Recording The Subliminal EP

This will be my first post about a production I have done to tell you, the reader, about my process and of course also for myself, the producer and teacher, to reflect on how everything went and make notes where to improve.


A smile on a guitarist face is a sign you're getting his sound right

The Subliminal (TS for the remainder of this post) is a modern metal band from The Netherlands who I've recorded once before in a quick demo they earned through a metal festival. Due to the very strict time limit we got the last time we sat down and discussed what we wanted to do this time. This time, we weren't gonna cut corners.. this time we were gonna kick ass. The EP is going to be 5 songs long, and it will be a step up for all of us if we want to do this right.


Pre-Production

Modern metal is a genre which needs planning.. organising. Especially the songs of The Subliminal which are probably not THE most complex in the genre but they have a big picture in their minds of what they want to sound like and what their songs are meant to say. So we first had about 2-3 rehearsals together to figure out how to get the most out of each song.


Rehearsing is key for a good working relationship with the artist

Rehearsing with an artist is very important to establish a good relationship. I am very vocal about my professional opinions. Yes I say professional opinions, I always try to back my musical opinions with good arguments. Which come from all the years of producing and playing in bands. Gaining the trust of the artist is probably the most important thing you can do before you go into the studio.


Thijmen (guitarist of TS) and Mark (drummer of TS) were able to make well put together pre-productions of the songs and after every rehearsal they could alter the pre-pro's so everyone had a clear idea of what was gonna be recorded.


It also gave me some time to prepare some sounds and ideas I had when listening to their songs.


Recording Process

Recording Metal Drums

DRUMS

With the right guides as stems prepared in the Pro Tools sessions we started recording the drums. Shown in the picture on the left we used tried and true microphones and positions to start with. I ended up using the Audix D6 with the Yamaha Subkick for the kik (yes kik, read The Daily Aventures of Mixerman). Some things I tried differently was bussing some mics on the DDA (analogue mixing console) to 1 audio track in Pro Tools. Which seemed to glue the different mics on the source very nicely + gave less headache for later having less tracks to go through. The rooms (two AKG C414's in a wide A/B) were compressed heavily through my fav hardware compressor for drums: the Chandler TG. I also placed a Neumann TLM 67 in the middle of those C414's and ALL BUTTONED them with a UA 1176. Last but not least I tried something new and placed one last room mic in the hallway between the recording studio and the control room. Which gave a REALLLY cool echo effect, especially on big tom parts.


We recorded everything painstakingly precise and were always on the lookout how we could capture the aggression of his playing even more. Even though Mark isn't even in the band for that long, he came prepared and we nailed the drum parts! 



What is better than 2 mics? 3

GUITARS

Next up were the rhythm guitars. We found the right sound pretty quickly. It was no secret Thijmen and myself are a big fan of American style sounds for metal so we grabbed my Mesa Boogie Rectifier with the Traditional 4x12 cab and chose the most aggressive sounding speaker in that cab (the top right one as you can see on the right).


My own tried and true method of recording ANY guitarspeaker, is a combination of a Shure SM57 and the Telefunken ELA M260. But with any tried and true method, you are bound to not experiment anymore, so I took a hint from Ola Englund's youtube channel and put the Beyerdynamic M180 right next to the Shure SM57 to compare and tried to find a combination between the three. As with the drums I commited to bussing all three mics to Pro Tools to one audio track. This made a HUGE difference instead of keeping them separate..! Almost each song we balanced the 3 mics to get the right sound and on 4-5 songs we even had a combination of all three going. When you listen to the EP, that is literally the sound we recorded.. I am in awe of this new method and the combination between these three mics.


As with the drums I pushed Thijmen to the extremes. And where the extremes weren't enough we just made things even sicker using recording techniques to get MORE attack out of his playing. By the way, if you ever want to invest in your guitar sound but don't have a lot of money? Buy a shit ton of different guitar picks. Easiest way to change the sound pretty drastically for almost no money.

How low can you go?

BASS

Time to glue those beastly drums and guitars together. In rock and metal productions I tend to do bass later than rhythm guitars. Not only because a lot of the times when recording guitars small things can change and the bass player is looking at me angrily for messing up his already recorded parts.. but also because you can shape the sound of the bass exactly for how much space you have between the drums and guitars.


I miced up Joerie's (bassplayer of TS) 4x10 Hartke and Ampeg SVTpro amp with a Sennheizer MD421 and Yamaha Subkick. I smashed the subkick with an Empircal Labs Distressor on Nuke mode and kept the Sennheizer relatively alive with a UA 1176. Just to keep them transients in check yo. (ahum)


The DI of the bass went through the trusted Avalon DI. What can I say about that. Just an amazing sounding, clear and punchy DI.


We were only on day 3 now, after days of more than 12 hours a day.. my pushing and pulling was STILL accepted by the whole band. This was a sign of clear dedication and trust. Everyone had their minds and eyes set on their own goals, no ego was in anyone's way to get the results we wanted. Which I am still very grateful for..



LEAD GUITARS AND EXTRA'S

The foundation of the EP was there. It was time to cut the lead guitars and try to find spots to accentuate any part we could think of to make the songs EVEN better. Luckily for our sanity Thijmen is an amazing guitar player and any idea, anybody had, he could almost play instantly. So we could try loads of things and I think almost 80% of all the ideas made the cut. Originally we had planned to stop recording for a couple of days but because we felt the need to take a little more time on these parts we planned the next day for more lead guitar and started the first vocal session.



The Subliminal in all its glory

VOX

Milan (vocalist of TS) and I were alone for this part which was a very relaxed setting to record these vocals in. Milan really goes in deep when cutting his tracks and never was really convinced by his performance in studios before this EP. So our job was to get there.


Recording vocals is more a psychological and artistic process than a technical one.

Sometimes a bottle of Glenlivet is better than a well placed mic. It is all about relaxation and being in a state where you can perform.


His dynamic vocals we cut on the Shure SM7 and all the cleans were cut with a Neumann 87. Both were tamed (the SM7 way more than the U87) with an EL Distressor. Although I tried to get his clean vocal through an Avalon VT 737 and then through the distressor before that, which worked WONDERS on certain vocalists, but didn't seem to work that well for Milan.


We took another day 2 days later to finish up all the recordings and left the studio with raw (unmixed/unedited for the most part) recordings we were really proud of.


Currently I am busy finishing the mixes. Which has just been a BLAST to do. Working with good material makes the whole mixing process enjoyable and creative. More on that later, when the EP is released...


Thanks for reading if you even made it THIS far. Let me know if this is helpful or send me an e-mail asking about more specifics on how the recording went.


Cheers and hopefully until the next post!