This is an NGADM Round 5 Review
You, sirs, have been rocking this contest since the start. Every round you had an extremely memorable, distinguishable track, and each one was so well-produced, well-executed, and well-written. This was, above all, an incredibly well-deserved first place.
What I respect the most about this track would be the scale of it all. Once again we've got four talented vocalists in here, and on top of that there's actually a lot of detail and variation that can be found in elements of the mix like the guitar and vocals. In addition to that, you have a tried-and-true song structure, climactic ending, and emotionally uplifting melody, which makes this a VERY fulfilling and satisfactory listening experience. Production-wise, this is also no slacker! I much prefer how you mixed the vocals here than in your previous track, and everything is clear and pronounced. Some specific things I loved about this would be the thick vocal harmonies, dreamy texture on the guitar, 2:53's rhythmic change, and of course the beautiful lead vocal performance.
Like I was saying to midimachine in his review, finding issues in these tracks was a huge problem for me, even after over a dozen listens to each. I eventually settled on complaining about the fact that this is... I dunno, safe? If I had to compare this to the other tracks you've submitted to the contest, it's decidedly more straightforward, with a cookie-cutter pop structure, standard uplifting key change at the end, and mostly simple composition. I hardly care because of how WELL you executed everything, though. This is me nitpicking a track which I consider among the best that this year's contest has to offer.
Truly brilliant work to you all, not just for this track but for the five excellent tracks you've graced our ears with. Congrats on being the first team in NGADM history to land first place, and thanks for the wonderful music!
Step, my man. It has been quite a journey, and we're super ecstatic to have even made it this far let alone take the win! I agree with you that (generally) the composition aspect is more simple than some other stuff we've done (I mean, we didn't use 3 key signatures and 5 time signatures like Vanquish the Night, haha). But we put probably an equal amount of time into it. Josh actually mixed this on his studio monitors this time (he had been using slightly above average computer/laptop speakers for the previous rounds since his studio is no longer in his home). Thanks for all the work you put into this Step! (even putting LunacyEcho's track up on the front page instead of yours, :P I see what you did there)
It has been an honor!
Hot damn, this is one of my favourite tracks of the whole contest. You played it pretty safe by going back to your track that had the most success this year - your Round 3 track - and making something in a similar style, but this time I think you nailed it even further. That melody is brilliant, and I cannot overstate this. It's catchy, it's memorable, it's fun, and it has a super nice modulation to the aeolian mode at the end of it. Synths/sounds are, once again, impeccable. The sawtooth synths you used for the lead sound are especially good. Again, the vibrato and pitch bending you put on them just quadrupled their enjoyment factor. Sick reverse kick at 1:40 too!
I listened to this track and bassfiddlejones/joshgawaldo's track at least 15 times each, and finding issues in both of them was a nightmare. I mean really, the only thing I can point out is that the ending is abrupt and lame. And that bloody air horn, man. Was so tempted to dock a point for it. It gave me the fright of my life the first time I heard it with headphones on, while walking to uni. I nearly mlg360noscope'd my underwear.
Honestly, this is beyond fantastic. My favourite track from you this contest, although you've been keeping a VERY strong pace throughout. The final matchup could've gone either way. So yeah, thanks a million for taking part, posting such awesome music, and providing many donks and ":v" faces. Congrats on the second place!
it's been real. and hey, thanks for judging!
This is an NGADM Round 4 Review.
When I saw that you two were paired against SoundChris and JacobCadmus, I knew that, given the stupid amounts of musical talent you all have, either group would have to churn out a true masterpiece to beat the other. This is a true masterpiece, deserving of probably one of the highest scores in NGADM history.
You weren't lying when you said that this was in a different vein from the other content you two have created during the course of this contest. Not only is the genre different, but even the entire approach. If I didn't know any better, I would have not guessed that this submission was made by the same people who made your previous submissions. This is a lot more "grounded" in its structure, in that it doesn't veer off into crazy time/key signatures and totally new and distinctive sections like your other stuff does. There's also, of course, the usage of vocals, which is a new addition to your NGADM 2015 repertoire. Despite this completely new direction, you still excel, dare I say even more than you've excelled in past submissions.
The melodies and chords are so memorable and likeable. Probably one of my favourite things about this track would be how solid the composition is. Another one of my favourite things would have to be the performances. I knew your (talking to bassfiddlejones) wife had a scary good singing voice, but what I didn't know is that you were hiding an awesome singing voice all this time yourself! All the singing is fantastic, really. The parts where a bunch of vocals come in sound incredibly full and warm. And Josh is really shredding it on that banjo, wow.
Of course, there was also a bunch of other stuff I enjoyed, such as the switch to double time, the lyrics, the production, the sound of that percussion, and so on, but to avoid this review getting too long, let me just get the nitpicks over with. I think the vocals are too mid-heavy, and some of the mixing and editing on them was a bit wonky (such as 2:03's voice being too distant in the mix or some parts being out of sync). One stylistic complaint is that I really would have liked to hear an instrument solo here. This is more personal preference than a legitimate reason to dock some points, but I did find myself hoping to hear some killer banjo riffs take the spotlight around halfway.
Anyhow, you've well and truly blown the judging team away. Fantastic work to all of you. The question is, how will you top this for the final round?
Step! Thank you for the wonderful review - we are tickled that you guys enjoyed this song so much. Hopefully much more to come for Newgrounds!
This is an NGADM Round 3 Review.
First off, I want to apologise for the tardiness! Onto the review.
So, what initially impressed me a lot about this track would be the atmosphere you created right from the get-go. That intro is nothing short of film-worthy, with the subtle electronic elements, soft staccato string passage in the background, and those awesome swelling strings. You've created, as always, a wonderfully cinematic experience. Another thing I particularly liked over here is how airy the track is! It's something I've noticed in nearly all of your music. I think it's somewhat of a temptation to make orchestral/film music very warm and thick, but it's a temptation you don't fall into. Your tracks have a certain sense of airiness without sounding empty, and yet you still craft such excellent atmospheres. It shows a sense of restraint and control that's valuable for any musician to have.
While I do think this is extremely high-quality stuff, I'm also going to echo what those below me said. It doesn't really venture anywhere. As you probably guessed, the lack of dynamics is killing this track, from the perspective of an NGADM judge. It would fit beautifully in some long, tense scene in a film, but as a listening experience it's a mere exercise in subtlety, and nothing more. It doesn't tell a story or have much movement. Your last round's track suffered from this to an extent, but I liked the emotion and composition of that one a lot, whereas over here the focus seems to be on atmosphere. Atmosphere alone won't get you the sky-high scores you need at this point in the competition!
While I adore all the subtleties and atmosphere, I was hoping for a bit more of an experience! That said, this is, like always, professional-level stuff from you. I hope to see you in any future NGADMs, and it's been a pleasure!
And it was a great pleasure for me too! I don't really have much to say, those reviews are priceless, and surely I still have a lot to learn. Can't wait for next NGADM, and I hope that you will see some progress :)
This is an NGADM Round 3 Review
Geoplex makes a really good point; how the hell is this a product of two people? It sounds like the result of a carefully-planned piece by a single mastermind. It flows so well and the melodies and harmonies are super well-thought-out, so I'm very impressed with how you guys both put this together. Would've required no less than perfectly coordinated teamwork. I'm actually curious - how did you two tackle the song? Did LucidShadowDreamer finish the whole piano part and send it to dem0lecule to add strings? Or was it a more progressive collaboration (one of you finishes one part, the other finishes another, etc)?
Anyway, that aside, time to judge the meat of this track. I actually find it quite interesting that this was paired with Jacob's and Chris' track, because both are similar in that they're very hard to judge in my opinion. This is a behemoth of a track, with nine minutes of beautifully written and heartfelt composition. I am actually genuinely impressed by the melodic and harmonic content here, and the brilliant use of motif. It's so easy for piano and strings to sound like noodling/improvisation, but it's clear that you put a lot of thought into this and structured it sensibly.
I have two main problems with this track. The first would be those strings. Compositionally, they are very good and fit wonderfully with the piano, but in terms of execution? Poor at best. They sound dry and artificial. The legato strings in the foreground are in desperate need of legato transitions between the notes, too. By contrast, the piano sounds excellent. Good sample, humanisation is all there, velocity work is solid (except maybe at 2:30 the piano gets a bit too grating)... but yeah, while compositionally the strings and piano are at a very high standard, the strings struggle to keep up in the production department.
