I am a vocal layer freak. No, seriously. I could add backing vocals and layers forever and make my own choral piece. There is something naughty about having the freedom to do what you want when you track ideas by yourself at home; NOT something I was used to doing as a vocalist in a live setting...I could only ever sing one line at a time right? But here, I am making an incestuous mix of my voice...maybe it is because I don't play an instrument (to explain this I would need a whole separate blog post) or because I want to rebel against those people in my life that held me down and made me follow their rules....ahhh the hours of therapy involved...
As a side-bar: this vocal video was premiered and showcased on an amazing media site called PURE GRAIN AUDIO. Find the link here
I initially wanted to show the process of recording vocals in this style of prog/alt metal music.... because you know EVERYONE is doing something online, showing off their 'skills' and 'teaching' others how to do various things..again, I could go on....BUT I searched online to find 'vocal video' especially in this genre where the layers are so many and I came up pretty empty. Well, after researching the process myself, and of course wanting to make it LOOK good too, I realised I would need to cut down on my layers and only show a fraction of what I do in a song. Not to mention the sheer amount of work a producer has to do on them, and time is money ...So here we are.
I learned many of the recording techniques during my greek popstar Hi-5 career, working with some amazing vocal producers, like Artemis Gounaki (Guano Apes) and good friend, Alex Panayi (Eurovision Song Contest). I translated this process into the Ascending Dawn project sound. It is a sound that is prevalent in certain types of bands of this genre like Tesseract and Leprous, and not really widespread across metal in general. Even though this genre calls for complex harmony and rhythm, having soaring vocals is perhaps too ‘pop’. But I don’t care.
I chose the song Simplify for a simple reason. Of all the tracks on our debut album Coalesce it was the one that I felt wasn't given the right amount of 'vocal attention'. I hadn't been present in the final mix and some of the main backing vocal lines were somewhat drowned and I wanted some of my hard work back!
Besides the main vocal doubling to triple tracking, depending on the point in the song, the trick is in the backing vocals. The panning and layering of same vocal tracks, and varying the style of breath in each one to give an atmospheric effect. The layers can be up to 10-20 each depending on how many harmony lines are involved as well. Panning can range from 90' to 45' to 60' depending on the line. Even though I couldn't show all the layers, I wanted to at least show how some of the backing vocals took both lead melody in the atmospheric instrumentation and could also be prevalent as a secondary lead vocal. The mix here is different from the album mix, and serves to showcase these 6 or so vocal tracks performed live in the studio. Mixed by Gojira's whizz kid Johann Meyer, his approach was slightly different to Jochem Jacobs (Textures) who did the original mix for Ascending Dawn's debut album 'Coalesce'. He brought out the more 'organic live' sound which definitely served our purpose here.
This video will also serve to show how difficult it would be for a single person to sing this all the way through in one!!! So when it comes to a live setting, figuring out which lines are most important to bring out will be a challenge.
The joy of working in this way is the freedom in using the single voice as an instrument that can create harmonic lines. In contrast to classic rock, the modern studio amenities allow for this to a great extent. It is for this reason that I call this style 'modern'. Yes, it is 'digital' and doesn't have that 'raw' approach that the bands of old did. And there is some 'loss' involved in that. I am lucky that I enjoy a well rounded professional vocal experience, and work professionally in many styles, from the pristine classical music approach of musical theater, to the raw energy explosions of Lez Zeppelin. But every generation of music brings its own flavours to the table. And I must stay I do enjoy partaking in this particular meal choice perhaps to over indulgence. Please watch video below: