New York-based sample library developer Heavyocity just released another product in their range of modern orchestral virtual instruments: FORZO Modern Brass. Following the successful concept of their Modern Strings range NOVO, FORZO is in essence three libraries in one: a powerful 26-piece orchestral brass section sampled with over 100 articulations, a hybrid engine that masterfully merges traditional brass and sound design and a loop designer that puts over 400 tempo-synced brass loops at your fingertips.
In this review, we’ll have a look at the library’s features and find out together, if FORZO can hold up to its award-winning sibling NOVO.
FORZO Modern Brass is a 25GB-large sample library for Native Instruments’ free KONTAKT Player (version 5.8+). At the heart of FORZO lies a meticulously captured 26-piece brass orchestra composed of 12 french horns, 4 trumpets, 8 trombones and 2 tubas. Arranged into 5 sections including a full ensemble patch, FORZO’s traditional brass engine provides you with both essential articulations like sustains, various shorts and swells as well as more experimental sounds like cluster bends and random flutters.
Known for their superior sound design techniques, Heavyocity took these traditional samples and put them through their infamous processing chain to create what they call a visceral hybrid orchestra, filled with a sonic energy unparalleled amongst other orchestral brass virtual instruments. FORZO’s 3-channel Hybrid Brass Designer allows you to blend, combine and morph various processed sound sources to create expansive and powerful hybrid sonic scapes.
FORZO’s comprehensive Loop Designer gives access to over 400 fully customizable loops that allow you to kickstart your cinematic arrangement and lay a solid sonic foundation.
For the development of FORZO, Heavyocity’s acclaimed sound designers teamed up with award-winning composer Jason Graves (Dead Space, Tomb Raider, Until Dawn) and renowned Hollywood film score engineer Satoshi Marc Noguchi (Lion, Midnight Special, Lone Survivor). In order to capture a top-level sound, they went where some of the best sounding Hollywood soundtracks are scored: the main soundstage of legendary Skywalker Sound Studios. With a virtuoso 26-piece brass band playing together at the same time and in the same room, the dream team captured over 25 GB of – as they put it – sheer brass power straight into the hands of the cinematic composer.
TRADITIONAL / EVOLVED
As mentioned before, FORZO’s contents can be roughly categorized into the two sections Traditional & Evolved. While the Traditional section holds the 26-piece brass orchestra and its core articulations, the Evolved portion of the product features both the Brass Designer and Brass Loop Designer engines. Let’s start with the Traditional section!
The Traditional section is where you find the various multi-sampled brass instruments and their orchestral playing techniques or articulations. This part of the library includes 12 French Horns (both open and stopped), four trumpets, eight trombones (tenor, bass & contrabass) as well as two tubas. As you can imagine, this makes for a brass band of huge proportions! When you dial up one of the instrument patches, it comes with a set of pre-loaded core articulations that can be triggered via keyswitching. These articulations include the most commonly used techniques like sustain, staccato, portato, sforzato, ppp sustains, swells and crescendos.
However by changing the Snapshot of the instrument in KONTAKT, you gain access to two entirely new sets of more unusual techniques: Extended and FX. While the Extended techniques include more elaborate sounds like waves, pulses and various random staccatos or flutters, the FX section features those very recognizable cinematic brass clusters, bends and atonal pedal sounds you know from Hollywood action and horror movie features. You can of course create your very own articulation sets by loading the ones you need into the eight available slots and save them as a new Snapshot.
Please note that among all those great-sounding and versatile articulations you will unfortunately not find any legato patches. The absence of legato articulations is a bit of a pity but as we’ll see when we take a closer look at the sound qualities of FORZO, it surprisingly doesn’t present that much of a problem.
The brass instruments in FORZO were captured using three distinct microphone positions: Close, Room & Hall. You can freely pan, mute and combine the different positions in order to shape the sound of the brass section exactly to your liking. There’s also a pre-mixed mic position option called Full that provides you with an astonishingly balanced and powerful sound right out of the box. You can purge mic positions you don’t need out of the RAM to save some memory for other tasks. Furthermore, the mic positions are routable to their own outputs, providing you with an option to process the signals individually in your DAW should you want to.
The Traditional Instruments’ interface comes with a huge deal of possibilities when it comes to processing and sound control. Probably the first control to leap to the eye is Heavyocity’s trademark Big Knob smack in the middle of the GUI. This knob is pre-mapped to your keyboard’s modwheel and controls the dynamic range of your brass instruments. In quite a few additional tabs and sub sections, the GUI gives access to a number of processing and effects tools including an Envelope Designer, EQ, Filter, Velocity Limiter, Dynamics Limiter, Gate, Reverb, Arpeggiator and a Performance tab. The latter puts itself forward for creating fully controllable, custom-made brass swells and crescendos.
