From cultural and musicological perspectives through to vocational and practice-based production studies, there is currently a lack of understanding of what heaviness is in a recorded and mixed form. In a music genre that has reached its half-century of existence, this research is likely to have a significant global impact on our understanding of the genre’s fundamental qualities. At present, there is a deficit of music production knowledge and educational material that would enable those interested to understand how top producers capture, manipulate and present the various qualities that equate to heaviness.
This project examines how leading metal producers specialising in different subgenres define heaviness, and how they process and control the constituent aspects of heaviness during the mixing of recordings. It analyses the producers’ understandings of heaviness, their individual approaches, and how the characteristics of the musical material influence their mixing decisions.
To learn how internationally renowned producers create heaviness in different subgenres of metal, we document how they mix a song comprising parts emblematic of various subgenres such as doom metal, symphonic metal and modern extreme metal. Each of their steps will be documented via screen-capture, videos showing the use of outboard equipment, video-recorded interviews of the producers explaining their decision-making process and the Pro Tools project files of the final result of each producers’ mix.
All project material including sheet music of the song, the raw recordings, the mix project files, the edited videos of the producers’ sessions and interviews will be available on this website. These resources provide authentic, first-hand documentation demonstrating the crucial decision-making processes and the techniques involved in high-end metal music production, drawing out characteristics of several subgenres.
The main findings of the research will be made publicly available on this website as they emerge. A more in-depth analysis will be published open access in reputable academic journals, whilst, ultimately, all the findings will be compiled in a book.
HiMMP is based within the School of Music, Humanities and Media (MHM) and Computing and Engineering (C&E) at the University of Huddersfield. This project received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under the reference number AH/T010991/1 (runtime: 1 September 2020 to 31 August 2023).
1) To determine compositional, performative and productional attributes of heaviness in metal music.
Heaviness in recorded metal music has rarely been the focus of theoretical and empirical research. This project will explore the interrelated effects of structure, performance and production, and examine how these are utilised to create heaviness in recorded metal music.
2) To map the conceptual understanding of heaviness held by leading metal music producers.
Music producers play a key role in setting industry standards and audience expectations on metal recordings. Capturing producers’ individual definitions of heaviness and their production approaches will add a practitioners’ voice to the emerging scholarly discourse.
3) To determine variations in the production approaches to heaviness in different subgenres of metal.
Heaviness in metal music is subject to many factors, including structural features, performance attributes, recording practices and mixing approaches that differ between metal’s subgenres due to aesthetic and technical reasons. Stylistic differences require distinct approaches to producing heaviness. Documenting the mixing task of different producers will give deep insights into their individual approaches and illustrate where these approaches coincide with the others and where they differ between each other. The two main questions of whether different subgenres do require distinct production approaches and whether overarching features of heaviness exist in metal music will be answered.
4) To determine the relationships of technical requirements, creative freedom and individuality.
Metal music production is affected by subgenre aesthetics as well as acoustic and perceptive constraints. With its rich instrumentation, spectral density and fast subdivisions, metal requires rigorous sonic control. Collaborating with producers specialising in different subgenres of metal will allow us to analyse the relationship of creative and technical aspects of heaviness in recorded music, knowledge that can only be gathered from expert practitioners. To know to what degree artistic freedom and technical constraint is involved in a metal music production is crucial for both practical application and theoretical discourse.
5) To map the process and the result of producers mixing a metal track, aiming for maximum heaviness within the expectations of the (sub)genre.
The research design will provide valuable insights into how leading producers approach the mixing of a metal track. These insights build a useful resource for music producers and practice-led researchers and help scholars to understand heaviness on an empirical basis. The analysis of the producers’ mixes will be audible demonstrations of their individual understandings, showing the breadth – or lack thereof – of possibilities of achieving heaviness. The findings on the process and the final result will form the basis for the development of a theory of heaviness in metal music production.