Another issue is that I think this piece struggles from having TOO MUCH content. I usually complain about a song not having enough, but in this case, as much as I love what you've given us here and think that you did a great job keeping it interesting, it just comes off as overwhelming and tiring to listen to. I particularly find the section from around 3:00 - 5:30 to tire me. The song seems then transitions to an awesome climax, followed eventually by a well-placed reintroduction of theme, which allows it to pick up the pace a little, but that particular section overwhelmed me personally in terms of the sheer amount of content and super serious demeanour.
I really had a hard time judging this track and your opponents'. In the end I had to be a wuss and give each of you the same score. I think you and your opponents all have extremely solid and memorable tracks. Even though you guys didn't make it through, it's sad to see you go! Great work getting so far, and it's been a pleasure!
Thanks a great deal for yet another wonderful review :)
We've tackled our different collaborations in different ways. For this one, here is what we did:
I came up with a few ideas, and had dem0lecule come up with a few ideas as well. His ideas were string based, and my ideas were focused on the piano. But I interpreted his ideas in a way that allowed me to make them fit with the piano, and planned the piano parts around the string melodies he sent me. Especially the third and fourth movement are based closely around his original string ideas. But I think that the main reason this is so consistent, is because all of the piano was played by me in one sitting, and the arrangement of the piano is all mine this time. That said, I have no idea how dem0lecule managed to write so great string melodies for the entire piece in just one night. I did edit certain parts, and for the fifth movement I changed it and added my own ideas, but other than that, it's mostly the same. And even if I hadn't changed such parts, it would've still sounded just as consistent (yet different), because I have an older version I can listen to as well, which already sounds great.
But we were both of a similar mindset, and the intention behind the track is mostly the same for the both of us, which is why I think it was pretty easy for us to get a good structure. And once again, I am sure that playing the piece on a piano makes pretty much anything sound like it was made by one person, because I have a certain style of playing that really shines through whether I want it to or not.
Yeah, I definitely get that our tracks would both be difficult to judge. We're very happy that you appreciate the melodies and harmonies, as those along with the arrangement, are the core of the track. I spent a lot of time working on transitions and structure especially. I am at a point where chords and melodies seem to come to me much easier than a good arrangement. So I made sure to really focus on having a motif, and a few other kinds of more hidden repetition. But I'll get more into that when I eventually gather enough time and energy to respond to johnfn's massive review.
You're definitely right. If you compare this to my unplanned improvisations, there is a huge difference.
And yes, of course. The strings pain no one as much as they pain me. But, life came in the way. That said, I have talked with dem0lecule, so when things calm down, we'll put aside some time to produce this properly, with his intruments (though I might just use my electronic piano as the piano sample). I really appreciate those tips though. I produced this very quickly in the last minutes, so even I could do so much better, but I still need as much advice as I can get for the future. Dem0 has things more in check though XD
The piano power at 2:30 is definitely intentional. But with this particular VSTi, maybe it doesn't sound as good as it could. Maybe slightly different EQ settings at this part would've made it better. I actually didn't change the piano velocities manually at all, which may be a mistake. But I felt I played it well enough, and that removing a few mistakes would be enough. And for the strings, most of my time that last night went into editing the velocities. But as Geoplex pointed out, the ADSR humanization is totally lacking.
We both knew from the start that making a track this long would be tiring for many people. But we also didn't really care, as we didn't set out to make a pop track. I get what you mean with 3:00-5:30, but I think that those parts are also very important to convey what the piece is intended to. I feel it wouldn't be at all complete without them. Maybe better production would help this too?
There is a lot of new content that doesn't really repeat much in the middle section, which is why I think you and others might find those parts especially tiring to listen to :)
I'm glad you noticed the climax after that though, even if the mix doesn't really bring it out as much as it should be!
Yeah, I figured that you had a hard time picking one of the tracks to give a higher score to. I might've given a higher score to Chrismus based on the production alone. Then again, I personally like the structure and harmonical/melodic content in this track more. But I am obviously incredibly biased XD
But I totally get what you mean. I think it's fine that you decided to score both tracks alike, and both dem0 and I are super happy with your high score, especially as the score is so high despite the length and the production.
