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The Void and You - A Technical Reference

Discussion in 'Dark Tranquillity' started by stizzleomnibus, Feb 24, 2010.

  1. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    I remember reading an interview once (I think it was with the Flaming Lips, or someone else I never listened to) where the songwriter said that, despite having more instruments in the band, they wrote everything with acoustic guitars. The theory was that if the song didn't work with just the notes on a simple instrument, it wouldn't truly work in the final composition. This isn't always true; shredding, pinch harmonics, and some heavy guitar work require the full instrument to function at all. However, taking a weak melody and turning it up to 11 in composition doesn't make a good song, it just makes a bad song loud.

    For this reason, a cross-genre cover only works when there's music underneath. I really like these covers, because they help to draw out art that you may have missed in the midst of the metal. They're great for explaining your passion to non metalheads. When your mom says it's all noise, point her to a piano cover and watch her cry. Then, show her how that magic comes through in the metal voicing.

    Myself as well! Dream Oblivion, when they first sampled it, was...interesting? It made me nervous about the album at first, but I later realized it was a unique, amazing excursion amidst an album that was still recognizably DT. This was a song written by Daniel, and he has more than soothed my nervousness about the lineup change; I'm ecstatic to have him in the band, and I look forward to his future work. Based on the brainfuck of Dream Oblivion, he may be completely insane, but he's welcome to work his magic on me any time.

    I also thought Shadow in Our Blood was the weak track on the album. Having given it a solid, critical listen, I realize this album has no weaknesses. Taking the time to dig through each song note by note, I'm amazed at what I'm learning and how my understanding of the work has deepened. Even if it benefits no one else, this exercise has been incredibly instructive for me! I have added the "Didactic notes" section where appropriate to point out, in prose, some of the moments I find most interesting as ideas for future songwriting. I don't write, but I keep finding neat ideas that I want to share.

    I hope it does benefit someone else, though, because complex type-setting on UltimateMetal is infuriating. It doesn't respect the fixed width of most fixed-width fonts (except for Courier New, mysteriously), and it "helpfully" removes double spaces, making tabbing difficult.:rolleyes:
     
  2. Magrathean

    Magrathean worldbuilder

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    Hmm. I guess that, since those two are among my favorite DT songs, i've listened to them so many times and with such close attention that i don't think there are many details i've not yet heard (and quite enjoyed) in them. Still, i can see what you're saying. It's true that when you take the drums away what's left stands out a lot more if you want to pick it apart (though a DT song isn't a DT song without the drums).

    Oh, and no, i gave up on my mother long ago. The only thing even vaguely resembling metal which i've gotten her to appreciate is Apocalyptica. :D



    Me too on the not-writing-but-finding-awesome-ideas-i'd-definitely-use-if-i-did-write bit.

    I never said Shadow in our blood was weak, just that it was one of the weaker (perhaps "less strong" is a better term for it..) songs on the album. Even if i don't share your opinion that it's DT's best work yet, it did make my DT top 5, but, as do all albums, it has stronger songs and weaker songs.

    It's funny that, while something like 99.9999999% of the bands in the world tend to focus on the first half of each album (particularly on the first three or four songs, which are usually the ones which become singles or radio hits or whatever), DT usually makes albums with an awesomeness crescendo. The exceptions are Haven, which is brilliant through and through, and Skydancer, in which the first half is better (in my opinion), but The gallery, The mind's i, Projector (even if Undo control does rule a lot), Damage done (same, only change UC for Single part of two), Character, Fiction and We are the void all end better than they start (again, in my opinion). I love that about DT because, on top of me loving their music right from the beginning of each album, it gets even better and keeps surprising me. One more reason for your "reasons to love DT" thread. :)



    It does benefit other people, myself included.

    You know, if you can figure out the hex code of the post background color you can then go [color = #hexcodegoeshere]. . .[/color] and add "whitespace" (in actuality, invisible dots) whenever you need to leave some space. I once did that, but that was a very long time ago.

    Edit: For some reason, #hexcodegoeshere stands for a very pleasant shade of green. o_O
     
  3. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    Yeah, I didn't really mean weak. Our language doesn't really have the right word to express the difference. The "Arkhangelsks" of WATV obliterate me, while Shadow in Our Blood strips my flesh but leaves me standing. Like trying to determine your favorite DT album, your choice is never an insult against a less-favored item; it's still better than what nearly all other bands do. I mean, it's like Sophie's Choice! </poortaste>

    Yeah, Courier New is at least respected as a fixed-width font, and inserting pipes or dashes where necessary fixes the space issue, thankfully. Web development is the one area of Computer Sciences my studies haven't yet taken me, so I'd rather not screw around with that.

    The Fatalist is done, and just needs to be run by my substitute editor tomorrow. It should be up some time in the evening.
     
  4. rahvin

    rahvin keeper of the flame

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    Please tell me that's the cat in your avatar.
     
  5. Maxim1110

    Maxim1110 Member

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    I'm actually really looking forward to the analysis of Arkhangelsk. I guess that The Fatalist or perhaps Dream Oblivion will be the "live classic" (such as The Wonders At Your Feet, Punish My Heaven, The Treason Wall), but to me Arkhangelsk may well be the best song I've ever heard.
     
