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Thrash Course with Dave Davidson: How I Employ Dissonance in "Labyrinth of Eyes" — Video

Thrash Course with Dave Davidson: How I Employ Dissonance in

This month, I’d like to demonstrate the primary riffs in the Revocation song “Labyrinth of Eyes,” from our 2014 album, Deathless.

It’s a hard-driving song played in a 12/8 shuffle-type feel, and like much of the music I write for Revocation, it moves freely through different key centers.

Personally, I love the sound of dissonance, which may be described as any combination of notes, either in a sequence or played together as a chord, that most people would find harsh or unpleasant.

To me, the sound of unusual combinations of notes clashing against each other creates a tense, turgid musical effect, which is just what “Labyrinth of Eyes” called for.

One of the ways in which I achieve dissonance in this song is through the use of unexpected chromaticism, specifically the sounding together of notes that are only a half step apart. In FIGURE 1, the single-note line I play makes reference to the sound of an Ab diminished seven chord, through the use of the notes Ab, B, D and F. After riding on the low Ab note, I pull-off from F to the open D string, followed by a B note above it. In bar 2, I flesh out the figure by rolling into the B from Bb below it, followed by a pull-off to the open G string. This rolling technique is then moved one string lower, with an F note hammered-on to F#, followed by the open D string and then the C note below it. As you can see, I’ve included many notes that are semi-tones, or half steps, apart.

After this two-bar phrase is played four times, I move up a step and a half to B and play a different line, but one that also incorporates semi-tones placed against each other in an unexpected way. Harmonically, the effect is a riff that is jumping all over the place, based on an undetermined central tonality. When playing this passage, be sure to palm mute all the low root notes on the bottom two strings.

In FIGURE 2, I begin by riding on a low C note, but the tonality is obscured by pitting Ab against G, which creates a pull between C and Ab tonalities. Ab5 is alluded to through the use of the notes Eb and Ab, but these are followed by D and the open G note, briefly referencing a G5 chord. In bars 6 and 8, I employ hybrid picking (pick and fingers technique) so that I can move quickly among the D, B and high E strings. Employing this technique also allows the three notes to ring clearly and simultaneously.

FIGURE 3 recalls the pattern first explored in bar 4 of FIGURE 1: after the low root note is picked repeatedly, I slide up one half step and then sound F# against the open G note. In bar 2, I flip the last two notes of the figure from F# and C# to a C# octave. The figure concludes with flatted fifth emphasis, via the repeated use of G against C#.

Try applying these techniques to create some beautifully dissonant riffs of your own. The great thing about modern metal is the options are truly limitless when it comes to harmony.

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