Writing and Recording Unwavering Futility
Writing and Recording Unwavering Futility
For a couple of years now Pestilent Age has spent a good amount of our time experimenting with our sound both live and in the studio. More importantly we embarked on a bit of a mission to ensure that our sonic signature would transfer itself between the realms of live and studio performances. A lot of that had to do with thinking about our recording sessions with a minimalist approach. No excessive layering of vocal tracks that Taylor and I could not pull off live. No layering guitar tracks as I (Lee Roach) am the only guitar player in the band. A lot of times, during the recording process, people add in heavily layered backing tracks to their performances. This can add some extra heft to riffs that may feel a little bare but unless you play to backing tracks live (We don’t) your music might not hit as hard live. Limiting yourself to this approach can seem to some artists like their being boxed in but in Pestilent Age it gave us the opportunity to really focus on the fundamentals of our songwriting. Back to the Basics riffing really pulled through for us here. When we recorded the 3 tracks on Unwavering Futility, we actually didn’t have anything written when we hit record. Spud and I would sit at a desk and pass back and forth riffs until we had strung together a song. Recording each riff as soon as it was written, to capture that magic of stumbling on something exciting for the first time, Spud and I got the framework together for the songs Force Fed Their Truth, Transgressions, and Unwavering Futility. Once guitars and bass were laid down, Steve would come in and sit for a listen over a couple of cups of coffee. Afterwards he would get behind the kit and we would start laying down some ideas riff by riff. Each song took maybe 4 hours to write and record up to this point. After the instrumental tracks had been laid down, we gave them to Taylor who sat on them for a bit until he was satisfied with the lyrical content of each track. We recorded Taylor’s vocals fairly quick and kept vocal overdubs to a minimum and really focused on nailing the main vocal take. These songs were recorded so fast in fact, that we had to learn how to play the songs in their entirety as they were being mixed.
Mixing Unwavering Futility
After Taylor, Spud, Steve, and I had finished recording all 3 tracks I began to mix them. As you can hear these tracks have a lot of low end on them. Right from the get-go I tried to steer the songs in that direction. The bass guitar tracks Spud recorded had to be as clean as possible on the recorded performance so the low end it was pumping into the mix was smooth and stable. The kick drum I chose for Steve’s kit had to have a uniform amount of low end as well and even being as particular as we were with the instrument and performance choices, I still spent some time scooping out any low end I found to be flubby. The bass tone was achieved through combining 3 bass inputs into one solid tone. One bass performance signal was split into 3 signals going to 3 different sets of pedals. The 1st signal was left clean and emphasized all the low end, while the 2nd signal was very heavily distorted using a Darkglass Alpha Omega pedal. The 2nd signal was actually distorted so much it didn’t sound very appealing on its own but when you put it up against the context of the other instruments it is really what glues the guitar distortion and the bass tone together. A 3rd Signal was then ran through one of the most used bass pedals of all time called a SansAmp which we used to give the overall bass tone a bit of a high pitched clank that helps it stand out in the mix. The guitar tone was from my Fractual Audio AX8. I used a Marshal JVM amp head with a mesa boogie rectifier cabinet with an sm57 microphone. Since our studio is unfortunately at my house and I have lived in the city of Lapeer Mi for a while I had to record the drums on an Alesis Strike Pro E Kit. Superior Drummer 3 was our Drum program and I used mostly the progressive foundry drum sounds. I used the Ludwig Stainless Steel kit. I believe I used the Black Beauty Snare and a bunch of darker sounding Zildjian cymbals from that library as well. No preset effects within Superior Drummer 3 were used while mixing the drums I just started with the raw drum sound and mixed from there. As I had mentioned previously one of my goals with mixing the drums was to get a lot of clean low end out of the kick. My other staple of mixing is getting that snare drum to crack hard and be at the forefront of the music. Once I had achieved that snare tone and my low end on the bass guitar and kick drum started to mesh, everything else started to fall into place.
Mastering the Music
Right about the time I started to feel like there wasn’t anything else I could personally do to make these songs mesh anymore, (You can hear my mixed and mastered version (minus vocals) on the Unwavering Futility Teaser video) I had a strange crossing of paths at the right time. In the comments section of a Facebook post I had a brief conversation with Josh Schroeder of Random Awesome Studios. I had known of his production, mixing, and mastering work because he was from Midland Mi and had worked on Battlecross, Lorna Shore, King 810, Numenorean albums, among others. After our brief online interaction I hit him up and we passed a couple of files back and forth, Josh named a fair price, and he mixed the Unwavering Futility EP for us. He really brought out the low end and added some shimmer up on the high end of the frequency spectrum. Josh really brought out the best qualities of these songs and we couldn’t have been happier with his work.
With the music production finally coming to a close we had already gotten to work on an album cover idea and had sent that idea out to our regular artist Rudi Yanto of Gorging Suicide Studios. The blades gouging out eyes idea came from a lyric in the song Unwavering Futility which we felt revolved around a grotesque image that encased nicely the direction and lyrical content of our music. Rudi sent back and forth a couple of ideas and pieces of rough art until we agreed on the direction that ended up being the finished product. Rudi has worked with us to create the brutal artwork seen on all our albums, EPs, and merch as he’s always delivered such a bad ass end result.
Transgressions Music Video Shoot
While our artwork was being drawn up a close friend and guitarist of A Sleepless Malice Jeff King had told me he had started up a video production company called Abstract Eclipse Productions and wanted to shoot a couple of videos to kick start his portfolio. Pestilent Age decided on Transgressions being the first music video from the Unwavering Futility EP. Having known Jeff’s passion for pushing everything he does to his creative limits, delving as deep into the contents of his work as one possibly could, we happily agreed. After Scouting several locations we had found a spot to shoot. Filming the music video was fairly easy. We took our time getting the lighting right, framing shots, and trying out several ideas while on set and I think what Jeff did with the footage speaks volumes about his talent behind the camera and editing chair.