Unorthodox drum kits for extreme metal

Discussion in 'Drums & Percussion' started by hidrozoo, Oct 8, 2021.

  1. hidrozoo

    hidrozoo It's just a phase

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    I've been programming some drums and I'm pretty bored of the traditional metal drumkits, doing some experiments with drum sounds a la John Bonham. I was wondering if you guys can point me at some bands/projects that are actually using drumkits that you wouldn't qualify as orthodox or typical.*

    I'd say these specific songs are some sort of technical grindcore, with blast parts but a lot of open strings ringing through (some sloppy Deathspell Omega worshipping here)

    So far I like some of the results, although mixing is a bit more challenging.

    * I understand that there's a wide range of sounds and kits used currently in metal projects, but I wonder if somebody has experience with it of if there's something that stands out in your record collection in this fashion. Like somebody playing Brutal Death with a Ludwig set.
     
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  2. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    I think the drums themselves are often not super important. Different drums do sound different but they all sound like drums. But what you do with them makes a massive difference. Different heads, tunings, snare wire settings, recording and processing are a huge part of what ends up as the "drum sound". I'm not sure how much control you typically have over that stuff with programmed drums.

    I think these days there's definitely a recognizable modern drum sound going on, at least in heavy music, with very scooped kicks and very compressed snares tuned pretty low. I can't say I like it much. But then of course there's also the whole death metal thing with really high-pitched non-ringy snares, although maybe not so popular these days.

    I'm kind of doing the same thing, looking for something other than that tired modern metal sound. But I prefer higher pitched snares and more natural sounding kicks anyway. And less emphasis on close mics, they just always sound terrible and unnatural.

    I would also be interested in hearing examples of more interesting sounding drums in metal, I can't think of anything great off the top of my head. I think there was more variety in drum sounds in the 80s. Maybe because everyone didn't watch the same youtube tutorials on how to get "slamming drums" or whatever.
     
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  3. LostTheTone

    LostTheTone Elegant Djentleman

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    I second the notion that the kit itself isn't that big of a deal. Obviously there is a good deal of tweakability in snare sound, and you can choose to do something deliberately weird if you like, but toms and cymbals are somewhat uncomplicated instruments. Any major changes in sound will come from how they are recorded or processed.

    I think you might be running into a fundamental limit of normal programmed drums, honestly, and you might have better luck if you spice it up with some interesting samples from a real kit, or indeed from some other random objects. There's no reason why you couldn't take the Slipknot approach, and have a normal drum track, as well as "additional custom percussion" over the top that sounds a bit weird.
     
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  4. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Metal, by and large, has gotten to the point where the successful part of it is very formulaic. There are places like MA that will gatekeep what is "metal" or not based on that formula, and anything that deviates on more than one aspect will probably be considered too avant-garde to be metal.

    But whatever, this is a great question, if maybe a little open ended, so I'll it as an opportunity to praise some stuff that I think it hella cool.

    First off, check out Henker. It's a techdeath band from France (or maybe Belgium, I don't really know). Of course, most techdeath bands are notable for crazy complicated guitar riffs, intense vocals, etc., and Henker is no outlier in those respects from the rest of the genre; however, the drummer uses a quadruple kick pedal. WTF, does he have four legs? The short answer is no, but check this out:



    insanity ensues at 1:40

    It's a special kick pedal that was designed to do double bass stuff with one foot. Press down = thump. Lift up = thump. Is it cheating to use two of them? Meh. Try it, it's not at all easy to time your ups as well as your downs, and it's easy to forget, during slower parts that lifting up makes another thump.

    Anyway, these guys have been around long enough that I'm curious why there's not another band I can name that uses this piece of equipment.

    More along the mainstream (?), there's Mike Portnoy and his trash stacks. You hear them in a lot of old Dream Theater stuff. I don't know how unorthodox it is nowadays, but back in the mid 90's, it was a new sound to my ears, and he used it often enough that it went from seeming like a gimmick to seeming like his signature gimmick. To be fair, though, this was around the time big old ice bells and zil bells were pretty rare, too, but I'm not sure exactly who started that trend, and now it seems to be a standard piece of the metal drummer's kit. I guess the trash stacks are out there in quite a few kits now, but still pretty nonstandard.

    As far as shells go, I honestly don't think you can hear the difference among high-end drum shells, like at all. It's not like you can listen to a record and go "wow, I can't believe the drummer is using a Yamaha kick drum with Tama toms and a Pearl snare, how weird! Maybe you can hear if the shells are particularly big or small, but, odds are that you are hearing a mixture of at least 30% of a triggered library sound (if not 100%) anyway, so they all might as well be Roland V drums. Ok, maybe hyperbole, but certainly not hyperbole in every case.
     
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  5. hidrozoo

    hidrozoo It's just a phase

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    Perhaps no that important as with other instruments, but I tend to disagree. A 22'' crash will place itself in the mix differently than a 14'', a thicker ride will give a darker, less washier sound that might suit better with an specific guitar rig. Same goes for tuning toms and drum heads. This is also an aesthetic choice. On the other hand I always thought that I could get a killer death metal tone with a Telecaster with single coils given the right tools, but most of us would rather have an instrument/sound that gives that extra bite or character at source and not depending that much on processing afterwards. But electric guitar is much more versatile and modifiable by nature, so not the cleanest comparison here.

    But hey, don't want to get philosophical discussing if a drum head depth or presence is worth to consider. I just feel that most metal nowadays its becoming a bit too standard (as Gnoll pointed out scooped kicks with that 4k hitting like a hammer and very compressed snares) and I wonder if there's something a little bit more off the beaten path. I also understand that this approach leaves so much space for definition and presence specially if you're doing quad's and walls of guitars. So it makes total sense.

    I've been fascinated recently with the Mortiferum's Disgorged From Psychotic Depths drum sound, somehow feels organic and awesome and darker than a cricket's asshole and suits the music perfectly. Wonder how they got there.

    I guess is more about dynamics and mic'ing and less about the sound/sample itself, there's a fair amount of control with modern software. I was recently fooling around mixing blast beats all panned out to one channel like these 60's jazz recordings or the Sly and the Family Stone albums where it feels like the drummer is in the corner of your room. Guess what, doesn't work but it's admittedly funny. :)

    Agreed 100%!
     
  6. LostTheTone

    LostTheTone Elegant Djentleman

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    Wow, you think it takes over a minute for that track to go crazy? My eyebrows were scorched after two bars, by 1:40 it was like looking into the ark of fucking covenant!

    More seriously... I suspect that people haven't availed themselves of such machinery is simply because they don't feel the need to go much faster. In that track the super-fast kicks are blurring together so much they aren't even really a beat any more. It's a brrrrrrrrrrrrr not a bu-bu-bu-bu-bu. And yes that's unconventional, but you can understand why not many bands are looking for that sound.

    Especially since the OP is talking about programming drums; you could always program a track that a human being couldn't actually play. If you tell the machine to hit five cymbals at once, it won't worry whether it has enough arms. The question is whether that is actually something you want to do.
     
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  7. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Well, in the 70's, it was bump bump bump, in the 80's, bu-bu-bu, and in the 90's, brrrrrrrr, so why not take the extra step to go "hmmmm" in the modern day? Probably the main reason is that it takes a whole lot of effort to do it without relying on programming. And I've seen the videos of Henker rehearsing - that drummer is a monster - I'm sure there's some studio trickery on the album, but he can make the same noises in person.

    It's not that I ever thought there's be a whole catalogue of "hmm"-wave bands with octopus bass drums, but that song I posted is from 2010, and other than Henker, I'm not aware of any other band using quadruple bass drums anything like that. Imagine Eruption coming out in 1978, everyone being blown away by EVH's two-hand tapping technique, and then it being 1989 and still EVH is the only cat using the technique. That's kind of how I see the Henker thing, except, obviously, tech death is far less mainstream. Still, there are plenty of metal bands out there who pick up on the techniques pioneered by other bands...

    Anyway, this thread might be on track to dovetail into that thread a couple months ago about there being no more innovative drummers in metal. I don't think innovation is gone, nor that we hit a brick wall with human limitations, just that general interest in music is down because most kids are listening more to podcasts than new music, the slice of pie that represents metal in the whole pie that represents music has been shrinking slowly for 20 or more years, and interest in playing music interactively is less focused on real instruments now that there are such good virtual instruments. On top of all of that, the traditions within music performance are stronger now, so pioneering is less rewarding than ever before in our lifetimes.

    So the net result is that innovation of musical gear and musical techniques are at a snail's pace in comparison to the weird times that were the 1990's, but it's still happening.
     
