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Stabbing the Drama

Discussion in 'Andy Sneap' started by Ermz, Oct 24, 2009.

  1. Ermz

    Ermz ¯\(°_o)/¯

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    Ever since getting put onto this album by a few folks touting it on a 'your fave production' thread a year or two back, it's had me absolutely perplexed.

    I had never up until that moment, nor since, heard something so tight or well engineered.

    If you really take the time to listen (and I have... hours per day since finding it) you realize that the individual elements are really quite weak. The guitars are quite grainy and have a very odd midrange exertion. Drums are very thin and don't pump much. Bass is very low, with not very much mid-bass content. Vocals very dry and up front.

    Yet when it comes mixed together and hits you all at once, all you can really say is 'fuck... +1 Danne'.

    Even in the major label pop/rock productions I have heard nothing like this. Sure, their use of outboard and analogue desks gives their productions a nice, textured flavor, but rarely is the mix sculpted to near perfection as this one is.

    In fact I was just referencing an all-ITB lady gaga track, and being dance music you expect it to be entirely pushed. Max level, max low end, max vocal, max effects. So I went on to put STD after it, as a reference, and to my disbelief STD dominated it.

    For a metal production to be able to come close to the technical level of a dance track is just amazing, much less actually IMPROVE on it. We deal with real drums, real guitars, real bass etc. which have natural variances and tolerances. A mix can only be geared towards one 'velocity' or one texture from the track, so naturally dance music with its synthesized drums, bass and synths, which are almost 100% the same the whole way through generally has much tighter mixes. It made me realize the importance of limiting everything and squashing every bit of dynamic from the material, so every move, every change can be automated in with a purpose - with total control.

    I probably can't say enough praise about this production because it totally re-evaluated the way I think about mixing. I know Bergstrand has a very defined style which at times work more than others, but on this record in particular, it just gelled 100%. At the moment I'm at odds, drawing in the textures and 'air' from mixers like CLA, Grosse, Staub etc. but at the same time taking more relevant digital lessons from guys like Bergstrand who don't rely on the gear, but rather their own ability to craft these wonderful masterpiece mixes.

    What say you?
     
  2. Nebulous

    Nebulous Daniel

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    I say you're obsessed and I never want to see you any other way.

    Since I've known you your view of an awsome mix seems to have changed so much haha. I think you need some absolute flawless bands to work with so that you can finally get all your styles out of your system.
     
  3. tobin1

    tobin1 Member

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    The way the bass sits on that album is what makes it so amazing for me. Great cd
     
  4. lolzgreg

    lolzgreg Cereal Shipping Sneapster

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    It is very unique. I will say I'm enjoying it!
     
  5. Sickan

    Sickan ¯\(°_o)/¯

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    It's great, but I'm not the biggest fan of the kick (to thin ; <) and the mix lacks some mids.
     
  6. Morgan C

    Morgan C MAX LOUD PRESETS¯\(°_o)/¯

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    Definitely say you're obsessed with this album :D

    Its a good mix, no doubt, the elements work together very well. But as a whole I don't really dig it. There aren't really enough mids on the guitars, and the mix as a whole lacks lowmids, and I don't really have the system to appreciate the low-end. Its a loud low-end, for sure, but I can't hear any super tightness. Bass sounds completely flatlined by compression.

    And the mix has this kinda weird spike around 3khz that makes it unpleasant to listen to on certain systems.


    That said, those fills and guitar chords at the start of the title track.
     
  7. Ermz

    Ermz ¯\(°_o)/¯

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    I don't even remember the early days, man. I just know I was pretty big on Sneap when we first met. When you showed me 'Doomsday Machine' it just clicked and for a fairly long time I considered it 'the' reference for tightness. Used it to tune systems, reference against, everything.

    It's interesting though. The years bring an insight, and an ability to look at the whole.

    Andy nailed it in that recent interview when he said people take the Killswitch Guitars, Testament snare, Chimaira toms etc. and just cram it together and try to make it work because they are good individual sounds.

    I rarely ever hear a production these days and obsess over the kick, or the guitars, or the too much 300hz in the bass, or how dry the vocal is. It's all taken in perspective - how well it works conveying the band, or the inherent songwriting.

    Mitch once told me to think of the mix as more of a stained glass window in a church, because in my notes I used to obsess over the individual sounds. He was very right, but I lacked the wisdom at the time to understand what he meant.

    Whenever I see guys posting here, critiquing mixes, getting stuck on how 'papery' drums sound, or how 'stuffy' this or that sounds, and obsessing on individual elements it makes me smile a little. It gets you an instant insight as to where they are with their own ear development and how well they read into what they hear. I surely did a lot of it myself back in the day.

