Bash my first heavy metal mix


Heavy metal is not a genre I listened to a lot, let alone mix. But when I stumbled upon this opportunity to mix one single of a local band, I thought I’d have a crack at it because I wanted to learn how to do it.

So this is version 1 of my first heavy metal mix. I expect to have some revisions to make, I am actually waiting on the band’s feedback. I would appreciate your feedback too, especially from those who mix or listen to this genre a lot.

Very well balanced, now please do a ‘vocal up’ version (prob about +2dB should do it). In fact you could probably even out the vocals first, with automation not compression, as they are a little uneven generally

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Pretty cool! Yeah, I think the vocalist needs to be more up front, and at consistent levels as Vaughan pointed out. When you get that where you want it, the vocals could use some reverb and delay effects, especially at the end of lyric lines - whether automated delay or ducked. Some reverse backing vocal effects or other stuff kind of creeping up in the background (with lots of stereo ambience) from time to time would be cool too.

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I am listening on my hifi system. From what I hear the vocal levels are OK but you can ride the vocals a bit for better consistency. She’s not a good vocalist…might want to do some heavy amount of pitch correction. I’d actually prefer to hear the vocals about 1-2 db down in the mix.

The bass could poke out a bit more, if you can carve around the kick and mids of the guitar where the pick/finger attack happens. Not a deal breaker.

The brass on the drums felt too bright to me.

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Drums: There’s a bit of high end on there that is sort of ear piercing. I find compression is a better tool to make drums punch through rather than boosting the high end with EQ. In fact, you can have drums be pretty dark and still hit hard if you do your compression right.

Guitars: Sound thinner than they need to. Too much of the mids scooped out? Too much beef is lost from the guitars.

Vocals: Don’t be afraid to go heavy on the FX. With the processing they have now, it sort of sounds like punk vocals. Too distant and dynamic. Don’t be afraid to compress heavily and distort. If you have reverb on the vocals, I’d add a bit of time to the predelay to keep them from sounding so roomy.

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Overall a pretty cool song. The vocals are a bit wild pitch-wise and come across are very bare and dry. It could use some more ‘body’ or something. The rhythm guitars seem slightly thin and could be meatier. Needs to get some more chug to it. I liked the drums but the cymbals seemed to have a little too much high-end-sizzle going on. The solo around the 3:43 mark is a little rough and could be smoother. All are kinda nit-picky because overall I really like the song. Structure had me thinking ‘Master of Puppets’ with the quiet interlude, build, solo and return to heavy.

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Hi I read what the others said. I agree on the vocal having a few sour spots, but most good. Easy to touch up. I hearing a real good riff in the right ear, but hardly anything in the left. Also that intro riff needs a little more spark to it. Maybe some bends etc. Sounds a little robotic. I guess that is really fine. I just can’t dissect songs like the others. You always comment on my songs and thank you for that. I think for your first try at this genre, you did very well.

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wait… what?

Id say that the crappy melody she is singing is mostly at fault, I hate to rag on any of the early 80’s style metal bands that sometimes hang out here, but thats a shocker of a song melody, hardly the vocalists fault (performance wise).

Considering that most metal bands actually unlike other genres write their melodies, I think it is strike #1 and #2 against that singer. Most likely she wrote the crappy melody and then sang it. Still that wasn’t enough, because it made it all the way to mix stage, so it was considered good.

Been there…someone needs to talk to her.

Hmm, I didn’t see it that way. I mean, I don’t know what level this band is at and what their goals/aspirations are, but my first and overall impression was a pretty good one for a “local band”. It does seem like the vocalist could come across a bit stronger and more confident vocally, and there certainly are some pitch issues, but I was also struggling to just hear the vocal more prominently in the mix. Per my earlier comments, I’d like to see it fit into the mix better and have more “impact”.

