[Editors Note: This article was originally written before an update to KVLT, which now features an interactive GUI]
The first thing I notice about KVLT Drums after unpacking it is the lack of installer. Thankfully, installing the plugin is as simple as dragging the VST file into your VST Plugins folder. However, looking more closely reveals an oddity. The file size is over 200Mb, and with a lack of a samples folder, it appears that the folks behind this Black Metal library have chosen the rather unorthodox path of baking the samples directly into the VST.
Once I launch my DAW and attempt to instantiate the plugin, Reaper offers to auto-create routed tracks, as is normal for a drum plugin in reaper. What’s unique here is that they’re all auto-named, thanks in part to what I assume is KVLT Drums baked-in naming scheme on the internal channels. While one might argue about the merits of doing so, I for one am happy to not have to manually name 64 tracks of audio (or in this case, 6 stereo channels).
No presets included here, and the drums aren’t clickable. No fluff, and I like that. It’s a simple plug-in. Simple means less knob-turning and more music.
Being that I’m not exactly a great drummer, I decided to drag in some midi from the Toontrack Black Metal MIDI collection, to get a feel for the kit with a human drummer behind it. The problem here is that KVLT Drums uses a different Midi layout, and won’t work with other companies’ midi libraries without some kajiggering.
There’s a file in the zip that KVLT Drums comes in, called KVLT Midi Note Map.txt, usefully enough. This file is readable by Reaper (and possibly other DAWs), by clicking on a midi element and choosing File > Note Names > Load Note Names. The included map makes using libraries or programming your own significantly easier. While this library does not boast multiple alternate articulations like some of the big names in drum samples, what we do end up with is more than usable, especially for the target genre. A quirk of the midi map, however, is that midi is how you choose between the two different snares. There are actually two articulations per snare, each causing the drum to be “hit” by a different hand. Snare1 Left, Snare1 Right, and above, Snare2 Left and Snare2 right. An unorthodox method of choosing your snare in a library, yes, but we’ve already established that the folks behind KVLT Drums are anything but orthodox, and that allows their work to shine in its own quirky way. One other thing of note, before we move onto the sounds themselves, is the humanize slider. The developers intended this slider to add some human flair into the hit strengths, but when programming my own midi, I found manual humanization to work better. Definitely a neat function, however, and I’d like to see it fleshed out more in the future.
The sounds themselves are more than usable. While the cymbals, and hats in particular, are a little brashy, and the shells (toms a glaring exception) rather muddy and wooly, the creators appear to have had this exact sound in mind. The library, as described on their website, is targeted towards “lo-fi metal & punk music.” You know, the crappy sounding demos some people think it’s cool to make using a fisher-price tape recorder in 2017.
While KVLT Drums nails this lo-fi aesthetic right out of the box, it’s with some processing that the drums really start to shine. This library is no one-trick pony, regardless of what the creators intended. With some work, you can coax a fairly decent modern (or modern enough for newer Black Metal) sound out of the library. It won’t have that Slate-level sheen, but if this is all you have, you can definitely fit it into a mix. Some people might balk at the lack of a room channel, but a slight verb on the kit fills it out. Use an IR of your living room for authentic low budget Black Metal vibe. Remember, these drums were recorded in a tiny wooden sauna. Not exactly a room known for huge drum verb.
Overall, this is a very usable little library, both nailing the target and flexible enough to venture outside that box when called for. KVLT Drums was designed by It Might Get Loud Productions, and is available for 39€ from their website, https://www.itmightgetloud.org/product/kvlt-drums/
Samantha Michelle Smith is a metal vocalist, engineer, and producer based in Boulder, CO. You can check out Samantha’s band “Firehaven” at https://firehaven.bandcamp.com/[bandcamp width=100% height=42 album=3971021518 size=small bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5]