than they do, I think this is going one step too far.

    Ideally, before even getting into the studio, the band should have spent some time working on how they sound, so that the guitar tone, bass tone, range and pitch of the vocalist, etc etc etc all work together reasonably well and that nothing's fighting TOO aggressively for space. "Back in the day" this was pretty much a prerequisite before making a record - you had to have a good enough live sound to convince some A&R rep to front the cash for a record - but even today that's something that bands should be thinking about, "does my guitar tone 1) support the song and work for the type of music we're doing, and 2) compliment the rest of the band sound?" I realize today that's hardly a given, though.

    But, when mixing... No one instrument is sacred and no one instrument should be fully subjugated to any other one (with the possible exception of vocals, or whatever the centerpeice of the song is). You certainly shouldn't be starting with a huge guitar sound and carving away everything else out of the mix to make it work (unless that's what the song calls for - see basically anything by Devin Townsend), but nor should you nail down bass and drums in isolation and only then turn to the question of what sort of guitar tone you have room left in the mix to squeeze in there.

    I'm obviously a little biased as a guitarist (as are you, and IMO you're overcompensating for that bias here), but as a music lover, a large part of the sound of a band is from its guitars, I'd say second only to its vocalist, when taking about vocal music. Taking a huge part of a band's identity (and a huge part of what their live sound would be) and tossing it out the window doesn't, to ME, seem like serving the song.
     
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  19. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    ^ I really waaaaaaaant to agree with you, but in practice, I don't think I've ever met a band that really thought that far ahead in terms of getting their sounds to fit together. A drummer can only do so much to fit in a space, guitarists want to dominate everything, and bassists tend to overthink their space just because they don't get heard otherwise. I'm 100% for getting these things straitened out ahead of time and trying to capture real performances through an amp in the odd case I can get away with it, BUT steps like described also compensate for the inevitable egos that come along with "getting my tone right".

    Is it too far? Maybe. But I'd rather go too far than not far enough. I guess it comes down to knowing who/what you're dealing with. :lol:
     
  20. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    I mean, every band I've played in, I've definitely put a lot of work into making sure the sound I was using fit in nicely with the rest of the band, and then you hear things like Rudess and Petrucci dueling solos with tones that are hitting similar enough frequency ranges that sometimes it's tough to hear where one ends and the other begins, or the Smashing Pumpkins having this huge, massive, heavily layered guitar sound, which totally works because somehow Corgan's vocals sit on TOP of it, rather than fighting for the same space, and his lead tone and his voice are falling in the same ranges, etc etc etc...

    ...but maybe I'm the odd one out here, haha, or maybe it's just that successful bands often do this without thinking much about it consciously. :lol: Who knows. either way, it's something I'm DEFINITELY thinking about while tracking, making sure that all of the various sounds I'm recording Tetris together well enough to work as a mix.

    I can pretty much say with 100% confidence though if I was working with a mix engineer who told me "oh, don't record an amp tone, just send me a DI, and I'll figure out what sort of tone I can use to fit in the mix after I finalize bass and drum tones," then I wouldn't be working with that engineer. :lol: Sure, it's a higher bar when you're an instrumental guitarist than when you're in a vocal band, but even then (and maybe this comes from also being interested in recording and mixing) I'd definitely be thinking, "is the tone I'm using here both something that resonates with me and that I can live with as part of my musical identity, and ALSO something that works with the pitch, range, and timbre of our vocalist?" while recording. And while I'd be happy to have that discussion as part of the band, I'm absolutely not outsourcing that decision to a third party. I mean, there's a wide range of different guitar tones that I like and could get on with, there's always some room for flexibility. However, there's an even larger range of tones I DON'T like. :lol:

    Idunno. I need to get going on a new album. I've got a bunch of pretty (IMO) decent song demos and ideas, I've got a way better recording signal chain, and I'm kind of psyched to start working with some fresh material. I just need more free time. :lol:
     
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