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Big Fish Audio - Helter Skelter Review

March 1, 2001
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Helter SkelterBig Fish Audio markets its Helter Skelter audio sampling CD ($99.95) by proclaiming its contents to be "the hardest sounds around" and mentioning Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, and Nine Inch Nails. The CD features an interesting amalgam of rock, industrial, goth, hip-hop, techno, and metal.

Helter Skelter gives you 18 construction kits, each stocked with guitars, synths, drums, soloed elements, and individual drum hits. You also get drum, noise, and synth and bass loops; effects; multisampled power chords; and a bunch of scratch effects.

Kink CrimsonThe construction kits' quality is uneven. Although a few elements within each kit are good, the mixes are generally marred by a variety of sonic and musical ailments. For instance, many tracks are drenched in reverb, resulting in an overly muddy sound.

Some tracks, such as "Unbeliever," contain slamming drums, but most have drum sounds that aren't hard-hitting enough. The chord patterns are often tired cliches, sometimes resulting in a curious mixture of 1970s rock and 1990s industrial.

Nevertheless, the collection certainly has some shining moments, especially within its synthesizer elements. For instance, "Take Me" features a ring-modulated synthesizer pattern, and its intensity increases throughout the phrase. Several tracks, including "Unbeliever" and "Sidewinder Phoenix," use effective variations on high-pitched, piercing, horror-movie string stabs. There are also many cool noise and vocal effects, such as the alien speech in "Trench Coat Mafia" that resembles something from Star Wars. "Slap Ass `Til Crimson" had me swaying to its slow, solid, hip-hop groove; slinky synth leads; and a fluttering tremolo delay on the drums.

Sonic DisturbancesThe disc's 15 drum loops are more successful than the drums in the construction kits. I enjoyed the solid, 808-style kick drum and hard snare of "Heavy Electro," as well as the strong, driving "Trash Percussion." Similarly, the synth loops offer some good material, such as the crazy arpeggios of "Noise FX Loop 1" and the disturbing, ring-modulated "Stereo SETI Loop."

The Noise Loops section did not fare as well; some of the distorted, pitch-shifted, and otherwise mangled vocal sounds might work well in some settings, but most were too lo-fi and muffled. If I want them that way, I can use my own filters and EQ. Give me bright, full-bandwidth source material, please! Fortunately, the CD ends on a positive note with 70 smooth hip-hop scratch loops.

Helter Skelter is a mixed bag; though it has some gems, finding them means having to sort through a good amount of chaff. I really like the sonic textures of Nine Inch Nails, so I had high hopes for this disc. Too bad it didn't come a little closer to the mark.

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