I like the vocalist a lot, and I’m assuming she gave it all she’s got at the time of recording. As to the melody, it seems appropriate to me for the song. It’s possible the pitchy-ness at some points makes the melody less discernable, but I certainly could figure out where she was trying to go with it, and it is musical (to my ears) and has the metal visceral primal scream gusto. I mean, we’re not talking Burt Bacharach love songs here. :smirk:

You know, toss back a few drinks, and get your ass rocked off by a local bar band, it’s all good. If they are wanting to put this on an EP or album, okay, work with the vocals some more to take it further if possible. If it’s an audition song for an EPK for club gigs, I’d like to see the vocals presented stronger in the mix, and it could work. I like her attitude, her moxy, you can’t teach that. The rest is presentation.

I wanted to find you a reference song, and this is the best I could think of with a quick brainstorm. This is a significantly different song, but a “pop metal” song (perhaps) with a female lead. Her vocals are really good IMO, and melodically more sophisticated, though she’s not a “screamer” like your vocalist. But in terms of mix levels and effects, and getting that vocal to stand out more in your mix for that band, maybe this could give some inspiration.

Also, something I swear I heard on your song/mix the first time, and I’m hearing it again, is the vocals seem distinctly stronger on the left side than the right side. Like they’re not straight down the middle. It could be subtle, but I definitely felt I noticed it.

Thanks everyone who provided feedback, this is very useful to me as usual. Looks like the one thing everybody agrees on is that the vocals need some work. Main comment from the band itself was that they wanted the vocals to have more body and to be more agressive.

Turns out the band wants to add vocal harmonies and record one guitar solo again so it’ll be a while before I finalize this mix since I am moving in 6 days and the studio will only be reassembled after an acoustic study and room treatment at the new place.

Funny you’d say that, because that is pretty close to what I did actually. I guess I should make it more obvious or more often. I made a copy of the 2nd and 3rd screams, pitched them one octave lower and drenched that in ping-pong delay and stereo reverb.

@Descent @skua I might have to take a second look but I haven’t heard any pitch issues that seemed too obvious to me for this genre. Actually I did run the vocal track through Waves Tune at first, intending to do just a few micro corrections but when I looked at the result in Waves Tune I was surprised to see that the vocals were actually in tune pretty much all the way through, so I bypassed it. Please let me know if there are places where this issue is really obvious to you.

@Descent @bozmillar @skua Yes there is definitely too much unpleasant high end on the drums, that is the one thing that really struck me when I listened back to the mix after a few days. I’ll definitely work on that. Originally the mix sounded a little muddy and dull so I used multi-band compression on the stereo bus to add clarity, but it looks like I overdid it. It might also have something to do with the guitars being a bit thin.

Don’t be afraid to go heavy on the FX. With the processing they have now, it sort of sounds like punk vocals. Too distant and dynamic. Don’t be afraid to compress heavily and distort.

@bozmillar I already have what I consider to be very heavy amounts of compression and distortion on the vocals: “heavy” saturation knob at 50% on the preamp section of the Scheps Omni Channel and compression ratio 16:1 (wet mix 80%), gain reduction around -6dB on average. Do you think I should go even higher or do you have other suggestions?

Id say that the crappy melody she is singing is mostly at fault, I hate to rag on any of the early 80’s style metal bands that sometimes hang out here, but thats a shocker of a song melody, hardly the vocalists fault (performance wise).

Well I think the vocalist was the one who came up with the melody so it would be her fault, actually. However, even though it is pretty basic and sticking to the root notes quite often, I don’t personally think that it is as crappy as you found it to be.

@Stan_Halen The band had never recorded anything before and doesn’t have any aspirations as of now, they just played a few local gigs. In fact their bass player, who ocasionnaly plays in a band I know well approached me when he learned I was into music production and I was the one encouraging them to record a single because I felt that they were pretty tight for non-pro musicians and it was worth putting it out there to see what the feedback would be. Incidentally, their very good drummer left them and was replaced by a drummer who miserably failed to keep timing on the bass drum when I recorded her on an acoustic kit, which led me to talk the band into using programmed drums instead.
Thanks for the reference song suggestion by the way.
About the vocals, I double-checked and they are dead centered. When I switch from stereo to mono quickly there is no wobbling on either side. I’m curious what makes you hear that, maybe the reverb or some masking occurring from one of the hard panned rhythm guitars?

