Apocalypse Percussion Elements by Soundiron is an epic drum library for Native Instruments Kontakt and Kontakt Player virtual instruments.
The library does not attempt to be the world’s biggest or most complete drum library but instead provides the most useful sounds in a reasonably compact (2.51 GB compressed) package.
Like A Kid In An Epic Drum Store
There are solo and ensemble samples of bass drums, toms, snares, riq, and frame drums; ensemble sticks, doumbek and dhol; and solo bongo, cajon, and various cymbals. The manual says the riq (a type of Middle Eastern tambourine) is an ensemble, the interface says it’s solo, but listening to it I think the manual is right. Articulations vary from just two different hits to ten articulations for the hi-hat. There’s a generous selection of rims and clacks, though they are sometimes in somewhat random places – for example, of all the toms, only the high tom has a rim articulation. The six solo snares also have varying numbers of articulations available.
In other words, there’s a lot of stuff included here. Sure, there could always be more – there are no large hand cymbals (only the small tingsha, though it is well represented with six articulations), no taikos, and the gong has no scrape articulation (though the tingsha, again, does). Still, there is a vast palette of massive sounds. I mean, you even get epic bongos.
Wait, Can Bongos Be Epic?
Yes, they can. Put bongos in a large chapel, hit them hard and let the sound reverberate around the space, and they’ll sound epic and really quite unbongolike. The lower velocities make me think “yup, sounds like bongos being played in a big room,” but the hardest hits are more like “whoa, those are bongos?”. In traditional Latin music, bongos don’t generally get walloped like they do here. The roto-toms and tiny FX snares also sound quite epic for similar reasons.
The only thing that doesn’t sound all that epic here is the hi-hat, which is much drier than the other sounds, and sounds like a hi-hat should. With its generous list of articulations, including a closed bell strike and six degrees of openness, it’s actually a nice and expressive hi-hat.
There are no multiple mic positions on offer, and even though the manual says everything is close-miked, there is quite a bit of room sound in most of the samples, except for the hi-hat and cymbals, which are reasonably dry. The cajon and solo bass drum are also drier than most, although not completely dry. Ensembles seem wetter than their solo equivalents. Generally, the levels of room sound are well-chosen for each element.
With a few layers going, the sound instantly becomes blockbuster-like, in a natural “things being hit hard by a bunch of people in a big hall” way. Everything does sound realistic and unprocessed – there are no synthesized drums sampled and no blatantly artificial compression or EQ.
If you happen to hate nature (when it comes to epic drums), though, there are quite a few ways to remedy that. The drums can be tuned down or up by up to 3 octaves, sample offset can remove their natural attack, and release times can be shortened. There’s also a whole rack of effects included, from the reasonable such as reverb and EQ to the extreme such as a resonant low-pass filter and a bitcrusher. The sounds will always have round robins and velocity layers, though, so if you want to do electronic-style one-shot percussion, you’ll need to render a single hit and load it into an external sampler, as there are no unlocked WAV files included.
These drums can be very useful in many non-epic contexts, too. Shortening the release takes the room sound out of most instruments. Tuning the drums up, and/or adding an external highpass filter takes the epic boom out, and that makes these usable as percussion or drums in a lot of contexts. Since there are a lot of ensembles here and even the solo instruments are miked in stereo, everything has a natural stereo image which is ideal for layering with everything from Pryda snares to Afro-pop percussion – the snare ensemble is especially useful for this.
Three Ways To Play
As with most large Kontakt libraries, there are several dozen NKI “instruments” here, divided into three general categories. The Standard instruments have a global set of basic controls. Aside from one remappable instrument with a lot of kit pieces and one articulation per note, most instruments are set up with fixed maps. Each articulation spans a major second (so one white key and two black keys, or vice versa), which seems weird on paper but makes it very convenient to play drum rolls, flams and other rudiments from a MIDI keyboard. Finding out which notes have the sound you’re looking for isn’t too easy, especially with some drums having more articulations than others, and either takes trial and error or looking in the manual.
The “Megamixer” instruments have some global controls, but volume, pan, release, velocity sensitivity and pitch are separated for each group of instruments, which is usually four groups. The “All Megamixer” has eight selectable slots, where each can contain one articulation and each has several separate parameters. Set up with the elements closer to a standard rock drum kit, this actually makes a decent John Bonham impression, especially the bass drum.
Finally, there are the dual layer tuned instruments, which are not “tuned” to play pitched notes in the sense that tympani or steel drums are tuned, but are instead stretched across a large range on the keyboard. These are useful for layering the same sounds simultaneously at multiple pitches, some of them much lower than the original, and thereby making huge epic booms. This can also be done with the “All Megamixer”, including the possibility of having more than two layers there, but really, two separate sounds detuned by different amounts seems to be plenty. The distortion and filter effects become quite useful here, making this Kontakt library a one-stop shop for epic drums and booms.
What Would Goldilocks Say?
As with Soundiron’s Olympus Elements choir, Apocalypse Percussion Elements is the middle sibling. It sits between the 460 MB Apocalypse Micro (priced at $29) and the full 25 GB Apocalypse Percussion Ensemble which retails for $199 and adds two more microphone positions, more round robins, and rolls to the palette, as well as unlocked WAV files. The “Elements” edition of Apocalypse Percussion is aimed at someone who’s not a full-time producer of high-budget epic music but needs a compact, convenient and affordable package containing epic drum essentials. For that kind of producer, it seems “just right”.
More info: Apocalypse Percussion Elements ($99)
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Soundiron Apocalypse Percussion Elements Review
Apocalypse Percussion Elements by Soundiron is aimed at someone who's not a full-time producer of high-budget epic music but needs a compact, convenient and affordable package containing epic drum essentials. For that kind of producer, it seems "just right".