Finally we come to the end of our current run of gear posts, and we turn to the pedals currently on Nick’s board and how they came to be used on Ellipsism. Oh, and which ones he broke, obviously.
(Note from Richard:Please ignore the bit where he says he’s not good at guitar solos – he’s lying.)
Nordell Audio Power Core
Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
Electro-Harmonix Micro Pog
Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive
Electro-Harmonix Small Stone
Dunlop Crybaby Wah
Boss DD-500 Delay
Pro Co Rat
Those of you who read my entry in our amp episodes will already be aware of my tendency to break my equipment, and pedals are no different.
Starting with tuners, I’d been using a Behringer pedal which was a clone of the reliable old Boss TU series, and it was serviceable, if flimsy, contraption. So flimsy in fact, that it fully disintegrated in my hand, moments before our set at a gig in Manchester, purely under the stress of my superhuman strength and the Velcro with which it was attached to my board. Naturally, it was now an unsalvageable handful of detritus, so I replaced it with an aforementioned Boss TU-3, which has been reliable ever since. Nice shade of white too.
Next in my chain is the Elecro-Harmonix Micro-Pog. I remember in the early days of Ba’al, our old guitarist Craig found one of these in our old practice room (I think he actually claimed it and may still have it) and the sound blew me away. I’ve always loved that lower octave sound, it adds so much girth to big, monophonic, bottom string riffs and I’ve never heard a pedal do it this well. Over time I’ve come to appreciate the upper octave setting more and more as well, especially as a little organ simulator. In truth, I actually barely used this on Ellipsism, mostly just as a means of adding ‘umph’ to some of the muddiest riffs. Nice shade of red too.
So, the majority of my distortion sounds come from the overdrive channel of my JCM which is, by all accounts, excellent. I use the SD-1 (which I bought off Tom for the price of a bus ticket) as more of a tube screamer, adding a little more frostbite to my tone which allows it to cut to through a little more. I rarely have the drive setting higher than 1, so the effect is subtle but definitely audible. It’s also great to use as a drive by itself to give clean chordy passages some grungy emo vibes as well, there are a couple of moments on the album that I made use of this, but not many. Nice shade of yellow too.
Now then, there’s a running joke between myself and Richard – the only remaining member who remembers the early days of Ba’al in which I would use a Joyo phase pedal on basically every track. Often more than once. Since replacing the Joyo (which obviously broke) with the EHX Small Stone, I’ve toned that tendency down somewhat. That being said, I simply cannot understate the satisfaction I get out of whacking this baby on during the second rotation of a beatdown style passage to give it some wub. You can hear it in action in particular towards the end of ‘Jouska’. Nice shade of orange too.
The crybaby wah is actually the first pedal I ever got, as a present from my dad. This was in my secondary school days when I wanted to do shredding guitar solos with the wind blowing my long hair through the air, like a milkmaid’s frock on a washing line. Those days are behind me though. I have short hair now, and guitar solos have lost a lot of appeal to me (mostly because I’m not that good at them). Nevertheless this pedal has a short feature in one short section in ‘Rosalia’, which is the closest thing you’ll get to a guitar solo you’ll get from me from now on. Nice shade of black too.
Now we’re talking. I bought the Boss DD-500 only a short time before we recorded Ellipsism, so my knowledge of the pedal’s capacities were sadly somewhat limited. In the time since however, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring this pedal and I have to say it’s my favourite that I own. The sheer scope for effects you can get out of this thing are bewildering. I bought it off a guy in France who’s saved effects banks are just mind boggling and I’m enjoying getting some bonkers, and beautiful, sounds out of the thing. Expect a lot more trippy delay weirdness on whatever we record next. Nice shade of cream too.
Ah yes, the Maxverb was an emergency purchase before a gig in which I was using a backup amp which didn’t have a built in reverb (yeah my usual amp broke, who saw that coming?). This thing has 3 settings; plate, spring, and hall. I’ve only ever used the hall setting because I simply don’t like the other 2, but for big washy reverb, it does the trick very nicely. As an added level of nonsense, the LED works approximately 4% of the time, so I have to constantly remember if it’s on or not, which is more difficult that you might think. I should really just buy another, better reverb pedal really. Regardless, I use reverb and delay an awful lot on this album. Most clean sections have one or both, all my lead parts use one or both, and I often use them to give the washy blackgaze sections more g a z e. Nice shade of blue too.
The Rat doesn’t normally sit on my board that much anymore since I started using the amp gain, but I do often like to use it in the studio for some of the bigger and more shrieky doom sections where there doesn’t need to be that much precision. It’s a raucous little thing, which I may use more in the future. Nice shade of black too.
And that’s my board. I used a few pedals that belong to Joe Clayton to add some little inflections to the album, but I largely stick to a fairly limited pool of sounds on this album.
To wrap up our gear chat for the time being, before we release our debut album next week, we thought we’d talk through Richard and Nick’s pedal set ups that were used for the writing and recording of the record. First up it’s Richard’s fairly chaotic, multi-purpose board used for the bass and even some of the viola…
Caline 5 Power Supply
Mooer Pure Octave
Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini
Starting at the start of the chain… I actually picked up the TU-3 very recently, as my old Behringer tuner has always been a bit hit-and-miss with actually picking up my lowest string first time. We used Nick’s TU-3 in the studio and it had no trouble, so I grabbed one second hand post-haste.
The little brown Pure Octave pedal has a lot packed into such a small unit. You can go 1 or 2 octaves in each direction, and a little knob lets you pick any combination of -1, -2, +1 and +2 at the same time. On Ellipsism I just use the standard -1 setting on one of my higher bass lines at the end of ‘Long Live’, but I’ve been messing around with getting some weirder sounds out of the other settings more recently.
I should say at this point that despite the dusty, tangled mess that my board often is, it’s laid out the way that it is for the purely practical reason that I play bass in Ba’al and guitar in another band, and I don’t want to have to keep switching things around every week for practice. This board serves both purposes, and as such some of the pedals were obtained primarily for one band/instrument or the other. However, in many cases I’ve found that something I bought for one ends up getting used extensively for both.
The LS-2 line selector is up next, which has two loops of other pedals hooked into it, which I can switch between, making transitions between sounds a hell of a lot easier on the fly, and meaning that I can switch some things on or off in advance of needing them, without the sound being affected until necessary.
Loop A continues along the chain to the bottom left corner with my overdrives and distortion. As you might expect, the Tubescreamer was bought with guitar in mind, and the ODB-3 for bass. The ODB is the basis of my main heavy sound in Ba’al, and is on almost all of the loud parts of the album. This particular one I’ve actually had since I was a teenager first learning bass. I will sometimes throw the Tubescreamer on top of it to boost the frosty high end and cut through a blasting section, particularly if I’m playing in a higher register. This happens a few times on ‘Long Live’ and also ‘An Orchestra of Flies’.
The big orange pedal is a guitar distortion pedal by Vox – the Trike – which I did actually buy second hand in the early days of Ba’al specifically for bass. It has a + and – octave option, but mainly it just causes absolute filth to happen. It’s got an incredibly nasty, buzzing drone quality to it (particularly with the octave up layered subtly in the mix), and when combined with the ODB it can rumble and disgust people for miles around until you tell it to stop. I tend to deploy this secret weapon only in the slowest, most crushing riffs, as well as if I want to get some nasty feedback going. It’s used on the most funereal of the riffs on ‘Jouska’, the intro and outro drones of ‘Father, the Sea, the Moon’, and the noisy outro of ‘Tarred and Feathered’.
Loop B coming from the line selector contains just one pedal: the Electro-Harmonix Key9. This is part of EHX’s stunning range of organ/keyboard emulating pedals, along with the likes of the B9 and the C9. The Key9 focuses on making your instrument sound like one of various keyboards and electric pianos, like the Wurlitzer and Rhodes, plus some other organs and some wildcards, like a pretty hilarious steel drum setting. This was a prize purchase made for my other band, but some of the more textural settings have found their way onto each of the main Ba’al releases thus far. On Ellipsism, the section in the middle of ‘Long Live’ with the odd time signature has me impersonating an organ. It’s in it’s own loop partially so that I can switch from it straight to my overdrives, but also because it creates it’s very own special brand of weird digital noise when not in use. The scrap of yellow tape in the corner reminds my dumb brain that it is in loop B, which has a yellowish LED on the line selector.
Coming out of the line selector entirely, my chain ends with a Mooer Shimverb reverb pedal and a Boss delay, which are used quite sparingly in this band, pretty much just in the drone/ambient parts. The DD3 is there very sparingly on some of the clean sections throughout the album, and Tom also used it some of his cleans when he needed something more simple than his massive arsenal of more complicated delays would allow. The ‘shimmer’ setting on the Shimverb adds an eerie 7th above the note you’re playing (as well as the reverb), and this feature gets its moment during the drone section of ‘Long Live’.
Speaking of that section, you may or may not be able to pick up a few viola lines layered in there. Those were also run through my pedal board, specifically into the Vox Trike, for a scratchy and unnerving sound.
My power supply is a very cheap one that was recommended by my other band, and it does the job with almost enough supplies for all my pedals; technically I’m one short, but thankfully the Boss LS-2 has an extra power output that I use to supply the Shimverb.
You’ll also notice a few extra loose bits and bobs in the top right of the board. These are my emergency gig supplies: spare patch cables for when things go suddenly dead onstage (let’s be honest, I usually keep them on hand for Nick rather than myself); a pair of shitty rubber earplugs in case I forget my normal, fancy ones; a small pack of hairbands in case I forget to bring one and I need to get my sweaty hair out of my face after a set so I can see where I’m loading my gear to. All essential.
Next up, we take a look at our guitarist Nick’s playing and writing influences, in the lead up to the release of Ellipsismon the 30th October.
You’ll find a Spotify playlist at the end which now contains tracks from Richard, Luke and Nick.