So once again, thanks a million for organizing this awesome contest, for judging, and for leaving great and helpful reviews. It was a blast to participate, and we seem to have done pretty well in the end, which is all fine and dandy for me. In fact, I'm almost personally secretly a bit happy that we lost eventually, as I had soooo much other stuff I had to catch up with o.O
I'm still only barely managing, but I'll soon have some free time again.
I'm sure we'll definitely participate (separately or together) if you organize this again next year!!!
It has been a pleasure indeed :3
Is it just me or is there a tendency for NGADM submissions to sound like boss music? On top of that, it's as the contest gets closer to the final round, the music becomes more serious and epic-sounding. Maybe the tension/excitement of getting closer to determining a winner is starting to affect the music too, haha.
Rambling aside, this is wonderfully exciting, dramatic, and epic-sounding stuff. It has so much vibrance and energy, and explores so many different facets of the cinematic/symphonic metal genre of music that it's impossible to get bored of it. There's so much replay value and likeability to be found here, whether it's in the addicting melodies, huge amount of variety, intense mood, phenomenal guitar playing, or any of the million and one other things this track has to offer.
I also believe that my praise in my last review for your Round 2 track also applies here. I absolutely love how you seem to have the ability to throw in all those crazy time signature changes and modulations without any detriment to the song's casual listening appeal. This sounds like something I could dissect to figure out all the cool stuff you did with the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms, and then, an hour later, leave running in the background while playing some RPG. This is such a valuable virtue to have in the music industry, because it really increases your music's target audience and overall likeability.
I have two gripes. First is, as you would imagine, the mixing/production. I'm not finding it hard to believe you rushed the mix, because it shows. The orchestra feels detached from the guitar, especially in parts like 0:49, where the guitar is all upfront and thick, and the orchestra is somewhere in the distant background. There's a lot of clutter and muddiness in certain sections like 1:25. Also, while I'm usually a fan of how you execute your orchestra (speaking to bassfiddlejones here), I'm not too impressed this time round I'm afraid! The piano sounds a bit too bright, and the brass/strings feel very flat and lacking in dynamics, mostly prominent in the section at 1:52. Speaking of that section, do you have any samples that support legato transitions between notes? Because that 1:52 part sounds unrealistic, and some proper legato on those strings/brass would really help.
Another issue I have with this is how you haphazardly switch from one section to another. I was really hoping for some more clever transitions, and while some of them are excellent, EVEN when switching between two totally different moods (looking at you, 0:13), others, like 4:10, are almost nonsensical. Honestly, you guys kind of make it harder for yourselves to achieve a smooth flow by adding all these crazy mood/time signature changes, though! Not that it isn't worth it :p.
All in all, this is beautifully written. Both you and your competitor had stellar submissions, but I gave you guys an advantage of 0.2 because, while both you and your opponent had issues transitioning between different sections, your track has a more unified direction. It was certainly a close matchup, and I would've been happy seeing either of you win. Good luck in the semifinals!
This super sounds like boss music to me too, haha. Yes, transitions - noted it in a response below. Some definitely got more time than others, which is what we had to do with the time crunch. Also, as this is mostly guitar driven we took a little bit of a different approach to the orchestra this time. Sometimes it's tough to balance the two. Step thank you for your feedback, we truly use it to try and get better. I agree with your criticisms, and we look forward to hearing what you have to say about the next piece!
This is an NGADM Round 2 Review
Oh hey, this is certainly a step up from your previous track. I'm going to start by saying that there are a LOT of fun ideas here. The intro instantly throws us into the hyperactive, defiant, and brazen mood you've created, and you keep the excitement levels high pretty much throughout the whole track, introducing neat idea after neat idea, while still remaining true to your original theme by reintroducing a highly similar version to it halfway through the track. It's a listening experience that I can't say I didn't have fun partaking in.
What I'm going to say in the criticism department is probably going to echo the thoughts of the other judges. While yes, I do enjoy the crazy and hyper melodies that effortlessly dart through jazzy scales and passages in all sorts of time signatures, there are points where the song isn't quite as amusing and verges onto the downright nonsensical, especially towards the end (and why did you leave that drum loop trailing during the ending?). To be honest, I was dying for some more sections in the track where I wasn't struggling to discern something in all the chaos.
