Volbeat in the Magic Zone with d&b
It’s a pleasure to find a contemporary hard rock band unafraid to include a harmonica to drive the vocals; and drive they do. Volbeat’s Front of House engineer Mads Mikkelsen is contending with a band whose music embraces three powerhouse signatures, profound low end content, distinct multiple guitars, and big vocal harmonies. Nothing this potent has been heard since Boston, but Volbeat is not the 20th century revisited, their recent tour drew a decidedly young audience to arenas all across northern Europe.
“The band sound is a lot more dirty live,” said Mikkelsen. “I double channel each of the two guitars, slightly delaying each to opposite sides of the PA to get that big guitar and bass sound and the J-Series delivers exactly what I am aiming for. That’s one of the reasons I chose to use the J-Series.” Mikkelsen has a full d&b audiotechnik J-Series loudspeaker system supplied for the tour by DPA Soundco A/S in Denmark. “For me the J-Series is just the best for a great rock guitar sound. I am a very big fan of loud, clear and massive rock music and the J system puts a smile on my face every night. The other reason is simple. I’ve done a lot of festivals with Volbeat and when a J system is used for the festival it doesn’t matter who sets it up and tunes it, in any country, it always sounds great. I don’t get that with other systems. The J-Series never varies.”
Mikkelsen also had to contend with a strong visual element on the stage wings which led to an unconventional rigging configuration for the Js, as system tech for the tour Ulrik Rasmussen explained. “To block the least amount of sightlines we had to fly the J-SUBs behind the main system. So long as we could find a hanging point at least a metre upstage from the main system this worked perfectly. We designed the system around this flown SUB configuration to achieve really good low-end throw; the benefit to us, especially with heavy metal where low frequencies are so important, was that the alignment between SUBs and the main system is consistent throughout the venue, even the balconies.” Mikkelsen agreed, “For me the benefit is this: the band are very loud on stage, as much as 123 dB Peak at the centre vocal, so setting time between the different elements of the loudspeaker system is very important to keep the image clear and well defined. With the SUBs immediately behind the main system they are effectively already in the same time plane, so when I delay the system to the guitars onstage the coherence of the flown system is perfect. Walk the room and you get the same sound everywhere.”
In Berlin, Rasmussen had to rig the system in the Treptower Arena. “This is a notoriously bad venue for sound; it has a clearance of only five metres yet at eighty by eighty metres it holds almost nine thousand people. We felt quite doomed when we arrived. The solution that day became stacked SUBs and the main system of eight J8 and J12 with a delay of six J8 flown each side. It turned out quite OK. Of course with this clearance there was a lack of throw in the low-mids but with that in mind it was a pretty good job. German and US management were really amazed, and they claimed it was the best sounding concert at that venue ever.”
“We tried quite a number of different rigs throughout the tour,” confirmed Mikkelsen. “Always Ulrik came up with a solid solution; the guys from DPA Soundco worked really hard to always give me what I needed. Even our hometown gig at the Forum in Copenhagen was tight and clear and this is not a nice acoustic for an engineer. Good guys, great system, fantastic band.”