    Anyway, what I'm trying to say about this record is that it really isn't about the individual elements at all. Alone, they sound weak and characterless. Together they create something nearly unbreakable. There isn't a single record that I own, which I could A/B right along side this one and not have it sound immediately smaller to me. That's quite the title to hold.
     
  8. Harry Hughes

    Harry Hughes   ‬‬

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    I guess it's fair to say with your set of Opals, you can hear a lot of things us other guys aren't able to hear.
    It's certainly in my top 20 favorite productions of this decade, but perhaps not quite in my top 10.

    Guitar tone wise, I would say End of Heartache, This Godless Endeavor and The Way of All Flesh have it beat hands down, even Colors by Between the Buried and Me, if you look past a lot of the technical flaws in the mix, actually has a pretty good guitar tone if you're into that saturated, low mid heavy ever so slightly sludgy tone IMO.

    Bass guitar/overall low end content, I can't really comment on on a deep level because I honestly don't know much about that aspect of AE at all, but for what I can hear the STD bass is pretty friggen sweet.
     
  9. Nebulous

    Nebulous Daniel

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    While I can't say that mixing with a sub would be best given the room alot of us have to work with, but damn some more of you need to get a sub in your car!

    You think referencing in your car is good with stock speakers? Spend a grand getting some decent 6 inch 2 ways up front, components in the back and a 10" sub in the back (or larger if that's your thing), then use your car to reference.
    It really makes having albums such as this more worth it and actually points out alot of flaws in a mix instantly.
     
  10. Dexter_prog

    Dexter_prog New Metal Member

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    It sounds great. I really love the production on that album.
     
  11. Morgan C

    Morgan C MAX LOUD PRESETS¯\(°_o)/¯

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    Definitely agree with you , but at the same time.. you're listening on some of the best monitors around (though I'd imagine you listen on a fair few other reference systems). So no weird spikes, no 'hifi' element, no large noise floor. And while this is really illuminating, and allows you to hear a lot of new things, it also... I can't think of how to finish this sentence except with examples.

    My speakers that I use are really cheap, but not at all out of place for the average listener. They have a huge spike at 3khz. STD (awkward abbreviation), because of its spike at 3khz, is quite painful to listen to on them, whereas it wouldn't be on yours because yours are flat. If I'm listening to a Taylor Swift record, and they didn't use enough of a de-esser, its physically painful, unless its soft, because of my speaker's flaws.

    So while I definitely agree with you on each album having a vibe, and that being the main, most important thing.. the individual things are still important. No, something won't be wrecked by 'papery' drums, but too much 300hz on the bass could be a serious problem on some systems. Dry vocals give me instant headaches if I listen on headphones/earphones. etc. etc.


    Sorry to derail the thread a bit. I find it hard to relate to the vibe you talk about on this album, cos I just don't 'get' Soilwork's music. Some of it is good, but its nothing special imo, like a Major-key In Flames. :S
     
  12. Harry Hughes

    Harry Hughes   ‬‬

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    While I do agree with some of the stuff you've written Morgan, Ermzy has stated in the past he's gotten sick of mixing for the lowest common denominator (the 13 year old kids listening on cheap ear buds, people who don't care for audio quality at all and listen on really cheap shit 5.1 systems putting CDs in their DVD player etc etc), so while the stuff he produces might not translate particularly well to say, most shitty computer speakers, it's gonna totally own faces on a serious full range audiophile quality system
     
  13. Ermz

    Ermz ¯\(°_o)/¯

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    I agree re: Soilwork. It still pains me that STD (awkward indeed.. but they asked for it) has such poor music on it.

    Just makes the production shine more for me, because I convince myself I'm listening purely for that fact alone... much as I've recently started doing with Paramore's latest.

    Same deal as with Nickelback a few years ago. If I can look past the horrid music and see the strong production underneath, then I know the team have done a stellar job.

    @Petrovsk: As that is the case a lot of the time, you're right, but I will still generally try to get the vocals 'up' in a poppier act, or emphasize the important elements of the music. I mean, if somebody has no regard for audio quality, why should I have regard for them? My job is first and foremost to make the client happy. Once it passes their check, then it's on to making it as strong as possible on systems that are designed to make music sound strong. If it's going to sound horrid on a cheap PC 5.1 system, then why even bother? Just make sure the vocal and kick are up, and the retard on the other end can vibe with it.

    There are plenty of guys that mix for the lowest common denominator and get stellar results... like CLA chiefly. He's mentioned that he mixes through his boombox a lot, in mono. If you can get it sounding 'big' on a small system it'll sound great later yadiyadiyada... The issue is that mixes like STD, which only show their full glory on full-range systems don't make these considerations. That is what I'm about. I want the music sounding as good as possible, not for the limitations of current speaker designs, but hopefully down the track if people want to listen 30 or 40 years later. There are plenty of guys doing the lowest common denom. thing and it isn't my trip.
     
  14. Harry Hughes

    Harry Hughes   ‬‬

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    Not totally relevant, but I've never liked Nickelback at all, to the extent I find their music so bad I couldn't even bear to listen to it for a production reference.
    STD actually grew on me. First time I heard it, wasn't so appealing, but after a while I came to really like the drumming and found it overall pretty catchy. Not a masterpiece, but a solid 7.5/10 musically.

    Interesting CLA mixes on boomboxes a lot. My first introduction to his work was Brand New Eyes (admittedly, I'm a huge fan of Paramore too musically, despite my aversion to a good majority of pop music).
    I even think BNE surpassed Riot! sonically, which is quite impressive since Bendeth did an incredible job on Riot!
    Less commercial and raw sound overall, more pushed forward guitars (sounds like they switched from Rectos to Marshalls to my ears, but I'm not sure what was using during the tracking of BNE's guitars), which on sub conscious level emotes a little more aggression and darkness.
    It's always those little details like those that can be explained by objective measures that hit you on the subconscious level and you don't end up thinking about it too much for a while, but one day it really just strikes you why a certain aspect of the production goes beyond purely the technical level and strikes into the real human emotional core.
    That's certainly something I noticed when I listened to Riot! and BNE back to back constantly over the last 3 weeks or so.

    Of course, no surprise you'll bump up the vocals, since in the case of a lot of music vocals are the major selling point. Exceptions to that rule is some avant garde music and a lot of post metal (for example, Isis have Aaron Turner's vocals somewhat low in the mix to de-emphasis the lyrics and vocals and make them secondary to the overall atmosphere and textures of the music)

    Even though I don't have particularly good monitoring, I could certainly appreciate the fact some of your recent work really did shine much more on my studio monitors than they did my shit house computer speakers, whereas some other stuff would end up a bit boxy around the mid range and a bit too wooly on my crap comp speakers.

    I do also remember reading a thread a while back, before I joined, but it's still there somewhere, about why metal lacked a certain spatial depth to the sound.
    Makes me really think a lot of metal isn't as geared for high end audio systems as other music is and ultimately the productions with the most perceived spatial depth as well as being mixed towards the high end systems of today are going to age considerably slower sonically wise than a lot of the other stuff out there.
    We can certainly already see how much of the metal from the 80s has aged extremely poorly production wise, so the next 20 years should be rather interesting too.
     
  15. P-E

    P-E Munchkin

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    To me it's still growing and I like it better now than Natural Born Chaos. Listening to it so many times because of the production might help.

    And the production is great, not immense as let's say Watershed (but every bit as good), but one of the best blend of tones ever.
     
  16. GarethSE

    GarethSE New Metal Member

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    i love how obsessive you are ermz <3

    and yeah i have to agree that my perspective's recently changed in a fairly similar way (not identical, but pretty close.) i've been listening to a lot of death metal recently, stuff like cryptopsy, decrepit birth, GORGUTS and you realise that despite the fact the production's all fucking horrible, it's the only possible mix that could work for the music, and that's something special.

    the mix ive really been obsessing over recently is gorguts - obscura
    i mean its a crap mix by this forum's standards but it conveys a very specific atmosphere
    i should be mixing some stuff soon that'll give me a lot more leighway to fuck with atmosphere, which is exciting times
     
  17. Charles J

    Charles J New Metal Member

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    STD is indeed an amazing sounding album.

    it's one of those albums that just just magically turned into this massive, amazing sounding production.

    planets aligned perfectly, the humidity was optimal, the air was somehow magical, you get what i'm saying.

    it's just got vibe more than anything, man. that's what it's all about.

    now a days in metal we're all leaning towards trying to be as clinical and clean as we can but, that's just the state of affairs and for a LOT of bands that aesthetic works amazingly.

    NOW STOP CIRCLING JERKING TO STD.

    :tickled:

    j/k bro, you know this!
     
  18. feles

    feles Member

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    Am i the only who thinks the guitar tone is a bit weird?
    It fits to the music great but somehow fizzy, like it doesn't have a low pass filter. Or too much high-mid?

    Anyway, Stabbing The Drama is fucking great, i can "get it " with average speakers:)
    I like the production a lot.
     
  19. vespiz

    vespiz Mixing!

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    Nope, yer not alone. To me, the guitars sound like somebody made an 96kbps mp3 and sent it for the mix.

    But it's still a good album!
     
  20. Dexter_prog

    Dexter_prog New Metal Member

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    Soilwork has always have that fizzy tone, specially in their last 3 albums.
     

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