Spitfire’s blockbuster percussion library makes a big impact.
When it comes to drum‑based sample libraries, music creators are not short of choice, whether that’s in terms of style (drum kit, drum synth, orchestral or stylised), breadth of coverage (broad or niche) and cost (pocket‑money‑priced to Hollywood blockbuster budget). New libraries therefore need to provide something a bit special if they are going to stand out from an extensive crowd.
And, when it comes to delivering ‘special’, Spitfire Audio have built a strong reputation. Their latest drum library — Hammers — has been developed in collaboration with Charlie Clouser, whose credits include a decade‑long stint within Nine Inch Nails and composing for the Saw horror film franchise. That’s a background that is full of hard‑edged industrial rock, experimental sound design and, of course, bombastic use of drums. Unsurprisingly, Hammers draws on all of that and Spitfire’s tagline for the library is ‘brutalist drums for maximum impact’. Hold on to your hats; this might get loud.
If you are going to make big sounds, you need suitably big tools. As described more fully below, Hammers ticks that box in a number of ways but the first statistic worth noting is that the library is 100GB in size. Download times aside (for an extra cost, the library can be supplied on a hard drive), this does imply a lot of samples (nearly 120,000 in total) and suggest that a reasonably well‑specified host computer would be a good idea. That said, my ageing iMac coped OK, and I happily ran four instances of Hammers within a moderately busy project for testing purposes. However, with many of the presets clocking in at well over 2GB, a fast SSD and plenty of RAM would certainly be an advantage.
The list of sampled instruments and performance options is also impressively big. Eight core instrument groups are represented; bass drums, surdos, toms, Roto‑toms, darbukas, frame drums, scrap metals and snares. The content is presented in three forms of presets; playable individual hits based around ensembles of specific drums (there is also an ‘ensemble ensemble’ preset with a selection of hits from each drum type), loops for each drum type and warped (sound‑designed) loops for each drum type.
For the hit presets, for each of several drums of that type (for example, three different bass drums or four different surdos), you get a selection of techniques including individual hits, flams, ruffs and rolls and, depending upon the drum type, some combination of solo (one drum) damped, solo open, two‑player hits and four‑player hits. Where appropriate, some brushed hits are provided and there are also centre, edge and rim hits for some drums. As Charlie Clouser is a fan of DIY percussion, the scrap metals group includes sounds from pipes, iron and miscellaneous other metal objects to provide some sonic contrast to the drums themselves.
For both the standard and warped loops, the content is organised on a tempo range basis, with groups of eight loops for each drum recorded at 70, 90, 110, 130 and 150 bpm. In each case, these are sets of performance loops composed specifically to suit that tempo range but, of course, Hammers will tempo‑sync any of the loop content to your host. The loops themselves are based around eight‑bar phrases, offer control over the dynamics, and can be stacked with each other to build variations or greater intensity into your overall performance. Across the MIDI keyboard, each loop is mapped across a ‘brick’ of six keys. The first key triggers the whole loop, the next four each trigger a different 2‑bar section of the loop, and the last key an ‘end’ hit. A set of reversed end hits are also mapped starting at C0 for easy riser/transition creation.
I’ll say more about the sounds themselves later, but Spitfire use the term ‘brutal’ in Hammers’ documentation on several occasions. ‘Brutalist’ is an architectural term used to describe buildings with unusual shapes, rough, unfinished surfaces, lots of straight lines and small windows. The all‑original recordings for the library were made in Charlie Clouser’s own such space with concrete, glass and steel surfaces covering the 23‑foot‑high room, the same space he used to create the signature sound of the Saw soundtracks. That means a fast attack, a relatively short decay time...