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Steve DiGiorgio: Role of Bass in Modern Metal

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by Herrick, Nov 10, 2012.

  1. Herrick


    Jul 21, 2010
    Munchkin Land

    I agree with all this but I don't know about the "crappy bass players" part. I'm not quite sure what he means by that. I think the standout players are very cool & inspirational, but it also sounds really good to my ears when the bass plays along with the main riff...well, that's when you can actually hear the bass to begin with. The lack of audible bass in Metal is a definitely failure on all parts, including bass players for putting up with it.

    I always wonder what's going on in the minds of these bands when they finish a new album & the bass is completely buried. Do they even care? I picture them all sitting around in the studio (or wherever) listening to the finished product, enjoying how they can hear all their parts. Then there's the bass player sitting there pretending to be pleased with the album's sound even though the bass is completely buried. How much say does a typical bass player have in a band that's domianted by guitars & drums. It's gotta be tough if you don't write the songs or handle vocals. What do you people think?
  2. Rano Bass

    Rano Bass

    Sep 9, 2006
    Tijuana Mex.
    Most metal producers are crap IMO.
  3. SBsoundguy


    Sep 2, 2011
    Los Angeles
    I wish Steve would do less noodling and more holding down the low end sometimes on many of his works.
  4. Herrick


    Jul 21, 2010
    Munchkin Land
    Even the ones that are good can't seem to get a good bass sound. For example, SLAYER's Reign In Blood produced by Rick Rubin. Everything sounds great but there is virtually no bass. What's up with that?!
  5. It started with thrash metal in the 80s. Before that you had 70s metal and NWBHM which relied heavily on melodic basslines, but when Metallica and Slayer hit the scene it became all about that machine-like guitar riff, often down-tuned. A melodic bassline gets in the way of that, and unfortunately a lot of bands ever since went that way and forgot how to groove like Geezer, or that metal's roots are in minor key blues.

    The solution is to resolve to make your band rise above that rut, do something creative, and resist the industry's siren call to mediocrity. Doom metal bands understand this, and they suffer by being forever in the underground. But in this day and age most good music is underground anyway so embrace it, listen to early Geezer, Geddy, and Steve Harris, and just be cool.
  6. Road Bull

    Road Bull

    Jul 24, 2011
    Seattle, WA.
    I love Slayer as much as the next guy, but it is not as if Tom is the most prolific bass player out there. Sometimes it is the bass player that is just holding it down, but just barely.

    Take the Melvins. They have gone though as many bass players as Spinal tap has gone though drummers. You can hear the difference from album to album. Sometimes it is the mix where you will hear the bass more forward in the mix, and other times it is running very close to the guitar. From Houdini and Stonerwich to the line-up they got now with Big Business, you can hear a big difference. I liked the Stonerwich/Houdini sound a bit more for its fullness and placement in the mix.

    It seems a lot of my favorite music these days has a bass player that is laying it down, and has a place in the mix as well.
  7. Dave the Bass

    Dave the Bass

    Sep 11, 2011
    There's so much going in the low end of metal these days.......some of the fastest double bass drumming in history, vocalists grunting away, guitars that are so down-tuned that they're all over what would traditionally be a bass players frequency range.

    So what's a bassist to do?

    Embrace the upper mids, get above all that other stuff and make yourself and your cool bass lines heard.
  8. SBsoundguy


    Sep 2, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Alex Webster is a great example of bass shining through in a very heavy band.
    Berkowitzum likes this.
  9. I dunno---he doesn't command attention on the recordings, but when I saw them live I came away impressed with his playing. Not a flashy player, obviously, but he did a really good job of playing the right thing at the right time and propelling the song along. (This was the _South Of Heaven_ tour; maybe he's at his best with their slower, sludgier stuff. Or maybe he just had a really "on" night.)

  10. Diplowmatt


    Jun 10, 2011
    Memphis, TN
    Agree. The vocals, drums and guitar seem to be the focal point.

    Scott Burns seems to be the go-to-metal producer guy (at least in the 90's when I was heavy into it) And at least let the bass breathe and shine in some occasions (Atheist, Cynic)
  11. Road Bull

    Road Bull

    Jul 24, 2011
    Seattle, WA.
    speaking of..

