Producers see brand plug-ins as essential tools for Hushed and Grim
When it comes to blending the true sound of hard-hitting genres like hard rock, metal, and progressive rock into immersive formats, challenges are sure to arise. Such was the case with three-time GRAMMY-winning producer and mixer David Bottrill and his longtime freelance collaborator, GRAMMY-nominated engineer, mixer and producer Ryan McCambridge, who has recently worked on both the original mixes and Dolby Atmos for Mastodon’s latest double album. , hushed and sinister.
Known for a unique sound that oscillates between heavy metal and hard rock, Mastodon’s album is full of depth, dimension, powerful emotion and a certain sensitivity. With that in mind, Bottrill and McCambridge knew they had to work on each song individually, giving each the special attention it needed. To make the process easier, the duo turned to a variety of NUGEN Audio software, including Halo Upmix, Paragon, and ISL, to help them achieve their goals.
“Mastodon is a progressive band that required a lot of complex sound design and layering,” says Bottrill. “I mixed the album in stereo and then the decision was made to turn it into the Dolby Atmos format. It would have been a little more difficult for someone else to try to match the mix that I had done, so it made more sense for me to do the Dolby mix. I knew what I wanted the sound to do, and I was able to turn it into an Atmos mix with the help of Ryan. We worked together, and it was a real education for me. It set the tone for all of Atmos as we move forward.
To achieve their creative goals, Bottrill and McCambridge turned to NUGEN’s Halo Upmix software to take Bottrill’s Mastodon stereo mixes and put them into an immersive format. “Since I work on both music mixing and in post, I suggested NUGEN for this project, which I had been using for years,” says McCambridge. “The brand is such an industry standard. I use all of the company’s plug-ins and have come to rely on some of them more as we work on streaming service and Dolby Atmos immersive sound projects.
According to Bottrill, Upmix has become an integral part of the project. “Everything went through Upmix to varying degrees,” he says. “It worked incredibly well in maintaining an album feel, while giving the listener the feeling of being surrounded by the music. By using Upmix, we also felt confident that our mixes would always sound pristine when we would bring them back in other formats. It doesn’t get sloppy and it doesn’t turn into a phased nightmare. It’s very graceful.
The duo also used ISL and Paragon on the Mastodon album to help them add elements to the mix quietly. “Paragon was good at trying to smooth the edges of whatever we added to the mix,” adds McCambridge. “We didn’t want to identify the rods we were adding, we just wanted them to be part of the whole three-dimensional image.”
As for his use of ISL, McCambridge says it’s his main security plugin. “Whether I’m mixing music or working in post, having ISL at the end of a chain, at least in the back of your mind, you know you’re not going to clip,” he says. “Since it’s so transparent, you don’t really have to worry about and manage it as much as with other more ‘vibey’ limiters and compressors. To be honest, I’m pretty shocked at how seamless it is at times.
“We are able to use extensive work within the ISL just to define our levels,” adds Bottrill. “We tried different level settings until we finally found the one that seemed to have the most headroom, but was still able to push it to the limits we wanted to reach.”
“Pushing Tides”, the lead single from Mastodon’s Hushed and Grim album was nominated for a 2022 GRAMMY Award for Best Metal Performance.