Saturday, October 27, 2018

Review: It Might Get Loud - Assault Drums (with video sample)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
This time we are reviewing the latest drum sampler from It Might Get Loud: Assault Drums!

The company once again offers a product that is in line with its trademark: instead of offering the usual, generic drum sample library, IMGL focuses on something that wasn't there.
Assault drums is a serie of 3 drum kits (divided in 11 presets) that aims to recreate the typical sound of the '80s and the '90s, with presets dedicated from the early Iron Maiden to the '80s arena rock, from the '90s thrash of Metallica and Megadeth to Pantera and much more (black, death metal etc). 

The project is really ambitious, probably the most ambitious the company has ever done, and the uniqueness of this plugin is really its selling point.

The samples are all pre-processed, a necessary step to create presets that sounded as close as possible to the reference albums, and I must say the kits are pretty much similar to the sound they are named after: with some fiddling is possible to obtain very good sounds even just by using the mixer integrated in the plugin.

On a side note, I prefer the mixer "all in one screen" like in other samplers of the same producer, this modular one is less intuitive, even if I understand that there are too many channels to show in one single panel (maybe the ui could be increased in size).
Another thing I would suggest is to start as default with all the channels of the vst routed to channel one, and to let the engineer route (or group) individually those he wants to send to a bus instead of starting by assigning to each drum part a separate channel, it would be more practical.

Technical details aside, Assault drums really sounds like those acoustic drumkits of the old times, the vibe is very similar (especially for some kits like the Iron Maiden style one), and this is a rare quality today, since often modern drum samplers tends to be processed to the point of resulting a bit "plastic sounding", or a bit too electronic. With the right amount of humanizer it's possible to create some very realistic drum parts.

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

- 11 Kit Presets which will cover a wide range of classic 80's Metal & Rock sounds.

- Classic Early 80's NWOBHM/West Coast Speed Metal Sound

- 3 Full Drum Kits, Multiple Snares, Lots of Toms (Set of Rototoms and up to 5 Toms, that's 8 toms in a single kit!!)

- 11 Kit Presets

- Multiple Routing and MIDI Mapping Options

- Add your own one shot samples

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Saturday, October 20, 2018

10 best rock/metal riffs of all times

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are talking about one of the most subjective topics ever: the 10 best riffs of all times.
The criteria are not only obviously my tastes, but their impact in the world of rock and heavy metal, how much they contributed to make electric guitar popular in the history of music, and we will also try to break down a bit what makes them so memorable

10) Ozzy Osbourne: Crazy Train. This riff embodies the soul of '80s hard rock: it's fast, very melodic and happy, but at the same time heavy and catchy. It represents perfectly a time of guitar heroes (like Rhandy Rhoads, who wrote it), excesses and incredible live performances, and makes a very solid base in which Ozzy created his iconic vocal line. Still today it's extremely fun to play and countless bands copied its style.

9) Nirvana: Smells like Teen Spirit. This riff instead brought the grunge movement to mainstream.
It's very simple and has a certain hard rock vibe, but it's an incredible shopping window for the Nirvana music proposal, which is very personal with all its imperfections and the dark vibe. This is one of the songs that contributed the most in changing the tastes of the young audience from the '80s rock.

8) Rammstein: Mein Teil. This German band is another of those bands (like many on this list) with such a strong personality that it's hard to define in a specific genre, it literally brought to light a certain type of metal mixed with EDM (choice extremely courageous), and this riff is so groovy and well structured that is really hard not to nod your head while listening to it.

7) Iron Maiden: The Number of the Beast. Few bands contributed in making popular guitar music like Iron Maiden. The band offers a beautiful hard rock/classic metal by almost 40 years with incredible success, awesome choruses and solos, and they are one of the few bands with 3 guitar players. This song has one of the most memorable riffs ever written in metal.

6) Guns n'Roses: Welcome to the Jungle. Guns n'Roses took  the'70s hard rock lesson of Aerosmith and modernized it in the '80s, with a short first stint made only of 3 albums (if we don't consider the cover one) that had such a strong impact to make it one of the biggest rock bands of all times. This is the opener of their first album, Appetite for Destruction, and the riff is so catchy and the chorus is so effective, that it still sound fresh and actual today. A timeless classic.

