From cultural and musicological perspectives through to vocational and practice-based production studies, there is currently a lack of understanding of what heaviness is in a recorded and mixed form. In a music genre that has reached its half-century of existence, this research has a significant global impact on our understanding of the genre’s fundamental musical quality. At present, there is a deficit of music production knowledge and educational material that would enable those interested in understanding how top producers capture, manipulate and present the various qualities that constitute heaviness.

To learn how internationally known producers create heaviness in different metal subgenres, it will be documented how they mix this particular song, comprising parts emblematic of various subgenres, including doom metal, symphonic metal, thrash metal and modern extreme metal. Alternating subgenres are chosen to directly juxtapose different structures and performance idioms, forcing producers to respond to the changes in an observable way. Each of the producers’ steps is documented via screen-captures, videos showing the use of outboard equipment, video-recorded inter-views of the producers explaining their decision-making process, and the DAW project file of the final result of each producer’s mix.

All project material including sheet music of the song, the raw recordings, the mix project files, the edited videos of the producers’ sessions and interviews will be available on this website. These resources provide authentic, first-hand documentation demonstrating the crucial decision-making processes and the techniques involved in high-end metal music production, drawing out characteristics of several subgenres.

The main findings of the research will be made publicly available on this website as they emerge. A more in-depth analysis will be published open access in reputable academic journals, whilst, ultimately, all the findings will be compiled in a book.

HiMMP is based within the School of Music, Humanities and Media (MHM) and Computing and Engineering (C&E) at the University of Huddersfield. This project received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under the reference number AH/T010991/1 (runtime: 1 September 2020 to 31 August 2023).


Project Aims

1) To determine compositional, performative and productional attributes of heaviness in metal music.
Heaviness in recorded metal music has rarely been the focus of theoretical and empirical research. This project will explore the interrelated effects of structure, performance and production, and examine how these are utilised to create heaviness in recorded metal music.

2) To map the conceptual understanding of heaviness held by leading metal music producers.
Music producers play a key role in setting industry standards and audience expectations on metal recordings. Capturing producers’ individual definitions of heaviness and their production approaches will add a practitioners’ voice to the emerging scholarly discourse.

3) To determine variations in the production approaches to heaviness in different subgenres of metal.
Heaviness in metal music is subject to many factors, including structural features, per-formance attributes, recording practices and mixing approaches that differ between metal’s subgenres for aesthetic and technical reasons. Stylistic differences require distinct approaches to producing heaviness. Documenting the mixing tasks of different producers allows deep insights into their individual approaches and illustrates where they coincide with each other and where not. The two main questions, whether different subgenres require distinct production approaches and whether overarching features of heaviness exist in metal music, are answered.

4) To determine the relationships of technical requirements, creative freedom and individuality.
The production of metal music is influenced by subgenre aesthetics as well as acoustic and perceptual constraints. Metal’s inherent rich instrumentation, spectral density and fast subdivisions require rigorous sonic control. Collaborating with producers special-ising in different subgenres of metal allows the investigators to analyse the relation-ship between creative and technical aspects of heaviness in recorded music. Such knowledge can only be gathered from expert practitioners. The extent to which artistic freedom and technical constraints play a role in a metal music production is crucial to understand both for practical application and theoretical discourse.

5) To map the process and the result of producers mixing a metal track, aiming for maximum heaviness within the expectations of the (sub)genre.
The research design sheds light on how leading producers approach mixing a metal track. These insights provide a helpful resource for music producers and practice-led researchers and help scholars understand heaviness on an empirical basis. Analysis of producers’ mixes affords audible demonstrations of their individual understanding and shows the range – or lack thereof – of possibilities for achieving heaviness. A theory of heaviness can only be built on all these insights into how a heavy metal production develops, from the first step to the final result.