Unleashed – Reality
“Listening In” is my bi-weekly blog focusing on the audio quality, mix, and arrangement of up-and-coming acts’ new songs. This week we take a look at the Louisville, KY band Unleashed, and their new single “Reality.” Listen along with my review at https://www.reverbnation.com/unleashedky/song/25301305-reality-v2
The band is fronted by the uber-talented Hunter Borowick, a guitar-wielding force to be reckoned with since he was 7 years old. Having played in clubs since that tender age, this now-wisened 17-year-old knows his way around a good song and a good vocal performance. His band mates are a solid as it comes, so it’s a given that this band is going to turn in a kick-ass performance of an excellent composition.
So that said… on to the production, the sound quality, and the arrangement/mix!
They certainly got themselves what sounds like a big-budget recording – the moment this song kicks in you feel the power and clarity of the drums, and the thickness of the guitar and bass.
Sonically the drums are a stand-out here, played by head-pounder Luke Stanton. The kick is deep but clear, the snare has a nice stereo image, the toms are punchy and big in the stereo spectrum; the cymbals could be a little richer perhaps, and maybe the kick is a tad loud, but that matches this style of music, and it is hardly anything to complain about! In fact the drums may be a little loud overall relative to the instruments, but they sure do drive the song.
I had to ask Hunter how the drums were recorded, and if there was any “funny business” in the drum sound (aka loops, triggers, and drum machines – which can all be useful tools by the way.) He said “Our drums were recorded in a room about the size of a small-medium size bedroom. I don’t think there were any triggers or samples on the drums.”
The guitar sound is dirty in a good way, aggressive yet clear, a real, solid hard-rock tone. To my ears, the guitars could actually be cranked up in the mix. This is guitar rock, and I want more! Maybe simply adding some upper mid and top end on the EQ so they cut a little more would also solve the volume issue – with bright drums, you need to be sure the guitars don’t sound muddy, and I think they could use a little top end in the mix.
In regards to the tone and how it was achieved, Hunter said “my guitar sound for this song was my Harper Hunter Borowick Comet Custom Model into my Fractal Axe FX 2 XL+ direct with no mics. As for my modeled amps, I used an EVH 5150 for my rhythm and leads and a Fender Twin Reverb for my cleans. For my effects, I used a spring reverb, a tube screamer, and a delay on the solo.
Though the rhythm guitar parts are doubled and spread, they have a very similar tone in both channels, and an identical part, so they don’t jump out of the stereo field as much as they could. It’s ok not to have a super-wide stereo field in the guitar, but that being the case, personally I’d pan the toms more towards center so the drums don’t sound as wide. You want it to sound like everyone is playing in the same space, and one instrument being quite wide while the others are fairly mono-sounding can pull you out of that sonic space. The solos are sonically fantastic though, they stand out great, and personally I’d like to hear those louder too (but that’s the guitar player in me speaking!)
I’d also love to hear a little more variation on the guitar tones through the song – maybe a more chill tone for the first verse, and an even heavier guitar tone for the choruses. The clean Fender Twin sounds in the breakdown at 3:20 are so nice (and nicely spread in the stereo field) that I’d love to hear that tone for the first verse. But all Hunter’s parts are killer, and work well with the other players regardless.
Hunter’s vocals are super-present, in-your-face and right up in the mix. I might like to hear a little bit of a delay tail on the vocal, or a touch more verb, to give it some more depth of field (again to match the epicness of the drum sound) but tonally it’s spot on.
Elise Hagan’s vocal harmonies are about as perfect as you could ask for, and I think they’d sound nice pushed up in volume quite a bit – it’s such a great tonal blend, why not feature it more, especially since Hunter’s lead vocals are fairly dry and un-doubled for the most part.
As for Elise’s bass playing, it’s impeccable! I think the tone could be more aggressive and amped up in the mid-range to match the cut on the kick drum. Arrangement-wise it would also be nice to hear a more pulsing, eighth-note bounce on the bass in the choruses so that Hunter can keep playing those big, washy guitar parts and yet still have the track elevate. The bass can have a profound effect on the overall feeling of a track or a section of a track, even when the listener can’t put their finger on what it is that changed in the mix.
This is a nice even mix, with a fairly good tonal balance – it sounds to me like a cohesive mix, whereas too often with unsigned acts you hear a final mix that sounds like players playing in separate rooms, with tones that don’t compliment each other. So kudos to the mixer (tracked, mixed and mastered with Michael Sanders at Jet Lag Recordings in Jeffersonville, IN) and major kudos to Unleashed who truly do unleash a big monster sound that should keep your head banging and your devil horns held high!