Sampling in death metal

We’ve been working with samples in class lately, and controlling them with Live’s Simpler and Sampler. Controlling and manipulating samples in this way is not something I’ve done before, and is not conventionally how samples are used in heavier metal music. However, I can really see the benefit of having such control over sounds, either as a feature in a track, or for textures beneath acoustic and amplified electric instruments. I’ve analysed two songs from artists that I listen to with new ears after understanding how samples can be manipulated and triggered in Live, Dimmu Borgir’s “The Serpentine Offering”, a heavily symphonic track, and Aborted’s “The Origin of Disease”, which features triggered and sampled drums that I’m more conventionally used to. Analysing these tracks will come in hander with my remix of Abinsthius’s “The Sowers of Discord” as Absinthius use similar samples to Dimmu Borgir and Aborted, such as replaced drums (in Abinsthius’ case, fully programmed drums) and orchestral samples to give songs depth.
Dimmu Borgir “The Serpentine Offering”

Aborted “Origin of Disease”
Dimmu’s track opens with about a minute of orchestral music created with samples and breaks into a heavily sampled, robotic, kick-driven intro. While Dimmu Borgir’s members play electric guitars and bass, these instruments really make way for the orchestral sections and the guitars can clearly be heard dropping in and out to make way for the orchestral sections. The orchestras really change the feel of the different parts of the song, and when the orchestras drop out, it’s to make way for a more conventional ‘rocky’ riff or breakdown. The orchestras give more of a sense of space and grandeur. The orchestras may be real orchestras sampled, pitched and played similar to Live’s Sampler, or they may be virtual instruments. Aborted’s track, however, kicks into a more traditional death metal blast after a short fill. Despite such a busy mix, the sampled and replaced snare, kick and toms can still be clearly heard. The click kick drum is particular to death metal as the bottom end thump of an acoustic kick quickly gets lost. The guitars in this track are recorded with microphones on amplifiers, but the guitars were also re-amped using software played through an impulse response (e.g. a sample of a room, to give the robotic software some depth and space). Impulse responses are similar to convolution reverbs, in that they emulate a space, or in this case, the character of a specific speaker cabinet in a space.
The Aborted track is more contemporary, while The Serpentine Offering is older and kick drum is very robotic and very clicky/high in the mix. Aborted’s snare and kick is more ‘real’, while still click enough to fit in the death metal style. Dime’s kick drum is more obviously sampled but they need to stick out in a thick mix, and is more telling of a time when sampled kicks were overused. Aborted songs are very chaotic and busy, they need samples to help parts stick out. Because Aborted are a more contemporary band (though both bands are still active), the kick and snare in particular sound more ‘real’. I believe the snare in Aborted is 100% sampled, however in the video below you can see that drummer Ken Bedene’s playing has not been sampled too heavily and over-quantised. Ken also discussed the triggers on kick and snare, feeding MIDI direct to the DAW for re-sampling later on (skip to about 4:10) for the trigger discussion and 00:35 onwards for Ken’s drumming)

ABORTED – ‘Global Flatline’ Studio Webisode #1 (2011). Retrieved from

DIMMU BORGIR – The Serpentine Offering (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO) (2007). Retrieved from

ABORTED – Источник Болезни (The Origin Of Disease) (OFFICIAL VIDEO) (2012). Retrieved from


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