|Produced by Phineas Vaughn
Recorded at The Trauma Center Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Mixed by Nameless
Mastered by The Doctor
Back in March PAXEast (Penny-Arcade Expo East Coast Edition) took over Boston when they came to Hynes Convention Center. I was not there, but a big pile of my friends were. I’d meet up with them for the parties each night after and that is where I met three fifths of The Children of the Plague. We’ll skip over the stories of meeting them and get straight to the part where they gave me a copy of their 2009 album Heartbreak Holocaust. Naturally my friends and I put it directly into the CD player in my car the second we left. Having just met these guys we simply needed to see just what their musical genius sounded like. In researching the band a bit I found that since then they have released an album (their third) and added a fifth member on keys. I might just download that album (they provide free downloads of all 3 albums on their site!) and see how they’ve improved.
Before I get to the production of this album, let’s take a look at the presentation. They were handing out these CDs all over the place and they don’t look cheap. The group actually dropped some money into these guys. I think that is a bit foolish, but really it is nice to see sometimes. So you know, a CD to give to anyone in the industry should just be a burned CD with 4 songs. Put a sticker on it with your band name, contact info, and track listing. This is an industry standard and will save you money. Keep the ones you invest money into for selling and getting money back. This was a printed CD with a two sided card and sticker included in the case. Stickers are always a nice, clever bonus to be giving out with your CDs. The insert, in this case, is a bit too busy though, so much so I only looked at it to get the name Heartbreak Holocaust and avoided checking out the rest for fear of a headache.
The actual album is seven songs running twenty six minutes. Nameless, who mixed the album, is the guitarist for the band and a quick search around their Facebook page tells me Phineas Vaughn is also their manager and press contact. That is always the sort of thing that sets off a red flag in my mind, but we’ll cruise past that right now. I just can’t seem to find out who The Doctor is or where he works mastering. Lastly, I can’t find anything about the Trauma Center on the internet; it leads me to believe that the band named their basement studio (or attic or bedroom). If this is the case, I can handle it. Recording in houses happens, but own up to it. I’ll have different standards for a studio and a house, so if I think I’m hearing something from a studio and it sounds like the vocals were done in a shower or closet, that will hurt my opinion of the recording a lot.
The Children of the Plague is a goth rock band from Florida. It seems that musically they have a really solid grasp of how to compose a song that fits right into this genre. Similarly, they seem to understand how these songs should sound. They use styles of compression and reverb that are very close to what you hear on the big time CDs. Close, but not quite the same, there are subtle differences that make a world of difference. The most prominent difference is the use of compression. The guitar is drowning in compression while everything else is lacking. The guitar sounds like it was recorded in the red (distorting, not the same as distortion) and compression was used both for the sound and to take it out of the red. There is a fundamental problem with this, it doesn’t solve any problems. Though the compression might take the guitar out of the red, it doesn’t eliminate the distortion. You want to record everything as close to the red as you can get it without going in, once things clip, they are clipped forever. The only solution is the rerecord the bad parts. After clipping the band added a bit too much reverb to the guitar and the reverb rings the ears a bit when the distorted parts go through. Had the initial recording been a bit tighter this would not be an issue. My first piece of advice would be to record the guitars a bit quieter and throw a small amount of compression on them. Then there’s the part where they didn’t use enough: the vocals. Vocals need compression in every recording. People sound weak, immature when they are recorded singing. A little compression tightens this up, adds that strength and maturity to their voices. Radio stations have devices that run the mics through a compressor so when you hear DJs talk their voices are compressed. We sound better with a small 2:1 compression on our voices. Where you set that 2:1 depends on the person and what they are singing though.
I met the drummer of this band. I only point this out because the drums are a drum machine on this recording. I’m not sure if people are supposed to know that or not, but they are definitely a drum machine. This is just something I don’t understand.
The effects used on the instruments are all done in the box (added on the computer). These effects don’t sound the same as real live effects. That doesn’t mean they are not good, it means they are not the same. Sometimes I support in the box, usually I don’t. This band is definitely an instance I want to hear some pedals. I always wonder what a band like this sounds like live. There are so many effects going on in the recording, but it was recorded without them, do they not have them at shows? If you are a rock band you should always use pedals, rely on your computer as little as possible. The less a computer is involved the more human your music sounds. I can relate to it better, feel something for it. I love a lot of digital music, but it can’t make a person emote, people aren’t digital, we don’t relate to digital.
Dear The Children of the Plague,
You guys clearly have an excellent understanding of both composing and the sound of goth songs. We all know the songs when we hear them, but being able to create them is not as easy. This is an impressive feat. I will totally check out your other two CDs and probably do a second edition review talking about your progress. I hope on the third CD I hear some pedals instead of computers effects. Maybe you’ve gotten a better recording on everything which would greatly improve all the steps you did take. If I were you I’d go pick up a crunch pedal for the bassist, a distortion and fuzz for the guitarist and get an electronic drum kit for the drummer. Pedals aren’t that big of an expense, just give out fewer printed CDs, burn some instead and spend that money on some Danelectros! They really are great, underrated pedals that run about $50 a pop! I think you guys did this you’d really have a product to offer up to people; I’d like to see that happen. Oh, and K-La’s vocals are so sweet, trade in some of that reverb on them for compression so we can really enjoy it!
If you want to check out The Children of the Plague: