I’ve had a chance to play heavily with Toontrack’s Metal Foundry the past few weeks so now let me tell if you this thing is really worth a damn.
Boring Background Info
Toontrack has been making robo real drum samples for years. They started with Drum Kit From Hell and have created various revolutionary products such as DFH Superior 1.0, EZ Drummer, and Superior Drummer 2.0. The latter is their flagship model and I think it’s one of the best products I’ve ever touched in recording land. (Hell, I guess I should review it some year!)
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To cut to the chase, Metal Foundry is an expansion pack thingy for Superior Drummer 2.0. You’ve got to have Superior Drummer 2.0 to even think about using it. (Now is a GREAT time because the thing is priced somewhere in the ridiculously low ballpark. Check it out here.)
Installation and Authorization
I tossed the Metal Foundry DVD #1 into my D: drive, told it where I wanted to put the samples, and swapped DVDs every few minutes. It’s so simple my mom would complain how easy it is and she still looks awkward using a mouse.
The authorization process worked perfectly the first time, too. I’d guess it took me 45 seconds to pull this off. (Don’t tell anyone, but I hooked internet to my recording computer. Yes, I know this is scarier than a coke addiction. I live on the edge. What can I say?)
When a company can actually get their shit together on the installation and authorization side, I commend them. Seamless and trouble-free install and authorization is about as rare as living out those multiple simultaneous female fantasies all you dirty guys seem to have (and possibly even more satisfying). Let’s just say that if I smoked, I’d need a cigarette after experiencing a process that normally reminds me of a bloody Ed Norton scene in American History X.
Rating: 10 out of 10
The thing I like about Superior Drummer 2.0 is it loads samples FAST. I mean REALLY FAST! It runs about as reliably as you can get on a sampler. I have other drum sample gadgets. They usually work. Superior Drummer 2.0 always works. I found The Metal Foundry to be just as reliable.
I did notice I had a few Cubase shutdowns when I loaded up a robo RAM drum kit. However, I must have screwed up my RAM settings in Windows.
Control Panels > System > Advanced > Performance Options > Advanced > Memory Usage
When I went here and changed this to “System Cache” I had no problems.
I’ve got 4GB of RAM on a Quad Core Intel PC. (The best $400 I’ve ever spent on a computter). For those of you who are using a computer from back when the Iraq police action seemed like a good idea to conservatives, the cache button is a life saver. Basically, it only loads the samples that you use in the file. The downside is it doesn’t load a sample until you play it, but I didn’t find this to be all that bad of deal. Just don’t forget that one stupid China cymbal at the end of the bridge because if you render without loading it, it will not exist.
Rating: 10 out of 10
This gets interesting (and longwinded) but hear me out. I was working on the mix for Toontrack Mixing Wars: Metal song, Bearing Teeth . Before the Toontrack bozos (in a good way, ) got me Metal Foundry I was using good ol’ Superior Drummer 2.0. I personally feel that the stock samples in Superior Drummer 2.0 as badass for just about everything. I love the “scooped” drum sound with plenty of crack in the snare and attack in the kick. I feel this works for metal, country, and just about everything in between.
When tweaking the “pre-mix” of Bearing Teeth, I basically turned on Superior Drummer 2.0, added some beater on the kick drum and called it day. I MAY have used parallel compression on the kick and snare. Okay, I’m almost positive I did, but other than that, I didn’t even think about it. I didn’t have to.
I was excited when I first pulled up Metal Foundry because I was ready to leap into the next level. Being the kind of guy that I am I didn’t bother saving hours by using the presets. I jumped in and started mixing the damn thing. In fact, I went ahead and rendered the wav files with full bleed and went to town. This was a mistake. The samples within Metal Foundry are unprocessed to my ears (this has been semi confirmed with hearsay). They are super smooth and most of you turn them on for the first time are going cuss in a way reminiscent of the first time your old Playboy mags turned up missing from between the mattress. (Why does EVERYONE think this is a good hiding spot? My kids will some day joke about everyone putting their naughty crap in C:/Misc/3255/ .) The unprocessed drums are NOT what you hear on your favorite metal records!
The Never-Heard-Real-Drums Crowd
Let me go ahead and pigeonhole you bastards who are going to get your panties in a wad over these samples (at first). There are many of you who’ve never had the joy of recording a real drummer and therefor you’ve never had the joy of pulling your hair out. You learn how to deal with the round thing smashers over time, but let’s just say there is a WHOLE bunch of processing and mixing that needs to take place to turn a couple of room mics, overheads, kick, snare, and toms into what you hear on a Dragonforce record.
A huge part of the sound of real drums is what the drummer is giving you. For beginners, it is often difficult to tell if the “cheap” (natural) sound is caused by the drummer, the drums, the room, the gear or the lack of processing. The cool thing about Metal Foundry is it was done with world class drummers, playing world class drum kits, in a world class studio room. That pretty much narrows it down. You’ve got to mix these stupid things! In other words, you get to be creative. Let me rephrase that, if you skip the presets you HAVE to be creative. (Remember, this CAN be fun if you are nerdy enough!)
If a multi-stringed wooden thing is more your creative weapon of choice than a compressor or EQ this can be a bit daunting. In fact, with full bleed on (as you get with a real drum recording), I had a HARD time matching the sound I was hearing on Superior Drummer 2.0. In fact, I spent 15 hours mixing the damn song and didn’t come up with one damn mix I liked. I was struggling…..and cussing.
Then it occurred to me. When it comes to the fake ass metal drums I like so much (Clayman from In Flames is a mega fun one) I gave up on getting this sound naturally a long time ago. When you crush your snare with compression and then EQ it to get robo crack and robo meat, you’ve effectively trashed out your hi-hat, your ride sounds like it was recorded with something Behringer wouldn’t even sell, and your kick drum has more crappy boom than the garage band down the street. A gate helps, but it’s not enough. You need a snare track with zero bleed if you want to get stupid with your processing (aka modern metal).
Enter the world of samples. You see, this is a bit confusing because Metal Foundry (and pretty much all Toontrack products) have designed their samples to sound real. In fact, I guess I’m bitching that if used in such a fashion, they can sound too real for my tastes. This is a hell of an achievement and it’s nice to have the option of being too real, but that option can lead one to underestimate the giga powers of Metal Foundry. So if you want to rock out to killer, modern, and over the top drum sounds, turn off the bleed. It ain’t gonna help you.
When I turned all (or most ) of the bleed crap off, Metal Foundry made sense. In fact, it came alive. It was like getting hit in the head with a frying pan. (In a good way!) It no longer took 15 hours to get something that sucked. In 5-10 minutes I had a pretty damn smashing drum sound that reacted well to extreme compression on both the drums and the 2bus. Impressive!
For you guys who just want palm mute and shred, just click on one of the presets. This is where Toontrack is WAY ahead of the game. By including a full blown mixer with all necessary plugins they’ve been able to include mixing presets that pretty much sound unbelievably good, mega over the top, and still natural all at the same time. This is awesome for a few reasons. First off, if you aren’t more familiar with compressors than you are your girlfriend’s body (for the 2% of you metal ‘tards who have girlfriends ) , you would have your work cut out for you. Now you can click twice, wait 30 seconds and have drum sounds that used to cost $5k per day and required a non-idiot drummer (never met one).
The thing I LOVE about these presets is you can reverse engineer what Mr. Mix It was up to. It’s pretty damn awesome. The value of this for us engineer nerd types (with 3% girlfriend’s and basically infinite one-time “encounters”) is out standing. This lesson alone is worth the price of admission.
The more I play with Metal Foundry, the more I see why they elected to not to process the samples right off the bat. If you take Pantera, In Flames, Slipknot, and Metallica you end up with four wildly different drum sounds. It just makes sense to let the user decide what they want and then give them preset mixing options to more or less nail these sounds instantly. I guess you could make the argument that Fleetwood Mac, Toby Keith, and Joan Osborne also require infinitely different drum sounds (when speaking of Superior Drummer 2.0) but I’m not going there.
Rating: 10 out of 10
The Metal Foundry is bad ass. Superior Drummer 2.0 is amazing. The two of them together makes you feel like you can do anything (not to mention the other Toontrack expansions I’ll be writing reviews for). While Superior Drummer 2.0 is pretty damn versatile, it’s not so easy to dial in such a broad range of metal drum sounds. With Metal Foundry they’ve really taken a hard ass look at metal drums and given you a pallet which few of us are ever going to outgrow. When you factor in the mixing presets and the ability to tweak those mixes or to start with mixes from scratch, the flexibility of this thing is stupid. Skip three or four dates with Rosie Palmer and buy it!
Rating: 10 out of 10. Home Run!
P.S. If you ever have to deal with the Toontrack guys, you’ll see that most of them have Viking names. That’s an automatic 10 point bonus right off the bat.