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New DT Riffing

Discussion in 'Dark Tranquillity' started by Merloch, Jan 14, 2010.

  1. Merloch

    Merloch Member

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    Hearing the 2nd song off of the new album, I had to finally make a post here.

    I am a long time DT fan, they have always been one of my favorites. There was a shift in the riffing style starting around Damage Done. Since then, each album has progressively gone more and more into the "stop n go" chugging riffs. At first it didnt bother me. As more and more songs are starting to have the same kind of verse riffs, I am really starting to get annoyed. This is the path many bands take into metalcore-dom and I am starting to fear the worst....


    Flame away, but realize I am a big fan like all of you. I am just being honest to my ears.... :ill:
     
  2. reckoning87

    reckoning87 Member

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    I get where you are coming from. There has been a lot of the palm mute chug style, but I'm not going to judge this album yet till i hear the next 9 songs. However, these first 2 songs did indeed contain that same style that you mentioned a lot.
     
  3. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    You know who disagrees with you? This fucker right here.

    I hate me some metalcore. Mostly, I hate those long grinding stretches of verses where nothing happens and you just get a whole bunch of lame, one note grinding. However, Dark Tranquillity does something completely different than this.

    The perfect example is The Lesser Faith. After the big beautiful intro, the song drops into a rhythmic heartfelt chorus... then immediately drops into this quick grind section. One note, grinding out this amazing rhythm. It's not melodic, which is what this band is known for; it's not pretty (which is how I think of buzz-saw guitars and synths layered together). In fact, it's just downright vulgar. However, like all of DT's music, it is entirely appropriate. They grind your face off for a few seconds before, in this awesome transition, dropping back into this sweeping chorus. The effect is amazing. I, too, dreamt the world would end.

    So, metalcore is a shit genre built on not being able to find notes on a guitar for boring minutes on end. DT is all about taking all of the things that music can be and painting a portrait for the ages.
     
  4. Merloch

    Merloch Member

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    DT has always had brilliant riffing, layers of sound, great harmonies, etc.

    I find a lot of the new verse riffing to be uninspired, boring and similar to what all the pop metal bands are doing here in the U.S.
     
  5. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    It is impossible to create art in this day and age without stepping on something that someone else has done. Just because it was used by a poor musician does not mean that a particular technique does not have value. I was listening to the Children of Bodom cover of "Oops, I did it again" a few weeks ago and noticed that, while it was intended to be an ironic cover, that's actually a really good song. Strip out all the pop bullshit, give it a sweet riff, focus on that awesome chorus melody, and it's actually really good.

    Granted, this is a completely different subject, but just because something was used for crap doesn't mean it can't be amazing elsewhere. Seriously, look at all of DT's technique. The amazing chorus to Misery's Crown is mostly just chords repeated for a measure. That's been done in rock for centuries, and it's the basis for a lot of crappy punk, but they made something beautiful with it. Look at how much of DT is speed-riffing. Lesser metal bands have been doing that for decades, but listen to The New Build and tell me you don't fell energized by it's sheer magic.
     
  6. Villain

    Villain Doctor BenQuillity

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    I agree 100% with the disagreeing fucker. I can't use the music-theory vocabulary in a proper manner, so I'm happy Stizzle is here to explain my thoughts about this topic in a language that's both understandable to us non-musicians and presumably correct in terminology. Thank you, sir.

    -Villain
     
  7. XxSNAPxX

    XxSNAPxX [HYDRAKUS]

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    I understand this. I've heard it and i too get the feeling of "what the fuck kinda mundane shitt....", but the thing is, the chugging stop n go type riffs are usually accompanied by a rather enjoyable keyboard piece, making it rather tolerable for me.
     