  6. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    @rahvin

    I wish! But cats don't really know very much about death metal. I contracted out to the editorial duties for The Fatalist to an actual musician, who was wonderfully informative about the complexities of guitar technique.

    BTW, thanks for the sticky. It's an uncommon honor, and I shall strive to earn it into the future.

    As for moving posts in the thread: rather than creating a monolithic chain of every one of my main posts, I think it's probably better to just let any discussion happen, along with the analyses, and link the material in the TOC. More interesting to read, and people get scared away from walls of text. Probably. Honestly, I've never gone back and read one of my posts; too scared.

    I absolutely agree. I think Arkhangelsk may be my favorite. From the intro, it is one of the most beautiful songs that I've ever heard, while disturbingly dark at points. I'm not sure if it'll make it into the live set: the entire verse is syncopated, and most of the song is at a pretty down-tempo. That might make moshing difficult. Then again, if Dream Oblivion works...

    Of course, slower songs with awesome melodies can make great live tracks, like The Lesser Faith. There are not many concerts you can see that let you mosh to aggressive riffs while beautiful melodies play directly into your soul.
     
  7. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    A &#8211; 0:00

    The Fatalist begins with a solitary keyboard melody over electronic ambiance. When the guitars enter (0:18), the keys continue, unaffected by the introduction of the rhythm. It almost feels as though the two parts are purposefully ignoring each other. Here is a chart of the guitar rhythm:

    |xxxx-x-x-xx-xxx-|xxxx-xxx-xx-x---|xxxx-x-x-x-xxxx-|-xxx-xxx*-------|
    |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |


    In the above example, every &#8216;x&#8217; is a &#8220;chug&#8221;, every &#8216;-&#8216; is a rest (gap), and the asterisk at the end represents two unique endings to the part. While this riff is incredibly simple from a melodic standpoint (it&#8217;s monophonic), the rhythm would be difficult to play on any instrument. The listener, with encouragement from the drums, naturally expects to hear notes played on the beats (numerals, above). Here, however, the notes are arranged in interesting patterns that seem to ignore the beat and focus on odd notes. This creates &#8220;rhythmic tension.&#8221;* In a block of off-time notes, the ear awaits the reunion of the beat in the drums and the syncopation of the guitar. This tension is partially satisfied at the end of the second measure, in which the guitar and drums come together powerfully on the fourth beat.

    (*I am not certain if this concept is recognized in academic music theory, but I find it descriptive. )

    It should also be pointed out that the first two measures contain an interesting expansion and contraction of the number of notes played in each block (not to be confused with a measure; here I am simply referring to a consecutive series of notes). The end of the first measure plays first one note, then two and three. The second measure begins at four, then each block shrinks leading up to the resolution on the 4th beat. The practical effect of this is audible, but somewhat complex in theory: 16th notes played on a beat create rhythm, while those played off of it "ornament" the rhythm. A note played right before the beat "leans" into it, while a note played immediately after it "bounces" off. Here, the constantly smaller blocks of notes mean fewer played off of the beat, until the final note of the second measure lands, alone, directly on top of it. As you will note from various sections of "evenness" and "punctuation" in the rhythms of the album, playing fewer notes actually strengthens the ones that remain. Here, the rhythm of the guitar gets noticeably more rhythmic (due to the shrinking blocks) in the space of a measure.

    Underneath the complexity of the guitars, the drums play the simplest rock beat imaginable. This provides contrast and helps to find the normal beat of the measure. Every &#8216;1&#8217; and &#8216;3&#8217; is played by the bass drum, and every &#8216;2&#8217; and &#8216;4&#8217; by the snare. This is also something of an inversion: we would normally expect a complex rhythm in the drums, and a simpler rhythm in the melody instrument.

    In the first run of this section, the guitar ends by playing two triplets on the third and fourth beats of the fourth measure (0:26). This is, unfortunately, impossible to notate in this format. Essentially, the guitar plays three notes, each stretched slightly so that the three occupy the space of four. This is different than playing &#8216;xxx-&#8216;, which would three chugs and a small rest; the three notes are perfectly even, with no rest. The altered length of the notes sounds somewhat awkward after so many normal 16th notes, adding depth and interest to the rhythm.

    In the repeat of the riff, the third beat of the fourth measure is a single dissonant guitar note, accompanied by rapid drumming (0:34). This gives the impression of the song spinning out of control, like the uncoiling of a broken spring or rapidly winding gears. The song immediately regains its rhythm (and harmony) in the next section.

    B (Verse 1) &#8211; 0:35

    The drums switch to a blast beat here. This means accenting every 8th note, rather than just the quarter notes, giving the effect of doubling the tempo. The blast beat begins on the hi-hat, then switches to the ride cymbal (0:40), which continues through the next section.

    The verse begins with a rapid, rhythmically sophisticated riff. This type of riff should be very familiar to long-time DT fans. It is comprised blocks of palm-muted 32nd note grinds mixed with cleanly-picked melody notes. The very end of the melody contains pinch harmonics, which will become an integral part of the solo.

