I liked the emotional intro, but I think you rushed a little too quickly into the heavy guitar content. I would've liked to see a more fully fleshed-out climax towards the beginning. That said, this is some really powerful content! You meshed together a lot of different moods here, although sometimes the pacing is a little too fast. It seems fitting for a Hollywood chase scene more so than a stand-alone piece at times (although that might've been what you were going for). I love the melodic content, though, like at 3:30. For a rushed mastering session, I think you guys did a great job, btw. The piece also fittingly has a victorious and triumphant sensation at the end, which I appreciated. Overall nice work! ;)
This is an NGADM 2015 Review.
This is a fantastically varied epic. I love how rich and diverse it is, and how well it all flows. Most of the transitions worked seamlessly, and the few that didn’t weren’t noticeably off. Production is also fairly good, though it isn’t perfect, but I don’t honestly think it hurts the song too much.
So, starting off - lovely intro, really like how you jump into the epic theme of things so suddenly. I like the time changes that you weave in and around the 4/4… it creates this tense pace that I really like, but I don’t think each sections is carried very well by its solo. The first two seem a little melodically messy. The third one is SICK though good lord.
One of the first overwhelmingly positive thoughts I remember having about this song involved the first piano section around 01:30. I love the sound and I love the melody. It’s nothing new but by god does it work. The breakdown that follows this section is lovely as well, providing a nice change in pace. I like the brass in this section a lot, and the transition to the flamenco guitar works fairly well.
The flamenco section itself really stands out from the rest of the song. I feel that you should have let it sit on its own a little more before bringing the electric guitar back in. Without standing on its own for a while it feels a little pointless and sticks out a lot thematically - that said, it definitely re-engaged me from a listening perspective on my first playthrough and I enjoyed it.
Production-wise you’re pretty solid; I can hear everything quite comfortably. Everything feels a little mid-oriented, though - it could be the lack of high end that makes me feel this way. The lows are mostly fine. I think you might be over-using your reverb a bit, because some parts of the song did sound quite muddy to me, especially the second piano section. Despite any of this, your mastering is pretty great - the song is pretty loud and reaches around -10RMS. I think the only major issue is too much reverb and not enough high end, as the song is a little dull (spectrally!)
Seriously impressive track. My review would probably sound more praising if I was better at talking about composition, because that was definitely the strongest part of this song. Fantastic work.
Geoplex, thank you for the review! I wish we could have done more flamenco actually, but the idea is that the acoustic and electric guitars were battling each other, thus the breaks in between (which I liked, but I understand your point). As noted below, mixing had to be rushed a little bit (a lot). Thank you for the kind words Geoplex, and we definitely use your feedback. Glad you liked the piece!
This is an NGADM Round 3 Review
Is it just me or is there a tendency for NGADM submissions to sound like boss music? On top of that, it's as the contest gets closer to the final round, the music becomes more serious and epic-sounding. Maybe the tension/excitement of getting closer to determining a winner is starting to affect the music too, haha.
Rambling aside, this is wonderfully exciting, dramatic, and epic-sounding stuff. It has so much vibrance and energy, and explores so many different facets of the cinematic/symphonic metal genre of music that it's impossible to get bored of it. There's so much replay value and likeability to be found here, whether it's in the addicting melodies, huge amount of variety, intense mood, phenomenal guitar playing, or any of the million and one other things this track has to offer.
I also believe that my praise in my last review for your Round 2 track also applies here. I absolutely love how you seem to have the ability to throw in all those crazy time signature changes and modulations without any detriment to the song's casual listening appeal. This sounds like something I could dissect to figure out all the cool stuff you did with the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms, and then, an hour later, leave running in the background while playing some RPG. This is such a valuable virtue to have in the music industry, because it really increases your music's target audience and overall likeability.
I have two gripes. First is, as you would imagine, the mixing/production. I'm not finding it hard to believe you rushed the mix, because it shows. The orchestra feels detached from the guitar, especially in parts like 0:49, where the guitar is all upfront and thick, and the orchestra is somewhere in the distant background. There's a lot of clutter and muddiness in certain sections like 1:25. Also, while I'm usually a fan of how you execute your orchestra (speaking to bassfiddlejones here), I'm not too impressed this time round I'm afraid! The piano sounds a bit too bright, and the brass/strings feel very flat and lacking in dynamics, mostly prominent in the section at 1:52. Speaking of that section, do you have any samples that support legato transitions between notes? Because that 1:52 part sounds unrealistic, and some proper legato on those strings/brass would really help.