  8. marduk1507

    marduk1507 Member

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    Hey, Merloch, finally someone with EXACTLY the same reproach as mine! Thank you! I call that chugging riff "that riff" - its been introduced by the band on The Minds I, where it just slayed as it really hadnt been used before. Then came Projector and Haven, where this riff almost disappeared. But then - exactly as you say - came Damage Done and Character, "that riff" returned and we were treated to its various versions ad absurdum. Stizzle is right in that DT are above all the other bands anyway, because they just cannot make a bad song as such (a riff is just a riff), so there is plenty of other great stuff going on "around" those riffs - but I tend to get rather bored by those songs anyway. Its just not good enough. Fiction was a lot better in this respect, they really tried to keep things varied and fresh. But as I said before - since DD and Character I have to expect a lot less from DT to actually be pleased with what they put out. If I were still on the level of expectations after Haven (Im talking about quality, I dont want them to record a Haven 2 or anything like that), the 2 new songs would do almost nothing with me. Id say "well, this is ok" and listen to new Madder Mortem instead. But I still bear with them and try to get used to what they sound like today. Oh well...
     
  9. Maxim1110

    Maxim1110 Member

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    I agree with that fucker as well :p Actually I find there are some brilliant riffs in there. The main riff(intro) in Dream Oblivion, for example, I don't know, but in combination with the atmospheric keyboards that really is a special riff to me. What I also love is the powerful riffs which are basically build up of power chords with short intervals(example: Chorus of Dream Oblivion, verse of At The Point Of Ignition, bridge & verse of Icipher). But indeed, some things that DT do, some combinations of riffs and melodies seem completely inappropriate, but that's what makes them so brilliant! I mean, a band which just keeps to a formula which has been done millions of times and works, can be good, but that gets boring easily. DT never gets boring though.

    EDIT: May it also be the fact that some people just need some time to get into it?
     
  10. Erik Erna

    Erik Erna Sheriff Of T.S.G

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    All I have to say is hearing Dark Tranquillity and that "m" word (the genre American metal bands love) in the same post is a crime against humanity.
     
  11. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    Yo, dawg, it's all about technique, which is culture/sub-culture/genre/style-neutral.

    See, the thing that's really special about metal, growing out of the technique of the 80's, is the reduction of traditional melody instruments to pseudo-rhythm instruments. This may anger many members of this board, but I have to reference Slipknot. If you love rhythm, the self-titled Slipknot album is amazing. Forget the rest of the shit the band cranks out. Take, for example, the beginning of this song. When the actual groove kicks in right after "Here comes the pain", note that there is more than one note in the grinding, it's got a bit of melody. But is has nowhere near the pitch range of what we traditionally think of as melody (i.e., classical, folk, anything less rhythmic and more pretty). Or, if you're all caught up on Swedish metal, try this riff.

    People who didn't grow up with it (like me, back in the early part of the millenium) have trouble with metal because it seems to lack melody. This is partially due to the difficulty the ear has parsing guitar (if you ever see it on a spectrograph, distorted guitars fill a huge sonic range compared to, say a piano). It's impossible to make out guitar melody if you haven't tuned your brain to it. It also has a lot to do with the fact that the rhythmic technicality of death metal is about sacrificing melody (prettiness) for rhythm (heaviness). This doesn't necessarily mean one-note grinds, but it does mean melodies with small ranges that center around a rhythm, rather than long notes on a wide pitch range (think opera, or whatever you listen to that's really pretty) arranged into flowing sections.

    The reason we talk about "Gothenburg metal" and "melo-death" is because we ran into a bunch of innovative people exploring an expanded musical range for death metal. I have long thought of DT's music as a constant flux between melody and heaviness. For example, Haven was pretty, but Damage done dropped a lot of that and went for much of the metal aspect. When initially listening to Fiction, I was excited to see that they had finally won that war: music has been prettier, and it's been heavier, but never before has an album been that beautiful and that heavy at the same time.

    My one caution is to actually listen to "that riff" in context. Again, I refer to The Lesser Faith, because it is perfect. The verse has this beautiful interplay between the guitars and synths, which is what the ear focuses on, while the drums pound away underneath. Then, to prepare you for the chorus, they drop all of the melody that makes that song stand out. The range of the guitars narrows, the drums drop all ornamentation, the keys disappear, and it's just you and the beat. All at once, they bring one element down to zero (melody) while turning the other (rhythm) up to 11. Then, they repeatedly punch you in the face with the chorus. So which is it: does that section bring it down a notch before the chorus (it is kind of quiet, after all), or does it build up? It's hard to tell because that riff, in context, is so fucking sophisticated. I hope that helps everyone to think about what they're listening to.