5) Rage Against the Machine: Killing in the name. A band that took the sound of the '70 (especially the low gain, single-string riffs of Led Zeppelin) and mixed it with rap, an incredibly groovy rhythm section and lyrics infused with social protest.
This band became a cult in the '90s and still today their influence can be heard in contemporary music.

4) Korn: Freak on a Leash. Korn (together with very few other contemporary bands) redefined the heavy music from the end of the '90s to the beginning of the 2000: the minor, decadent atmospheres of grunge were slowly fading away, leaving place to the same type of young rage, but seen from a different point of view. The guitar tone is huge and with extremely low tunings, the vocals flirt with rap music, and the drum beat is funky and groovy. Their style brought new life to heavy music.

3) Metallica: Enter Sandman. Metallica is the biggest metal bands of all times, and is a band that not only invented thrash metal, but kept on changing skin through its long career exploring several genres, from doom (Devil's Dance) to country (Low man's Lyric). Enter Sandman is the opener of their self titled album, an album which had incredible commercial success but that had let down the most hardcore fans due to their opening to a more radio-friendly type of metal. Nevertheless Enter Sandman is still today one of the most iconic metal riffs ever written, and helped the band breaking the boundaries of the metal community.

2) Deep Purple: Smoke on the water. Smoke on the water starts with a riff that still today is studied by guitarists all over the world in their first lessons, because it's so known (even from those who doesn't know the band) that it's basically a standard. Its chord progression on the beat of the drum defined a whole generation, and helped Deep Purple becoming one of the most successful rock bands of all times.

1) Ac Dc: Highway to Hell. This song takes the first spot because Ac Dc is not only a band. It's an archetype. It's the archetype of '70s hard rock in its purest form, simple, straightforward, melodic, groovy, bluesy and timeless. The band in its 50 years of career never really evolved from its roots and also this contributed in creating their trademark, nevertheless it's undeniable that today Ac Dc songs aged much better than most of the other rock songs, because somehow this formula and this sound still sounds actual.

Do you agree with our list?
Let us know what do you think!

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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Review: Mercuriall Audio SS-11X with video sample

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are reviewing a new guitar (pre)amp simulator from Mercuriall Audio: the SS-11x!

As we know (check out our interview) Mercuriall Audio is a Russian audio company that produces guitar amp simulators, some free and some paid, and that is developing a very interesting roster of software, ranging from the emulations of Engl and Marshall to the Mesa Boogie amps, but this time the SS-11X replicates a very peculiar preamp: the AMT SS-1B, a 3 channel tube guitar preamp stompbox created by another Russian company, Amt electronics, which is a producer specialized in preamp pedals, and that is receiving international acclaim for the quality and the innovation of its products.

Compared to its hardware counterpart, the SS-11X offers several extra features: a built in Noise Gate, a serie of boosters (from the classic Ts9 to a full blown distortion), a reverb and an array of good impulses, including some made by Ownhammer, one of the best impulse studio around.
Some of these impulses include also power amp emulation, since the vst doesn't have a power amp section.

The preamp section features 3 channels, 2 separate eq sections, separate gain and level, bright and tone shift switches.
I have been able to achieve surprisingly good tones, very realistic, proof of the fact that technology has taken giant leaps forward in guitar amp modeling: the plugins I am reviewing lately are all very good, to a level that was unthinkable just 3 or 4 years ago, and in this specific one you can really hear the tube sound, the harmonic richness, that makes the crunch fat and meaty.

I suggest this Vst to anyone who wants to achieve good, warm, saturated crunch tones, but the plugin is good also, using the included booster and impulses, for obtaining screaming metal rhythm parts and solos.
The quality to price ratio is impressive, and there is also a free demo version downloadable from the website.

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

- SS-11X modeling is officially certified and approved by AMT Electronics

- SS-11X is modeled using our next-gen Neural Hybrid Engine. This in-house technology has been in development for 5 years
- All tubes are modeled independently
- Pedals and preamp are working within the same oversampling cycle. Thus, there is no latency build-up and no additional losses when using several anti-aliasing filters
- Stereo-mode: right and left channels are modeled independently. This mode is useful for processing stereo signals. For example, a panned double tracked guitar
- Plugin supports CPU multi-threading

- Cab IRs from (in alphabetical order):
1. George Constantine Kratsas - Mercuriall Audio artist
2. Morton Studio
4. NRQ’s Studio
5. OwnHammer
6. Sound Way Records
7. TA Production
- Option to load your own cabinet IRs (mono/stereo)
- Option to load your own reverb IRs (mono/stereo)
Maximum IR length is 262144 samples (~5.9 sec @44.1 kHz)

- Reverb IR blend

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Top 10 Free Vst Plugins 2018

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are talking about 10 FREE Vst plugin that we suggest you to try, they can be a good start for a small low budget home recording project, and they can provide you a wide array of tools to get in the recording world at zero cost.

It's important to point out that not all of them came out in 2018, but this is a basic package we suggest to download if you are new with recordings and want to try some nice free plugin.

1) Ignite Amps ProF.E.T.: I have put this plugin in the first position because it's today's new (04/10/2018) that this plugin has won the KVR Developer Challenge 2018 (congratulations!). It is a great guitar preamp simulator, good for a wide array of sounds but focused on rock/metal, and obviously it needs a speaker simulator to run.

2) Izotope Neutrino: this is a sort of swiss army knife; it's a multiband compressor hidden in a super minimalist interface, in which you are allowed basically only to choose the instrument (between vocals, drums, bass and guitar/generic instrument) and the amount of the effect. You just slam these plugins in the respective bus of each instrument group and it will analize the spectrum and apply a subtle multiband compression in the areas that are peaking too much or resonating weirdly, and at the end (hopefully) the final track will sound cleaner and more polished.

3) Klanghelm MJUC-jr: anyone that follows this blog from long enough knows how much I love peak limiters; they are the earliest version of compressors, easy to use and good to fatten up any signal, from single instruments to bus compression. This type of plugins are particularly good for parallel compression, or to fatten up acoustic cymbals tracks, bringing out some of the body of the drumset while limiting the peak of the cymbals.

4) Ample Bass P Lite 2: since not always we have a bass or a bass player at hand, this free vst bass sampler can turn out to be a life saver; it recreates the sound of a clean bass that can be controlled via Midi and processed like a normal bass, and it is ideal to streamline the songwriting process, to write down quick rough mixes to share with the bandmates.

5) Mt PowerDrum Kit 2: this is a surprisingly good drum sampler, free to download, which includes several pre processed kits usable for different genres and midi grooves, and it's an amazing starting point for anyone who needs a good drum sampler to record a rock demo.

6) VSCO2 Rompler: this is a good free orchestra vst instrument which can recreate various sections
of an orchestra with a good degree of realism, although obviously the midi track needs to be tweaked accordingly to make it even more realistic and dynamic. The samples are not bad, and it is definitely a good starting point for anyone who wants to try and write an orchestral part.

7) Ignite PTEq-X: in a world of graphic equalizers, PTE eq takes a different route, by recreating a classic hardware parametric eq with a particular workflow (sections can be boosted or cut in a combined way as explained in the review), and it allows us to achieve very natural and realistic results, manipulating the sound in a very musical way.

8) Sean Pandy Drums: this little free drum sampler has a very particular story: it is a simple drum sampler composed of kick, snare, 4 toms and a sub blower (so it should be used in combination with another sampler that includes cymbals) with various velocities etc, but the cool thing is that it consists in samples created by a famous metal producer who released them for free in the past. Now these samples are not available anymore for downloading, but the home producers community kept on sharing and using them, until this guy took them, created 6 velocity layers for each one (not only changing the volume but also the their attack/decay/sustain and envelope) and put them together in this free plugin, so now anyone can use these good samples for free.

9) Softamp GT: this is a vst recreation of the famous Sansamp Gt2 Stompbox, probably the most famous guitar amp simulator that could be used directly into the mixing board before the advent of digital emulation. It features all the original controls (eq, 3 channels, 3 mic placements) and many more new controls, and it just sounds surprisingly good, both for rock and for metal tones, even for the most extreme and scooped ones, thanks to tons of gain and a very fast and definite attack.

10) Audio Damage Rough Rider 2: this is a different type of compressor compared to the aforementioned Klanghelm one, and it is aimed mainly to rhythmic tracks such as drums, bass and electronic beats, because besides adding fatness and punch, it also adds a subtle saturation that makes them even more warm and present.

What about you? Did you know these plugins? Which are your favourite free vst plugins that you use in your projects? Let us know!

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