Another issue I have with this is how you haphazardly switch from one section to another. I was really hoping for some more clever transitions, and while some of them are excellent, EVEN when switching between two totally different moods (looking at you, 0:13), others, like 4:10, are almost nonsensical. Honestly, you guys kind of make it harder for yourselves to achieve a smooth flow by adding all these crazy mood/time signature changes, though! Not that it isn't worth it :p.
All in all, this is beautifully written. Both you and your competitor had stellar submissions, but I gave you guys an advantage of 0.2 because, while both you and your opponent had issues transitioning between different sections, your track has a more unified direction. It was certainly a close matchup, and I would've been happy seeing either of you win. Good luck in the semifinals!
This super sounds like boss music to me too, haha. Yes, transitions - noted it in a response below. Some definitely got more time than others, which is what we had to do with the time crunch. Also, as this is mostly guitar driven we took a little bit of a different approach to the orchestra this time. Sometimes it's tough to balance the two. Step thank you for your feedback, we truly use it to try and get better. I agree with your criticisms, and we look forward to hearing what you have to say about the next piece!
If Iron Maiden's Eddie had sex with an entire orchestra, this would be their baby. Great guitars, awesome variation, even a kind of change in the genre at times. Bonus for an excellent guitar performance too.
Fantastic arrangement for the orchestra, the piece really flows despite all its changes which is lovely to hear, some really thought was put into the composition.
Where it falls short for me is in the mixing. Again I'll say it, symphonic metal is NOT easy to get right and you're doing an admirable job. Even big record labels get this wrong so for you to churn out something like this in such a short time is amazing. For something this complex I'd take at least twice the amount of time (but I'd probably try to add vocals too 'cause I like the sound of my own voice way too much).
The orchestra doesn't sit very well with the guitar, it's almost like they're two different worlds colliding and it's kind of messy because of it. You really need to tone down on reverb, throw out the normal rules you would use for mixing orchestras because this is metal, this is not a guitar playing in an orchestral setting. You have to see it in the same way you see pop music, how the mixing has to serve the song, not the instruments. Again - Throw out the rules, throw out what you've learnt about an orchestra, this is high production value metal and it needs to work together.
Less reverb, don't be scared to carve out a space for the guitars either, our brains know what all the instruments sound like and will do most of the work by filling in the gap and that way you get a much clearer mix.
8.8/10 but normally I wouldn't hesitate to give you a 5* rating for this. Awesome stuff guys, I hope my feedback helps you do something even crazier next time.
MetalRenard! Thanks for the review man. Yes, mixing orchestra with guitar and all that becomes really tough, and I really sprung the due date on Josh (as in, he had 7 hours to do this). So all things considered we're pretty happy with the result, but it's something we need to experiment more with to really figure it out well. We worked hard on this piece because we knew our competitor would kill it too, so compositional elements took the forefront. Thanks again for the feedback man, it's helpful!
=== This is an NGADM Round 3 Review ===
So, BassFiddleJones and JoshGawaldoMusic turn out a orchestral/rock hybrid track. What's next, PirateCrab making a metal tr... hmm... Alright, so both of you guys pretty much stayed the course this time. That's totally fine! It's the NGADM, after all. But was it successful?
First things first. I have a confession to make. I've always considered that orchestral rock has to be one of the cheesiest genres. Like, it's this marriage of two completely separate genres, which is normally interesting, but it combines them into something that is just super overly bombastic. It's actually quite dangerous because it's very possible to, in the process of being bombastic, forget about what makes music good in the first place.
Your song is not simply bombastic, however. Bombastic is only one of its *many* virtues. In terms of variety, this song is by far the most varied of any track this round - only LSD/dem0 come close (and their song was twice as long - that's like cheating). It's got rock. It's got orchestral transitions. It's got hints of heavy metal. It's got some piano ideas. It's got a FRICKIN FLAMENCO GUITAR SOLO. You'd think from my description that it'd start to sound like a bunch of songs strung together, but you guys miraculously keep the whole thing tied together. Magic.
So let me get right into what makes your song good in the first place. It's 1:26. YES. To me, this is the central idea of the track, the section that elevates it to be excellent rather than good. When I think about this song, I think about this section. Yeah!
The chord progression at this point, while bordering ever so slightly on the realm of cheesy, is sweet. I mean, who doesn't like III? NO ONE, that's who. I also like how you switch it out to be a V on the second iteration of the progression. I often find that too many IIIs can be kind of irritating, but just a few can really improve a track. Honestly, the melody is rather take it or leave it here. It doesn't really add anything - it just sort of outlines the chords. This is actually totally fine, since the chords deserve to be outlined, but I thought you should be aware.
Similar to your last piece, I definitely want to talk a little about the transitions, because I feel like they could be a lot more solid. Like, you guys have so many good ideas, but without proper lead in to your ideas, it's easy to either miss them, or simply not be as impressed by them as they deserve. One example would be :39. You lead into this nice guitar solo with some orchestral stabs, and on paper that sounds fine, but in the song the transition is very jarring and does not highlight the solo at all. This is a shame because the solo here (at least the first couple of seconds of it - it loses its way ever so slightly after that) is really solid, and deserves to be highlighted!
Another missed opportunity is the lead into 1:26, starting around 1:14 with yet another awesome solo. Of the couple of solos I've heard up until this point in the track, I think this one is probably my favorite (though they're all very good). However, again, there is *absolutely no indication* that we're about to drop into the best part of the song. The drums stay completely steady, and the volume on the solo stays the same as well. With a gradual ramp up in intensity from 1:14 to 1:26, the 1:26 section onwards could be even stronger than it already is.
Alright, so I think that pretty much highlights the biggest overarching problem I have with this track. However since this track is so dang varied I want to point out a number of other thoughts I had about it that were not generalizable enough to expand into broad track commentary.
2:15: Excellent use of iv. I take back what I said about III, iv is definitely my favorite chord. I don't like how you resolved it back down to I, though. I think simply holding at iv until the next section hits would have made a stronger transition. The listener can infer the I from the next section.
2:20: I may be the odd one out on this, but I don't think that this flamenco section is really working. It's really hard for me to say why, exactly, other than that I know that I should be saying "WOW THIS IS AWESOME" but what actually ends up happening is that I'm saying "huh, those chord blasts really obscure the flamenco guitar that sounds like it would be awesome if I could hear it better." Plus (and I hate to say stuff like this without being able to justify it), the 2:27 guitar slides come out of nowhere. I think the track would have been more effective if you had stuck just with flamenco and maybe drums for a bit longer before bringing back in the heavy artillery (the electric guitar).
3:08: Hey, it's a call back to the 1:26 section! Really nicely done, in a way that does not sound at all like a carbon copy of the previous section it's referencing. In fact, it's so different I almost didn't realize it was a reference.
3:50: This section is nice, too. Nice melody on the strings. I'm such a sucker for the C -> Em/B -> Am idea (or any transposition thereof), which I think is why I like this section so much.
That solo at the end (e.g. 4:50) just HAS to be a mixing error. Why is it so quiet? I can sort of understand the reasons you might have done this on purpose, but I can't help but think that with the solo louder this section would have been much more effective. It could be such an awesome way to close the song!
All in all, this was an awesome song. Sorry if this review is a bit scattershot, but then again, your song was super varied, so there was a LOT to comment on. :) One of my favorite entries of the round.
johnfn! I don't want to insult your amazing reviews with a short response, but alas time has prohibited me. Your feedback is taken and used for future work, so I want to thank you for that.
So yes, transitions. They're tough to begin with, and we really threw the kitchen sink in this track with all the time/key sig changes, flamenco guitar, etc. So there was a lot of transitioning to do, and honestly some of them just got more attention than others! I think we did a better job of it this time, but it's an area to grow in for sure.
Also, solo at the end was not an error, it was intended to sit that far back in the mix! The idea is like, the electric guitar is fighting the orchestral/acoustic elements which ultimately win in the end.
Anyway, glad you enjoyed the song man (despite your feelings of cheese for the genre). We put a lot of work into it!
Please contact me if you would like to use this in a project. We can discuss the details.