Skjaldmær

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Rainmak3r
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Skjaldmær

Post by Rainmak3r »

Hi all,

I just posted another track:

https://soundcloud.com/lminiero/skjaldmaer

"Skjaldmær" is the Norse name for the so-called "shield-maidens", female warriors from the Viking folklore. I've always been fascinated by Norse mythology and Vikings in general: you can definitely see I've been watching way too many episodes of "Vikings" these past few years, since the picture I chose is a photo of Lagertha, one of the titular characters of the series, shield-maiden and "dame extraordinaire"!

For the track, I decided to mix a bit of different genres: the intro has a the "pagan/folk" vibe, which then translates to a more "Viking metal" kind of song, up until the (usual? I'm getting predictable...) atmospheric and epic finale which I wanted to sound a bit "Wagnerian". In general, it was a timid attempt to play a homage to what has been my favourite band these past 7-8 years, called Moonsorrow, who blend all those genres in a truly masterful way, in epic tracks that visit the Finnish folklore and mythology, and often reach 20/30 minutes in length. It may be more "violent" than many of you may be used to or comfortable with, but I hope you'll find something in it to enjoy anyway.

The different parts I sketched meant to tell the simple story I had in mind while composing the track: a shieldmaiden walking through the woods, while she prepares for a war that's coming, and thinks of what she's leaving behind; the call for war, the battle, and the final moments leading to her heroic death; and while she's laying on the battlefield waiting for the end, eyes on the sky, the the Rainbow Bridge and Valkyries appear, to bring her to Valhalla. The out-of-context outro represents the endless battles she'll keep on fighting once there, as mythology dictates.

While I like the song, I'm not 100% happy with how it came out: you can hear several mistakes in the parts I played myself, and I couldn't find a good distorted sound (I was looking for something more "black metal" style, but couldn't get anything that sounded close to what I wanted), which made my favourite part (the harmonic progression that goes from about 4:04 to 4:54) sound worse than how I imagined it. But anyway, things can always be recorded again later on, and I started working on this a long time ago: it was time for it to go out into the world! The production process was similar to what I did in the past, but if you're curious about anything, please don't hesitate to ask.

Thanks, and I hope you'll enjoy it!

folderol
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Re: Skjaldmær

Post by folderol »

Enjoyed this, very atmospheric build up. And that last section with the choir and birds is inspired :D

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turbidh20
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Re: Skjaldmær

Post by turbidh20 »

Very good! I thought "this is really atmospheric and relaxing". Then it went all manic and then back to relaxing - phew! I think that counts as "epic" :D I also got a "spaghetti western" vibe at one point but that's probably just me :)
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Re: Skjaldmær

Post by Rainmak3r »

folderol wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 2:18 pm
Enjoyed this, very atmospheric build up. And that last section with the choir and birds is inspired :D
Thanks! They're supposed to be crows/ravens, and so evoke the image of Odin somehow :mrgreen:

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Re: Skjaldmær

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turbidh20 wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:38 pm
Very good! I thought "this is really atmospheric and relaxing". Then it went all manic and then back to relaxing - phew! I think that counts as "epic" :D I also got a "spaghetti western" vibe at one point but that's probably just me :)
Thanks! I guess it's where the Jaw harp comes in, at ~2:30? That's actually a quite typical passage in Viking metal (pretty sure you'd find many such examples in Bathory, for instance), as apparently the Jaw harp is still a staple in Scandinavian folk music!

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GMaq
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Re: Skjaldmær

Post by GMaq »

Lagertha!! *makes heart eyes...

Wow, you're an ambitious dude!! Great composition, it really goes on an interesting journey for the listener, the orchestration is really good, the drum programming especially of note in this one and super tight guitar work as well!