    C (Verse 2) &#8211; 0:44

    The blast beat continues, and the rapid riffing is replaced by simple chords for harmony. The synths play an airy, almost completely descending melody. This somber melody implies the &#8220;mournful surrender,&#8221; which fits with the lyrical themes. The strong, slow notes of the synths serve as a reminder that the tempo has not actually changed, as it evenly accents the quarter notes.

    D &#8211; 0:53

    Here, the blast beat disappears, replaced by more purposeful drumming in the original tempo. The guitars play a strong, syncopated melody, while the drums play only the notes necessary to add &#8220;punch&#8221; to it. The final note of this melody is played as a pinch harmonic.

    B &#8211; 1:02

    This time, the riff ends with an extend fill, over which the opening tones of the chorus play.

    E (Chorus) &#8211; 1:11

    The keys from the intro return for the chorus, this time with simpler accompaniment. Rather than the sparse beat in the intro, the drums opt for a smoother double-bass roll. The guitars replace the complex, rhythmic riffing with simple chords to serve as a harmony. This shift from complex to simple arrangement causes the listener to focus more directly on the melody of the piano and the flat chanting of the vocals.

    A&#8217; &#8211; 1:24

    This modified version of the A section contains the third and fourth measures of the original. The drums continue the double bass roll from the chorus through the first (third in the original A) measure, but switch to deliberately accenting each guitar note during the second (originally fourth) measure. This sharply punctuates the awkward triplets that lead into the next section.

    B &#8211; 1:29

    F (Bridge) &#8211; 1:37

    A short, very musical guitar solo is introduced to link us to the next section. Like the intro, this solo contains a mix of duplets (normal 2 or 4 note groups) and triplets. Here, the speed at which these notes occur does not create the powerful rhythmic effect seen earlier, but does add complexity and elegance to the melody.

    This section is accompanied by the blast beat started in the B section.

    C &#8211; 1:47

    This time, the C section is played over a double-bass roll like the one in the chorus. This brings out the quarter note rhythm while maintaining the evenness of the blast beat. The blast beat eventually returns (1:55).

    B &#8211; 2:04

    E &#8211; 2:13

    A&#8217;&#8217; &#8211; 2:26

    The syncopated guitar plays the third and fourth measures of the intro as in the A&#8217; section, but this time plays them twice, including the second ending from the intro. The drums continue the double-bass roll from the chorus, and do not punctuate the triplets (as they did in A&#8217;). The repeat of the section ends (2:34) with the dissonant guitar note, but does not include the frantic drumming.

    G (Solo) &#8211; 2:35

    This solo is a reference to the melody of the B section. The notes played with pinch harmonics are arranged in a similar melody to that riff.

    For this solo, the drums rely on the ride cymbal, combined with a steady beat on the bass drum to provide a simple, toned-down accompaniment for the solo. The rhythm guitar punctuates this rhythm. There is an interesting mix of technique in the cymbals here. The different sounds played on the ride cymbal are accomplished by rapidly switching sticking technique, contacting different parts of the stick against the bell of the cymbal.

    At the same time, the lead guitar uses a roughly equivalent technique, using a pinch harmonic. Pinch harmonics involve striking the string with the pick and thumb at nearly the same time. This mutes the primary tone of the string (the note that would normally be played) and leaves behind the overtones. While overtones are always present, they are normally complementary to the primary tone and unnoticed by the listener. In a distorted guitar, these overtones are magnified to the level of the rest of the riff. The difference is that the sound heard is an octave of the picked note. An octave, in simple terms, is a higher pitched version of the same tone and carries the same harmonic implication. That is, an octave of a C is still a C, but of a higher pitch.

    While this is a standard metal technique, this solo is unique in that it mixes normally picked notes with the harmonics at a rapid tempo. This has the effect of allowing the melody of the guitar to play instantly across several octaves.

    The guitars begin playing the melody together without the pinch harmonics (2:53), playing the notes at their normal pitches. The drums switch to a double-bass roll. The harmonics return at the ends of the section (3:00 and 3:09).

    D &#8211; 3:11

    C &#8211; 3:20

    This section begins with the double-bass roll, then switches to blast beat (3:29).

    B - 3:38

    This riff plays normally, but has a new ending (3:42). The guitars are much simpler, and the drums begin playing a fill unexpectedly early in the section. The instruments stop well before the end of the measure (3:45), allowing the opening piano tones of the chorus to play dramatically over empty air before the final chorus.

    E &#8211; 3:47

    A&#8217;&#8217;&#8217; &#8211; 4:14

    This version of the A section is most like the A&#8217;&#8217; variant. The only difference is that it ends without playing the dissonant note on the third beat of the final measure. The final note of the song is an odd sixteenth note; it ends without quite touching the next beat.

    Didactic notes:

    The opening grind of this song demonstrates the importance of good musicianship. Playing an incredibly melodic lead in a simple rhythm can actually be much easier than this kind of complex timing. Also, note the various manipulations of the A section that appear throughout the song, using different numbers of measures and different endings depending on context.