Deafheaven – Worthless Animal
Alcest – Ecailles de Lune, Pt. 2
Mew – Comforting Sounds
Mew – Snow Brigade
Pallbearer – Foundations
Bossk – The Reverie II
The Elijah – I Loved
Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper
Conjurer – The Mire
Letlive – Muther
Falls of Rauros – White Granite
It’s interesting to consider how varied this band’s influences are, and especially how a lot of that reflects the age gap. Around the time we first started Ba’al, I was 19, at university, and looking to start a melodic post-hardcore band. I listened to a very wide range of genres and styles casually, but in terms of what I wanted to do creatively, I was mostly interested in bands like Architects, Letlive, Gallows, and The Elijah. I’ve actually found that a lot of these types of bands actually crossed over into what Ba’al are doing today.
As far as doom went I was into plenty of the bigger names like My Dying Bride and Candlemass but joining Ba’al really prompted me to dig a lot further down into that quagmire of dank misery. Before long I discovered Bossk, and lo my love affair with post-metal did begin. As the youngest member by several years, at first I felt somewhat out of my depth. Hearing bands I’d never heard of getting name dropped frequently was a little intimidating at first but also provided such a wealth of new stuff I wanted to listen to and take inspiration from. We’re also a band that massively supports having varied ideas and not rejecting something because it’s not typical of the genre, which is nice because it allows us to pull all our respective tastes into the creative process.
My first track is ‘Foundations’ by Pallbearer which, in my opinion, comes from one of the best doom albums this decade. I love harmonies, no matter how obvious or predictable a second guitar line playing a harmony of the first is, I just think it pretty much always sounds amazing. Pallbearer do massive, melodic doom with killer dual guitar parts so brilliantly that I often find myself writing second-rate knock offs of their riffs without even realising it. One of them sneaked into Ellipsism.
I first discovered Mew many years ago, my dad had a copy of Frengers and I just remember being blown away by the crazy mix of sounds and oddball musicality. Bo Madsen undoubtedly one of the most under appreciated guitarists around. Everything he contributed to the band was so inventive in his technique, musicality and the kaleidoscope of sounds he created. I constantly strive to approach songwriting in the same way this band does. They’re wonderfully off the wall and constantly catch you off guard. Their influence on me probably isn’t obvious just from listening to Ba’al because we’re musically extremely different, it’s more the approach to writing that influences me. Although it’s probably the most straightforward track on the album, I consider ‘Comforting Sounds’ to be one of the finest songs ever written. As far as melancholy tracks that start quiet and build into a huge crescendo go, this is just a perfect example of how to do it. I’ve also included Snow Brigade as it’s a zany little masterpiece of a track. It probably illustrates my aforementioned points a little better.
As I mentioned previously, few bands have had as much impact on me as Bossk. They were my gateway to such a broad array of artists and I suppose every time I’ve written anything for Ba’al, I’ve subconsciously thought “what would Bossk do here?”. For me, they are a benchmark of what post-metal can be, in particular Audio Noir which was such a revelation for me when I first heard it. The track ‘Atom Smasher’ carries so much energy, I wish I could write something as groovy as that.
Perhaps the most obvious and immediate influence you’ll hear on the album is Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper. The whole album is amazing but the haunting clean introduction is so compelling that I wanted to try something similar. This gave me a starting point for our song ‘Rosalia’, which evolved a lot, but I think you’ll hear the influence there.
Deafheaven are such a vital band that it’s almost impossible to find a band like us that doesn’t take at least some influence from them. I think they’re actually one of the closest bands to a middle ground between black metal and the more emo post-hardcore bands I mentioned earlier. Pretty much every blasty riff I come up with comes from Deafheaven. The same goes for Alcest who were the first blackgaze band I ever heard (it’s always one or the other isn’t it). As much as I like nasty, evil sounding BM, I’m always striving to come up with more plaintive and melancholy parts like what these two bands have mastered over the years.
As already covered by Richard, Conjurer are one of the most relevant underground bands around at the moment. We have a white board which we use to help structure songs and generally each riff or section is named after whatever band it sounds the most similar to. It says Conjurer several times on there. There’s lots of interesting nuances to their music that often slip into Ba’al tracks without us even realising. But often it’s completely intended.
I actually want to mention Letlive and The Elijah as they potentially carry the most impact out of all the bands I listened to as a teenager. They might not necessarily come through in our music in an immediate sense but I think these kinds of band informed a lot of the music I listen to today and what I generally gravitate towards more. They’re both exceptionally emotive bands which is one of the main aspects I’m continually drawn to in atmospheric black metal, doom, post-metal etc.
My final pick, after a lot of deliberation and cutting down, is ‘White Granite’ by Falls of Rauros which is just a mesmerising, illustrative journey of a track. It’s another case of being a 10+ minute that you can get completely lost in, as I have done countless times. This extended, flexible structure lends itself to this style of music so well. The ebb and flow of energy gives the experience of an expertly crafted story that is truly gripping. One of the best post-metal albums from one of the best post-metal bands around.