  8. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Cymbals, yes. I think I can tell the difference between a Paiste and a Zildjian even in a mix. But I specifically picked on shells. I honestly don't think that even the best trained pair of ears could tell me anything about the brand name of the shells of two similarly-sized toms with the same heads tuned to the same tension. Hell, I bet that the end user wouldn't know, if you mounted the same hardware on two different-brand shells, so who cares whether the shells are Ludwig, Tama, Pearl, DW, Slingerland, or Budget Percussion Product of China? As long as the lugs hold up well, and the mounts hold it steady, slap some good heads on and go.

    Most of those 60's recordings were done with one or two mic's. The engineers took a lot more time considering the best mic placement as a function of the room dynamics and the layout of the kit they were recording. Most sessions these days just see a mic slapped on everything that makes a sound. 4 toms? 4 mics. Kick drum - mic the inside and the outside, and if you want a clicky tone, mic the beater, too. Hi hats? Why not mic the top and bottom? The snare drum gets a mic, and the snare itself gets a mic, too, because why not? We have computers that can handle two hundred drum tracks, which we can busmix down later, so go ahead and mic the drum throne, too, in case it makes a cool squeaky sound or in case the drummer farts. We'll probably never add it to the final mix, but who cares? Also, let's keep all of the mic's less than half an ass-hair's width away from the thing making the sound, so everything will be super dry, since we can always add reverb and room sound but can't take it away. Then, after all of that, replace half of the recorded sounds from the performance with sample anyway. At least the cymbals you hear on the record are usually the drummer's real cymbals, more or less.

    Don't get me wrong, I love recording my drums, and I think I've come across a few cool setups for recording by happenstance, but I never use them because I'm a horrible drummer myself, so everything I play sounds like garbage. But my favourite tones are all from distance mic'ing, so go figure.
     
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  9. LostTheTone

    LostTheTone Elegant Djentleman

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    I think you're right that it's weird no-one else has tried. You would have thought that Grindcore bands would be at least willing to do a track called Face In A Blender or something equally awful with constant kick drum turbo hammering.

    However, I think that part of the issue here is that the 70s to 2000s saw both technical exploration and vast improvements in technology. When I think of mind blowing metal drummers, I think of Death and Cynic and so forth. And of course those are some extremely skilled dudes. But part of what made them that way was picking techniques from outside metal, especially from jazz. And more broadly in music, for like 30 years there was seemingly some new gizmo to try every week.

    Today there is less to draw from outside metal - The good stuff has already been brought in. And we've hit a bit of a wall in terms of new gizmos. We haven't had a fundamental change in technology in ages. VSTs and such are a seriously mature technology now.

    I don't blame anyone, especially any metal drummer, for saying they put making music they love above innovation.

    In a world where Tools and Meshuggah and so on exist and are well known about, its pretty hard to find a space to be truly unique.
     
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  10. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I find the first statement really easy to agree with, but the second really difficult to take.

    But for sure, the 90's were crazy. You had Atheist taking experimental jazz and infusing it into metal. You had Tool putting tablas in a song and it becoming a smash hit on the radio. Metallica throwing in B-benders and country-style pedal steel licks into mainstream songs that were, I guess, as metal as mainstream music ever really got. Sepultura was adding in Brazilian folk music. You had the big breaks for bands like Faith No More, Green Jellö, and Primus, and new bands like Korn and Slipknot, who started alt metal, funk-metal, and rap-metal that amalgamated into nümetal. There were bands taking electronic music into metal, like Mushroomhead. It was a crazy time. But there's a ton more. In fact, there are dozens of musical genres that exist now that didn't then that budded without any influence of metal. And there are still new bands doing ground-breaking stuff, it's just that their influence doesn't even reach half as far as those 90's bands' did.

    So maybe a few people around here know about Sitarmetal, this band with a sitar player that does some djenty riffs. And I like sitar, and I like metal, so it's a pretty easy win in my book, but the best version of it I heard was a cover with a tabla player. Which makes you wonder, is there a way to incorporate a drum that requires a high level of hand/finger dexterity, like a tabla, into a metal drum kit? How cool would that be? Well, in 1995, it would have been perfect, but in 2021, probably no one would care. :lol:

    There was this whole underground thing with bands like Estradasphere, incorporating all sorts of influences to very high degrees into a new genre of music or music that has no genre, IDK. It's like every genre. A lot of people call it metal, which I find odd, because 90% of the time it's not sounding anything like metal, but I guess the metal parts that take up 10% of the time are the parts that people find most abrasive, so whatever... Anyway, it's crazy stuff, and the resonance of that movement is still very much alive today but very underground. But, if you want to hear something "different," check out the latest from Igorrr. It's also pretty technical stuff, as well as being very weird.
     
