Heavyocity’s commando percussion team return to the sound stage tooled up and looking for something to break.
Crash! Bang! BOOM! And furthermore, Gzzzt! Such ear‑splitting noises abound in Damage 2, the latest destructive juggernaut in Heavocity’s pulverising percussive range. The all‑new library was recorded at Skywalker Sound, scoring stage of George Lucas’ $100 million Skywalker Ranch complex. Such was the lure of recording in this hallowed environment that Heavocity’s creative team upped sticks and travelled 3000 miles from New York to California to work on the project they proudly refer to as their new ‘cinematic beast’.
Damage 2 (hitherto referred to as D2) contains a large collection of orchestral, rock and ethnic drums (including taikos), cymbals and gongs, played solo and in ensembles of up to eight players, and an array of junkyard and found sounds. These organic sources are supplemented by an extensive loop collection and a huge menu of processed hits, impacts and sound design elements, with a strong emphasis on the sonic destruction Heavyocity are famous for. The library (22.6GB installed) runs on Kontakt and Kontakt Player 6.2.2 or later.
Work on the original Damage library began in 2010, making this release a 10‑year anniversary. Was it worth the wait? Come with me into the depths of this large percussion collection and we’ll endeavour to find out. Don’t forget your ear protectors.
D2’s 41,395 samples are presented in three types of Kontakt instrument, each crammed with features and ‘snapshot’ presets designed to get you started on your rhythmic odyssey. The Ensemble Designer NKI contains 732 multi‑dynamic sound sources which you can use to create playable setups of up to 36 ensemble or solo sounds. Alternatively, you can load premade banks of 12 sources into three designated one‑octave keyboard zones. If you’re looking for instant rhythmic action, Loop Designer provides 864 tempo‑sync’ed loops divided into straight and triplet‑based rhythms, while Kit Designer gives a nod to Maschine and MPC‑type controllers by laying out the samples on 16 pads using a General MIDI mapping.
An excellent new MIDI Performance Tool allows the creation of real‑time, customisable crescendos, swells, flams, rolls and repetitions of different lengths which add expression and realism to the straight hits. In addition, the Loop Designer’s stutter keys trigger instant slice‑stuttering in a choice of eighth, 16th, 32nd and 64th notes — when you release the key, the loop resumes playback without losing sync. A great idea which takes the labour out of stutter edits.
Distortion lovers will be pleased to see the big ‘Punish’ knob unleashed in the original Damage library still occupies pride of place, this time with even scarier graphics and three levels of aural devastation. As the gentleman in the walkthrough video warns, “However much destruction you want to inflict will be up to you.” Also on board are parametric EQ, filter, compression, saturation, delay and reverb modules which can be reordered into custom effects chains.
The most obvious distinction between D2 and its predecessor is that the new library goes to town with epic and cinematic big drum sounds: banks of ‘gran casa’ orchestral bass drums, rock kicks, snares and toms, taikos of all sizes and an array of ethnic drums are mercilessly battered by solo players and ensembles in a formidable display of force.
Unusually for this type of library, the drum multisamples incorporate up to 10 velocity zones, and so can deliver anything from intimate, soft taps and ominous hushed booms to a thunderous wallop which blows your head off. The players used drumsticks, mallets, hot rods and Hawaiian puili sticks to perform straight hits, flams, drags, multiple upbeats, repeated eighth and 16th notes, straight rolls, crescendo rolls and cresc‑dim swells, creating an enormous range of hugely dynamic percussion timbres.
I could write a book on my favourite D2 drum samples, but sadly today’s publishers prefer light romantic fiction... nevertheless, I can still wax lyrical about the six‑player bass drum ensemble’s monstrous ‘grand slam’, the rifle‑shot crack of eight unison snare drums and the thunder of the massed toms. Towering over them all (literally) is a massive 70‑inch gran casa bass drum (not recommended for pub gigs), which sounds like someone slamming a giant iron gate in an aircraft hangar. Stroked with a rubber ball mallet, this outsize instrument also produces a series of ghastly moans which crop up in sound‑design patches sounding like the wailing of lost souls.
Squaring up to its Western rivals is the 60‑inch mega low taiko, a fantastically deep‑sounding and beautifully resonant Japanese drum with a long, timpani‑like sustain. A low taiko drum ensemble performs enormous slamming hits, with higher‑pitched strikes from smaller taikos and shime‑daikos. In addition, there’s the usual selection of clacky taiko rim and stick hits. Adding to the epic boom are West African dunun (aka dun dun) and Brazilian surdos, while the field‑drum‑like alfaia and clattering dhol drums ramp up the noise levels. Closer to home, there’s the familiar ceramic clang of Middle Eastern darbuka, supplemented by the earthier thud of Persian tombak (aka dumbec) goblet drums.
While D2’s large drum contingent nails the requisite big, combative cinematic sound, I also enjoyed their more subtle timbres. Struck on the rims with hands, the tombaks produce a nice conga/bongo‑like tone, the solo dunun drums offer attractive, clean‑sounding low‑pitched hits and I loved the precise attack and beautiful rounded tone of the 40‑inch gran casa’s quiet strokes.
The First Law of Percussion states that a loud bass drum hit must be accompanied by a deafening cymbal crash, and D2 certainly has an abundance of the latter. Pairs of clashed piatti cymbals make a spectacular, rousing splash, while the players attack their crash cymbals (played solo and in two‑player ensembles) with rock & roll gusto. I was impressed by the cymbals’ mallet crescendo rolls — played over four and eight beats, these sumptuous oceanic swells will obligingly change their timing to fit your song tempo. Should you experience any uncontrollable jazz urges, an excellent pair of ride cymbals is also available.
In a distinctly non‑jazzy vein are some fearsome bashes on D2’s large tam tam gongs, with the 40‑inch model contributing magnificent loud hits and an awe‑inspiring long crescendo. The gongs are also brushed, scraped, rubbed and played with a cello bow, producing a great series of eerie, rattly and unsettling effects.
As in the original Damage library, the Heavyocity team visited a Connecticut junkyard to find fresh things to hit, and also brought in a host of likely objects such as trash cans and plastic bins. The jewel in the crown was a large metal dumpster rented from a recycling service, which was ceremoniously wheeled onto the sound stage. A visitor seeking Skywalker Sound’s rural tranquillity and spiritual calm might be alarmed to find three men attacking a large waste container with iron bars, but I must admit I enjoyed the mindless brutality. I also liked the scaffolding‑like metal pole clangs, but it’s possible I won’t get round to using the trash can lid swells and plastic bucket hits.
Shifting into the realm of distortion, the ‘Damaged’ folder is packed with 313 hard‑hitting, brutally crushed and glitchy percussive textures. Messed‑up kick drums feature heavily: I enjoyed the apocalyptic low‑end blast of ‘Thunder Claps’ (described as ‘a gran casa on steroids’) and the explosive wallop of ‘Destructo’ and ‘Power Hour’. If you’re looking for a good industrial club/dance kick, ‘Lower Gut Punch’ lives up to its name, and ‘Identity Crisis’ offers a clean, powerful alternative. Other highlights include ‘DigiFuzz’ and ‘Short N Dirty’ (’80s‑style gated snares with a nasty modern twist) and the metallic resonant rimshots of ‘Crack Ring’ and ‘Crackify 1’. Maddest of all is ‘Snare Copter’, a slamming, stuttering noise hit which terminates in a fierce electronic buzz.
Accompanying these confrontational sounds are noises that were allegedly tom toms in a former life, notably the crunching ‘Destructotom’ and mad ‘Clocking Tom’. Higher‑pitched electronic percussion, heavily processed hi‑hats and some great ticky‑tacky clock‑ticking ‘Timekeeper’ samples are ideal for rhythmic ostinatos. There’s also a healthy sprinkling of gratuitous noises, such as the annoying ‘Fresh Beet 2’ cartoon synth bleep and the bizarre ‘Bazaar Hazard’ pitched racket, which sounds like a cross between a factory hooter and a whale call.
My brain is crushed, my ears are glowing red and my face is melted. Nonetheless, I can still summon the energy to croak a few words of praise for this remarkable library...
D2’s ‘hybrid’ section utilises sound design treatments to create still more devastating impacts. The processed low‑end material sounds like a collection of nuclear blast field recordings, with cataclysmic explosions such as ‘Mono Punch’, ‘Explosive Decisions’ and ‘Smash Face’ and an array of seismic sub‑bass hits all seemingly designed to destroy your speaker cones. If you want to scare your listeners, try ‘Hollow Metallic’, which sounds like Satan slamming the gates of Hell. On a lighter note, ‘Punchy Ringer’ reminded me of the loud comedy clangs heard in the Reeves & Mortimer TV shows when Vic and Bob hit each other on the head with frying pans.
Also included is a ‘transitions’ folder of 96 swells and reverses which you can use to create an exciting ‘whoosh’ into a musical climax or song chorus. These include combined cymbal and gong swells (one of which sounds like Doctor Who’s TARDIS taking off), backwards cymbals and some tremendous ‘hybrid’ swells which would work well in sci‑fi and horror soundtracks.
To help you negotiate this large sound menu, Heavyocity have provided a handy ‘auto’ button for quick auditioning — just click on the instrument name to hear it. As well as being a Godsend for reviewers, this makes it easier to create your own kits and setups.
Having had fun with the original Damage rhythm loops, I was looking forward to hearing what the producers had cooked up for the new collection. D2’s Loop Designer NKI represents a step forward: you can choose between triggering single and multiple loops with one key press, and it’s now possible to identify which samples are actually playing when you do so. The loops (divided equally between straight and triplet‑based time) are presented in ‘organic cinematic’, ‘hybrid cinematic’, ‘damaged’ and ‘all‑star’ categories (the latter being the creative team’s favourites) and sub‑divided into full, low, mid and high elements spanning an octave apiece.
Many of the loops have an epic, thunderous ‘Mad Max’ vibe, of which the banging ‘Slam It Shut’ and ‘Fury Max’ are fine examples. For action scenes and car chases, you can reach for the motoring ‘Run 4 UR Life’ loop, driven by pounding tribal drums and a cool syncopated high perc pattern. I enjoyed the urgent hustle of ‘Perpetual’ and ‘Death Proof’, and particularly liked ‘Surveillance’, which combines bass and ethnic drums with light, clacky electronic percussion to create an insistent pulsing thud.
The loop elements are completely user‑configurable: if the epic vibe gets a little overbearing you can mute a loop’s low element, or if you just need a simple pulse, the high loops provide many inspirational patterns which substitute interesting, processed metallic sounds for a regular hi‑hat beat.
D2’s triplet‑based loops also contain some gems: ‘Surrender’ has a great propulsive feel, and I loved the deranged, processed low clang which takes the place of a snare in ‘Bark No Bite’. Though their sonic character may be too extreme for some, the ‘Flourish To Clanker’ and ‘Transform Roll Out’ loops are a masterpiece of modern rhythm programming, and display the rhythmic creativity which permeates this library.
Originally constructed from single‑hit samples, the loops follow tempo changes with no discernible artefacts. On the downside, unlike its predecessor, D2 doesn’t provide MIDI file versions of its loops, so you can’t readily rearrange a loop’s slice order. The good news is that you can now edit the start, end and internal loop points of the slices, making it relatively easy to isolate specific samples.
My brain is crushed, my ears are glowing red and my face is melted. Nonetheless, I can still summon the energy to croak a few words of praise for this remarkable library. Rarely in the history of recorded sound have so few people made so much racket, but the results go beyond mere noise: atmospheric quiet hits, eerie moaning effects, subtle and dramatic transitions and some great, expressive MIDI performance tools add to the versatility of this slamming percussion library, making it an immensely powerful and capable tool for cinematic, alt‑rock and experimental producers.
Set in 5,500 acres of rolling hills and woodland in Marin County, California, Skywalker Sound is the sonic HQ of George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, a place where 150‑piece orchestras are recorded, blockbuster movie soundtracks mixed and tortoise squawks are magically transformed into the roar of a pissed‑off velociraptor. As you’ll recall, Mr Lucas is responsible for the moderately successful Star Wars franchise, to which his large Ranch owes its heroic name — and you have to admit, it has a better ring than Donald Duck Ranch or Hannibal Lecter Ranch.
Built in 1987, the studio’s 80 x 60 feet, 30‑feet‑high scoring stage was the ideal location for recording Damage 2. Heavyocity’s Dave Fraser recalls, “Skywalker Sound is unparalleled on so many levels; the majesty of the land it sits on is both calming and inspiring simultaneously. The sound achieved on the stage speaks for itself, and the personnel there are second‑to‑none. There’s not enough that can be said about how special it is to have the opportunity to record there.”
Before recording started, the makers adjusted the recording space’s movable baffles and adjustable panels to provide the optimum acoustic for the drums. The samples were then captured from close, room and hall mic positions, with an additional LFE low‑frequency channel and an aggressively compressed analogue ‘crush’ signal created by engineer Satoshi Mark Noguchi. Soloing the close mics reveals a fairly dry acoustic; the room mics add a booming general ambience, while the hall position sounds distant and highly reverberant.
While there are some excellent cinematic percussion libraries out there, it’s hard to think of one that matches all of Damage 2’s selling points. Spitfire Audio’s 94GB Hans Zimmer Percussion, Red Room Audio’s Saga Acoustic Trailer Percussion (4GB) and Native Instrument’s 3GB Action Strikes have a similar instrumentation — the latter also provides tempo‑sync’ed loops — but none of those collections includes heavily processed, destructively distorted and glitchy hybrid sounds. If that’s what floats your boat, look no further than the original Damage library for a close alternative.
- Intensely powerful percussion hits and loops recorded in a world‑famous film sound stage.
- Contains a large range of drums, metals, industrial and hybrid processed sounds.
- Contains an even bigger range of mangled, twisted, glitchy hits, impacts, sub booms and scary noises.
- The MIDI Performance Tool adds great, ultra‑realistic expressive gestures, and the stutter effect is a treat.
- Unlike the original Damage library, you can’t export the loops’ MIDI data to your DAW.
- Why no triangle? (Just joking.)
Haven’t they done enough damage already? Apparently not, because Heavyocity are back with a devastating follow‑up to their original Damage collection. If you like your percussion slamming, your big drums explosive, your snare drums brutal, your impacts crushing, your processed hits mangled and glitchy and your rhythm loops aggressive, Damage 2 is the percussion library for you. When you’re done annoying the neighbours, some subtle, atmospheric and eerie timbres are also available to add instant drama to your epic soundtracks.