A Shadow here, a shadow there

The biggest news in the mind of Shyft right now is the completion of the Red Ankh double album entitled ‘Shadow’.  This is because, well, you know, Red Ankh is my progressive/avant-garde metal side project that is slowly becoming my primary music vehicle.  An album release is always a special occasion for this creator, but this one is particularly exciting for a number of less obvious reasons.

First of all, I have been giving extra time to training my voice lately.  Because of this, I have become fully confident in my vocals.  Gone are the days of my doing of dozens of takes of the same vocal lines only to still find the need for heavy pitch correction on significant sections.  Learning the patience and technical skill necessary to make up for the shortcomings of my vocal ability was valuable, but I am glad that that process is in the past.  Aside from feeling more professional and confident in this way, one day I seemingly randomly unlocked the secret to ‘black metal screams’.  This new (for me) outward breath harsh vocal style became a staple of my new album, and became central to a harsh vox chorus sound that I’ve always wanted but was never before able to achieve.  It comes in slightly different forms, but the basic setup is a center balanced outward harsh vocal at medium pitch chorused by two inward harsh vocal tracks at deep pitch that are panned slightly to the left and right.  Though no vocal style or timbre, even, will delight every one, this is perfect for me, and at this point my vocal style repertoire is nearly complete.  There is one style that I still aim to harness, and that is a deeper, thicker outward-breathing harsh vocal.  I’m getting there.  Just need more strength in the vocal chords.

Next, I have improved the state of my instrumentation.  I have acquired a sharper-sounding drum kit, two more brilliant symphonic choir programs; I have put to use a thicker, more organic bass tone, and have increased the articulation of my viola.  These new instruments and abilities were used almost exclusively for the new album, and I think that the new instrumental timbres really show.

Double next, Shadow consists almost entirely of what I would consider to be dark metal- much darker than Red Ankh’s typical work, any way.  Though often strange and unconventional, my Red Ankh sound always manages to slip in up-beat passages and can be downright joyous.  There is no thing wrong with that, but I wanted to do some thing different, and I had originally intended for some of my most whimsical pieces to be aggressive and ominous.  I listen to a lot of dark and upleft evil sounding music, and I find it rather satisfying that I was able to finally harness those influences for the majority of a Red Ankh album.  I have also finally set Chinic’s poem to music, eight compelling lines buried in the end of my third book.  It took me some thing like four years to finally muster up the courage to give it a try.  I also also have finally released a metal song with vocals that exceeds fifteen minutes, a goal of mine since I fell in love with Dream Theater’s A Change of Seasons (I even named an instrumental piece after it), boasting twenty-three minutes and nine seconds (my new song Bittersweet reached the twenty-three minute and nineteen seconds mark- ha!).  My next vocal metal song of greatest length is Yellow Horizon at fourteen minutes and four seconds, from the album Bronze Two released in two thousand nine, a time when I was first seriously experimenting with my own vocals as well as vocal synths.  Despite Bronze and Bronze Two having gotten the most positive reviews out of all of the Red Ankh releases so far, they are actually the albums that embarrass me the most.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love those songs.  Some of my favorites are on there, but the production values… bother me.  Bronze was one of the first albums that I completely reworked, and it will probably be the first that is reworked a second time.

Finally, to touch on more subtle skills: I am now fully confident in my ability to mix and master heavy metal utilizing complex layers.  The refrain arrangement of my new song Dream with Me is a perfect example of this, with four different vocal timbres singing a harmony mimicked by chords on a viola over a lead guitar melody accompanied by a different melody on piano over rhythm and base guitar building a foundation with the drums.  Sure, it might not be a perfect mix, but it’s a level of clarity and loudness that does not embarrass me, and that’s, well, good enough for me!  Concerning recording, my computer is getting old now and its fans are starting to make a little more noise.  I know that there are better ways, but it was more convenient for me to finally learn how to properly use denoising software.  It’s minimal noise, so minimal precise denoising works just fine.  So simple, actually!

So now that that is complete, I am shifting gears back to music promo and story writing.  Winter break shall hopefully be a cycle of those two items, building friendships, physical exercise, video games, and reading The Mists of Avalon, in that order from most to least important.  My favorite multiplayer game of all time, one that I played consistently for eight years, is finally being remade on a modern engine.  The Specialists Mod for Half Life is being recreated by some of its original designers in the form of Double Action.  If you have ever enjoyed a John Woo gun-fighting film, you will love these games.  Though very incomplete, the Epsilon version is tons of fun.  So much fun.  Too much fun.  I completed my second play-through of Alice: Madness Returns, and moved backward to American McGee’s Alice for what is probably a tenth play through.  Lately on most days I am feeling pretty… fine.  My anxiety-induced ADHD problem or what ever it is seems to be on the decline.  I am actually starting to get excited about next semester, despite previously feeling burned out on college.  In the spring I start learning Java programming in order to eat up the rest of my elective credits- learning a new technical skill!  Woo!  And then hopefully I can graduate after next fall.

PS: my next post will be more thought-provoking.  I swear.

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