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Mastering Metal Songwriting

Lesson 8 of 28

The Right Album Lineup

Eyal Levi

Mastering Metal Songwriting

Eyal Levi

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Lesson Info

8. The Right Album Lineup
Learn how to order the songs on your album to give it flow and dynamics.

Lesson Info

The Right Album Lineup

Nowadays, people don't think about albums too much anymore because every single comes out on the Internet. And, uh, honestly, I think that that could be part of why you know, sells well is because the construction of the and product isn't it is not thought through quite as much as it was once upon time, and there is lots of factors involved in it. But I think that's one of them. And I think that you look at this is one of the highest selling death albums of all time. It's not because the last song sounds like a last song, but that certainly doesn't hurt. And I know that that's something that you think about a lot is how you sequence your albums. So I wanted to go through, uh, actually more of an angel record and point out maybe what similarities it would have to what you would do on one of your records, Not not by copying them, but just like the way a good albums instructor 20 years ago is not that different than how a good album would be constructed now. No, um, I think that the, uh, ...

one thing we talked about is the end goal is Teoh. Make people listen all the way through without stopping, which is really tough to do. Absolutely. It's very hard. Yeah. Um had gone I am. Team has been been earlier in the album. People might have stopped because the end of that song has, like a feeling of finality, you know? I mean, it's exhausting, it's rewarding, it feels good. But it's also like it drags you down. You might not want to listen to that next song. Came after it. So that's why one of the reasons why it's a perfect closer. If it was on improperly sequenced record and they put that fourth or whatever, I think they would have lost, um, whole crowd would have been gone. I think, Bansi, that with their live show to by accident, you know, inadvertently. But we're talking about songs. Um, it's interesting, though. How how are there any, like, um, like actual technical, descriptive terms you can think of that would make something sound like a closer to you. You know, uh, it could have big open chords. You know, I could typically, to me, things riffs. I have a lot of fine ality to them are big, like like things that, like are really epic. You know what I mean? You might say. But as far as technical, just that's it's hard to describe. It's hard to describe, but I think you just describe it definitely slower paced, bigger sounding, Uh, I guess deeper sounding voicings like that's definitely something that people can consciously make a decision to do. And I'm just addressing that because I was asked that question like, How do you write a good closing track? And I mean, there's no rules sometimes closing tracks or the fastest track on the album? Yes, later does that. Yeah, that and they do real well. But I think that there's, uh I think that there's a purpose to it, which is that either is the exclamation point a musical exclamation point? Or it's a thought. Thought, thought. Yeah, but you got to make that choice. It's not just some song that could be third or fourth, and that's partly goal album. How we're gonna start this. How are we gonna end it? Have you when you're sequencing a record? Dio, I guess. Try different songs first and listen in order. No, no, no. No, we have a mission. Either we make a rift and we say that would make a good opening. Or we just say, Like, for instance, for a ban on life. We made a conscious decision to open the record with heavy, slow, part like a bone crushing have heavy, slow part. That's it's interesting. I agree that band should do that. It's, uh, just when we were talking earlier, uh, the whole thing about you'll have one idea that seems right. You know, when it comes to music like how to structure things and then a battle come along and do things opposite, we're gonna be great. I have experienced lots of times where bands will be like. This is the opening track. It's got open like this. It's like, No, that sucks. Sometimes it's good, but for the most part it's like you have to have a mission. Like, for instance, we could talk about something new and relevant. Like the new carcass record. It opens with a track that's similar to the hellion from Judas Priest on screen for vengeance. It's a multi Larry guitar part. They wouldn't have written that to be anywhere else in the album. Other than the opening part, it's probably I say this. I don't think it would have fit anywhere else on that record. And then the next song is the Thrashes song on the album. It's like a minute and 1/2 2 minute long song, and it's It's the most raging song on the album has the least amount of changes. It's like, Obviously they wanted you to get this epic guitar thing into a Punch You in the Face opening song. I've got another relevant example that is ever black. Yeah, black disorder, That's I mean, I know for a fact that that was a conscious choice to start the way it starts with slow and epic. But whether or not I knew for a fact, I could have definitely guessed it. It sounds like an opening. Sounds like an interaction. Sounds like an introduction. Metallica Road battery is an introduction. There's no way that they did it. That's an introduction song. Yeah, it's It's weird, though. Um, I always tried to do this. How do you define when a band gets it right and one of being is it wrong? And I guess how do you define what a band writes A good song, A bad son. But it is. I think it is good. Teoh. Define that. That's what you want to do. Um, another style of intro that I think could be just as effective is a slow build intro. Some bands do that to Slayer has done that quite a few times. What having? Yeah, that's That's a great one. Uh, where You know, it doesn't have to start with a bang, but it still sounds like an intro for whatever reason. And it's not random because I feel you. That had come. Track four, Track three song. One of Hadayet had the impact that it did. Yeah, one have worked. Um, I guess, uh, So one thing that's super important, I guess, is people Teoh keep in mind how how song feels in terms of where it goes. Another thing that we talked about that is super important. And, uh, I've heard this from people in lots of styles is that every song have at least one part that differentiated from every other song. Even if you've got a similar formula, where we're going on if like us unto this, but like screaming versus and clean courses you. It's even if four songs on the album do that t to really be successful. I don't mean sales was just artistically successful with those songs. Uh, I think you need to do something to set them apart, even if it's just one for something that makes that song special. Yeah, gives it a reason for people. Listen to it, Yeah, where else is just filler? So you try to put that in every one of your songs? Yes, absolutely. There's there's a part in every single one of our songs and abandon a life that has something that no other song has, whether it's an overall vibe or a physical apart, like a physical part. And I guess when you're coming up with that, uh, sound dumb. But do you go down like an actual list of like, You know, I don't know that I don't you know. I've always wanted to do is paint my wall in my bedroom, but you could paint it chalk. There's a chalk paint, and you could just write stuff down. And I think of things that sometimes I don't write in my phone like we were talking about earlier that I wish I river it down. Like, for instance, we wrote a song on abandon all life called God's Cold Hands and the slow part that song is the guitars air chugging its like. But it's like That's how the guitars go and the drums air through the like the drum, the drum, the kick drum is going like this. We don't have a part like that. And that was one of those things that wrote itself. It was organic. It was in the practice room, were practicing the part that came before it, and I just started like Taylor stop playing drums and I just started chugging and I'm And then he he looked at me and he felt it, and you just started playing that trophy and I know it sounds crazy, but that's that was raw. That was organic. And, you know, we don't We didn't have any other parts on the record like that, so that was a happy accident. But it's we decided right there. That's absolutely making it sounds awesome. That sounds fresh. We don't have a partner in context of nails. It sounded fresh like that's great. I think there would be nothing wrong with actually going down a list. I don't think so, either. I mean, as long as your song sounds inspiring to you, what does it matter? I mean, it's, uh I don't think it's embarrassing. Well, I mean, it doesn't mean that you have to force a part in tow, doesn't it? I think it's more that you're just keeping. You're just giving score. Who if you've got 12 songs and maybe a list of, like, 16 or so different, unique ideas that you would like to throw into a song at some point if it showed up just keeping a tally of that stuff, we'll keep you from repeating yourself That, for instance, if it's a part like the one you just mentioned, if it's something that's on your mind that you consciously want to try at some point, if you're not keeping score, you might end up doing it like five times. I did not have the rift for today, but I'm the rift tomorrow. But it's just good to know, like I would like to have a part that has a vibe like this, Or at least I don't have a part where the drums are going like that, and just to keep that on the brain is completely fine. I do that all the time. Yeah, absolutely. I think that's super important. Um, and I guess, relating that back to the morbid Angel. There were a record that we're talking about most of the songs on that album, in addition to be in addition and being placed in the exact right spot. All have, I guess the what off Griff or the thing that sets it apart. So all the interests of song or different, uh, all the courses have a different vibe. It's, you know, it's it falls within the umbrella of death metal, and it falls with an umbrella of morbid angel sound, especially for that record. But it all has little things that differentiate the songs with each other. Yeah, each other. Absolutely. I want to go through a few of them just just a point out. And, uh, I think whether or not you listen to this record, uh, you can't really argue with its success and the fact that people still hold on to it like a classic for the Shauna. It might. It might be one of those things. Now, where of a 13 year old picked it up? They might think it was, well, two old school. But this record came out when I was 12 or 13 years old, and it was just too extreme for me at the time. It was a little something I didn't appreciate the later in life, a little too extreme for me as well, except for the slower songs. But I think OK, so it has an intro, bits of very short intro, but it's still just an intro on the fate up. Ah, the record. And that's how you identify. That's how you identify an opening track, your setting overall tone. For the record, that's an opening track. Yeah, absolutely. Like if it had started on, say, the next song, which a lot of bands make. The mistake of going with the fastest song first Like It's a Cool Song, is a great song Pain Divine six song. But it's ah mean rapture is the clear opener to not just that. I think we need to play through the whole song, but if people go back and listen to rapture the thing about it, that's really good about on opening track, and band should keep this in mind when writing opening tracks is it kind of has a little bit of what every song on the record does. Yes, it's good. It's made a good representation of the whole record. Might not be the best song on the record, but it's the best, I guess ever. Not. It's on an average song, but like hell, the medium, the median between all the songs like It's a yeah, it sets the tone of the record. It represents almost every song on the record in some sort of way. Yeah, totally like I mean, it's halftime on. I guess it goes fast as hell later on. You know, when it comes into the slow part. Forget, Yeah, it was kind of like a like that kind of has an element of God and emptiness right there. Absolutely kind of a sludgy atmospheric part. Yeah, eso It covers all bases. I think there's no hard and fast rule that you have to like, do that on opening track. But one of the things that I think really, uh, makes an album suffer in the long run is to kind of I guess, have a really inappropriate song first, where there's where it's two different from everything else to where it doesn't set the tone right. Like if it's too slow the whole time and you're getting ready for a slow record and then everything else is just brutally fast or just like a name, properly paced movie or something, it's a good idea to start it good, I guess a good average point between all the things and then another trick that they used Second is a trick that so many Vance of uses then go into the fastest, the most raging song on the record. Absolutely, Yeah. Now it's not that you have to go into the most raging song and the record second or anything like that. This is generally a real mover, though after a second track real, it's gonna be different enough. That's the yeah, there. Nothing. And in the context of this, there's nothing else that goes quite this fast like and it does. It's in in spurts, but that doesn't start the phone. Yeah, I think pacing wise, the point is to, uh, have enough differentiation between the tracks toe where listener is definitely going on more of a journey and then definitely with song three. Uh, it goes slow, like pop music. You know, I think these tricks, these sequencing tricks came from pop music. Yeah, absolutely. You know, like not saying morbid Angel took took from Nirvana. But it's like never mind by Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit in Bloom, Come as You Are Whereas this Is rapture, Pain, Divine World. Yeah, as three completely different moods And they contrast each other perfectly. What the third song is like the slow song The song You Really Dig into? Yeah, and something that you else that you pointed out about the third song. So now people haven't heard this Basically the too slow Songs on the record are the third song in the last song. They're seven songs apart. Man is pretty arguable that if they were closer together, uh, you would put people to sleep again. I think that this is something that seems obvious to some people. But if it was really that obvious, and every album would be awesome and people wouldn't need help with their albums because they were just know how to sequence them and heroin would be flying on jets and sell 1,000, records. But they don't because this stuff is actually a lot harder than people realize manly because it's hard toe. Uh, I think really evaluate your own work like it's hard to really know where where you're at. Yeah, I may not manages one of the main one of the important things. So it was a skipped, uh, I couldn't really find what was good about the next one. Other than that, it's just medium. Okay, uh, less of you have something, but, uh, the only thing I can say it says it's different enough to not lose your attention. I mean, you could you could say that about, that's for sure. I mean, you could listen to this album all the way through even the noise track. It's only a minute and 1/2 long. Yeah, I guess that that's true. One thing that it almost sets up God of emptiest, that distracting one thing that is perfectly done. And you see this in cinema. You see this in great albums. You see this in a great works of classical music, just a great pacing toe where even if you don't like something the best, and even if it's not the best track on there is a great live shows to its over. But before you can get sick of it, we'll also it has. It has its reason for existing in the spot that it's in like Vengeance is mine. Is that what it's called the four songs on that record? Yet vengeance is mine. It's typically it's a fast song, and it comes right out of one of the slower songs on the record. Like that. Song serves its purpose for where it's at now. It might not be a great a song. I mean, I think it's pretty ill, but it it makes sense where it's out on the record. I have sought nails. It sounds like that, too. Like it's not. It might be a great B song for us, but as far as the flow of the album, it has its purpose on where it's at, it might dip down might not be a great a song, but it makes sense. There are reading an interview with Billy Corgan a long time ago where he was being interviewed. I think about a song that got released for a movie Light and became a big hit or something. I forget which one and maybe a year after the album it was written for came out. He wrote it for the album, but they didn't put it out on the album, and you got asked why if they had such an awesome song is capable of being such a big hit. I didn't put it on, the album said, because it didn't fit on the album. There's no logical place for it to go, and the interviewer was talking to him as though it was a big mistake. But the albums still sold four million records, and then they still had their single in a movie year. Let it that he proud that they probably made more money off of because that song was in the movie s. So it probably wasn't a mistake in retrospect. So I think I think the lesson to be learned from that, though, is sometimes the decision is we made to go. It's a basic air on the side of the quality of the record, not on the quality of the same. There's a lot of sacrifices you have to make. You might have a great song or killer rift that you want to put into a record. But it's just it might sound to someone to do another riff on the record, and we have that same problem. We have a rift that I wrote after the wide open wound rift that we played over there. That sounds almost similar, but it's just a good that we're gonna put on our next record. And we wrote that at the same time and it killed us, and it still kills us that we don't have a song based around it, and you just have to make that sacrifice. You have to make sacrifices to make your album awesome, beginning to add. That's also part of what we talked about earlier, that you got to be willing to ditch stuff. It's not working out. Lots of bands aren't willing to do that, and it manifests itself with bands. I don't have three good songs on Do 10 before songs that are seven minutes long, when they should be 3.5 minutes long or a bunch of cool songs that all sound exactly the same. I mean, I guess some bands do that. It's OK, but in general, it's not okay. You got a really special band pull that trick? Absolutely. Um, I think in the long run, it meaning, You know, after the dust has settled, trends are gone. One of the things that keeps a band alive is how well their albums were put together. And whether or not someone from a different generation who isn't there to understand the I guess the trendy context can still put it on. Bill. Yeah, this is cool. Um, somehow, like, for instance, Slayer have been able Teoh, keep it going. Cannibal course in it will keep it going there. Some bands that have been able Teoh pull it off to where 13 or 14 year old now will put put it on and be like, Yeah, cool down. Whereas put another band from the same era, that's arguably maybe even better than Billy. This shit's lame. Uh, and I think a lot of it has to do with how the end products put together. So anyways, moving on with this, um, I think that basically it it goes through a series of fast feels, which is cool. That's what death metal bands do. A lot. But then it gets Teoh, I think, where it would normally start to get boring, at least for me as a listener, too many songs of fast in a row and I can't handle it anymore. And I know that if I can't handle it anymore than your actual listening public's maybe 30 seconds behind like, yeah, I'm getting bored at a minute. They're getting bored in a minute. 30? Sure. So I think if I'm starting to get bored somewhere on song seven by track eight, everybody else would be bored. And so I think that right here, uh, really, really clever use of a track that sounds nothing like any other track. Uh, it's Angela Disease Track. Uh, different singer, different recording. It's just a total oddball track, and again, it's not really one of the best songs on the record, but it's placed exactly right toe where if someone, I'm sure this is conscious to where someone is starting, Teoh get bored of hearing the same death metal sound. Suddenly it's radically different, and you compare it to say everything about It's different. It's not as good, but it's has a different decision has, you know breaks up the vibe of the record. It sounds like an older recording that I'm inspired. Trackers. Yeah, it sounds like a classic metal, but it's it sounds crappy, but, like it's not that cool of a song. But it's Ah, I just remember when I would listen to this all the way through Somehow it always get my attention. Uh, there's a lot to be said for the contrast. Yeah, uh, that's something else that I think that's don't pay attention to enough when sequencing their records is contrast of the whole thing. So basically, you have a song before that sounds like this, John. Pretty fast and then into this sounds completely different. And then, uh, once again, it goes right back into a different style for track eight. Now, one thing that we were talking about, uh, with a track eight, which is again, maybe not the best song on the album. Uh, if it had come in on track six to track seven or track five, maybe it would have not been that interesting, But the fact that it came after the oddball try one of had the impact. Yeah, exactly, um, the thing that that is interesting to me that you said that you don't do that. A lot of bands I know do is you said you don't put your mixes like in the order You think I should go and then listen chronologically, Teoh. See if your album order was straight. You know when we write a song and pretty much know where it's gonna go on the record? Interesting. So there I pretty much know if it's a side, a song or a side visa on At least I know that. And and I also all know if a song is an opening song or if it's an ending song. We got a lot of great questions, actually in the chat. Sure go for you have time for one question. Take a lunch break. So I love the screen. Name this why I had to ask this. Celine Dion is in the chat room with us. Wants to know has the fact that people are listening to albums differently changed how you structure them or even the structure of the song. Like for example, people are buying one song off ITunes versus used to get the whole record, and you didn't have a choice if you bought the CD, right? So has that changed the way that you think about song structures? Or do you still think about all songs as part of the cohesive like record? You listen to a song from Now? And it wasn't a song from 10 years ago or 20 years ago. A good courses, a good chorus, right? Like if, uh if you hear a hit from a while ago, maybe the recording quality is different or whatever. But just like we showed with the muse example that opened this up with, uh, greatly written songs, a greatly written song. So I don't think that the actual song writing should be what changes is just a marketing vehicle. What do you think? A good songs, a good selling period. Also, I grew up listening to, you know, Nirvana. Never mind Metallica, Master of puppets, but albums that maybe not master of puppets, let's say, black album that were pop music at the time that they came out and they're structured like pop music, albums and nails, by all means or carry on. Or the terror records that I helped make are certainly not pop music and I would never refer to them is that, But they, you know they were. They were structured like pop albums. Not just that. The Metallica examples Perfect because highest selling album of the sound Scan era and still to this day, it outsells just about every one of the newer bands that are marketed in this new way. So how does that? How does that answer that a band, a record from whole different eras still outselling on your records when a structured in the old way, I think that it just has to do with the quality quality of songs, and I just I don't I don't really see how that changes. The one thing I will say that I have noticed that has changed quite a bit is, um, the bar for ah musicianship has dropped pretty damn low, but that's a whole other conversation. We'll have to cover that and one of the later segments. Do you have any other questions? Musicianship? Yeah, what is what are the best way to handle having too many riffs inspired by each other? So, like, I guess, variations on a theme and how can you arrange them so that they make sense. Is there a short answer to that? Or is it? So you basically have? You have a ton of rest that sound the same? Yeah, huh. Then we just say, Make good choices. Pickup basketball. You know what it picked? Pick the best one. And if it's a chorus riff, let's say it's a course rift right averse rift before it. That sounds a little different than the other song that you're gonna make with us a riff that sounds a similar like Maybe make that riff. The second riff Put it in the second song. Make that oversensitive a chorus just really use all the tools you can that you have to make things just a little bit different because the majority of listeners don't understand, like, subtle changes, really. But as a person who is writing a song, it's your job to understand and to create subtle changes. And in the scope of an album, what's the worst that can happen? That you have a bunch of cool riffs like Good, yeah, yeah, your business. Yet another record, Yeah, good for you. You're rocking. It's probably I think that I've heard and I know that a lot of bands like to stay ahead of themselves somewhat by, like having their next record maybe not written all the way through, but at least somewhat flushed out or at least direction defined. So there's nothing wrong with having stuff that may not fit on this record. Carry over to the next one.

