I'll give you my take JJ. I didn't have a problem with the mix, the vocals or hearing any of the instruments. I think there's a huge problem with commenting on stuff like this like we talked about in the chat box.
This is not meant to slight or disagree with the advice and comments you've already received. But, this is my take on all that I've read. The problems are, people judge what they hear based on what they THINK things should sound like instead of listening to the art that was offered. Let me tell you something man...I am one anal mutha. I got good ears and can hear two gnats getting it on in another room. (unfortunately) I get paid to rip people's performances and mixes to shreds at least 6 times per week doing consultations alone.
There are three ways I listen to a mix.
The music lover: If I hate the song, it usually makes things a little more difficult for me to process anything else. It's been rare for me to actually hate something though. I try to find the art in everything unless it's just plain bad. I dig your song as a music lover.
The producer: I rarely listen and attempt to produce another person's song in my head unless I am specifically asked. Listening and me injecting what I would do has ruined my listening experience in a lot of music. I have learned to accept something the way it was delivered. Whatever you got here, sounds pretty good to me as far as a bare bones sketch. It could definitely be a pre or a bridge in my opinion...or even a chorus. I just tend to go for more of a catchy hook. That's just me, not telling you that you're right or wrong or this isn't a chorus. I just don't think the part you played hit me hard enough as the chorus of the song. BUT...that doesn't always need to happen either. Some songs...the pre-chorus may be the catchy part.
The mix engineer: I dig the mix. I'm not just saying that to sound like a good guy and be the lone guy that disagrees with the others. I say that because who am I to tell you what colors or instrument choices to use in YOUR creation? It's like telling Rembrandt or some other artist not to use that shade of red.
Who am I to tell you your drums aren't right unless I can for sure tell you there are blatant errors in the sound that annoy me horribly. That is not the case. I have no problems with your vocals. I've heard 1000 times worse from a guy that sang with a little band called Nirvana and he inspired a generation. Horrible vocalist in my opinion....some crafty lyrics though in his defense.
The day I stopped being judgmental and listened to what someone had to offer, was the day I enjoyed music once again. I've gone through spells in the past where I couldn't listen to some of those 60's and 70's bands because I hated the production so bad. Some really good bands too! Like I will always and forever, hate the snare drum to any Bad Company song. I will always hate the guitar sound of Steve Howe from YES. I'll always hate the sound of Bob Dylan's voice. But all three are killer song writers that have their place. I just was so lost in "that snare sucks, that guitar sound is lame, that bass sounds like it needs new strings". Who gives a shit? Music is music. Do I like the song? If so, end of story.
Now granted, I'm no pushover. If I hear things that are blatantly wrong, I will tell you as well as tell you how to fix them. I'll even show examples if need be so you always know where you stand with me. Do you know what I heard listening to this? It reminded me of the production on Ozzy's Suicide Solution. I went back and read this thread after I listened...and low and behold, that was sort of what you were shooting for.
I think you nailed that quite well. The bass is present, I hear drums at all times, I hear good low end that isn't rumbling or distorting, I do not hear hyper compression and excess dirt like everyone seems to use while thinking it actually sounds good. I don't hear pitchy vocals that make me cringe. I'm a singer and can sing just about anything you can throw at me from Whitesnake to Journey to even Deep Purple with Gillan. I did a cover of Perfect Strangers that turned out pretty cool when I first built my new studio here. A little bass light, but it still turned out really good.
So I'm well aware of what good vocals and bad vocals are all about. Are there little spots where you could have maybe sang things a little tighter or a little more cohesive? Sure...but nothing stuck out to me where I thought you were out of key, annoying or "hey dude, stick to guitar...your voice blows chunks...and chunks is my dog." This is a rough track for God sakes...just an idea at this point. I listened and respected it as such without trying to sound like I'm a know it all or someone trying to break your balls "just because I have this space to type here."
I was in your position dude. Tired of singers choosing my destiny. So one day I started singing. Am I great? Of course not....but I sing in key, I always show up, no one sounds like me, and finally after doing it for almost 30 years, I'm actually getting it. All three of the labels I've been with liked my voice as well...so hey, it is what it is. You been at it since 2016 and just presented a sketch here...I say, win win and you're on the right track. With this particular song, and I swear I'm not trying to earn brownie points....I'd not change a thing other than try to finish it.