    Slayer's Reign in Blood *bass only* track

    I do love that riff a lot. I was at the show where they recorded the Decade of Aggression's live album. I can even make out my dumb face in the liner notes. lol.:p
  12. SBsoundguy


    Sep 2, 2011
    Los Angeles
    LOL! They probably thought that if they added enough overdrive that nobody would hear how crappy the track was played. Well, they were right!
  13. Duckwater


    May 10, 2010
    USA, Washington
    I agree with him. I prefer basslines that create their own voice in the song, not just an extension of the rhythm guitar.
  14. Herrick


    Jul 21, 2010
    Munchkin Land
    I thought his playing was good on Hell Awaits. I'm not always looking for a virtuoso/unique player. I just want to hear the damn bass, ha ha.

    Yup. I enjoyed his playing on those Blotted Science albums.

    LoL is this one of those "shred" videos?
  15. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    The problem I have with Metal Production is the fact that most producers, bands, and to a lesser extent engineers have been brainwashed into believing that scooped midrange is the key to a heavy sound.

    From a physiological perspective 90% of human hearing is in the midrange. That scooped sound is cutting out 90% of what we hear. So in essence we have 100% of the band fighting for 10% of the frequencies we hear. Kind of idiotic. Listen to Stravinsky for a while and hear how heavy music can be without fighting for a frequency. Sorry for the comparison but there is a cello line in "The Thunderbird Suite" that reminds me of alot of metal riffs.

    Stay Brown,
    Rev J
  16. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    Being a bass player in a Metal band is the easiest thing ... you just fake it and you are removed from the recording. I don,t know if it is because of the guitar player who put to much bass in their sound or if the bass player is a hack or if the producer is like "I can't make it sounds good so f*** the bass".

    But in some very extrem band you can hear the bass player just fine but when there is a unisson riff ... of course you loose the bass and if the whole song the bass is just following the guitar ...just don't have bass.

    There is a band in Québec Canada that are really monster player :


    So there is still hope
  17. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Love me some Melvins but greatly prefer Houdini's darker bass tones to Stoner Witch's. The bass on Stoner Witch holds its own in the mix better, but is also one of my least favorite ones.
    I'd bury that too.
    I try and avoid unison riffs for this reason. The modern heavy guitarist will try and displace the entire band in eq if allowed. If I'm doing something that's a counter melody, or counter rhythm, I think it allows more space between us to distinguish our respective lines and also makes for a more interesting product to listen to. Geezer would've been buried if he'd just doubled the guitar lines, but his groovy lines that followed the drums (almost in mockery of the guitar riffs) kept him much more audible in the mix.

    To go back to the OP, the entire "bass in metal" issue is a vicious circle. The producers of some landmark albums and bands ignored the bass, and as a result the bass isn't something that's associated with "metal." That gets reinforced, and repeated until it's accepted. What makes this ironic, is that the guitarists are typically playing riffs downtuned to where they'd normally be bass parts. Why not make them bass parts? Move the guitars up to higher registers and make for a much fuller sound? When we had guitarists audition for my band, we had a few try and perform the bass parts assuming that since they were prominent in the mix and heavy that they were downtuned guitar lines instead of, standard tuned bass lines.
  18. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    Actually, it's one of those "I don't know how to play bass" videos.

    If you guys want to here a good metal bassist that not many people have heard of, look for Joe Lester.
  19. xUptheIronsx

    xUptheIronsx Conform or Be Cast Out....

    Feb 6, 2010
    C-ville, Col, Ohio
    I also was raised in the era of the bass player having their own role, and also sonic space in the mix. I agree with you about writing bass lines. I play in a thrash/80's hardcore influenced metal band with only one guitarist and this allows me a TON of space to support, or go out on my own. I could not imagine just being the root note player the whole time, but also could not imagine being the "virtuoso" the whole time.

    Compliment and contrast are two huge things in art. I feel like if I am not always aware of how this applies to what I do, than I am failing.

    I also think that - as many have mentioned here - many bass players are not in this for the ART side...just the pARTy side of it. The song (music) is just the springboard for all of the extracurriculars. Unfortunately, I also think many of the listeners are alos only involved on this small, shallow level, and therefore, the demand for good musicianship - on ANY of the instruments, has lowered since when I got into it.
  20. Herrick


    Jul 21, 2010
    Munchkin Land
    Even though the uploader "promises" it's the real bass track, I'm sure it's meant to be a joke. From what I can actually hear on their albums, Araya's never used a tone like that.

    Edit: On second thought, maybe it is real? :eek: