When it comes to serious scoring tools, there is one company you can’t go past: Orchestral Tools. Berlin Strings and Berlin Woodwinds are only two of their fabulous products we have reviewed in the recent past. With the release of Metropolis Ark 1 – The Monumental Orchestra, the German based company “marks the next generation of Fortissimo … a revolution of Epic in one single box”. So let’s see if Orchestral Tools meet their own requirements.
What is Metropolis Ark 1?
Inspired by the movie Metropolis by Fritz Lang (1925/26), the sound of Metropolis Ark 1 is huge and unique. All of the sections are designed to be loud and bold, with dynamics starting from mf and moving upwards to ffff. This is accomplished by an orchestra featuring 12 basses and 6 celli playing together in octaves, 4 contrabassoons playing in unison, a bass trombone ensemble, a cimbasso ensemble, a big 9 piece horn section, and a smaller 3 piece horn ensemble. Combined with an aggressive sounding drum kit, electric guitars (playing power chords), a thunderous orchestral percussion ensemble, and a massive choir singing at the highest dynamics, Metropolis Ark 1 places all the ingredients for epic and monumental sounding music at your fingertips.
- Specifically designed for Epic music (dynamics starting from mf upwards to ffff).
- DISTRICT I – ORCHESTRA: Strings, Woodwinds, Brass.
- DISTRICT II – CHOIR: Men & Women.
- DISTRICT III – EPIC PERCUSSION.
- DISTRICT IV – BAND: E-Guitars, E-Bass, Drum kit.
- 18 Sections/ Instruments.
- Extensive Articulation Sets.
- True Legato for Strings (Hi/Low), Choir (Male/Female), and French Horns (A9).
- Based on CAPSULE for KONTAKT Player.
- 160 GB of samples (75 GB NCW compressed) – 24Bit/48KHz.
- Download via Continuata Connect.
- Intro-Special €399 instead of €549 (excl. VAT).
- Extended Intro Special ends on January 31st, 2016.
Installing of Metropolis Ark 1 isn’t really spectacular, but it works. Enter the serial you have received via the purchase confirmation email into the Continuata Connect downloader application. Due to the high amount of data to download (75 GB), it took me nearly 14 hours to download the complete library. The application will take care of extracting the downloaded files into the folder of your choice.
As Metropolis Ark 1 needs ‘certain files in your Appdata/App Support folder to properly initialize‘, an installer application is also delivered that needs to be executed before loading the library the first time in Kontakt/Kontakt Player. After registering the library in the Native Instruments Service Center, it is ready for use.
Control And Performance Symphonic Utility Engine (Capsule)
Like all of Orchestral Tools‘ offerings, the Metropolis Ark 1 engine is based on Capsule – an advanced scripted interface for Kontakt that handles the playability of the instrument. Capsule consists of three views: Performance View, Mixer View, and Controller Table & Settings (check the links for Orchestral Tools‘ videos on how they work).
All of the instrument articulations in Metropolis Ark 1 are available in two versions (Multi & Single). The Multi Articulation patches contain all the available articulations in one patch, which can be accessed via keyswitches. The Single Articulation patches, as per the name, contain one articulation per patch.
Metropolis Ark 1 – District I
District I is dedicated to the orchestral instruments of Metropolis Ark 1, and contains the Strings, Basoons, Contrabasoons, Trumpets, Horns, Trombones, Cimbassi, and Tubas. Besides the Strings, which are divided into High Strings (Violins and Violas) and Low Strings (Bass and Cello), all the instruments are available as separate patches. I also really enjoyed the imaginative naming of the instrument sections:
- Finkenstein Strings (High)
- Wolfenstein Strings (Low)
- Holbein Bassoons
- Barnack Contrabassoons
- Kommandanten Trumpets
- Schwarzdorn Horns
- Rotdorn Horns
- Friedrich Bass Trombones
- Koenigsberger Cimbassi
- Hindenburg Tubas
I have rarely heard instruments that sound this great. The Low Strings, Trombones, Cimbassi, and Tubas sound enormous, deep, and fat – no issues giving your arrangement the large bottom end it deserves. The Trumpets sound sharp (in tone, not in tuning!), and they will have no problem cutting through most mixes. The Horn patches sound also huge and beautiful, and their 3-piece and 9-piece variations cater well to both chords and leading melodies. This really is an EPIC Orchestra, both in sound and scope.
Metropolis Ark 1 – District II
District II is dedicated to the Choir. Men and Women are divided in two patches.
- Viktoria Choir (High)
- Arauer Choir (Low)
The Legato, Sustain, Staccato, Marcato (long/short), and Glissandi & FX articulations are pretty much what you’d expect at this point in choir sample development. However, the Choir also contains syllables in the Staccato and Marcato patches, which cycle through with every keystroke (like round robins). This may sound strange at first, but it is really helpful when set in context with the rest of the orchestra, as you don’t have to worry about the syllables themselves anymore, and it keeps the choir moving, so to speak. Both the women and the men sound very good and impressively loud – definitely an EPIC Choir (though Gustav Mahler may disagree!).
Metropolis Ark 1 – District III
District III is dedicated to the Orchestral Percussion and the Drake Piano. The Orchestral Percussion is called Kopernikus Percussion and contains:
- Epic Percussion Ensembles
- Epic Percussion Hits
The Epic Percussion Ensemble is split up over 4 Octaves and contains a Solo Taiko, Taiko Ensemble, and Surdo Ensemble. Unfortunately there is no legend for the mapping, so you need to identify where each instrument is by listening for yourself. I also miss some other percussion instruments that are often used in “epic” music, like dhols or frame drums. The Epic Percussion Hits, which are a mix of all the instruments, are loud and defined, and are perfect for standing out in an arrangement, or to mark a great sounding epic finale.
Also available in District III is the Drake Grand Piano. It is a very bright sounding grand piano (with very pronounced strings), and makes a good complement to the whole package – definitely keeping up with the theme of “play it loud”.
Metropolis Ark 1 – District IV
District IV is dedicated to the Kornmesser E-Guitar, Troppauer Bass, and Gardeschützen Drumset.
The Gardeschützen Drumset sounds very aggressive and is reverberated (as it was captured in the same hall as the orchestra). With 2 bass drums, 4 toms, snare L/R, open/closed hihat, ride and crash cymbals, you get everything you need to play great pumping rock drums. The Troppauer Bass Guitar sounds very good, and has a great “grumpy” and lightly distorted rock sound, like a Musicman Stingray with an Ampeg rig.
The guitars sound bright, playing heavy sounding (power) chords, sustained and short. The sound is very supportive for the whole orchestra, without screaming for attention. I probably wouldn’t use these guitars in a different context, and I don’t think that was ever the intention for their inclusion. However, I could see myself using the great sounding drum kit and bass guitar elsewhere.
Without question: Metropolis Ark 1 is huge and sounds huge. It is epic and it sounds epic. Metropolis Ark 1 is not a regular Orchestra – it is an Orchestra especially designed for music of titanic proportions. I personally feel that the most work has gone into the orchestra elements of District I, as this is the most “complete” district of all four. The name of the library implies that there may be more volumes to come, and I’m sure Orchestral Tools has some more surprises up their sleeves.