Review: Vikings By Keepforest
“Cinematic Punk Folk” is not a term you hear used every day. Even less so to describe a library and it only partially describes the abundance of gems you will find under the hood of this two part library. It contains amazing animated graphics, cinematic scoring tools and some pounding electric guitar for good measure.
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Review: Vikings By Keepforest
Keepforest’s Vikings is a huge library designed for modern cinematic hybrid music production. Taking lots of notes from predecessors Evolution: Dragon and Evolution: Atlantica, Vikings uses similar categories of sound design, but with a particularly medieval flavor and lots of bonus “cinematic punk folk” additional instruments. Covering everything including rock guitars, drum kits, pulses, trailer impacts and “braaams”, Vikings gives composers everything they need to produce hard-hitting and edgy cinematic music in one sleek package.
Vikings presents itself in a rather flashy way with its graphical interface. With constant animations, glowing knobs, and long animated transitions between panels, you can tell a lot of work went into this interface. Some of it however causes slowdowns and chooses form over function.
The main panel that remains largely the same between all of the many types of patches available in Vikings is similar to the Evolution series. We have a waveform of the currently selected sample which lets you move the yellow line back and forth, tweaking the sample’s start time. Unfortunately this features is a little more than just a nice bonus on many patches, because in the release version there are lots of samples that contain a few seconds of silence before starting. This seems like a lapse in quality control that will hopefully be addressed with future patches. We also have the standard Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release knobs on the left, and pitch and stereo width controls on the right. There is also a “settings” button that opens up a smaller window. Here you can do a few different things depending on the patch loaded; you can turn off the animations in the interface, and do things such as setting the velocity ranges for articulations in the guitar patches (palm mute, sustain, pinch).
The motion panel has a lot of cool features. The main focus is the “SGPF” (Step sequencer, Gate, Pan, Filter) sequencer, which lets you animate these parameters. You can change the rhythm from 4/4 to other meters, which is something you don’t see in a lot of step sequencers. You can also add or remove steps, randomize the values, and pick from several presets. A copy/paste feature is also available if you want to repeat a pattern on 2 or more of the sequencers. It’s a very complete feature that can add a lot of replay-value to the included sound design.
The modulation panel offers 2 simple LFOs. One for volume, and one for Pan. They have Sine, Triangle, Saw, Rectangle, and Random waveforms with individual level knobs. You can also adjust the level and rate, while pressing a small orange button to toggle a DAW tempo synch.
This time around, Keepforest has implemented a full FX rack rather than just a few tweakable FX knobs. There are 8 slots with standard effects like compression, filters, and distortion, as well as some more interesting options like Lo-fi and a Rotator/panner. If you like an FX chain you’ve created, you can even save it as a preset and load it up later!
The pulse designer is a separate patch that at this time (Launch day) seems to be in Beta still. There are quite a few issues and things that didn’t seem to work correctly, but we’ll chalk that up to the beta condition. You can choose up to 10 layers of different sounds including bass samples, percussion, braams, benders, and pretty much everything else included in the library, and set them up in a step sequencer to design your own pulses. You can have 4 different patterns and choose between them via keyswitch. The “rnd Pulse” button randomizes the sounds you have loaded, which can be a great way of cycling through different timbres with the same rhythm.
While there are a few programming and interface issues that have slipped by quality control, the sounds in this library alone make it well worth the price of admission. Most of the content is fairly typical “trailer” stuff – Braaams, hits, risers, benders, downers, punches, signals…. But Vikings puts a very medieval flavor on everything. There is an emphasis on metallic sounds in the hits and punches. A lot of the braaams and benders have a very organic “war horn” vibe. This doesn’t at all date the samples though – they are still very useable for modern and high-tech genres like scifi. The variety and production value in the sound design of this library is absolutely top-notch.
On top of the trailer oriented samples, Keepforest included some nice bonus patches including a surprisingly detailed metal guitar and a few different bass guitars. Palm mutes and normal sustains are controllable via velocity or keyswitch, making these great all-around versatile and agile guitars for chugging ostinatos or heavy overdriven melodies. There is also a drum kit with mic position control and little adjustments that can be made per-drum. It’s definitely intended to be more of a bonus feature, and not something that sells the library.
It’s hard to find any fault in the sonic content of Vikings. It’s hard to differentiate a lot of the “hybrid” and “trailer” libraries out there these days, but Keepforest has done a great job making this product with its own unique flavor.
Vikings contains 22 GB worth of samples (installed) in .wav format at 48kHz / 24 bit. It features categories including sound designed hits, braaams, signals, and benders, as well as a cinematic metal guitar and bass. Pulses, percussive hits and Viking shouts compliment the already huge collection of sounds.
Viking requires the full retail version of Kontakt 5.6.8.