    The first mini-solo after the first chorus, while elegant, is nowhere near the complexity of some other solos heard in metal. This stands as a shining example of DT's constant pursuit of &#8220;music&#8221; ahead of &#8220;awesomeness.&#8221; The extended solo section at the end has the impressive distinction of being incredibly technical, while also melodic. This allows the song to serve as an exhibition without fully breaking from the mood and seriousness of the song.

    The extended guitar solo at the end of the song should also serve as a reminder that DT's guitarists are better at what they do than you will likely be at anything. Ever.

    (Thanks to Tad for assistance in editing, and for consultation with the guitar technique.)
     
  8. La Rocque

    La Rocque I am that I am

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    As someone who has not heard one note of WATV or watched any of the videos,
    maybe I should not ask but I will ...
    has anyone perceived anything different with Dark Tranquillity's sound now that Daniel Antonsson is playing the bass?
     
  9. Maxim1110

    Maxim1110 Member

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    Hmm not really, although I think the bass is a bit more prominent sometimes. For example, right after the first chorus of Shadow In Our Blood. He also wrote Dream Oblivion, a very good song. And the booklet says he played the guitar solo in Shadow In Our Blood and At The Point Of Ignition.
     
  10. Maxim1110

    Maxim1110 Member

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    By the way, isn't the last song of which you don't have the title called "Zero Distance"? I heard that title somewhere I guess. Also noted that To Where Fires Cannot Feed was formerly called Burden Of Love Alive. At least, that's what I think since it appears in the lyrics.
     
  11. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    Depends on what you mean by "sound." In the mix, it's pretty hard to tell small textural differences in instruments. That really has more to do with the mixing. If you mean sound as a synecdoche for the general style, then the general evolution of the band's old members is hard to tell apart from the effect of the introduction of a new one.

    In the latter case, Dream Oblivion really stands out with the rest of the band's material. It's very unusual, but I think it's a great expansion.

    Some of the online stores (like Amazon) have "The Bow and the Arrow", but I'm not 100% certain here. To Where Fires Cannot Feed was definitely The Burden of Love Alive, which I think would have made a more relevant title (given it's usage in the song and it's meaning in the context of the album). I think whatever had been called Zero Distance was renamed. It's hard to say what, though.
     
  12. plintus

    plintus Señor Member

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    Check that Russian interview from December - I think it's there where Mikael says that Daniel wrote most of Dream Oblivion.

    And live it sounds like a fucking bulldozer, like a fucking tank - it's fucking awesome and definitely different in terms of sound (in a live setting).
     
  13. Maxim1110

    Maxim1110 Member

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    I completely agree. And besides the fact that it is an unusual but great song, it really does fit into the album. Especially the intro has the same haunting and dark sound that many parts of the rest of the album. I'm really anticipating to hear some more stuff he writes on any next albums.
     
  14. Magrathean

    Magrathean worldbuilder

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    Exactly.



    Hey, Insanity's crescendo (complete with thhe one-minute-long sloooow (and beautiful) intro, worked wonders in Milan! ;) I'd love to be treated to Arkhangelsk live.
     
  15. Magrathean

    Magrathean worldbuilder

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    Thank you for another great read, stizzleomnibus.



    The funny thing is that, since DT always writes first the music and then the lyrics when composing songs, Mikael chose the lyrical theme of The fatalist (and obviously the title, although that is irrelevant) after the "mournful surrender" keyboard melody was written. Whether Mikael chose said theme to match that bit of the song or it is merely coincidence i don't know, but it's a fun little mystery. :)
     
  16. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    There are actually a lot of moments on the album where a particular line is said to coincide with the music. "The call of the abyss" on Surface the Infinite, right before "the abyss" shows up musically, or a number of moments (which I'll point out) in In My Absence where the time shifts enhance lyrics.

    I think Mikael is just very good at designing lyrics around the music. They've all had a lot of practice with this process over the last 20+ years.
     
  17. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    A – 0:00

    This section begins with a sharp, punctuated riff. The drums at first play in a fashion directly complementary to the guitars. The entire section changes (0:05), with the melody continuing without gaps and the drums playing more smoothly through the section.

    A general rule of thumb in music is that a fill (generally, the ending of a section, almost always signaled by the drums) should play notes one subdivision below those used in the section. That is, I rhythm which accents quarter notes would fill with 8th notes, while a rhythm based on 8th notes would use 16th notes. This has the effect of adding interest to the end of the section (signaling it's completion) and increasing the granularity of time used, flowing smoothly into the next part. In My Absence purposefully defies this rule to great effect.

    The drum fill (0:12) plays far faster than it would conventionally. While the guitars finish out the section in the original rhythm (based in 8th notes), the drums touch 16th notes briefly before accelerating into a 32nd note fill. That is, four times the speed of the section, rather than two. This is done to cause the listener, just becoming accustomed to the tempo after 12 seconds, to feel a sudden sense of preemptive acceleration before the beginning of the next section.*

    (*This is much like an effect used in old cartoons: a character's feet begin moving rapidly, running in place, before gaining traction and taking off suddenly. This introduces the “chase tension” a moment before it occurs. Here, the rapid riffing of the next section is suggested to the listener before it happens.)