As for the headphones and monitors thing....you'll get different answers from people who have had success or failure using both. My answer to you? I have many sets of headphones here. I have always done a fair job using them, but never did a GREAT job I was happy with until I got good monitors and I tuned them for flat response using ARC by IK Multimedia. My entire world changed when I got that whole set up.
Good monitors, a sub, and correction worked wonders. I have never treated my B room where I do most of my online work and other mixing. Just corrected monitors with the sub. In my A room, we did a little room correction there but honestly, what translates there also translates the same in the B room and vice versa. So whatever we got going on, it works. LOL!
There are people that do really good mixes on headphones. I'm not one of those people. And quite frankly, I don't want to be unless I have no choice due to living conditions etc. Music is so dull and lifeless to me in cans. When you get the right monitor set up and get everything just right, the listening experiences changes in ways I can't describe. I had quite a few clients from the old RR site. One of them, who has become one of my best friends, came to my studio for a weekend to work on one of his songs.
He too has his own studio and is a good engineer. But the one thing he mention as soon as he sat in my chair was...."wow, I can now hear what I'm supposed to hear without struggling or second guessing." He was truly blown away by this. You see man, people make this whole thing out to be a dark art. Mixing isn't that at all. You need the right gear to give you the right sounds so you make the right calls.
Sure you have to know a little bit and know what constitutes a good sound and what doesn't. If it takes more than 30 minutes to get a sound to work in a mix you either don't know how to fix it, or the sound is bad. There's nothing wrong with learning what good sounds consist of for recording too. Sometimes we think something will work, and it just fails. I've been there. Then there are times when something can't be redone...and you HAVE to succeed. The challenge there is what teaches you and gives you experience. But from what I hear in your little piece here though, I think you have a clue what works and what doesn't.
Could I bash you to help you improve on things? Any one of us could bash anyone including pro's. But is there a need or a reason? The real question is, is there anything that I can offer that would help you? I'd say no because for what you have here, the idea is there, the playing is there and the production really does sound like that of an Ozzy record. I think that's pretty cool man. Now, I could bash your brains in if I thought this should have been mixed to sound like a Hale Storm song. LOL! Yeah, you suck because this doesn't sound like Sixx AM! LMAO! That's just ludicrous, ya know? This doesn't have "today" production and guess what, it doesn't need it nor should it be judged as needing it. It sounds like it sounds and it's a good sound in my opinion.
See, this is what I meant when I said "I judge for what it is, not what I think it should be." I think all your stuff fit just right and it sounded good on all my speakers here. Trust me, if there were blatant issues that weren't subjective, I'd tell you as I mentioned before. There's just no reason for me to tell you any different than "nice job....this is a great start to what could be a good song. I'd like to hear a finished version some day."
That's not to go against some of the advice you received. Some of it was awesome...especially Jonathan's advice on monitors. But I feel you're in good shape with this song. At the end of the day, mixes by pro's are ruined everyday yet people praise the producers. You can barely listen to some mixes on real monitors because they were geared more for ear buds. That still kills me.
You mix the way you mix. I don't even reference anymore because at the end of the day, I want my mixes to be what I want them to be. If my ears hear dark, effected, heavy kick, light bass, or whatever else, that's what I heard that time, ya know? If there are blatant mistakes like sub lows that are ruining the mix, harsh highs that are piercing to the point of my dogs cringing and the song just sounds like nails on a chalkboard, then for sure a few things need to be fixed. LOL! But anything else is subjective. Be the one people copy from...don't be the one that copies. I can't tell you the last time I referenced anything. To some, that is bad of me. To me, I'm happy with my work and so are my clients. I think I'm right where I want to be.
One example though...AJ mentioned something weird on the toms. I noticed that too in your earlier mixes and was glad you backed whatever that was down on mix 5. That was the only blatant thing I heard that sort of didn't sit well with me. Anyway, I'd like to see you do something with this song. And don't be so hard on yourself with your voice and mixing. Quite a few people that I know would kill to be able to get that production as well as be able to actually sing. Keep up the good work dude!