Well I can now say that I have.
Stone the Hydra
So how, you ask did I end up in such a place? Let me explain. Over the past years I have done several tracks and productions for singer/songwriter James White. Recently James became the lead singer with the metal band 'Stone the Hydra' and they recorded a demo of their brand new song 'Dead men tell no tales'
And that is where I got involved..
They contacted me and asked if I was interesting in mixing the demo for them, and of course I said "yes!" because I love mixing, and to get a chance to mix a style of music which I have never worked with before it was a no-brainer.
James (Microphone Assassin) White - VocalsJoe Howe - Guitar/ vocals
Liam Underdown - Guitar/ vocals
Steve Clark - Drums / Percussion
Jim Wilkinson - Bass
Reviewing the multi-track
So the guys sent over the mix they had done of their track 'Dead men tell no tales' along with a raw audio session file of the multi-track so I could import it into my DAW ready for mixing.
I have to admit that on first listen the mix they had done themselves was pretty good. The music was well played and had been cleanly multi-tracked by the band. The session was well labelled and laid out logically across around 18 tracks - Vocals were split out over different tracks for each section of the song and for the two different vocalists. Guitars were split over 4 tracks - 2 for each guitarist (playing doubles of their parts with different amp settings) and a fifth track reserved purely for the amazing solo. Finally there was a track each for the bass and drums.
I spent some time working up a static balance of all the tracks before starting to focus in on the individual tracks.
Which brings me to the drums - Fortunately the actual performance by drummer Steve Clark was excellent. The many and varied intricate rhythms were played with considerable skill, but unfortunately the recording in the multi-track consisted of only a single mono mixed track of the kit as a whole - Not the best place to start when you need to build a drum sound big enough to compete with 4 tracks of guitars, bass and a screaming lead vocal!!
Ok, so without access to a multi-mic'ed drum recording I would have to get creative with the eq and compression to give it some weight and cut.
First though, I ran the mono track through a stereo delay with the left at 16ms and right at 12ms, mixed in low this added a little 'fake' stereo width to the mono source. Next I added a little splash of room reverb to add a little space around the kit and further enhance the stereo image.
Now it was the turn of eq and compression to bring some bite to the sound to help it cut. It took quite a bit of juggling as the part was quite ride and cymbal heavy in places which all started to sound a bit 'splashy' if I overdid either the compression or eq. In the end I ended up boosting the low end at approx 80Hz by around 2dB dipping the mids a touch and boosting the top around 2kHz by 1.4 dB. I also added a gentle roll of of the highs above 16kHz to help tame the cymbals a little.
It took a couple of passes to hone these setting, but eventually I was happy with the way they sat in the mix, and started to craft the rest of the tracks.
The four main guitar tracks consisted of doubles of each players parts with differing amp settings. The original mix they had done had the guitars panned with each player slightly left and right, and with the two parts fairly close in level. I spent some time trying different balances of the parts and eventually settled on one from each player that I felt had a tone which carried the part best and then panned these (almost) hard left and right. This gave the track plenty of width and also made space for the drums, bass and vocals up the middle. With these parts in place I then brought up the level of the doubles but at a level below the main parts to fill out the sound. These were panned left and right but far narrower than the other parts.
The guitar amp tones chosen required very little in the way of eq - mostly just some high pass filtering to remove the low mud and not a lot else.
And last but not least..
The vocals came last for me in this mix. After adding some low cut and a little high end boost I dialed in plenty of compression to provide enough 'thickness' to the sound to let it complete against the rest of the mix. Normally I wouldn't use as much compression as this on a lead vocal, but this style of singing isn't really known for its dynamics so I didn't feel too bad!
In the original mix, the band had added quite a lot of delay to the lead vocal, but to my ears this wasn't working well and I felt it better to go for more of an 'in the room' sound. I added a splash of reverb to the lead which the main effect you can hear, but there is a short delay mixed in very low to add a little spread to the sound. This remains pretty constant throughout the song apart from in a few selected spot locations (like the final vocal scream) where I pushed up both the reverb and delays for effect. The vocals had been doubled which helped them to sit better against the backing track - the original mix had these about level with one another on the mix, but I opted to chose the strongest take and lead with that and just add support from the double track.
By now the track was sounding really strong, and by A-B'ing againt the original mix I was able to tell I had added real improvement to the clarity and power of the song.
With the mix really happening I added some basic mastering to it to give the band a finished track ready to share out and promote themselves with. This consisted of some very gentle compression in the master bus. I added this in in my normal way, in stages but stacking two compressors in series. The first was only at a 1.4:1 ratio but low threshold to provide a little overall squeeze and the second a little more aggressive at 2:1 but with a higher threshold just to thicken the sound. Final touches were added with a gentle 'smile eq' curve and a small amount of overall limiting.
During the process I had sent some work in progress draft mixes to the band and we had also discussed a few small timing fixes they wanted me to address - With these sorted all that was left was for me to deliver the final master to them.
Here's the track on their SoundCloud page
They loved it, I was happy - Job done!