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  11. LostTheTone

    LostTheTone Elegant Djentleman

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    I suppose I really meant that you have to travel so much further to find things that haven't been tried before, and get into the seriously obscure. And, honestly, I think that's one reason why these weird innovations don't get much interest. Because the new elements are so far out that most listeners just don't get it. They need a guide to understand why it sounds weird, and even then they don't listen to Swahili lullabies so they don't feel a real connection.

    The sweet spot of innovation is to do something that's familiar but also fresh and interesting. Its not a coincidence that the last time metal was a big mainstream deal was when all the rap and hiphop elements were brought in. Familiar but fresh.

    The mainstream stuff has kinda not really moved on all that much though since hiphop broke into the mainstream, and the good bits of mainstream have definitely already been tried. We live in a world where if you got Kanye to do guest vocals on your metal album then people would say the Linkin Park already did an album with Jay Z (and its actually good). Now, a Kanye metal album would shred, Kanye is a mad genius, but it still wouldn't be all that innovative.
     
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  12. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I think it's more political than we probably want to get into, but mainstream music has stagnated and innovation in mainstream music has stagnated. It can be seen as an ambiguous cause/effect question, but, ultimately, if the culture at large was not okay with the music we have blasting on the radio everywhere, that music would not be blasting on the radio everywhere. But what's odd to me is that it really isn't in most places. It seems like job sites don't have boomboxes anymore, like they used to, malls and stores play mostly 20 year old+ music, and even a huge portion of people I know prefer to listen to music that's 20+ years old in their car or at home or else just listen to news radio or podcasts. No one in my circle actually listens to pop music.

    Probably one big part of that is that you no longer have to. In the 90's, if you wanted to listen to weird music, you had to go to a record store and make a special order. Most rare CDs/records (the ones still in print, just not commonly stocked) cost $30-40, and there was literally no way to listen to a sample. In 2021, if you want music, you go someplace like iTunes or Amazon, and download exactly the songs you want for $1, or you stream on bandcamp, or you use a service like Spotify, that uses AI to pick stuff you should like. I guess pop music is whatever most people listen to on spotify, but those people are evidently outside of my sphere of contacts.
     
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  13. LostTheTone

    LostTheTone Elegant Djentleman

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    I think you're fully correct, on just about all fronts.

    ... And I do think this is all connected to the original question here too, if you'll stay with me.

    I use Studio One, and when you load it up they have a news feed of their new stuff and new tutorial videos and all that. They do big packs of samples and loops and all that, but they are always hiphop and pop-electronica. I do check out their video tutorials sometimes, if they catch my eye. But their whole channel is always about producing really boring, really generic music. It's rare they even have soft rock mentioned, and they never talk about how to handle even Mick Jagger levels of screaming.

    Point is, as you say, the landscape has congealed. They are selling home producers on the idea of being the next Billie Ellish or whatever. The next breakout star who can just work alone in their bedroom. And I can't blame them for that. They squarely target the so called pro-sumer; hobbyists who live in hope of making it big. But the people who are dreaming of that, and spending the money, aren't 19 years old mostly. They are 30 or older, and who want to make the music they got into when they were young. And that means Jay Z and Kanye and Beyonce and such.

    And I even fall into that trap - I am in a band who is trying to recapture some 2000s metal magic, the music we all grew up loving.

    But all the tools to make that old music already exist. So where is the incentive to develop? Sure there are people who are deliberately trying to do weird stuff, but one-offs and custom jobs aren't quite the same as things you can buy and try out.

    And this takes us back to the drum sounds - As far as commercial entities are concerned there is already everything you need out there and if you want something else you need to go make it yourself because fuck you. And because actually making stuff is really hard, and a very different skillset to music, not many people actually do it.

    Earlier today I thought "Man I fucking wish there was a OneNote extension for S1... Hey maybe I can build that!" and then I looked up how to make extensions and said "Fuck that, I'll keep reading lyrics off this terrible VST Notepad plugin that crashes all the time". And in my defence, I have a job, I have a band and I have a wife, and no significant computer skills. I am too tired to innovate!
     

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