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Azrael Block - 2003

Azrael Block is my third venture into instrumental fusion and probably my most ambitious. Twelve songs and 75 minutes long this recording was the most challenging and time consuming to make so far. I concentrated on trying to take the production to the next level and to incorporate new sounds and textures. I also concentrated on giving each song its own identity and making sure it was unique and cool. The biggest criteria I had for the tune was that it had to be able to pull its own weight without solos.

Production Notes:
This recording was done at my project studio Splinterhead Recording. I went for a new approach this time around. I took a lot of different production elements that were new to me and tried to employ them as best as I could in the context of this project.

Taking the drums for instance, I changed my approach to them thanks to Simon Phillips and his production work on Derek Sherinian's projects. He uses an open airy type sound which I really like. He really spreads the drums across the stereo field and uses nice gating and reverb effects. So the drums sound big and you can really hear the actual tone of each drum. I did my best to emulate what he did I think I got somewhat close.

The guitars also got a bit of an overhaul. This time around I used less gain and tried to create a more toneful sound all the way around. I also panned the solo effects either to the right or left of the source. That helped clear things up and bring out more of the dry sound without sacrificing the effect. I also wanted to incorporate many different soloing tones throughout each tune and throughout the disk itself.

The bass remained unchanged for the most part. I just tried to make it sound clear and aggressive. I did throw a wah effect on it for one of the tunes which was kinda wacky, but other than that just a bit of reverb and that's it.

The one thing that did change as far as instrumentation goes is the use of the Yamaha RS-7000 sequencer. I had a lot of fun with this thing. Basically it's a 16 track hardware sequencer with a built in 1028 voice synth. It's got 63 drum kits and loads of percussion instruments. It is also tweakable beyond belief. It has real time manipulation of the different voices through filters and effects and it's all automated so it records and plays back the real time changes. I slaved it to my Roland midi controller and synced it with the 1680 and R-70 and proceeded to have a blast. I mainly used the RS-7000 as a support instrument. It can be very easy to get carried away with a new piece of equipment so I kept my enthusiasm in check. After all I'm trying to be a guitar player, not a techno guy.

The keyboards shared duties with the RS-7000. Essentially when I couldn't get the sound I was looking for with the Yamaha I'd go for the Korg.

 

 
Greg Rapaport: Azrael Block
 
Reviews:
Metal Observer
The Prog-Nose (.pdf)
Electric Basement (.pdf)
Froster.com
Quintessence (.pdf)
Proggnosis
Sea of Tranquility
Guitar Mania (pdf)
Ragazzi Music
Guitar Lords
Progressive Ears
The Guitarists
Song List/Description
Azrael Block:
An Azrael Block is a method in which someone’s memory is re-programmed. Usually this is done through drugs and hypnosis. I got the concept from a book I read called "Strangers" by Dean Koontz. A lot of the imagery that I created for the artwork came from this concept.
Sever:
Sever is an interesting track that starts off with a clean descending minor pattern with some middle eastern percussion and flute. The next part has the tune turning into a metalesque staccato march. It then morphs into a downtuned funk stomp complete with wacky wah solo.
Tech Support:
This song is dedicated to all those people on the other end of the line who have to deal with all the inane questions that the general population barrages them with. Just listen to the beginning of the song to feel the rage and frustration that takes place inside the minds of your everyday tech support staff.
Interlude - A:  
This tune has semi non-title 'cause I couldn't really think of anything to name it. It seems kind of atypical as far as the rest of the music on the disk goes but I really enjoyed writing and recording it. It's a pretty mellow song making use of the acoustic guitar. Again I used some Middle Eastern tinged percussion and weird synth textures to create a dark and moody backdrop.
Skitzophraniac:
This song is the weirdest on the disk, hence the title, at least in my opinion. The beginning is very jazzy with a 6/8 groove. I use a Rhodes piano sound to accent the clean solo lines with a weird underlying dissonance. Then it really starts to get odd. In a nutshell the song turns into a Tool like motif then it goes back and forth between Nevermore like riffage and mellow 6/8 jazz.
Uncle Knucklez:
Poor Uncle Knucklez is an old school hit man with a lot of car problems. Once he gets his groove on though he gets the job done. This tune is a hardcore metal funk tune that has a few progressive twists and turns. It starts off with a filthy slap-bass riff then the tune kicks into gear. This song has elements ranging from odd time accents with diminished arpeggios to semi traditional walking bass lines with jazz fills.
Flatline:
This song is the longest on the disk clocking in at almost 10 minutes (you'll be hearing this one on the radio any day now). This song basically is about someone dieing in a hospital bed. They are continuously being pulled back and forth between life and death. The sounds in the beginning represent what someone might hear who is in and out of consciousness. When the tune kicks in their journey begins. The different parts of the tune kinda stand for the struggle of this person and of his need to finally cross over.
Interlude - B:
Yep another tune with no real title. I went old school with this one. I even toned down the production a bit and tried to take it back to the '70s. I hope I succeeded. It's pretty much a straight up fusion tune. The soloing is off the cuff so they're are a couple, ahem, "interesting" moments. But I wanted to keep it pretty raw. There is the obligatory wah on the bass and of course the Rhodes piano patch rears its head yet again. The guitar sound is very "stratty" and has some mild overdrive on it which gives it a nasty edge.
Deceiving The Industry:
Another wacked out semi concept tune. Pretty cliched idea but I like it anyway. The typical big brother - technical - computer monstrosity - taking over the world ploy. And of course we have the meek organic faction trying to fight its way to freedom and defeat the mechanical empire. You can definitely delineate the two sides throughout the tune.
Difunckt :
This tune starts with a chord sequence in fourths played as arpeggios underneath two guys desperately trying to communicate with each other. After the preliminary BS the tune goes into a low D diminished riff that will scare the shit out of your cat. I also incorporated some '70s analog synth sounds in the break down that eventually runs in unison with the guitar. There is also some slap bass chicanery thrown on top of the pile as well.
Dinner And Dancin:
The beginning sequence represents a typical date with Hannibal Lechter. We enter the scene, as his date is walking through a very seedy neighborhood, in the rain no less. Then she enters an old rundown warehouse (Hannibal is between living quarters right now due to dining on his previous landlord). She catches her "date" having an appetizer then unfortunately becomes the main course. After our hero's appetite has been properly satiated he then goes out on the town to do a little dancing. Maybe he'll take a look at the dessert tray as well. This tune has a bit of an old school funk vibe to it, which was fun to play over. During the breakdown I changed up the guitar sound a bit.
No Solace:
This tune is without a doubt the heaviest on the disk. I kinda describe this tune as the bastard son of a Nevermore and Opeth tune. It opens with a fast thrashy riff then it hits upon the main theme. After winding its way thought some fairly odd time signatures and melodious geetar wankery the tune goes into "Damnation" mode.
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