Unearthing The Metal Underground: Simon Oberender Edition
Band Photo: Diabulus in Musica (?)
Once in awhile, select troubadours of the heavy metal genre burn hot and bright, much like super-massive stars, and die by exploding in spectacular supernovas well before their time. They never quite make it out of the underground into wider fame, but end up touching quite a few projects in their lifetimes and leaving their mark in unique ways. Optimistically continuing with the astronomical metaphor, the stellar winds and supernovae from the explosion seed space with elements for future stars, fittingly paralleling the life and death of these musicians. Few, however, are accomplished audio engineers as well. This week, we commemorate the underground projects of one such engineer and musician, recently deceased: Simon Oberender.
Audio engineers don’t get half as much credit as the musicians they record for making heavy metal sonically live up to the first half of its title, though they’re ultimately responsible for making sure that the music translates to “heavy” on record. Moreover, as time goes by, they’re being asked to perform increasingly difficult tasks, like “give us a 30-part choir, Gregorian chant section, ethnic hand percussion, and a big organ” while also dealing with the traditional metal rhythm section. As an engineer at Sascha Paeth’s famed Gate Studio in Wolfsburg, Germany, Simon tackled the aforementioned tasks and also performed on an impressive amount of projects, including 4 Epica releases, 3 Kamelot releases, 3 Avantasia releases, 2 Edguy releases, Mayan’s debut release, and 2 Rhapsody of Fire releases.
Aside from these main projects, Simon had also worked on other lesser-known projects. The first of the ones we will spotlight this week is his most recent band, Beyond The Bridge.
Beyond The Bridge
Based out of Germany, Beyond The Bridge is a progressive metal band with a bafflingly impressive debut album (reviewed here) centered on a lofty concept summed up in the title, “The Old Man and the Spirit.” The band recently played their third-ever show at the ProgPower USA festival, making their USA debut just two weeks and two nights ago. Not only was Simon double-slinging instruments with the band live, playing two keyboards and electric guitar, but he was also singing in the choir on the album and served as the albums’s mixing and mastering engineer.
With two albums and 13 years under their belt, Destination’s Calling are looking to break out on a wider scale with their 2012 release, “End of Time,” which was mastered by Simon after being mixed by Sascha Paeth. Simon also handled the drum engineering for the record. Destination’s calling are a more traditional power metal band with strong lead vocals that involve a good amount of vibrato. The band is choosing to tackle the market without a major record label's involvement, as well, making them even more the underdogs.
Diabulus In Musica
Spanish female-fronted symphonic metal band Diabulus In Musica are two albums deep into their career with the 2012 release of “The Wanderer.” Simon had a part in the mastering of their first album, “Secrets” (reviewed here,) along with Sascha Paeth. Another familiar name in the European symphonic metal scene, former Epica guitarist Ad Sluijter handled mixing duties on the album. Undeniable comparisons can be drawn between lead vocalist Zuberoa Aznárez and Epica’s Simone Simons, though a listen through “Secrets” shows Diabulus In Musica to be a treat of a different kind.
These are but three bands whose music he had a hand in. In his work, Oberender showed himself to be delicate and deliberate, and would have surely been counted among the more talented and prolific audio engineers in the heavy metal world if given a few more years. To those who knew and admired him, the knowledge of his recent passing is truly “heavier” than any of the albums he worked on. Join us again next week as we unearth more of the metal underground.
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