Mosh Pit Dynamics

If you have ever been to a rock show with a standing room only, there was a mosh pit. The mosh pit is a crowd dynamic used in place of dancing, which is what crowds do at most other types of shows. Mosh pits require a large group of strangers to participate, with dancing you can do just fine solo.

This causes a few problems, first of all is not everyone who ends up finding themselves in the pit wants to be there, so they will concede to a location further away from the stage than they were. Also, people who want to participate in the mosh pit all have different agendas, they all want to get something different out of it. If you have ever found yourself floundering in a crowd of riled-up concert goers, this post will help you understand the reasoning and etiquette of a mosh pit.

Let’s split up concert attendees into 3 basic groups, the hardcore fans, the moshers, and the passives.

Hardcore fans feel the need to be as close to the stage as possible. They will endure any amount of human contact and hearing loss to get a chance to be seen by the artist or even touch them in some cases. They get there early and stay the whole time and never leave their spot at the guard rail.

The moshers mill about behind the hardcore fans, sometimes the just nod along to the opening acts or more peaceful songs, other times they are bumping and grinding full force into the nearest adjacent person. Sometimes moshers form a circle of human meat shields to protect the hardcore fans and the passives, but other times it’s a free for all.

The passives are most of the crowd. Either they aren’t that interested in the current band playing, or they just want to enjoy the music without getting touched. They may be hardcore fans, they just don’t outwardly express their appreciation, aside from a casual headbanging along to their favorite grooves.

I’ve found myself to fall into any of these 3 groups depending on my mood, so I understand why a lot of people are turned off of metal shows. The passives have the majority of the populace, but are totally at the mercy of the moshers. The pit will expand and collapse on a moments notice, causing people outside of it to get hit or touched in ways that make them uncomfortable. This causes the riot shield stance, extending one of your arms so your forearm is at an angle and parallel to the ground. This sort of protects the rest of your body, but it requires a fair amount of physical exertion. Passives don’t want to have to do this, but I’ve seen them forced into this position too many times because of careless moshers. It’s also dangerous because a head on collision with an elbow is very possible.

The hardcore fans also have a danger, and theirs is even greater. Since they are all crammed into the front by the barrier, when a mosher gets flung towards the front into the mass of humanity, it causes pressure on the ones in the front without giving them any way to escape. Moshers aren’t likely to fling themselves towards the back where the crowd becomes more sparse, they will choose to charge forward so they are guaranteed a safe collision (for themselves) that will meet the expected amount of resistance to their impact.

So basically, the moshers aren’t considerate of the other peoples well-being. It’s hard to have a positive impact on such a large group of people, but there are some small things you can do to make your mosh pit safer and more fun.

The most important thing is to keep your arms as perpendicular to the ground as possible. The easiest thing to break is a finger, so keep a softly closed fist to protect your digits. Another tip is to keep your center of mass as low as possible, but don’t ever plant your feet.if your shoes get good traction on the floor and you take a hit high, you will fall over. Stay loose and aware.

As a mosher, you have to pick up on a lot of subtle social signals to get a read on who is going to be OK with getting shoved and who might shove back with a little more power than is safe. There is always that one guy, or a few guys, who just want to injure everyone around them. It may sound counter-intuitive, but go for that guy, as often as you can. The more time that person spends moving instead of pushing, the more tired they will get and the less frustrated they will become. Don’t let them push people who don’t want to be pushed, keep them in the middle and keep making contact so they don’t get to control the dynamic.

when you need to catch a breather, take a turn being a meatshield for the crowd outside of the pit. take a wide stance and put your arms in front of your body. Catch people who are going to fast and give others a light shove back into the middle to keep their momentum going.

If you are going to instigate a pit, wait for the correct timing with the music. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when someone tries to start stuff right at the peaceful instrumental interlude, and it looks stupid. well, more stupid than normal.

Make sure your shoes are tied tight with the laces tucked away.

Secure all the belongings in your pockets so that they will not come loose.

Bring your glasses case so you can put them away. People never plan on moshing or getting hit in the face, but if you are going to a standing room only metal show, expect it and be ready. Nobody is going to pay to fix your glasses but yourself.

Remove your stud jacket/belt if you can. I understand it is edgy to dress this way, but cutting people open because of studded accessories is not cool.

take the 1″ gauges out of your ears. You will lose them.

Don’t bring an open container into the pit. It will spill, which not only sucks for you, it sucks for the 10 people who will slip and fall because of the mess.

Lastly, follow the instructions of the front man. unless he asks for a circle pit…nobody likes circle pits anymore. Cry me a river core kids.

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Metal Monday #30

https://plini.bandcamp.com/track/paper-moon

This is the third EP released by Plini, and finally we get some closure. Before the music, I have to appreciate the album art of the 3 EP’s, they all feature a small land mass floating in front of a small sun/moon

The pictures tell a story just by themselves, in a way related to the story that the EP’s try to tell. The floating island on Other Things, is the same style as the ones on the side of The End of Everything, and the Spaceship from Sweet Nothings, as well as the two silhouetted people appear to have crash landed on the new floating island on The End Of Everything.

Plini is a one man prog project. There have been a lot of one man projects arising lately, such as Harvs, Anup Sastry, Maxim David Micic, and one thing these guys have in common is consistency. One man projects inherently cannot perform live (unless you get someone to learn your music and play backup for you, like Intronaut did for Cloudkicker), which lets the artist focus solely on creating a product that is going to be listened to over speakers or headphones. This gives more creative freedom to the individual because they don’t have to worry about writing exciting live music, just well produced solo listening music. A lot of times, the songs that are the most well written and produce the strongest emotional reaction are not good songs in a live set, because the nuances of the music cannot be heard very well.

Plini writes songs as a narrative, instead of repeating a theme or motive, he sticks to a chord progression during the “chorus” parts of the song. Using this chord progression, he plays variations of it, changing the rhythm, changing the style, while having his guitar melody be the consistent line over thee parts. His melodies aren’t catchy, but he is obviously a talented player and skilled songwriter. The way I would describe it, is that  you remember the song, and how it made you feel, instead of a specific melody.

Besides, when it comes to deathcore, melody is overrated

A Night In Texas sure took their sweet time putting out their first full length. The two strongest tracks were released far ahead of the actual album, almost a year ago. It was almost worth the wait, for the crushing pace that the album sustains throughout. Its surprisingly well produced for how busy it all is, the drums a a bit overpowering (as always), but the vocals come through crisp and the guitar effects really make the riffs weigh a ton more. I tried to buy this album in physical form, but it was too heavy to lift off the shelf.

I also want to give props to ANIT for not including a lot of sound clips of people dying/murdering because its getting old really quick core bands. I know its hard to fill more than a half-hour of run-time when the music is going this fast,I know there is some arbitrary quantity of music that you have to have to sell a record at LP price instead of EP price that your record company is enforcing. I think a lot of us would prefer a chilled out instrumental track in the middle to fill time than sound clips that aren’t actual music, but that’s just my two cents.

Pop Music In Disguise

I have met many people in my life who self-identify as metal heads. It’s rare to encounter another in the wild, so this leads to excitement, and hope that the person shares similar music tastes to my own. So I ask them, well what bands are your favorites? Too often I hear these names:

Disturbed

Linkin Park

Five Finger Death Punch

Aveneged Sevenfold

Radio music.

Hmmm, metalhead, “you keep saying that word, I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

There isn’t anything wrong with liking those bands, they are incredibly popular for a reason. Their music is angry, yet approachable, heavy, yet melodic, and sticks to a familiar song structure. In other words, its easy to like these bands. They stray just far enough from pop music style that its edgy to listen to it, but not jarringly different enough to make a listener uncomfortable.

That is why I cannot relate my music tastes with fans of these hard rock radio metal bands. It’s not that the bands are inherently bad (although I think they suck), it’s the reason that people like it. It’s angry, heavy music, but it’s still pop music in disguise.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09LTT0xwdfw

A radio metal classic, this song was and is wildly successful. We have all done our best “UUUWAH AH AH AH” impression every time this song comes on. Its fun, its heavy, and it has a memorable chorus. A little in-depth look reveals it’s the same verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure that every Taylor Swift or Nicki Minaj song has, but this is a different style than those songs. The rock band instrumentation, the harsh vocals, and the chugging guitar lines set it apart from the likes of the dance floor hits. The lyric themes are also drastically different, they are about self-loathing and a deep-seated depression that becomes unbridled anger with the state of life (you’ve woken up the demon in me; Come on get down with the sickness). I bet most people have never felt quite this irate, but everyone has been mad about something. Those of us who find themselves angry more often than not can relate with what the vocalist is saying, the lyrics are heavy with emotion, but that’s not the only thing that makes it heavy.

There is a particular harmonic interval that is used a lot in this song (guitar riff during chorus), the half step, specifically between E (the root) an F natural (an accidental, meaning a note out of the key signature). Most of the guitar work uses these two notes, alternating in different rhythmic ways throughout the tune. This interval is called a diminished second, which is a dissonant interval. This dissonance is what makes the guitar riff sound “heavy”. Almost every modern era pop style song is in a minor key, because minor keys make it easier to portray strong emotions music. This takes the minor key just a step farther, or rather, a half step farther. This creates a new type of emotion contained in the music, one that is significantly different. That’s what makes Disturbed’s music sound angry, in addition to the lyrics. Add in the use of double kick drum and the pieces all come together.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEEasR7hVhA

In the opening riff of this song, you can hear the same interval (in a different key) as it builds into the first verse. It gives the same edgy, dissonant feel to drive the emotion of the song before the first verse. Also notice the kick-snare drum pattern during the chorus. We talked a little about harmonics, now lets talk more about what makes the rhythms sound just a little different from the norm.

There is a natural flow to the kick snare pattern that has caused it to nearly monopolize every genre of rock and even some electronica. Dubstep is known for its half time, kick snare feel, drum and bass is similar but faster, but its the other drums that make of the nuances that set the genres apart.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPf0YbXqDm0

what makes it funk is the high-hat cymbal on the off beats, in between the kick-snare. It’s really soft in the mix, but just noticeable enough to give it the funky bounce.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJtDXIazrMo

This one has an even more subdivided rhythmic pattern, if we look at each beat as a series of 4 sixteenth notes its like this: kick-__-__-kick Snare-__-kick-__ __-kick-_-Snare. The 3rd downbeat of the measure doesn’t actually kick on the downbeat, it kicks on the upbeat, which is just a small difference from the main pattern, but it completely changes the groove.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DelhLppPSxY

This song has a really straightforward hard rock kick-snare pattern. the difference is the ride cymbal. Listen carefully and you can hear it playing eighth notes, subdividing up each measure. This helps drive the beat, making it sound more aggressive, or should i say ‘heavy’.

I have been avoiding the most obvious thing about music that people listen for: the vocals. As humans, naturally the thing that stands out in music is the persons voice. Since a majority of the population never takes a single music class and an even smaller percentage takes a music theory class, a listener will mostly notice the one thing that their brain can actually understand.

Going back to the first example, Down With The Sickness, there is a distinct character to the singer’s voice that is recognizable instantly by any fan of the group. The verse is more melancholy and lyrical, but during the chorus, he adds this certain harshness to his voice which makes it sound as if he is yelling, while still retaining its harmonic content. I don’t like disturbed, but I have to admit it is a cool skill to be able to hold a melody while also having a more throaty growling sound to it.

But it HAS a melody. It sounds angry, like he’s shouting, but it still has a melody, like he is singing. This is the what makes Disturbed’s music so popular and like-able.. His lyrics are articulate and clear, unlike the vocalist of Aeon. Their fans want angry, edgy music, but they really want to be able to sing-along because otherwise its TOO FAR from the pop music style. It’s just a little different, but it changes the overall sound.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3u22OYqFGo

How did Iggy Azalea become so popular? The attitude. I don’t mean her actual attitude, pop artists are expected to be tact and loving of their fans, I mean the attitude in her voice. Her whole style is I.D.G.A.F. This song is also an angry song. It’s not just tee lyrics that give this away, its the way she says them. The song is completely a run of the mill pop formula song, but the harsh nature of her delivery of the lyrics puts the feel into them (even though they are terrible). Disturbed and Iggy are completely different styles of music, but they both have a distinct vocal style that sets them apart, even if it’s just slightly different.

These ‘radio metal’ bands aren’t all that different from the pop music. They take the same minor keys, and change it a little. They take the same base rhythm, and add to a little. They take the same vocal styles, and give it a little character. All of these small differences make the music sound completely different, but in the end, it’s very similar. It’s within the comfort zone. We grow up in a world engulfed by the music that is played on the radio. The music that is played on the radio has to conform to specific rules in order to have a broad audience, because it has sounded this way for decades. The fans of this music want to like heavy music, but they also don’t want to leave this comfort zone. They really just like pop music in disguise.

Metal Monday #28

Its hard to find the balance of technicality and melody. My gripe with many death metal bands is that they often sacrifice emotiv melodic riffs in the favor of playing as fast as possible. Lot’s of people enjoy that, me being one of them, but for music to really stand out and be memorable, it needs to portray talented musicianship and the feelings of the artist.

The opening section starts off with sustained, simple melody that is based on two alternating chords. If Angel Vivaldi is known for anything its his long, fast, clean arpeggios that shred throughout his music. There is plenty of that here, but the melodic portions are what impressed me in this song. He can play the long sustained style just as well as the fast shredding parts (2:53 for instance) while maintaining the mood of the music with clever use of octaves. His new album seems to be made up of songs that don’t have English characters in their name, they are symbols and dashes and dots, leaving the meaning of each song entirely up to the listener since it is instrumental. I’m a sucker for that vague philosophical crap.

1:50

I’m also a sucker for vocals that peel the skin off of faces and goofy breakdowns.This band hardly even exists with two songs so far released on youtube, hence the name. Maybe I listen to too much music when I start digging for youtube videos with >1000 views.

A Semi-Professional Take On ‘The Loudness War’

Many professionals, and much more qualified people than me, have written extensive papers on this subject. The debate is not about rather it exists or not, it most certainly does, but if the loudness war has actually resulted in better preference to listeners. Perhaps I should begin by explaining what exactly the ‘loudness war’ is.

Recordings over the decades have gotten louder and louder in post-mixing volume. That is the short version. If you have someone in an isolated test listen to one sample of a song, and then the same sample at a higher volume, they will tend to prefer the louder version. There is science to this, since the human ear does not perceive sound on a linear scale, increasing the volume on a linear scale will allow us to hear certain nuances at certain frequencies that we could not have heard before. Being able to hear more nuances is a good thing, and this is the basis for the logic behind the loudness war.

Imagine you are a record company. You want to sell the most records make the best sounding records possible. Knowing that human perception causes us to prefer louder music, you begin to demand that your recording/mixing engineers create tracks with a volume that is higher than before. So they up the volume. A competing record company observes you have higher volumes than theirs and thinks that is the reason you are selling records better than them, so they increase the volume on their tracks even more so that people perceive their music to sound even better. A third record company, then a fourth repeats this, this continues for decades.

Now imagine you are a radio broadcasting company. You know the same thing the record company knows, that people tend to like louder music better. You want the most viewers possible, so you tell your DJ to set the outgoing volume to be higher so that people will think it sounds better. A competing radio company knows the same thing. They think the reason more people are tuning into your station and not theirs is that they prefer the louder volume you are running, so they turn up the volume even louder to make it sound even better. This also goes back and forth for decades.

Hence loudness ‘war.’

If it is true, that people prefer louder music, why is this a bad thing?

http://i3.tinypic.com/8f0z2hu.gif

To an extent, increasing the volume will help bring out the harder to hear frequencies creating a better perceived sound, but the sound quality begins to degrade after a certain level. This picture is just a raw example, I don’t know what song it is or where it is from (thanks google images for making plagiarism so easy), but it shows two versions of the same waveform, the second has drastically increased in volume. Without knowing anything about sound, notice how the first waveform has a certain shape and level of dynamic contrast (some parts are loud, some are soft). The second example loses both of these things. The reason this happens is that the recorded volume is being digitally increased beyond a point that the original sound retains its harmonic properties. In other words, the person sang at a certain volume into a microphone, which was then recorded onto a computer. On the computer, the engineer, following commands from his superiors (or being a knowing contributor to the loudness war) turns the volume up to the level that is desired, regardless of what it sounds like or what the waveform looks like. He then uses filters and equalization to ‘fix’ it and remove the negative effects caused by the volume increase. Sure, it sounds ‘good’ but the greater the increase in volume, the less of the original sound is left intact. In other words it destroys the intent of the artist in favor of the record companies desire to sell more records. This was never their intention, but over the years and years this has been going on we have been brought to where we are now, with over produced, hyper compressed, near robotic sounding music.

This has caused much grief in the audio engineering community, since they of all people know what is happening yet records that take these practices to the extreme continue to top the charts. It certainly is not the only reason, or even the most influential reason, but the damage has been done.

People tend to prefer louder versions of the same song, but what if you play two different songs with different volumes? Anyone who has done a science experiment in high school knows that this is too many variables, you can only test one variable at a time to prove that that variable is indeed causing the difference in results, with all other variables controlled. This is where it gets confusing, since songs never have to compete with themselves for success; they have to compete with other songs. It’s very difficult to prove that one song had success over another because it was louder, when the most important factor in music selection is genre preference, however you can’t prove statistically that it is NOT the reason either. I will take advantage of this not being a professional or official paper to say, that this is why the loudness war is a load of crap.

However, there are certain situations where the loudness war does exploit human perception in a more correct way. The most obvious one is live concerts. Perhaps you have not been to a concert with multiple artists or have not been to one at all, but as the night goes on and the artist playing is more well-known than the one before it, live sound mixers will often turn the volume up. The first artist was probably already well above the human threshold for hearing loss, but the louder a sound is, the easier it is to have an emotional response to it. Having an emotional response will make it a more memorable experience, therefore giving the audience the perception that the loudest, and headlining, artist was the one who put on the best show. I’ve been to a lot of concerts where the sound guy purposely caps an artist’s volume to leave more headroom for the artists performing after, even though the artist on the stage currently is requesting more sound. The sound guy doesn’t care about the opening band, and usually neither does the audience, so the headlining artist always gets the best show and everyone is happier, except the little guy who opened for them.

Another situation is far more common, tuning the radio. The end user has control over the power that the amplifier is using to drive the speakers, but the end volume is decided by this and the outgoing volume set by the radio station. Radio stations all have different volumes, sometimes changing even song to song to try and combat the effects of the loudness war or make them even worse. While a listener is changing from station to station, the ones that will stand out are the louder ones. Even if it causes just a few seconds longer of lingering before the user continues to search for something they want to hear, the loudness war was won. As stated above, the end decision will always be made based on genre preference, but in the situation where two radio stations have similar catalogs of music, they feel that they need to be louder to be more easily noticed by the listeners.

What we can take away from all this is that the loudness war was never the factor that determined what was successful, yet record companies still drive mix volumes ever higher. It’s impossible to disprove that loudness effects musical preference between two different songs, but it is also impossible to prove that it is, because given two samples at different volumes a person will always choose the song they like better as the one that sounds better (assuming comparable quality). In conclusion the loudness war is a war that cannot be won, but they won’t stop fighting it until we are all deaf by the age of 30.

Metal Monday #26

http://refractions.bandcamp.com/track/redeemer

Local Indiana band from Muncie return with a new vocalist and a degree in audio engineering. If I hadn’t seen them open for Erra, I wouldn’t believe they were local at all. The production quality is through the roof, especially on the drums and vocals. It sounds like a very high-budget release when it was one guy in his basement/single apartment. It just goes to show that expensive equipment isn’t everything, and that a lot of metal record labels need to fire their dinosaur mixers/engineers and find some new blood who know all the new tech and tricks to make it sound this crisp.

The lyrics leave something to be desired. It’s not that the song isn’t easy to relate to, it definitely is, but the vocabulary and wording is a little lackluster. IE “give me one good reason why I should not burn down your house.” The phrases and diction make up for it, giving a sense of catchiness at times and enforcing the feelings behind the words. The vocalist has amazing range during his cleans and surprisingly thick harsh vocals.  The layering in the later parts of the song is especially cool, but that is more recording tricks than vocal talent.

At 1:07 there is a repeated guitar pattern that then adds a harmonic layer the second time. This is the catchiness I was talking about, that part definitely stands out and was the first thing I remembered, even after listening to it one time. There are two guitar solos, (2:00, 3:03) both face melting worthy, and a breakdown for good measure (4:15). Something for everyone! Check out the rest of their Nautilus EP, its not too long and it’s all just as good, the closing track being as epic as an EP can strive to be.

@3:34

I actually really like this album. It’s absolutely still death core and has all the flaws that death core has (predictability, not many different notes, sonically similar songs etc.) but it is also more than just good breakdowns. It has that small amount of substance that makes the difference between bad death core and good death core, impactful lyrics, group cohesiveness (largely due to their experience), and some legitimate good melody (see Dark Days). Like I said though, it is still death core, so don’t take it too seriously.