When Toontrack decided to dedicate a custom drum pack to metal kits and grooves, they turned to the U.K.’s Andy Sneap to produce and engineer the project. Sneap’s production work includes albums with Testament, Arch Enemy, Megadeth, Killswitch Engage and Exodus and he’s well known for his piledriver drum sounds on record. Decamping to Henson (formally A&M) recording studios in Los Angeles, he enlisted drummer John Tempesta to pick from his vast array of drum gear – including a couple of snares from his 60 plus collection and a stainless steel kit – to play the drums and grooves that would become Metal Machine EZX.
Metal Machine is based round three of Tempesta’s drum kits; two Bubinga Tama Starclassics and a Ludwig Stainless Steel, in addition to a big selection of (mostly Zyldjian) cymbals and snares, which includes a Tama Bell Brass and a Ludwig Black Beauty. All the recording was done on an SSL 6000 E mixing console with an impressive collection of microphones including a Shure SM91, AKG D12 and Audix D6 on the kicks, Shure SM57 and Beyer M-201 on the snares, Shure SM7B on the hats and Sennheiser 421s on the toms. Cymbals were recorded with Neumann KM184s and the overheads were a pair of AKG 414s. Room microphones included a Neumann CMV3, an RCA77 ribbon and a Neumann U67.
Loading and authorizing the pack took literally seconds and after I’d set up a new session in my DAW, I was more than eager to hear what Toontrack had produced, given the pedigree of the artists involved in compiling Metal Machine EZX. I was not disappointed; not only is the quality of the drum sounds absolutely stunning – Tempesta’s kicks and snares are some of the best I’ve ever heard – but the MIDI pack is surprisingly extensive and comprehensive, offering dozens of intros, verses, choruses, bridges and fills in up to 15 variations of the groove in some cases. Open hi-hats and China cymbals are in abundance and the double kick drum arrangement means that all the typical metal breakneck speed patterns are as authentic as they get. Grooves are offered in suggested tempos, staring with the Heavy section at 100 BPM, right through a Mid section from 110 to 150 and then the business end of the spectrum, with ME Zombie, Car Crash and Gods, pushing the speeds up from 155-210 BPM. Ferocious stuff.
Toontrack’s expansion packs seem to be getting better and better with each release, but it has really hit the jackpot with Metal Machine EZX. Compiling metal drum tracks from samples has never been so easy, or sounded as good.