Tuesday, April 17, 2012

a look into death metal guitar sound with Deus Otiosus

This is Peter Engkjær from Danish death metal band Deus Otiosus. I’ve been asked to reveal a bit about the guitar setup behind our death metallic sound. If you have not heard the music yet, you can do so here: deusotiosus.bandcamp.com

In Deus Otiosus we are two guitarists, myself and my brother (Henrik Engkjær). We are in no way sound experts, but I will try to take you through our different guitar setups and equipment. Hopefully it won’t be to boring, and even more hopefully someone out there will be able to use one or more of our “tricks”, or perhaps just be inspired to try something new. Now remember: a good sound doesn’t make your music better, but it can sure help communicating it to others easier. If the music is poorly written it will be a waste of time producing good tone, but if the music is original and good, it will be just that regardless of production quality (within reason of course).

We use two different approaches when making guitar sound and tone; one setup for live/rehearsal and another setup for recording. 

Me and my brothers "live setup", as I will call it, is somewhat similar in concept although different in terms of equipment. Both use a classic:

"guitar -> various stompbox floor pedals -> Marshall stack"-setup.

Peters equipment

Primary guitars

Epiphone SG
Epiphone Explorer
BC Rich Warlock

All three have had their stock bridge pickup replaced with a Seymour Duncan Dimebucker, which gives a hot output as well as combats feedback at high gain. They are all guitars that I have acquired fairly cheep, but with the right modifications and adjustments, I find that they play and sound just as good as any expensive guitar out there -- at least for my use!


From right to left (guitar to amp): Wah, Tuner, Noise Suppressor, Power Stack, Equalizer
I use the following specific brands:
Vox Classic Wah
Boss Tuner
Boss Power Stack
Boss Noise Suppressor
Boss Equalizer (rarely used)

The Power Stack pedal produces the majority of my sound. It sounds very close to the classic tube amp distortion, and is very simple to adjust and has a lot more gain available than most tube amps. The Noise Suppressor is used to suppress feedback and noise when I'm not playing. The wah is my latest addition, and I use it a lot for solos. A tuner is essential, and I'm a real tune freak. (I tune almost between each song when playing live or even rehearsing)


JCM 900 with standard 1960 cabs
A very straightforward two channel amp. I used to use the overdrive channel, but ever since I got the Power Stack I only use the clean channel and let the Power Stack produce the distortion. This gives me a very sharp tone, which I rather like.

Henriks equipment

Primary guitars

Gibson Explorer
Epiphone SG
Gothic Les Paul
Again, these are guitars that can be bought very cheap, but they play very well and sound great.


Right to left (guitar to amp): Tuner, Noise Suppressor, Tubescreamer
Henrik uses the Tubescreamer in combination with his amp distortion, which produces a very old school heavy but distinctly sharp tone. He also uses a Noise Suppressor to combat unwanted feedback and noise. A tuner goes without saying.


JCM 2000 with standard 1960 cabs
A newer and bit more advanced amplifier than my own, in terms of available settings, but their sound is quite similar I would say.

Notes on equipment

As you maybe can tell I am somewhat more of a gadget geek than my brother, but despite this I think that our guitar tones are quite similar. I think it just comes down to having an appropriate amount of distortion and the right equalization. Since it’s death metal we like to have a lot of distortion, but too much sounds awful and tends to introduce feedback and drown the tone. As for equalization I like it when the guitar has both the low and high frequencies, so it sounds both heavy and sharp in tone. (So lots of "low" and "hi", very little "mid")

Our equipment is in the cheaper end of the spectrum, but in my experience it doesn’t require much to make a big metal sound, just the right settings and maybe a few modifications. We are not trying to make music that sounds beautiful -- it's old school, rotten death metal! I will say however that we've had bad experiences with cheaper pedals that has broken down or not functioned optimally. I would therefore recommend to buy higher quality pedals, such as Boss or similar, as these are built like tanks and can take a lot of abuse, and always work as you expect them to!

If you, like us, have some cheaper-end guitars, and you are not completely satisfied with it or them, try giving it an adjustment (move the strings closer to the fretboard, intonate each string, etc.) or maybe even change a pickup. These things are not as complicated as they sound, and you can get a lot of help online. Don't be afraid to try, because if you fuck up you can always get a professional guitar tech to correct your mistakes or finish the job for you.

Recording setup

We use a trick that our trusty studio engineer Pede showed us, where the guitar goes through a guitar pedal that simply produces two identical outputs (could be a Boss Chorus or similar, with the effect off, of course). One line is fed through a tube amp stack (on “Murderer” I think it was a Peavey Triple X) that is recorded with a microphone, the other goes through a Line 6 Pod and then into the recording station. This way we can record a single rhythm guitar, that produces two independently adjustable tracks, that together forms a big enough sound for one side. Henrik records one of these for one side and I record one for the other, and they are panned out (not 100% I think, but close to it). We might use different equipment for the next album, but the "one guitar, two tracks"-trick will probably be used again, as it gives a big sound and saves a lot of valuable studio time.

Feel free to try out or rip off any ideas, but more importantly: make some killer songs!

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