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The Challenge

Belial – Nihil Est,

All of the post-production that was written and performed by my main dude George Christie, needed to play a principle role in both the composition and mix. Without it, the music wouldn’t move, push or pull in the way envisioned.

The challenge was to bring into the fray 50+ tracks of additional production, and have them sit along side the band’s performance without smothering anything, and ensuring it all remained audible and uncluttered.

The Reamping

For this project, I was fortunate enough to still have the KSR Orthos on hand (thank you Adam!).

We did a multitude of different reamps; multiple variations of mics and positions to achieve a bunch of different tonal options. The band really wanted to try and encapsulate aggression and intensity with the guitar tone, while still retaining clarity amongst the swathe of other instruments.

After much trial and error, we landed on the final chain:

Warmer Boost Pedal > KSR Orthos Lead 1 Channel > Zilla 2×12 Fatboy v30 > Beyerdynamic m201 + Shure Anodyne 545d + Sennheiser MD421

The majority of the tone is the M201 with the other mics providing some additional ‘substance’ at around -10db each.

The Mix

i Drums
For this EP we tried something pretty cool in order to encourage the Midi programming to sound more human. Adam Pedder and I set up his kit and meticulously went through tracking sample hits of each drum shell. We then converted these hits into Slate Trigger files so that we could use them through the mix process.

You can listen to the resulting drum bus stem here;

 

ii Bass
I forget why we ended up using programmed bass in the end, I think it could be down to the fact that there are a few ungodly low tuned sections that we couldn’t get consistent on a live bass. Either way it didn’t turn out to be a poor compromise. The tone itself is a majority of Fabfilter Saturn and a ProCo Rat pedal emulation.

Check out the Bass bus stem here;

 

iii Rhythm Guitars
Having already been over the reamping process, there was very little going on aside from a little notching eq and some neve style saturation added. Oh and some M/S EQ towards the end of the chain too.

This is how the Rhythmn guitars ended up sounding;

 

iv Lead Guitars
There were a lot of varying style of leads song to song, I don’t think we used the same lead patch between songs, we most likely built each sound from the ground up in order to suit what was going on around it. The majority of the tone base is TSE’s X50 v2, which is then caked in effects and fancy verbs.

Check out the lead tones here;

 

v Post Production
On the post production, I didn’t do so much micromanaging of the tonal choices George Christie made. Theres a lot of automation to make sure the sections flow correctly, but aside from that he delivered very mix friendly files from the off. All thats going on is some Slate VMR (Bomber > Custom EQ > Maybe a compressor 1176 style) and an instance of trackspacer.

Click below to hear how awesome it turned out;

 

vi Vocals
Jamie Harrison is the vocalist for Belial and with the right direction he nails some pretty difficult tones with his voice. The mic used was a SM7b (classic) which was later fed through my distressor here and pinned into place. I then EQ’d the vocals as a whole on the Vocal bus rather than individually using Fabfilter Q2 and Slate VMR (SSL EQ + Custom EQ)
I can’t recall if I then sent them to Slate VTM, to me the stem sounds like I did, so I probably did!
You can take a peep for yourself here;

The Master

The secret sauce master chain;
Instrumental Bus;
Slate VMR (Neve EQ + Custom EQ)
Slate VBC Grey
Slate VTM
Fabfilter Q2

Final Master Bus
Slate VMR (Custom Lift)
Izotope 7 (first clipping stage)
Fabfilter L (final limiting stage)

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The Song

Belial’s ‘In Extremis’ is a brand new breed of heavy. From the composition to the execution, the written music exudes downtrend guttural filth.

Gear Used

Programmed Drums – Sampled by G1
Kick In – Beta91a + D112
Kick Out – U47
Snare Top – 57
Snare Bottom – 441
Toms – md421

Cymbals – GGD Sample Library

Guitars
Kemper / Driftwood Profile Pack (along with other bits and bobs too for the multi tracked parts)

Bass

Programmed Bass Library;
Distressor > FabFilter Saturn

Vocals
Tracked and Produced by George Christie
SM7B

Profiles Used

The Post Production

George’s comments:

Belial’s sonic identity is one of furiosity and aggression, coupled with the desire to step away from the norms of the genres we pull influence from. This song is, in my opinion, the epitome of what we hoped to achieve with this release – deep and detailed songwriting, intricate and technically demanding musicianship and an unusual approach to dynamics, arrangement and structure. The first Belial EP incorporated a lot of interesting soundscapes and textural elements (both rhythmic and melodic) that contributed greatly to the overall feel and direction of the music, and we wanted to really take these aspects and push them as far as they could go with Nihil Est, and In Extremis in particular.

That said, when it came to the task of composing a track that really encompassed the creative vision Belial wished to achieve, there were a number of issues that became immediately apparent.

I wanted to draw influence from death, black, core, djent and a variety of other genres of metal, and combine them in a way that was unique, yet still easily relatable to the casual listener. That said, I built the song on a “typical” metal foundation – fast and powerful drums, stereo rhythm guitars the crossed the boundary between rhythm and lead, layered and background guitars that implied the harmony, and a bass guitar that closely followed and accentuated the guitarwork. The song structure is relatively simple when broken down into it’s respective parts, but I used a great deal of thematic variation to keep each section interesting despite it’s repeats. The song is primarily in A Phrygian Dominant, but modulates to D Harmonic Minor for the drop-tuned section in the middle.

On completion of the song’s drum-and-guitar foundation, it became apparent that the true task and challenge was to write what was, in essence, a film soundtrack that flowed seamlessly throughout, within and alongside the other band elements.

The finished post-production includes a full string (1st and 2nd violins, viola, cello and double bass) and brass (trumpet, trombone, horn ensemble and tuba) section, three pianos (two “normal” pianos – one bright, one dark – and a third “effected” piano), a vast array of synths, ambient textures and designed impacts, risers and effects – totalling an alarming 37 tracks AFTER summing!

Strings
– Spitfire Audio: Albion I, Albion III, Symphonic Strings
Brass
– Cinesamples: CineBrass
Woodwinds
– Cinesamples: CineWinds
– Orchestral Tools: Berlin Woodwinds
Synths
– UHe: Zebra 2
– Native Instruments: FM8
– Reaktor: Monark
– Spectrasonics: Omnisphere 2
– FabFilter: Volcano 2
Sound Design
– Izotope: Trash 2
– Plugin Alliance: Sandman
– Valhalla: VintageVerb, Plate, Room
– FabFilter: Pro-Q2, Pro-C2, Pro-L, Saturn
– Soundtoys: Decapitator, Echoboy, FilterFreak