An observation as a part-time drummer and again someone who doesn't really understand metal sounds especially when it comes to drums, the 'splash cymbal' is something that in my opinion should be used only at points where the 'punctuation hits' so to speak are at their most dominant. The frequency of splashes are so high and the decay so fast when they are used repeatedly over repeated hits I find them to be harsh and jarring regardless of genre. Maybe this is all part of the metal sound but I think in passages where there are several hits in rapid succession if I were playing a drumkit I would hit other crash cymbals on some hits and play the most dominant or most syncopated tight timing hits on the splash.. It reduces harshness and listener fatigue and the other crashes fill lots of air in the treble frequencies... Anyway I just offer this as an opinion.

Another great one RainMak3r!!

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Skjaldmær

Post by Rainmak3r »

GMaq wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 5:37 pm
Lagertha!! *makes heart eyes...
I've been in love myself since Season 1!
GMaq wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 5:37 pm
Wow, you're an ambitious dude!! Great composition, it really goes on an interesting journey for the listener, the orchestration is really good, the drum programming especially of note in this one and super tight guitar work as well!
Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I'm not a fan of my guitar work here, though: especially for the heavier stuff there's a lot of reverb to mask errors (even though it still sounds cool).
GMaq wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 5:37 pm
An observation as a part-time drummer and again someone who doesn't really understand metal sounds especially when it comes to drums, the 'splash cymbal' is something that in my opinion should be used only at points where the 'punctuation hits' so to speak are at their most dominant. The frequency of splashes are so high and the decay so fast when they are used repeatedly over repeated hits I find them to be harsh and jarring regardless of genre. Maybe this is all part of the metal sound but I think in passages where there are several hits in rapid succession if I were playing a drumkit I would hit other crash cymbals on some hits and play the most dominant or most syncopated tight timing hits on the splash.. It reduces harshness and listener fatigue and the other crashes fill lots of air in the treble frequencies... Anyway I just offer this as an opinion.
It is indeed more common in metal, and especially this particular genre: I'm afraid it's my fault for not rendering them properly, though, so you're 100% right on how tiring they are. The Muldjord kit has two crashes, two rides, and a china: I don't like much the china sound, so I rarely use it, and the rides are too "tame" (they do have their uses, and I use them a lot, but not for tracks like this), which leaves the crashes: what I haven't been doing is actually constrain them somehow, e.g., to make them either less loud or less obtrusive. Compressors and equalizers may be helpful too, to try and reduce the higher frequencies.

If I listen to this gorgeous track by Moonsorrow, for instance (incidentally the one that made me know them, years ago), crashes are quite frequent there too in the heavier parts, but much less obnoxious: an interesting example is the part that starts at ~9:40, for instance, especially the one leading at ~10:14 where it gets faster. There's definitely many crashes there, but they don't hurt the ears as much as mine do. This is definitely something I'll have to fix in the future!
GMaq wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 5:37 pm
Another great one RainMak3r!!
Thanks for listening and for the as usual very precious feedback!

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milo
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Re: Skjaldmær

Post by milo »

You've done it again! Keep this up and newbies will be afraid to post their stuff here!

My favorite part is where she dies and the crows come in. That is such a nicee touch. I didn't as much care for the bird sound in the forest walk -- it needed more variation or less volume, or fewer repetitions.

I have never been a metal fan, but I have grown to appreciate its artfulness here on this forum. Others have commented on how diverse the music is here, and I second that. I'm glad this isn't all one genre all the time. I really enjoy the diversity and the cameraderie.

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Skjaldmær

Post by Rainmak3r »

milo wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 2:45 am
You've done it again! Keep this up and newbies will be afraid to post their stuff here!
Hahaha thanks, I still feel very much a newbie myself! :mrgreen:
milo wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 2:45 am
My favorite part is where she dies and the crows come in. That is such a nicee touch. I didn't as much care for the bird sound in the forest walk -- it needed more variation or less volume, or fewer repetitions.
Weirdly enough, there's no repetition in that sound file: it was a very long recording I found on FreeSound, and birds were indeed very regular in their chirps to the point they sounded like a loop! :lol: Fair point on the volume: I struggled a bit on how loud I should make it, especially at the end when I tried to balance everything out (the whole mix was way too loud). I was afraid that too low would have meant it would be inaudible under the guitars, and so I probably didn't lower the volume enough.
milo wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 2:45 am
I have never been a metal fan, but I have grown to appreciate its artfulness here on this forum. Others have commented on how diverse the music is here, and I second that. I'm glad this isn't all one genre all the time. I really enjoy the diversity and the cameraderie.
100% agree, I also find the fact we're all exposed to efforts outside of our bubbles very helpful for many different reasons, as they give an insight on different sets of problems and choices, besides opening to appreciating different genres.

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Re: Skjaldmær

Post by crownbird »

Cool track, I particularly like the intro. The string sounds were good too; I've wanted to include strings in my own stuff, but could never avoid making them sound artificial. I think your use of strings were quite fitting. I think the guitars could be a bit louder in the mix, especially around the 4:04 part where the strings come in as well. Nice work though, I like the tremolo riff at 3:22.
Last edited by crownbird on Wed Jul 29, 2020 4:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I make music, released at https://royalgloom.bandcamp.com/

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Rainmak3r
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Re: Skjaldmær

Post by Rainmak3r »

crownbird wrote:
Tue Jul 28, 2020 11:34 pm
Cool track, I particularly like the intro. The string sounds were good too; I've wanted to include strings in my own stuff, but could never avoid making them sound artificial. I think your use of strings were quite fitting. I think the guitars could be a bit more louder in the mix, especially around the 4:04 part where the strings come in as well. Nice work though, I like the tremolo riff at 3:22.
Thanks for listening, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

On strings, that's a challenge I've started about a year ago and I feel I still haven't won :lol: It is indeed quite hard finding what works when you have something in mind. While I have no perfect "recipe", I think I've started to find some things that do work for me most of the times. For slow strings, I've started using KBH Strings a lot: it's a relatively small SF2 that I think sounds really cool. The weird thing is that is sounds one octave lower than you write it, so you have to take that into account; besides, the author explains it samples mostly violas and cellos, so that's the range it should be mostly used for (even though it can get higher than that). It's what I used in the last part, right after the choirs-on-crows part. For everything else, I usually go with the strings that come with Virtual Playing Orchestra: I don't think they sound particularly realistic, but they come with different samples for different things (e.g., staccato, tremolo, etc.) and so give more flexibility. Which brings to the main point, though: I've found that the only way to make strings sound more realistic really is in the writing: you'll never find a soundfont that sounds like you want, because parts for strings include different instruments playing different things. For the strings part in the middle of this song, for instance, that's actually 5 different tracks playing different things: 1st violins, 2nd violins, violas, celli, contrabasses, each panned as they would be in a "real" orchestra, and each playing their own thing (which might be simply doubling notes on the same or a different octave, rather than harmonizing). Even the simple part played by KBH at the end is two separate tracks: first a single one that plays on an octave, and then followed by a second track doubling on the octave above (when it's joined by the woodwinds, that do the same). It's something I'm still struggling with most of the times, as orchestrating a strings section is complex, but I feel it gives a much better sound eventually, mostly overcoming the limited realism of the sounds themselves.

You're right on guitars: I wasn't very happy with how I played them, so I drowned them a bit too much in reverb (which is actually something the genre does quite often anyway, though); I also tried not to make them too loud to allow the bass to still be audible, but I'm afraid that indeed caused them to be too low in the end. When strings come in, that may actually be strings being too loud in the context too, but I guess it would be less of an issue if guitars were louder.

Thanks for the nice feedback!

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Re: Skjaldmær

Post by crownbird »

Rainmak3r wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 7:06 am
Thanks for listening, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

On strings, that's a challenge I've started about a year ago and I feel I still haven't won :lol: It is indeed quite hard finding what works when you have something in mind. While I have no perfect "recipe", I think I've started to find some things that do work for me most of the times. For slow strings, I've started using KBH Strings a lot: it's a relatively small SF2 that I think sounds really cool. The weird thing is that is sounds one octave lower than you write it, so you have to take that into account; besides, the author explains it samples mostly violas and cellos, so that's the range it should be mostly used for (even though it can get higher than that). It's what I used in the last part, right after the choirs-on-crows part. For everything else, I usually go with the strings that come with Virtual Playing Orchestra: I don't think they sound particularly realistic, but they come with different samples for different things (e.g., staccato, tremolo, etc.) and so give more flexibility. Which brings to the main point, though: I've found that the only way to make strings sound more realistic really is in the writing: you'll never find a soundfont that sounds like you want, because parts for strings include different instruments playing different things. For the strings part in the middle of this song, for instance, that's actually 5 different tracks playing different things: 1st violins, 2nd violins, violas, celli, contrabasses, each panned as they would be in a "real" orchestra, and each playing their own thing (which might be simply doubling notes on the same or a different octave, rather than harmonizing). Even the simple part played by KBH at the end is two separate tracks: first a single one that plays on an octave, and then followed by a second track doubling on the octave above (when it's joined by the woodwinds, that do the same). It's something I'm still struggling with most of the times, as orchestrating a strings section is complex, but I feel it gives a much better sound eventually, mostly overcoming the limited realism of the sounds themselves.

You're right on guitars: I wasn't very happy with how I played them, so I drowned them a bit too much in reverb (which is actually something the genre does quite often anyway, though); I also tried not to make them too loud to allow the bass to still be audible, but I'm afraid that indeed caused them to be too low in the end. When strings come in, that may actually be strings being too loud in the context too, but I guess it would be less of an issue if guitars were louder.

Thanks for the nice feedback!
No problem, and thanks for linking KBH strings, they sound really good, especially in the range you mentioned. I just played them, and I didn't get distracted at all from stuff like an unrealistic attack or release of the samples. I've never had much luck with Virtual Playing Orchestra, especially for solo string sounds, but the part you wrote with it sounds really good. I suppose it's a result way you tracked and panned them.

Looking forward to hearing more music from you!
I make music, released at https://royalgloom.bandcamp.com/

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Re: Skjaldmær

Post by Rainmak3r »

crownbird wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 5:29 pm
No problem, and thanks for linking KBH strings, they sound really good, especially in the range you mentioned. I just played them, and I didn't get distracted at all from stuff like an unrealistic attack or release of the samples. I've never had much luck with Virtual Playing Orchestra, especially for solo string sounds, but the part you wrote with it sounds really good. I suppose it's a result way you tracked and panned them.
If you're ok with using Windows VSTs, there are some excellent strings provided for free by Spitfire Labs too: https://labs.spitfireaudio.com/
I've often used myself both "Scary Strings" and "Frozen Strings", for instance, and really loved them, but there are other options too. They can all be previewed directly on the website.
crownbird wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 5:29 pm
Looking forward to hearing more music from you!
Thanks! I do have a few things in the pipeline, but all will take me quite some time I'm afraid :D

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Re: Skjaldmær

Post by Basslint »

Very good composition, as always! I too like some of the so-called Viking metal bands and I give you props for trying to stick to the folkier side of it, with the Jew's Harp and the ambient noises.
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Rainmak3r
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Re: Skjaldmær

Post by Rainmak3r »

Basslint wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 3:11 pm
Very good composition, as always! I too like some of the so-called Viking metal bands and I give you props for trying to stick to the folkier side of it, with the Jew's Harp and the ambient noises.
Grazie! Yep, I tried to stick to most of the typical sounds, so hopefully I made Bathory and Moonsorrow bands happy :mrgreen:
There's some influence from 'Sogna Metal' bands too, especially in the progression after the faster part. Not sure if you're familiar with them, but they make interesting mixes of classical influences with extreme metal: Windir "invented" the genre, and bands like Mistur and Cor Scorpii are keeping it alive, with interesting creations that despite the extreme label are actually very melodic.

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