    B – 0:14

    This section doubles the tempo from the previous section as the drums switch to a blast beat. The pitch of the guitars increase and the drums switch to the ride cymbal when the vocals are introduced (0:22).
    The drums barely fill out the end of the section: the 16th notes played between the snare and hi-hat are identical in pace to the rapid tempo, providing little warning for the tempo shift in the next section.

    C – 0:31

    This section presents the second major tempo shift, and accomplishes it with an intentional lack of grace (it lacks a decelerating fill to match the accelerating fill between A and B). This is half the tempo of the A section, and one quarter the tempo of the B section. The guitar at the opening, picked rapidly coming out of the previous section, suggests that the tempo will continue from B, or drop to the standard half-time feel. However, the first snare note does not occur as expected. The listener anticipates that this note will occur on the second beat of the measure (as in proper half-time), but it instead occurs on the third beat. A comparison of the tempos in the three sections follows:

    A section:|X-x-X-x-X-x-X-x-|
    B section:|XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXx|
    C section:|X---x---X---x---|
    Count....:|1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |


    Here, the 'X' is the strong beat in the measure, while the 'x' is the weaker beat between. A standard backbeat (snare notes on every '2' and '4') is played in the A section, and expected in the C section. The backbeat instead occurs in half-time (the snare note appearing on '3' instead) on the heels of a section in double time, creating a dramatic shift. While the A section would transition smoothly into either B or C, the shift from B to C is jarring.

    Here, the effect is somewhat like being thrown forward in a rapidly braking car. The first half of the measure, in which the listener falsely anticipates the beat, creates a moment of tension, while the final occurrence of the beat at '3' resolves it (and throws us back into our seats). From this moment on, the “speed” of the section is constant and the shock of rapid deceleration left behind.

    The melody here is very similar to the speed riff in the previous section. Small compositional and performance variations exist to account for the massive tempo shift.

    D – 0:40

    This section is the B tempo, with the blast beat returned (undoing the dramatic tempo shift of the previous section). The guitar riff is new, however. It is much flatter than the melody used throughout the intro of the song, with a new pattern of accents.

    E – 0:49

    This section returns to the tempo of the C section. The guitar and drums play a flat grind, with a slight syncopation. The snare note in the second measure plays one 16th note earlier than expected, creating an interesting moment of syncopation with the rhythm guitar.

    Over this, the keyboards and one guitar quietly play a slightly sinister melody which bears strong rhythmic similarities to the synths in the chorus.

    F (Chorus) – 0:58

    The drums even out in chorus, playing a simple double-bass roll. The guitars similarly provide a straightforward harmony to support the keys. The tempo is that of the C section (introduced in the preceding E).

    The synths here play a unique, sophisticated rhythm. While the rest of the band maintains a straightforward measure of 4/4, the keys play over it in a long, measure-crossing rhythm based on counts of three (three 8th notes counted for each note of the keys. A chart of this rhythmic interaction follows:

    Keys Count.:|1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 |3 1 2 3 1 2 3 + |1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 |3 1 2 3 1 2 3 + |
    Keys.......:|----x-----x-----|x-----x-----x---|----x-----x-----|x-----x-----x---|
    Drums......:|x---x---X---x---|x---x---X---x---|x---x---X---x---|X-----X-----X---|
    Basic Count:|1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |


    In the drums, the 'X' represents a strong snare note, playing originally only on the third beat (half-time backbeat). The small 'x' represents a beat which is implied (through the remainder of the instrumentation). In the keys, the 'x' represents the rhythm of the notes played. The 'Basic Count' is the standard 4/4 counting, while the 'Keys Count' demonstrates the pacing of the 8th notes (notice that the count to three crosses measures). Because the keys play in divisions of three and the measure is counted in divisions of two, there is a small gap in the section to align the rhythms (denoted in the Keys Count as a '+').*

    (*After the keys play five notes, they have counted 15 8th notes [3 x 5 = 15]. In the two measures that this melody spans, there are sixteen 8th notes. Hence, there is a gap of one 8th note at the end of the second and fourth measures.)

    The effect of the syncopation in the keys is to add a somewhat detached rhythm to the melody. This melody, which plays above the rest of the instruments, comes across as “dreamlike”, gliding softly out of time above the more concrete rhythm of the drums. The melody of the keys might also be described as “falling behind” the rhythm, as it counts to three every time the rest of the band counts to two. In the fourth measure of the chorus, the drums play the exact notes of the synth pattern, reuniting the rhythms before repeating or ending the section. This pulls the detached melody of the keys back in sync before proceeding.

    Because every syllable sung is its own note, there are far more notes in the vocals than the few played by the synths. Despite this, the rhythm of the vocal line impressively follows the complex syncopation of the keys.

    B – 1:16

    A' – 1:25

    The blast beat of the B section continues, but the riff played over the top is that of the A section.

    C – 1:34

    D – 1:43

    E – 1:51

    F - 2:00

    A – 2:18

    After the elegant, even rhythm of the chorus, the reintroduction of the punctuated A riff is striking. This version has a different ending, resolving to a bright chord before moving into the next section.

    G (Bridge) – 2:27

    This section is very quiet, and very simple. It inherits the tempo from the A section preceding it. The shift in energy, from the chorus to the sharp A section, continues here into a very mellow moment in the song.

    There is a small solo (2:45) which elevates the first section of the bridge into a bright, singing melody. The drums play the same pattern used in the second half of the A section.

    The final movement in the bridge (3:03) returns the harmony from the beginning of the section, but with distorted guitars and a double-bass roll on the drums. The drums provide an interesting canvas of ride cymbal and snare notes, played precisely over the double-bass roll, to add interest to the section as it plays towards the next chorus.

    F – 3:20

    After the moment of clarity in the bridge, the vocals here enter late, and sing partial lines. The technique of following the keys continues, but this time the partial lines are sung over a larger amount of time, filling the normal space occupied by the full line.

    B – 3:38

    A' – 3:47

    C – 3:56

    F – 4:06

    The first three measures of this chorus are much quieter than the original rendition. The melody of the keys is instead carried by the guitars, and the drums are absent. The vocals are a harsh whisper, but are otherwise sung normally (following the melody now played by the guitars). In the fourth measure, when the rhythms would normally be reunited, the full arrangement enters aggressively before finishing the chorus normally. The chorus repeats a second time, in it's original arrangement, and ends the song.

    Didactic notes;

    The A, B, and C sections demonstrate a sophisticated usage of varying feels. The movement from A to B is telegraphed by the rapid drum fill, while the even wider move between B and C is almost completely unannounced.

    In My Absence also makes an excellent study in death metal vocal composition. Without the wide tonal range of popular or operatic singing, growling vocalists resort to other techniques to empower the words being sung. Here, the vocals begin be delivering strong, purposeful statements in the B section. The protagonist seems to suffer a sudden realization with the tempo shift of the C section, and delivers one line which is granted extra meaning by the musical shift in energy. In the chorus, the vocals follow the rhythm of the keys, implying that it is the protagonist of the lyrics that is “detached” or “falling behind.” Further, the bridge provides a moment of sonic clarity in the midst of an otherwise loud song, and the vocals in this moment provide a pained whisper which describes the protagonist's own moment of clarity.

    For the rhythm of the chorus, the keys playing on the third note and falling further away from the normal rhythm are what seems most significant to me. However, this section could be counted with two syncopated measures as such: 2-3-3/3-3-2, where the first beat of the first measure is tacit. It seems more appropriate to discuss syncopation in the Grandest Accusation.
     
  18. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    A – 0:00

    Because this section is in straight 4/4, it seems extremely simple. However, a deeper look at the various rhythms and complex interplay reveals an astoundingly complex composition.

    The opening melody is played using an e-bow. The synths in the background play a rhythm very similar to that described in the piano below, but with the addition of accenting the second and fourth beats of each measure. To appreciate the synth pattern in this section, it is strongly advised that you return to it after studying the remainder of the section.

    A swift electronic fill introduces the rest of the instruments (0:14). The drums maintain a very steady beat, which is punctuated by the rhythm guitar. Notably, the rhythm guitar does not play the second and fourth beat of every measure, instead playing 16th notes preceding the third and first (when the measure repeats) beat. This pattern of playing “into” the first and third beats gives them extra strength, and is partially responsible for the unique rhythmic elegance of the song (this technique is continued in the next section).

    While the guitars and drums create a strong, even rhythm, the melody of the keys is heavily syncopated. Each three-note pattern plays the first and third beat, just like the guitar, as well as the 16th notes on either side of the second and fourth beat. The interplay of these two rhythms is entirely too complex to describe accurately, and is best depicted visually. The rhythms of the guitars and piano is shown below, in ascending rhythmic importance (that is, completely arbitrarily). ‘X’ is a strong beat, while ‘x’ is a weaker beat.

    E-Bow: |X---------------|X-------X--X-X--|
    Keys : |x--x-x--x--x-x--|x--x-x--x--x-x--|
    Guitar:|Xxx--x-xXxx--x-x|Xxx--x-xXxxxXxxx|
    Count: |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |


    Note that the neither the keys nor guitars play on the backbeat (‘2’ and ‘4’) for the first three quarters of the pattern. “Ignoring” this beat, as seen here, increases the complexity of the section, as these beats are some of the most important in keeping time.

    The e-bow melody plays few notes, but mimics the piano melody at the end of the second measure. The rhythm depicted above is based on the shifts in tone, though each note is held for a longer duration than pictured.

    Notice how the complex syncopation of the piano and the rhythm guitar create the effect of “passing” the rhythm back and forth. Here is an alternate chart of the rhythm to describe this process, created by removing overlapping notes and leaving only the most rhythmically significant (again, mostly arbitrary).

    Snare: |----x-------x---|
    Piano: |x--x-x--x--x-x--|
    Guitar:|-xx----x-xx----x|
    Count :|1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |


    Here, we see the solitary notes of the backbeat, framed by the piano (and otherwise ignored by the other instruments). The leading notes (16ths before the numbered beats) are played alternately by the piano and guitar. The rhythm guitar plays the 16ths leading into the ‘1’ and ‘3’ beats, while the piano plays the 16ths before the ‘2’ and ‘4’ beats. This chart, however, leaves out the sophisticated overlap of the guitars and piano, as shown above. Also missing is the usage of bass drum notes to further punctuate this interaction.

    The strong emphasis on the first and third beats creates an interesting undertone of rigidity beneath the otherwise elegant instrumentation. Stressing these beats gives strength to the backbeat, played between them, increasing its rhythmic importance despite the lack of emphasis in the rest of the instruments. The smooth, overlapping piano and guitars create a consistent pattern of notes that give the section evenness, preventing the quarter note rhythm from sounding punctuated.

    The drum fill (0:31) ends with four even 16th notes on the snare drum. This partially resembles the guitar in the next section.

    B – 0:32

    The B section bears a strong resemblance to the intro. The guitars continue to place the special emphasis on the first and third beats of the measure, but plays a simpler series of 8th notes, rather than the 16th notes above. The end of the first measure (0:34) ends with four sixteenth notes, much like the fill from the preceding section.

    The piano similarly switches to a simpler melody, based on 8ths rather than the complex syncopation of the first section. This, combined with the simpler guitar part, removes some of the grace from the section and adds punctuation to the quarter note rhythm. Pay particular attention to the piano notes that end the section, as they will be repeated in a different context later.

    C (Chorus) – 0:55

    The syncopation used here is quite common on the album, and will be referred to as “3-3-2 syncopation.” This means that, in counting the value of each measure, the first and second beats will be given three ticks, while the third beat will be given two. Here, “tick” is used because the syncopation may be counted in 8th notes (in most cases) or 16th notes (here). The total number of ticks in each block of 3-3-2 syncopation, via addition, is eight, meaning that this repetitions of this structure will fit evenly in measures of 4/4 (which contain 8 8th note ticks, or 16 16th notes ticks).

    The syncopation is introduced in the keys and drums while the guitars play simple chords to support. The rhythm experiences a major transformation (1:07). The drums switch to playing a straight (non-syncopated) rhythm, accenting every 8th note, while the guitars become more active. An illustration of this tempo shift follows. The first measure shown will represent the first four of the chorus, with the second representing the last four.

    Keys :|x--x--x-x—-x--x-|x--x--x-x—-x--x-|
    Drums:|x--x--x-x—-x--x-|x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-|
    Count:|1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |


    An interesting trick has been played here. The rhythm of the A and B sections is based on quarter notes (4 accents per measure). The chorus first plays two blocks of 3-3-2 syncopation (6 accents per measure), followed by the straight double-time (8 accents per measure). From the intro to the end of the chorus, the song switches to double-time, but does so by transitioning through a moderately paced syncopation. While there is technically no such device as “one-and-a-half time,”* this song demonstrates the concept: it periodically inserts more accents into each measure, giving the impression of a gradual shift in tempo.

    (*Tempo is only concerned with repetitive intervals, such as the traditional beats in a measure. The syncopation, even as it plays outside of the normal beats, is considered to be the same tempo simply because it is based on those beats. However, as shown here, playing more beats per measure may make the music sound faster.)

    After switching to the straight 8th notes in the chorus for speed, the fill at the end of the chorus is in the 3-3-2 syncopation.

    It should also be noted that 3-3-2 syncopation, as shown in the above chart, places accents on the downbeats of the first and thirds beats as well as the eighth note immediately before the third beat. These notes make up the general pattern of the B section as well. The addition of the truly syncopated note (immediately before the second beat) is a direct evolution of the rhythm from B to C.

    A – 1:19

    Here, the complicated riff from the A section, complete with e-bow, returns. Because this section is entered and exited quickly from the chorus, it serves as an interlude between those sections, rather than as a distinct verse.

    C' – 1:36

    Here, the double time section of the chorus is entered directly, skipping the measures in which the drums matched the syncopation in the first chorus. The guitars are much more active than the same section in the previous verse. This section fills out with the 3-3-2 syncopation like the first chorus, which can be heard on the splash cymbals amidst the rapid tom fill at the end.

    D1 (Interlude 1) – 1:49

    The centerpiece of this section is the dual guitar melody. The bass takes the place of the rhythm guitar, joining the drums in playing a hybrid of the B and C section rhythms. The evolution described in the C section is depicted here:

    B sec:|x---o-x-x—--o-x-|x---o-x-x—--o-x-|
    C sec:|x--x--x-x—-x--x-|x--x--x-x--x--x-|
    D sec:|x--xo-x-x--xo-x-|x--xo-x-x--xo-x-|
    Count:|1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |


    The 'o' represents the backbeat, present in the drums but not emphasized by the composition. The rhythm of this interlude is the comparable to the C section, which shares several important rhythmic points with the B section.

    The drums play a much more sophisticated part here. Aside from playing the C rhythm and the backbeat, the 16th notes throughout the measure carry the signature mix of hi-hat, splash cymbal, and tom work for variety and class.

    The keyboard work here is unique. The section opens with shimmering, watery sounds, and concludes with the same notes as the B section (also played by the guitar).

    To summarize, this section contains:

    -The B rhythm, evolved partly towards the C rhythm
    -The bass playing the B line, evolved to fit the C rhythm
    -The keys playing a new part with references to the B section
    -A new guitar melody

    D2 (Interlude 2) – 2:12

    Here the drums play a simpler interpretation of the C rhythm (3-3-2 syncopation) while the melody in the piano does the same. The clean vocals introduce their own melody.

    The guitar part here is much simpler, supporting the work of the keys and voice. The ascending notes in the guitar an the four 16th notes of th first and third beats bridge the first two beats in the piano melody, which will be extended in the next section.

    D3 (Interlude 3) – 2:35

    This section begins with solitary keys. The rhythm of the first half of each measure in the key is the same as the 3-3-2 syncopation, but with the first few notes bridged for greater evenness. Here's a chart of the key rhythm:

    |XxxXx-X-X—-xXxxx|
    |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |


    'X' represents an accented note, while 'x' represents all others. See if you can spot the 3-3-2 syncopation.

    The drums join (2:47) with with the same beat as the first C section, with less of the additional work on the cymbals and toms. A small ruff (a 'static' sound produced by rapidly skipping the stick over the surface of the snare) can be heard here. This technique is common in funk and jazz, but generally rare in death metal. It can also be heard in the breakdown at the end of My Negation.

    The guitars eventually join (2:59), playing a complementary rhythm. The drums drop the ruff from the rhythm and switch from keeping time on the hi-hat to the crash cymbal.

    The entire section experiences a further evolution (3:22). The guitar melody takes over, while the keys play a part similar to D1/B, ending with the same series of notes.

    The drums switch to a steady rhythm, based on repeated 16th notes with the occasional insertion of rapid 32nd notes. The snare notes play directly on the beats here. When the drums switch, (3:34), the steadiness continues but the snare notes fall in between the beats rather than on them (a backbeat), effectively inverting the rhythm.

    A – 3:49

    This version of the A section contains lyrics from the chorus.

    B – 4:06

    This version of the B section has new drums (4:18), with repeated open hi-hat notes on every upbeat.

    C – 4:30

    This version of the chorus begins with the syncopation in the drums, as in the first chorus, but the double time section (4:41) is played actively as in C'.

    Didactic notes:

    The sophistication of this song is remarkable, and difficult to describe with words. I would highly encourage anyone interested in songwriting to dissect the manner in which the two intro section (A, B) are similar, and how these rhythms are returned in modified form during the interlude. The interlude itself is also an interesting evolution, and stands out as a distinct two minute block in the middle of the song. This demonstrates very intentional songwriting.

    Perhaps the most apparent thing in this song is a unique and difficult to describe character. The song has a very 'proper' feel, reminiscent of classical music. This feeling is rooted in rhythm, melody, and harmony, so it is difficult to pin down.
     
  19. DisplayofCharacter

    DisplayofCharacter Are You Scared Enough?

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    Those are two fantastic write-ups. I especially liked the emphasis on vocals you pointed out in In My Absence and the totally ridiculous sophistication on The Grandest Accusation which I am having a hard time fathoming. Thanks for the excellent perspective.
     
  20. stizzleomnibus

    stizzleomnibus Decisively Human

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    If you're having trouble hearing it, focus first on finding the three note pattern of the keys. Then, find each of these things in turn:

    -The first note of each three note grouping in the keys is on a 1 or 3. This should help you align your ears with the diagram.

    -The third note of the three note grouping plays along with a single note on the guitar. Listen for it, and find it in the diagram.

    -Find the three notes at the end of the e-bow melody, and note the simultaneous piano notes.

    -Once you've figured out how the rhythm guitar and piano interact, use the second diagram to understand how they play relative to the snare.

    For the 3-3-2 syncopation, a quick supplement using Edenspring:

    1:30 - This is the 3-3-2 syncopation. Listen for the notes of the snare

    |X - - X - - X - |
    |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |


    Count: 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2, where each '1' is on a snare note. You'll be counting very quickly.

    1:36 - Same guitar riff, but the drums switch to straight quarter notes (4/4).

    |X - X - X - X - |
    |1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + |


    Count: 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2, as above. This can give you a feel for the different note lengths. If you want to be proper about it, you can count 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +, where '+' is pronounced 'n', like an ampersand (&).

    The same pairing appears later:

    3:01 - the drums play the 3-3-2 syncopation under this section of the solo.

    3:08 - back to 4/4.

    For a challenge:

    2:36 - "3-3-2" again, but the drums are more complex, and the beat is played on the bass drum and snare, so it won't be as easy to find. See if you can find it using the counting tricks above.

    2:50 - back to straight 4/4. Count it!

    edit: Thank you! Glad to know someone is still reading.
     

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