    Conversely, the technique's usage in metalcore is flawed for two reasons: There's way too much of it, in long stretches, and it's generally a proxy for actual songwriting skills and musicianship. In the name of all that is holy, do not click this link: this is how NOT to grind intelligently.
     
  12. marduk1507

    marduk1507 Member

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    Absolutely, one cannot listen to "that riff" without the context - as I said - a riff is just a riff, it doesnt make the whole song. I have nothing against The Lesser Faith or Fiction in this regard. I think DT made absolutely sure on Fiction, that if they were to use "that riff", it will really kill within the whole context. Take Blind At Heart - it is "that riff" all over, but it works so damn great there! My only beef with Fiction is that I dont think Miserys Crown and Mundane belong there - the songs as such are great, theres no doubt about that - but they somehow stick out in a negative way for me within the whole album. I somehow feel like there is some sort of thread going through the rest of the album, and those 2 songs stand apart.

    When I speak of "that riff", I always mean Damage Done and Character. But I think I will give these two a good listen to be able to describe more accurately what I mean.

    *EDIT* If you take Dream Oblivion, from 0:55 to 1:15 - see what I mean? Why do they add these too familiar bits to the songs? If I hear anything like this in a DT song, I go "oh no, not again!". The song is otherwise excellent, its really fresh, it doesnt sound like anything theyve done before. But then comes this bridge, which to me sounds way too reassuring.
     
  13. Merloch

    Merloch Member

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    I agree that DT has used "that riff" great in some songs. Its fine a few times, but it just is being used tooooo much now.
     
  14. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    That's a mini-breakdown. It's hard in low quality (here's a HQ youtube clip), but maybe you missed the keyboards? I don't think that we'd be having this discussion if one guitar was grinding away while the other played a kickass lead over the top, because that is something called "death metal". It's weird to hear a keyboard lead in death metal, but I don't think that section even applies to what I was talking about. It's something completely different; it's got melody to it.

    Here is a link to Mind Matters. Note that entire intro is one guitar grinding, while the other plays the lead. Awesome, and the same theory as the section in Dream Oblivion, just guitar instead of keys. At 0:20, they are again just grinding, with keys on top, similar to Dream Oblivion.

    At 1:20 begins one of the most technically challenging sections in a DT song. The first solo guitar part that you hear may not sound like much if you're not counting it (I missed it the first few times). However, the un-muted notes that make the melody are played on notes that are not the beat (this is called syncopation). It's tricky to play an asymmetrical rhythm like that but you can if you learn the rhythm really well. However the rest of the band does not support that rhythm in the section, which makes it challenging.

    To explain, note the steadiness and heaviness of the next guitar section. It's simple, ugly four-on-the floor metal (which is the technique in question). Note that the guitar doesn't play every note, just enough to create an interesting interpretation of the beat. When the leads come back in, notice how un-muted notes in the lead actually play every note in between the notes of the rhythm guitar. While the band is playing this kickass, heavy rhythm, the lead just plays completely off of the beat, in and around the rest of the chaos. It's fucking genius.

    I fell in love with some parts of DT's sound early on, like the acoustic guitars, sweet leads, beautiful lyrics, and sometimes clean singing. I was a bit dismayed as I listened to more of their music and realized how much of it was that other kind of riff (try this at 40 seconds: a more melodic grind). Really, though, it just took some time to come around to it. Once you realize where the genius of this band is, you'll love them just the same. See how they play that riff at the beginning of Blind at Heart by not just grinding, and not just grinding with a bit of melody, but by inserting these wonderful little chunks of 2x-speed grind (32 notes, if you know those) in the midst to add rhythmic interest. Listen to the weird timings on the grind in the beginning of Final Resistance. Try counting the intro to Format C: for Cortex, and you will understand the awesomeness of the time change when they start grinding out the next section.