I have a few mixing complaints. The drums get drowned out very often. You also have a muted saxophone in there (well, I think it's a muted sax anyway) which is extremely harsh on the high end and sticks out compared to all the instruments (not to mention its weird attack time). In general, this track sounds quite dry and could do with more reverb. It's also not as wide as it could be. I was hoping for some crispier highs from the cymbals and deeper lows from the bass and drums.
Despite its apparent chaotic and hyperactive nature, I still think this is a blast to listen to. Hope my criticism helped. Was nice having you in the contest.
Thanks dude. Yep that's the muted trumpet in the free kontakt player. We all wanted to track it live with everyone but the original trumpet player I had in mind flopped, really cool guy) I think you know him lol) When things went downhill I just stopped trying hence the weird out of place edm outro. All true though dude thanks for getting to the review I can't mix like I used to but hopefully I can learn again one day.
While this style is certainly not something I'd consider unheard of when it comes to your music, I've got to say that the most alluring characteristic of this track is definitely its uniqueness, especially compared to most other tracks this round. This sounds creepy, tense, and extremely descriptive, with beautifully-written melodies/harmonies, an excellent flow that isn't interrupted even in tempo changes like 1:45, and a strong sense of instrumentation/voices. I consider this one of most well-executed tracks I've heard from you. It's really damn good!
Pretty much all of my complaints are in the production. For starters, I agree wholeheartedly with Geoplex that your softer passages are far stronger than your louder ones. There's a lot more subtlety and a better blend in the softer parts than in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" part you were talking about. I also feel like, as a whole, there's a significant lack of low end in this track. Lastly, some of your instruments have attack times that are unfortunately a tad too long, namely the choir in the intro and the strings that carry the melody.
Anyhow, this is a super solid piece and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We've reached the stage of the NGADM where I'm bummed with pretty much every matchup since I want both contestants to win haha. Wonderful work.
Wow! Thanks for the positive feedback! Actually I wasn´t so sure about this track anymore since I now hear all the flaws it has... If I will do a reissue of this track I´ll definitely work on the tutti/crescendo speed up part. I really feel it´s a bit overloaded here. Sometimes I want to much and then I write a melody fill this up with countervoices until I have the harmony and then afterwards add different ostinatos which expand to melodies, too. At the end you are just confused and you don´t hear anything of it anymore...
The attack times of some of my instruments are indeed a problem. Especially the strings. I just have some parts from 8dio s adaggio series which I got when they were on sale... They sound awesome in some way but they have tons of flaws. First: It´s just a really small string ensemble so it isn´t that good for big epic scoring. This is Okay for the music I usually do. So not a problem for me. Another thing is that there are some problems with the panning of the samples. If you want to play legato they usually throw a transition sample in between the two connected notes. Sometimes this sample is panned differently than the normal notes playing which sounds really weird... This can be handled if you just avoid these notes or if you bounce them in mono and repan them. The main problem is the attack times you and Geoplex mentioned. They are horribly long in some points and fast legato sections are not playable at all... If you have any idea how to handle this issue this is really welcome... I think it would be stupid to save for another strings library only due to the attack times. For the choirs I didn´t realize that actually but I guess I can get into that.
I´m really glad you enjoyed it! It was a pitty to get paired against IglicaV since I really like his music, but that´s the game ;) His track was awesome and had such a professional sound that he definitely deserved to win this round. Not everybody can pass but it was fun to join (Actually I didn´t even expect to pass the round of four with all these awesome musicians around...)
God, this sounds so Skye. The quirky/eccentric style presented with a super clean mix full of earcandy is something I always prepare myself to hear when I load up one of your songs. While I loved EliteFerrex's track for his melodies and overall charm, this definitely takes the cake for production. The deep bass synchronising with the kick gave this track a lot of rich and wide fullness, and makes it sound absolutely wonderful at high volumes with a decent sub. One thing I've always appreciated about your music is that you don't overload the track with a ton of sounds. You said yourself in the description that you only used 8 instrument channels, but you played around with their sound so much and give them all a lot of individual attention that you give off the illusion of this having an enormous palette of sounds. Also, mmm, those punchy drums.
