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2nd January 2024
Poets of the Fall's Captain Shares Herald of Darkness Edits

If you're curious how Alan Wake 2's Herald of Darkness came to be, you're in luck! At the turn of the year, Captain (Poets of the Fall's producer and keyboardist) shared a rare behind-the-scenes look at the song's editing process on his Instagram.

Along with a screenshot of the "final edit" (of sorts), in his caption, he explores the tools used, the long list of overlapping tracks, how they were accommodating parts based on the speed of the player's actions and lessons learnt along the way. 

You can check out the Instagram post below! If you're using text-to-speech, we have a friendlier version of the caption for you underneath. 

Text-To-Speech-Friendly Caption. 

A bit of geeky behind the scenes data about Old Gods of Asgard's rock musical Herald of Darkness from Alan Wake 2! Feel free to skip if you'd rather just enjoy the song, but for those who are crazy about this kind of stuff (like me), here you go, hope you'll find this interesting:

1) This is Herald of Darkness, as it exists inside the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). The timeline in the picture contains the full song arrangement, and it's about 45 minutes long (or 1800 bars at 156 BPM). The mix consists of about 120 tracks, which each contain audio, MIDI data and/or automation.

2) The timeline is divided into about 130 pieces, defined by named markers which you can just about see on the top of the timeline. The pieces range between 5 seconds and one minute in length. The pieces are mostly full stereo mixes, with some additional drum fills and risers etc. that can be played on top. In the game, the vocals are also in separate stems to allow positional audio.

3) There's some empty space between each piece to allow reverbs etc. to decay. Not counting the "decay" parts, there's about 30 minutes of actual music in the song. In total, the project contains about 10 hours of guitar and vocal recordings (yep). That includes demos, various tests and experimentations, takes not used in the final version of the song, doubles, etc.

4) There is no single "full" or "definitive" version of Herald of Darkness - you can arrange the pieces in countless different ways, and use only some of them, and still end up with something that resembles a complete song.

5) In the game, the pieces are played in a dynamic semi-random order according to how the player progresses. Some parts are meant to be played in a specific order to make musical sense, but there are several that can be played pretty much randomly (or skipped altogether). If the player moves very slowly or stays in the same spot for a long time, there's usually enough "extra" parts to keep the music interesting and to avoid obvious looping. If you play the game's musical scene several times, it’s likely you’ll always hear a slightly different version of the song. In the DAW arrangement, the exact order of the pieces does not really matter, but they are ordered roughly according to the overall structure of the song (can you spot some parts of the song by looking at the picture?)

6) The published version of the song is version number 34. I never use words like "new" or "final" or "new_new_2_for_real" in filenames (and shame on you if you do [laughing face emoji]), I just use a running version number that starts from one and increases by one every time I bounce and/or send out a new version. Simple and effective.

7) [nerd face emoji] Even geekier stuff, for those who are still with me: When I worked on Take Control (also a dynamic/interactive rock song) some years ago, I manually bounced each piece from the DAW, which was reeeally slow (TC also consists of over a hundred pieces). It also meant that if there was a global mix change or similar, I had to redo the whole thing again... [pespriation sad face emoji] While working on Herald of Darkness, it occurred to me that since the marker information is embedded in bounced WAV files, I could just bounce the whole song once into a single huge audio file, and write a script that reads the markers and automatically splits the song into separate properly named files. This made the whole process much easier, especially when there were changes that affected the whole song (and considering I did this over 30 times, it definitely saved a lot of time!)


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