Oh, sorry. One more thing. That bass needs to sound less weeny. It’s far too clean. I’d put some overdrive on that bass. Then you don’t have to work so hard with beefing up the guitars because the bass will be able to carry some of the weight.

I had another listen, the vocals maybe are not so off the note, even though they are pitchy… I don’t like her phrasing, inflection, tone or feel. She’s trying to sing Doro style but kinda manages to sound (to me) as a drunken sailor.

Kinda style they’re trying to do is a modern version of this:

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I like the vibe of the tune. In terms of the technical aspects, most of what I would mention has been covered. Here’s my other 2 cents…

For the bass, to add on to what @Descent mentioned, reference Iron Maiden for a great example of how to get the bass to poke out in this style of music without becoming the lead instrument. A bit of distortion/drive, and some EQ can do wonders. The more I listen to the track it really reminds me of Iron Maiden in spots.

For the vocals, yeah they’re all over the place pitch-wise, but honestly I think she did a decent job over all, especially considering the context (local band who’s just having fun). Some tuning, more depth through EQ, compress the shit out of them (tastefully), and add plenty of fx sauce (again, somewhat tastefully). I just read that you looked at tuning and most of the notes were in tune… makes me wonder if the note choice was maybe the culprit.

The guitar tones aren’t amazing… some EQ to bring back the punch would help, but I have a feeling the foundation of the tones could be improved upon. I don’t know if you mic’d amps or used sims, but I think some exploration of guitar tones could improve things. I’d love to hear your rundown of the guitar setups. All this being said I do like the leads!

For the drums, I’d spend more time programming in dynamics and messing with sample choices… what plugin did you use for them? I feel like they sound like sampled drums… and I know depending on what you’re using and how much time you put into it, you can make REALLY convincing drum parts. BUT… that’s also a time expenditure you may not want to make, in this situation, so take that with a grain of salt.

Overall, I’d also like to hear some dynamics between song sections, like a lift in the choruses and things like that… although as I listen again it’s hard to pick out a chorus… BUT my point being, automating things in the mix can make certain sections stand out and invoke more emotion.

This is a pretty fun tune… it sounds good now, but I think it could sound pretty rad with some tweaks here n’ there… but as I mentioned, it all depends on how much time you want to throw into it. Thanks for sharing… look forward to updated versions!

It sounded fairly dry all the way through to me, I think someone else mentioned it felt like a Punk-style vocal (dry). I listened on two speaker systems too.

I’ll just chime in on that, I don’t know that I could pick out any particular “bad” note(s), that’s why I didn’t comment on it in my first post. But there is some pitch drift in many places IMO, not bad for this particular context as already mentioned, but for a record deal caliber performance I would suggest that it get re-recorded with near perfection in mind. I think it all depends on what the goals are.

Well there you go, for what it is I think it’s damn good!

Possibly. It could be my perception, masking, psycho-acoustics, etc. I don’t think I noticed it when initially listening through my computer speakers, but I downloaded the file and listened through my studio monitors after my first post and during my second post. I have 6" KRK’s near-field, and am pretty used to scrutinizing the center. Like I say, it was subtle, what I like to call “squint-mode”. Now that I think about it, I may not have had my room-correction plugin on, and it’s possible that had some effect. I’ll have to try that again with and without room correction and see if that’s swaying my perception in any way.

Yeah, that’s what I was trying to think of for a reference. I have heard a lot of Doro imitators on YouTube, next generation, as they say … “imitation is the highest form of flattery”. That was Warlock’s first album too, I don’t know where Doro came from (musically) before that but she was ready to go right out of the box.

Send her to me, I could fix that shit in an instant :slight_smile: