This challenge was quite fun and epic. I've recorded 20 minute songs before, but they were improvised, so it doesn't matter if you screw up there. For this song, the left/right guitar tracks and the drums track were recorded in a full take without punch-ins/overdubs/fixing. I wanted to play the distorted and clean guitars in the same take, with the same amp settings, so I used the "normal channel" on my amp, set the gain to 8, and pushed the "crunch" button to make it "crunchier". With those settings I could play distorted guitars while picking hard and have clean guitars while picking soft (most of the cleans were actually finger picked while hiding the pick with my middle finger). Because of this dual distorted/clean setup, I was worried there wouldn't be enough distortion for the death/thrash section at 11:00, but it turned out ok with me. The distorted and clean leads were played on my "boost" channel with full distortion (for the clean leads, I turned my guitar's volume knob almost all the way down).
The rhythm guitars were written first. I sit with my guitar in front of my computer with powertab open while writing. I'll come up with an arrangement of riffs and memorize it enough so that I can input it into powertab. I use powertab for a couple reasons - one is to create a midi version of the song with exact tempos that I listen to while recording drums - the other is so that I don't forget the riffs on guitar. A few times in the past I've arranged some riffs only to have forgotten the exact timing/fingerings the next day when I woke up.
The drums were written next. I listened to the midi + metronome file I created in powertab when writing and recording the drums. Once the drums were written, I practised until I'm ready to record. Once the drums were recorded, I recorded the rhythm guitars next. Then I wrote/recorded the lead guitar parts at the same time. Then I wrote/recorded the synth parts at the same time. Then I wrote lyrics and recorded those.
I basically cut the song up into sections where each section was written in one sitting. I tried to keep the sections different from each other, while trying to maintain a cohesive whole, but did repeat the occasional riff from a previous section to tie it all together.
Section  0:00 - 3:30
The song starts off with a clean riff I used to play at the end of an older song. The riff didn't exist in that older song, I would just play it when the older song ended while I was practising. One glaring mistake is at 2:51 where the drums come in before the guitar.
Section  3:30 - 6:35
Another mistake is at 3:39 where the drums don't transition properly into the next riff. I screw up that transition again at 4:43, so you never actually get to hear it properly. Later in the section I repeat parts from the first section. At 6:01, the rhythm guitar "pulses" of the left guitar are always on the 1 and 3, but for the right guitar I randomly did them on the 1, 2, 3, or 4.
Section  6:35 - 8:34
A big mistake is at 6:50 where the left guitar starts on the wrong frets. Normally a big enough mistake to stop recording and start over, but for a 20 minute song?
Section  8:34 - 10:58
At 9:02 the right guitar hits two wrong notes, but they're part of the chord so it sort of fits. I screwed up this riff again at 10:45 where the left guitar hits a wrong note. The blast beat at 10:28 never existed until just before I started recording, so at 10:32 I forgot to stop blasting until the second measure (that bar was supposed to be all quiet like the last 3 measures). So when I recorded guitars I just played loudly for that first measure, and I actually prefer it that way.
Section  10:58 - 13:40
This section is basically Exhumed worship (Slaughtercult era), but the opening riff is more inspired from Goatwhore or Signs of Dying. Listen to the Exhumed song Funeral Fuck and you'll understand the verses, and the chorus is similar to Fester Forever.
Section  13:40 - 15:29
This section revolves around power chords on the low strings with open high strings. I like doing that in other songs and I think the second song from Subterranean Birthright on the previous challenge opened with that style (power chord on first fret sixth string, with open high strings).
Section  15:29 - 18:55
For the section at 15:51, the drums are improvised and I'm doing random fills in between the snare+cymbal hits that happen whenever I hit a low string on guitar. For the section at 16:32, my fretting hand was always getting sore at that point in the song, but then it was fine when the section at 17:15 started until the end. I also bring back a part from section 1 and 2 into this section.
Section  18:55 - 20:00
In this section there is a recording of coyotes barking/yipping/howling. I was recording vocals and there was one coyote just outside the house making lots of noise, so I thought I'd open the door and record the sounds on their own to use in the song just for fun. There's at least one more coyote in the recording off in the distance.
released December 1, 2015
Chris Balch - guitars, drums, keyboards, vocals
Art by darkreaver
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