    Maybe DT is not the right band for you anymore, which may have been your point all along. You're absolutely entitled to that. I just personally found that listening more deeply to the technique that I didn't like helped me to understand it, appreciate it, and get a better idea of how it all worked in context.

    But whatever you do, I just hope that no one walks away from anything this band has ever done without truly understanding how genius they are. That can take some time, and many listenings. In this instance, don't think that they grind because they can't do any better, or that they're out of ideas; they grind in ways that mortals can never understand. They use that common technique in unique and often innovative ways, stretching what metal can be.
     
  15. Maxim1110

    Maxim1110 Member

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    Well I couldn't have said it any better. A thing I'd also like to add is the fact that a grinding and not melodic riff(such as in The Lesser Faith) makes the melody that follows it(the chorus in this case) even more a blast and more beautiful. It's about the contrast in here :)
     
  16. marduk1507

    marduk1507 Member

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    @stizzle: That was simply amazing, thank you! And for the previous input as well. Now I really wish we could listen to those songs together, so that you could tell me whats going on. I really mean it. I am not a musician and I know fuck all about music theory, so I dont think I will ever be able to hear what you hear (or understand what I hear). However, Im not an ignorant, and I really appreciate you taking time and write all that stuff for us here. I also take it as a challenge, and I will try to do some reading and learning around what you said, so that I can enhance my experience in music listening. If you ever feel like writing more about DT songs, Ill be really glad to read what youve got to say.
     
  17. Maxim1110

    Maxim1110 Member

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    Yeah I must agree with this. I don't know a thing about music theory either, but I really do my very best to understand DT. And one thing I do know is that it is complicated and really well thought through. This is basically a reason why I always like to call DT an "intelligent" band :p Anyway, yeah, more talks and explanations are very welcome!
     
  18. Merloch

    Merloch Member

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    Well I play guitar and in my opinion every chug riff that they have done is simple as shit.
     
  19. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    To address that point directly, and for anyone who was looking for any more analysis, we did discuss Projector some time ago. Look through the list of time changes and tell me that that is "simple as shit." I was having a nice discussion of music because I understand where you were coming from in your original post, but this quoted statement is a complete fiction.

    To address it, though: yes, grinding is often very simple. The rhythm guitar in the above-mentioned bridge to mind matters is an example. It doesn't involve any work with the left hand, which basically means it lacks what we might think of as guitar virtuosity (in the fashion of a Children of Bodom guitar solo). If you can tap with one hand, you can play the rhythm, and picking it isn't much harder. However, playing odd time signatures, playing them as an ensemble, and playing oddly disjointed parts against against each other requires exceptional musicians, regardless of instrument. Some of these parts are simple, but many of them are stupid hard.

    I made a point earlier about context. Simplicity has nothing do with the strength of a technique in context. Some of those sections are simple, I will give you that. However, musical complexity is appreciated by few (relative to the mainstream) and truly understood by fewer. One of DT's strengths is to mix in enough progressive elements to be interesting, and to create some sections that are impossible in 4/4. If they took it too far, they'd be a drop-tuned, growly Dream Theater, and no one wants that.

    If you don't like grinding, and DT is not hard enough for you, are you maybe in the wrong genre? The old Dillinger Escape plan albums are super complex, and The Number Twelve Looks Like You is a very complex "progressive death-core jazz fusion" band you might like. You could also try KE$HA, because I'm pretty sure that she doesn't grind at all.
     
  20. insidethefall

    insidethefall somewhere nowhere

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    I agree with the original poster IMO The new songs that are up sound uninspired and too polished on the production (where the heavy parts dont seem heavy and the laptop processed "flawless" sound sucks the identity right out of the songs) but most of all I've been hearing the same formula in the songwriting since Haven and it's getting really old. The chugging riffs are more and more abundant and some of the fast parts sound like these lame mall core bands. I thought the best move in their career was the Projector album where they tried something completely new and fresh, but still very heartfelt. I have yet to hear the rest of the new album but the two songs don't sound very promising.

    btw is it just a coincidence they are touring with Killswitch Engage?
     

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