Dark World: The Album That Still Exists

My band, Random Battles, has been working its first full-length Dark World on and off for approximately forever. It's been so long I forgot why I named it what I did. For the uninitiated, Random Battles is a video game rock/metal group that started out as a Postal Service-esque project started by drummer Andy Porter and myself after we left Entertainment System. We put out Masters a couple years ago, and expected Dark World to shortly follow.

Alas, it didn't work out that way.


We started pre-production immediately after we released Masters at Bit Gen 5. A couple of the arrangements have been around since the late Entertainment System days, including Dungeon Master, our Zelda dungeon mashup, Symphony of the Night, which is now a three movement medley, and Mountain Airship, which was originally the entire Save the King-Airship-Boss-STK segment from Mario 3, and is now several other songs instead. The arrangements have all undergone numerous changes, which almost never happens; I'll occasionally improvise in the studio, but otherwise what's on the page stays. I learned several important lessons from producing Masters. It was the first thing I produced during my internship at CCM Studios, and it featured mostly Guitar Rig guitars because I still couldn't properly mic a cabinet. I didn't double-track the rhythm guitars, which led to Masters feeling very small. All the keyboards were Absynth patches over the MIDIs straight from the Guitar Pro file. All in all, I look at it and I'm not very proud of what I made. Dark World had to be bigger, badder-assed and a thousand times shreddier than Masters. 

Pictured: one of the keys to a badder assed record.

Recording, Phase One

We made the Dark World Sampler so we'd be able to show off the new direction the album was taking. We recorded all the guitars and bass at CCM through our Orange Dual Terror/PPC 2x12 cabinet and Mesa Dual Rectifier (except the lead on Dungeon Master, Mike did that DI at home). Keyboards were recorded with Lala's Nord instead of MIDI-based patches. The drums were Andy's electronic kit again, but upgraded with much better sample packs. It was definitely a step up, but I wasn't sold on the lead tones. The quest for tone began right after we released the sampler for Bit Gen 6.

Well, not exactly right after.

P-Bass needed a snuggle nap first.

Recording, Phase Two

For a long time, nothing happened. We took a long break, most likely due to lack of interest, other things going on, yadda yadda. After some time passed and we felt sufficiently guilty about the lack of progress, we started quad-tracking rhythm guitars for the rest of the album. By this time, Mike Zucker was a full-fledged member and producer, and was a huge help in getting things moving again. I bought a new P Bass that destroyed the sound of my horrible Tokai, so we re-tracked the Sampler bass lines and moved to the Line 6 HD Pro at Mike's house. Eventually we added Mike Flury on bass following our second-to-date live show at Denver Comic-Con. He's currently on about half the album. Pianos were once again done by Lala and the Nord, some at CCM and some at Mike's. Then we turned focus to the leads.

Focus now. FOCUS.

Oh god, the leads.

Mike Z acquired a Line 6 HD Pro and we spent about 4 months messing with it, trying to make something useful come out of it. Over the year, he added a Clariphonic Parallel EQ and a pair of tricked out Distressors, which are the two best pieces of outboard gear I could possibly recommend. We got through the album and decided we'd just have to massage the tones into being decent in post. Then Mike's wife Amber suggested he buy a Mesa Studio Pre.

I re-recorded half the album's lead and harmonies yesterday as a result of how much better the Mesa sounded. It was like night and day, if night sounded like shit. The album finally feels real. It's huge, visceral and a surprisingly accurate representation of what I hear in my head, which is the first time I can say that about an album I've been a part of.

Spoilers: there is flute involved. Much flauting indeed.

Final Tracking and Beyond

We're still waiting on final drum tracks for several tracks as well as guest solos from members of Descendants of Erdrick, Armcannon and Rare Candy. Tim from Year 200x also turned in one of the most kick-ass solos I've ever heard for Ducktales. After that, it will be a fairly quick and easy mastering job, then we'll line up an artist for the art and get the damn thing to the shop for production.

This album is already starting to achieve its potential and I couldn't be more excited. I can't wait for all of you to hear it. After so many years of being in the video game scene, it can be easy to get discouraged, or to think that everything's been done and any new entries in the VGM scene are redundant, but I really feel like these are the best arrangements I've ever come up with and the album works just as well as a VGM tribute as it does a hard rock instrumental album. Here's to hoping you feel the same way.


Read - Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. One of the best novels I've ever read. It will make you want to fall in love and live forever.

Watch - Jiro Dreams of Sushi. A fascinating look into the life of the possibly the greatest sushi chef in the world. It astounds and inspires. Also, Japanese people are really polite to one another.

Listen - Technocracy by Michael Zucker. Wait for the mind-bending Melodica solo. I believe you can still win this on vinyl by liking Mike's page and entering the contest.