Now we’re getting into the Evolved portion of FORZO and it is surely the one that sets this library apart from other orchestral brass products. The Brass Designer allows you to take FORZO’s traditional brass samples and put them through a unique chain of effects, modulators and processors in order to create stunning, hybrid sounds that blur the line between organic and synthesized.
While the Brass Designer engine is a highly complex machine with lots of functions and controls, it is in essence a three-channel sampler/synth that allows you to modulate, process and animate almost every aspect of a sound. For each of the three channels or sample slots, you can choose from an extensive library of source sounds derived from FORZO’s Traditional Instruments sample pool. In the Source Sound Explorer, you’ll find all of the traditional instruments, articulations and mic positions, as well as brass loops and reversed brass loops taken from FORZO’s Brass Loop Designer. Choose any of these samples for each of the three channels, set their playing range on the keyboard and create your very own, layered soundscapes.
Apart from standard control functions like volume, panning and transposition, it’s possible to process each sound layer individually with a host of processors like envelope shaping, EQ, filtering, distortion, gating and reverb. Of course, these and more processors can also be applied on a global level, too. The Global FX allow also feature Heavyocity’s renowned Punish (combination of compression and saturation) and Twist (phaser/formant filter hybrid) functions.
Another great sound design tool is the engines “Cycle” processor which combines the functions of a step sequencer, arpeggiator and granular sound shaping. Here you can animate the volume, starting point and pan position of each of the three sound layers individually. This way, you can have one layer playing in a pulsing sequence while the second one arpeggiates in a counter-rhythm.
To get a first look into the diverse possibilities of hybrid sound design, Heavyocity came up with a marvellous collection of pre-designed patches that are absolutely worth checking out. These can be found via KONTAKT’s Snapshot menu.
BRASS LOOP DESIGNER
The third and last of FORZO’s engines is called the Brass Loop Designer. As the name suggests, it enables you to play back pre-recorded brass loops, melodies and figures and have them run through the same processing tools found in the Brass Designer. Again, you have access to three individual channels in which you can load any of the 432 tempo-synced loops shipping with FORZO. To change the root note of your loops, you simply trigger the corresponding keyswitch at the lower end of your keyboard (C-1 – B0).
By taking another look at the source sound explorer, you will find that the loops are sectioned into both forward and reverse playback as well as in straight and in triplet feel. Here you can choose between Ambient loops, Motifs and Rhythms for each of the three tonal ranges Low, Mid and High (in reference to which of the brass instruments are playing).
As the layout and functions are the same for both of the Evolved Engines, Brass Loop Designer behaves very much like the Brass Designer – with one exception: the Designer tab. The Designer tab allows you to create so-called banks of loops for each of the three channels. Each channel can hold up to 12! individual loops which can either be triggered individually or for all three channels by making use of the global key triggers from C1 to B1.
While all those possible assignment options and processing tools can feel a bit overwhelming at first, as soon as so spend some time with the two Brass Designers and make use of the comprehensive manual for reference here and there, FORZO will become pretty easy to control. For a good, narrated walkthrough of all the functions of FORZO’s hybrid sound design engines, feel free to check out some of the Heavyocity video tutorials at the end of the article.
The key element of the Evolved instruments – in my opinion – is the interface’s golden “big knob” called Macro Control and its corresponding Macro Sequencer. As the name macro implies, the Macro Control serves as a nodal point to which you can assign an almost infinite number of parameters. This way, you can modulate and automate several parameters, sliders and controls from various processors and effects with the turn of one, all-encompassing single knob.
While this opens the door to create morphing hybrid sounds, the Macro Sequencer is where these sounds really come to life. Working like a step sequencer, the Macro Sequencer allows you to create rhythmic shapes or sequences that affect the position of the Macro Control knob over time. Once set, the Macro knob (and the parameters assigned to it) automatically move and constantly change the sound of your patch in a rhythmic fashion. The step sequencer offers a lot of adjustment options including the rate, sequence length, smoothness between steps and the range in which the Macro Control operates.
This is where hybrid sound design takes over and allows you to create evolving, ever-changing soundscapes and rhythmic pulses. By making use of the many processors, the Macro Control and the Cycle function, you’re able to quickly generate your very own and fresh hybrid sounds that always retain a sense of organic timbre.