Honestly, I was a bit hard-pressed to find much wrong with this. That's obviously a good sign, but at the same time, I felt like I wasn't completely taken aback like I tend to be with your other songs. I feel like it doesn't have enough noteworthy melodies or completely crazy/unique ideas to bring it to a level beyond "neat". Your production is stellar and your use of unorthodox time signatures is really damn cool, but at the same time I feel like this is a bit more "safe" than what I've come to expect from you. If this had more memorable melodies or more exciting/out-of-left-field sound design, then that would certainly fix this rather vague issue I have with the track.
I don't want to give off the impression that I don't like this, though. This is still incredible stuff. Can't wait for your next track.
Step! :D Hi!
Honestly, you're right - I was kinda playing it safe with a lot of this. I was experimenting with a bit of sound design stuff, but I was also experimenting with the other time signature, which was the biggest "different" thing about this. It's dnb. In 7/8. How common is that?
I've got something else interesting planned for the next track. You'd probably expect something like it more from one of the other people in the contest, but I'm putting my own spin on it. :)
Oh man, the Final Fantasy vibes are strong here! I'm going to get this out of the way: the composition here is among my favourite from this whole round. You had an idea, a style, a mood, and you executed everything perfectly. The structure is rock solid, the transitions are all perfect, the instrumentation is fitting... In the composition department, this just excels. I also appreciated the more daring compositional nuances and ideas, like the various modulations, 1:29's totally unexpected Picardy third (that's echoed again at 1:56), and how you pulled off that INCREDIBLE loop with those really neat chord changes and organ fade-in. The intro is just a totally different key and tempo but you kept your cool and nailed it, which really impressed me.
I'm afraid that the production of the track is where you lost a couple of points, since its execution isn't even in the same league as the composition's. I think you've done pretty well for yourself, but a combination of somewhat poor mixing and a lack of more contrasting dynamics gives this a somewhat "held back" impression. A classic example of this is 2:33, where the music audibly rises in composition, but sonically, it remains at roughly the same level, leading to a very unsatisfying and anticlimactic aftertaste, as everything feels held back from what it could be. There's a lot of potential in this track that isn't realised.
I hope I've explained myself properly. While I was rooting for both you and Chrono (happens a lot at this stage of the NGADM haha) I do think you had the slightly better track. Excellent job, and good luck in this next round!
Final Fantasy indeed. Definitely my main inspiration for this track, even if there are some other series which have great inspirational battle music in them as well.
The thing that is the most important to me, is that people enjoy the compositional aspect. I plan to gradually improve my mixing and production based skills, but I feel that when it comes to composition, I already have something going.
I'm glad that the style and structure is consistent this time as well. I think it helped that I was really in a flow when I made this.
I pretty much modulate automatically nowadays. I don't know why... I think I've always loved modulations of all kinds, and try to find ways to fit them in. They can also give a new feeling to every variation, as even if you hear the same track, but in a different key, it will sound different. Also, transitions somehow get so much more powerful with the right modulation!!
1:29 and 1:56 are nice catches. I felt that even though I wanted to keep the same rhythm and drive going throughout the track, it needed a few places where that structure is challenged, even if it's just for a moment. The same goes for 2:43.
That change in rhythm and tempo for the loop is really weird. I'm surprised myself that it works. The only reason I knew it would, is because for some reason it worked on the piano. I mean... It's such a weird transition o.O
And aah yes, the inevitable. The production is definitely lacking on the parts you mentioned, as well as in general. in a summary, I think what Geoplex said about the track lacking power, is the simplest way of putting it. Also, some points really fall a bit flat XD
I did the best I could for now, but I hope that in about 5 years, I might finally have an inkling of an idea of what I'm doing :p
I definitely agree that 2:33 is the best example, and the most unbalanced part of the mix. I'm impressed you heard the music rises in volume (but not sonically) though; if I didn't know, I totally wouldn't have noticed it. I fade out the percussion there, which shows just how much it adds to the frequencies it's prominent in, and how well the lack of it shows. That section definitely didn't even get close to having the effect I wanted it to have :D
Don't worry, you definitely explained yourself well. I was rooting for both Chrono and dem0 and myself as well, so I totally get that. I would probably simply lie down and die from judging, because I'd often end up rooting for both competitiors :)
Thanks a lot for the review, as well as for the high score, not to speak of organizing this whole thing!
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