Rather than buying into the con, one could robotise the vocal and go for an electro-pop sound, or just forget about singing and do death metal, or whatever other metal sub-genre accommodates a good ‘graaargh!’ for a lyric. However, get the technique wrong and a career may get dented.
We’re looking at vocal cord nodules, polyps, ulcers, or even paralysis, which ain’t great if you’re halfway through a studio album or tour. So how about taking a leaf out of the industrial music handbook? Use tech to distort, re-pitch, mash and otherwise marmalize the vocal.
Designed for voice-overs and SFX in video games and on soundtracks, this Mac/Windows standalone suite lends itself ideally to monster music production, such is its wealth of tweakables.
For a taste of such, here’s a delightful little ditty featuring a monster having a rather angry day...
Edinburgh-based Krotos was only founded in 2013, but its sole title so far has already made a splash among sound designers and composers. Designer/director Levon Lewis (you may know him from Assasin’s Creed), says: “Instant awesome! Forever in my toolbox. Dehumaniser helped me to generate sounds for the latest Hedgehog game, Sonic Boom, and is inspiration for future projects. Tools like this come out about once every decade. So much fun!”
Musician/composer BT, meanwhile has it thus: “Dehumaniser is stunning. It’s concise, powerful and dauntingly simple. I’ve been using it for atmospherics. Amazing work!” He’s not wrong. On the face of it, the application seems simple enough - just set up the required effects and gibber into a mic, or load a file and render it offline. However, as you’ll see, the number of sound-mangling options is super-huge; the level of control immense.
The product ships with demo audio and three libraries of presets which turn human gasps and roars into throaty, gargling life - all very organic and way spooky. Basic presets include such monstrosities as King Kong, Aggressive and Dragon, each very believable once you get into the part. Whipping up an evil guard from the Black Gate of Mordor, or a Jurassic dinosaur running amok in downtown Tunbridge Wells, complete with chronic obstructive pulmonary death-rattle, takes but a trice.
Yes, it’s something of a brain-melt on first acquaintance, but it doesn’t take long to arrive at stunning laryngeal destruction. Roars and huffs into the mic take on huge menace, so just imagine what it can do for singing, especially if tackling the aforementioned metal genres, indulging industrial escapades, prog-rock pomp or death-reggae.
developer’s product pages for Lite, Pro and Pro Extended for an overview of all that’s on offer. For now, it’s worth pointing out that you’re not just stuck with Dehumaniser’s built-in processing. The Dual Plug-ins page offers the means to load two of your own VST or AU devices and hook them up just about anywhere in the signal chain via the immensely powerful Router Window.
Demos are available for Lite and Pro, and the developer has sensibly made manuals available for download on surrender of your name and email address. Meantime, here’s another audio demo, this time highlighting those dread alien species from Planet Zog in outer spaaace...
If you can't be fussed with installing a demo, here's a whistlestop tour of Dehumaniser Pro's many modules. Animal Convolution convolves the original audio with an artificial audio source that is defined by custom vocal cord and tract characteristics. The result passes through an elegant 5-band filter and thus do we conjure the inhuman at the outset.
Synthesis next, with a facility to cross-synthesize two input files and so convolve speech, for example, with non-speech audio, plus granular synthesis for further pitch and textural edits, then we're onto spectral shifts within user-defined frequency ranges.
Blue Cat Audio PatchWork plug-in host, means a multitude of processors can be brought to bear. And all of these functions feature a 5-band filter each.
Then we’ve the might of the routing system. It’s rather too involved for a written explanation, so watch as Krotos gives you the salient points…
It’s clear that there are yet more developments in the pipeline - a ReWire audio driver shows up in sound settings, so that looks promising. Meantime, the developer’s advice is to use the software with an inter-app audio engine, such as SoundFlower or Source-Nexus, in order to pass audio from Dehumaniser to your DAW.
Overall, Dehumaniser in any of its three guises is a sophisticated signal-processing suite that need not be confined to use with human vocals. Render a guitar lick or synth riff from a project, pass it through Krotos’ monsterizer and achieve unheard-of fume and froth. It could be the secret weapon to make your sound design stand out from the pack. Price-wise, the Lite version is a bargain, offering a good number of tweakables and the performance-friendly Voice Designer.
The Pro edition is for the more ambitious experimentalist, while soundtrack professionals working with intelligible speech will appreciate batch conversion and ready access to a wealth of presets if working to a tight deadline. Let’s leave the final word on Dehumaniser to game-industry veteran Alexander Brandon…