FORZO – REMARKABLE FEATURES
Before we move on to dealing with the sound of FORZO, I’d like to take the time to spotlight a few of the library’s special features that I found to be exceptionally useful. One of which – and by far my most favorite – is the Repeater tool located in the short articulations of the Traditional instruments. The Repeater’s smart scripting makes it super easy to create authentic sounding brass repetitions/multi-tonguings without the need of any MIDI programing. You’re also given the choice over various different Accentuation Modes for your repetition that leave room for a multitude of applications like quick brassy transitions or repeated note crescendos.
Another interesting feature is the Dynamic Limiting function that allows you to limit the dynamic range in which the Big Knob or Modwheel is operating. If you’d like, for example, to perform an emotional french horns melody without getting up to the raspy top dynamics, you can limit your dynamics to just move between pianissimo (very soft) and mezzoforte (medium strong).
THE SOUND OF FORZO
Regarding sound, FORZO absolutely lives up to its name. The brass orchestra captured at iconic Skywalker Studios sounds forceful, strong and bold – perfectly suited for grandiose cinematic music and action film scoring. Think Transformers, think Inception, think Star Wars: FORZO’s traditional brass section, gets you a wonderfully massive and – well – brassy tone, that transitions into a warm, round and creamy smooth sound in the lower dynamics. Absolutely amazing!
With their stately sound, the french horns can carry both soaring melodies and emotional chordal passages alike and transform into raspy trailer-style beasts in their higher dynamics. The trumpet section sounds beautifully noble, both in their long and short articulations. The trumpets’ punchy staccatos allow for fast rhythmic lines and repetitions à la John Williams’ Imperial March. A really nice addition to the tonal palette are the soft ppp sustains, that come with their own set of inner dynamics, enabling you to perform controllable quiet passages using their full dynamic range. I just love the sound and feel of those tempo-synced crescendos and swells available for every brass ensemble. In my opinion, they perform much better than most of the pre-recorded brass transitions I own with other sample libraries. Since the crescendos were recorded using their full dynamic range, feel free to use the Performance tool in order to create more dynamically restricted swells.
As mentioned before, FORZO has to go without any legato patches but the sheer amount of other sounds and articulations easily makes up for it. Furthermore, apart from missing any slur transition sounds, you can very well use the great sounding sustain or portato patches to perform convincing melody lines.
The Extended and FX section of FORZO provides you with a terrific sounding set of unnerving clusters, bends, and textures that lend themselves well for any horror or thriller cue. The amazing pulses, waves and flurries found in the Extended section lean towards the sound design aspect of the library and are ideal tools for creating modern but at the same time organic soundscapes.
The pre-designed sounds patches for both the Brass Designer and Brass Loop Designer are absolutely well-crafted and useful for spicing up any orchestral tool with a modern edge. Though you can spend hours browsing through these great sounding presets, the real fun starts when you begin to design your very own sounds. Sky is the limit, really! The Evolved portion of FORZO enables you to create everything from dark, raspy pulses and wide brassy ambiences to fluttering stereo pads.
In terms of quality and tonal variety, Heavyocity’s FORZO may very well be the next big thing in modern orchestral brass sampling. The sound quality of the instruments is amazing and remarkably consistent across the various articulations, playing styles and effects offered. The library’s overall sound is big, bold and powerful, but is also capable of creating those elusive lush, warm brass tones some other libraries struggle with. It is therefore perfectly suited to cinematic orchestral music of bigger proportions heard in today’s action scores or adventure cues. The masterfully captured Extended techniques and FX literally scream for being used in thrillers and horror movies. In addition to the well-rounded collection of traditional articulations, you get a huge range of unique “evolved” sounds and loops that masterfully cross the line between an organic and synthesized sound. The expansive list of functions, tools and processors on board of FORZO’s engines provides you with countless possible ways to morph, modulate and animate traditional brass sounds into hybrid orchestral sound design.
The well-crafted and powerful sounding traditional instruments of FORZO would be worth getting the library alone. If you add the enormous amount of hybrid sound design tools and options into account that come with the “Evolved” section of FORZO though, it’s clear that this product is a must-have among modern media, film and game composers. Period.
- amazing sound quality
- comprehensive set of articulations and mic positions
- great deal of sound processing options
- Macro Control & Macro Sequencer
- many useful presets
- full NKS compatibility
- no legato patches
- Stopped Twelve Horns patch comes without core articulations
- relatively high-priced
FORZO is a virtual instrument powered by Native Instruments’ KONTAKT 5 engine and requires the free KONTAKT Player (version 5.8 or later) to run. It’s completely NKS-ready engines integrate seamlessly with any NI control surface. The 25 GB large FORZO Modern Brass is out now and available as direct download via Heavyocity’s online store. The instrument is offered for $549.