Class Description

It’s easy for musicians to get so caught up in the latest gear, plugins, and presets, and forget that ultimately, it’s all about the music. Join Eyal Levi and special guests Ryan Clark (Demon Hunter), Todd Jones (Nails, Terror), and John Browne (Monuments) for an in-depth exploration of what it takes to craft great songs.

Eyal will share the tricks of the songwriting trade he’s learned over years of experience as a producer at Audiohammer Studios (The Black Dahlia Murder, August Burns Red, Whitechapel) and guitarist for Century Media/Roadrunner artists Daath. Throughout this two-day course, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the three core components of metal/rock songwriting. You’ll learn about basic song structure and riff-writing; melodies, leads, and vocals; and fine-tuning the arrangement to take your song from good to great. Eyal will be joined by special guests -- from musicians to producers and more -- who will empower you to take your songwriting to new heights.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Metal Songwriting Slides Session 1

Metal Songwriting Slides Session 2

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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user 6f3d0a

Eyal and all the guests are awesome here and really provide a solid education on Songwriting and writing within the Metal genre. One thing that Eyal said that really struck a chord with me, was how Songwriting was being taught at the music school he dropped out of and how it was uninspiring. I completely and thoroughly agree. I own many, many books and videos on Songwriting and I cannot get past the first few pages because it doesn't speak to me and my needs as a Songwriter who is focused on writing Metal. I've been playing Guitar for 25 years now and this is the very first course I've seen that takes Metal songwriting seriously and as a subject worth studying. I would like to commend CreativeLive on having the guts to feature heavy music so prominently in their courses and thank them for helping us establish Metal as a more serious genre. One that is worthy of awards, praise, distinction and honor. In Metal and Strength, R. Ross Strength Keeper Songwriting/Guitars/Vocals/Arranging

Mike Lamb

This was a massively inspirational and incredibly helpful course. By the end of it I had a notebook full of incredibly useful tips and tricks, and I definitely plan a rewatch as soon as possible. I've been in bands writing songs for the better part of 15 years, but this has put a lot of focus on some of the corners I've cut or the areas where I've been lazy with the smaller details. No matter where you are in your songwriting you'll definitely benefit from this, and Eyal articulates everything in an engaging way and positive way. Even if you think you're a good songwriter, there's a tonne here you can benefit from. 10/10 - Thanks Eyal!

Marco Ramírez

Great course, I have enjoyed it a lot and I'm sure I will come back to reinforce many of the concepts shown through the videos. Right now I'm good to go with ideas to apply to my songwriting skills and reinforce several concepts I already had developed prior to this course. This is a great lesson series... even for advanced musicians, anyone can get stuck in this wonderful world of writing and this course shows you tools to get out the best of this process.