Behind the Scenes: Apocalyptic Dreams Album

By Jason Stallworth

January 1, 2016

Welcome to my very first official solo album: Apocalyptic Dreams.

It’s 12 tracks of instrumental metal with a classic metal vibe filled with powerful progression, rhythmic hooks, and melodic guitar solos.

Epic Entry Into the Hall of Metal

I’m 38 and have been a metal and hard rock fan since I was 12 (that’s a long time, kids). I’ve been a longtime fan of artists such as Malmsteen, Vai, Satch, and other guitar virtuosos.

I’ve also been a fan of bands like Dream Theater, Queensryche, Dokken, Iron Maiden, etc. I also dig more recent bands like Sonata Arctica, Killswitch Engage, and All That Remains.

And I’ve always dug instrumental metal, but it’s very hard to find stuff that sticks with you melodically, while at the same time has that CHUG CHUG. This album came out of nowhere and just dropped my jaw.

This guy is a phenomenal guitar player that reminds me at different points in his music of all of the aforementioned bands, as well as more melodic guitarists like Neil Schon and Andy Timmons.

How is this possible?! I’m telling you, this album put a BIG smile on my face more than once. Get it.

– Eddie Gray, Amazon customer

Listen Now

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About Apocalyptic Dreams

Apocalyptic Dreams is an instrumental metal album with 12 tracks. I actually deem this as melodic metal but there are some old school style metal riffs yet with many hooks and melodies.

Guitar solos are a mix of melodic lines, speed, and feel. I didn’t want to crowd every song with guitar solos though. I wanted to leave room for the rhythm guitar parts to drive the song.

That’s something that seems to be missing in most instrumental metal albums, so hopefully, this album filled that gap.

The genre is indeed metal but of course, metal music has many sub-genres (instrumental metal being one of them).

Apocalyptic Dreams has a prominent classic heavy metal style that comes from my early influences like Metallica, Megadeth, and Testament.

But there’s also a melodic metal feel that stims from some of the Euro metal bands I listen to like Nightwish, Evergrey, and Sonata Arctica.

Apocalyptic Dreams Track List

Apocalyptic Dreams Track List
Jason Stallworth – Released December 2013

01 – Redemption
02 – End of Days
03 – Facing the Guillotine
04 – Apocalyptic Dreams
05 – Dark Forces Shall Bow
06 – Out There
07 – Mission: Terminate
08 – Legion of the Underworld
09 – As Iron Sharpens Iron
10 – Fire and Ice
11 – The Healing
12 – The Epicist

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Recorded, mixed and produced by Jason Stallworth

Mastered by Mike Olson at JMO Services, LLC

The Making of Apocalyptic Dreams

It took me over 2 years to complete this album and there were many, many hang-ups along the way. So I’m going to share these challenges with you; perhaps you’ve gone (or are going through) similar ones.

New to Software Recording

First was getting used to recording music through a computer, using recording software. In fact, this was super frustrating at first!

I had been out of the loop for a while and was used to those old standalone digital recorders. 13-14 years prior to this time, I had the original Fostex DMT8. You plug in our instrument or mic, and you start recording. There were some nuances but, once you got it down it was fairly simple.

When I got into the recording on my computer, I was so lost! But I stuck with it, watched countless video tutorials (YouTube videos were NOT as plentiful in 2012-13 as they are today!) and read numerous forums. I eventually nailed it. Or at least got to the level where I could record my album!

I started with buying the Presonus AudioBox USB interface and at first I used that with Reaper recording software. Soon after I downloaded the Studio One Artist software that came with my interface. I later upgraded to Studio One Pro to record the album.

The Endless Search for Tone

The other set-back, and probably greatest hurdle was finding a guitar tone I wanted to use for the album. I had the Line 6 POD XT Live but something was missing.

Once the POD HD500 came out I upgraded. I had my frustrations with both units but eventually dialed in a tone I liked using the HD500’s Angel FBALL which is the ENGL Fireball amp sim.

You can read (and watch videos) about my XT Live and HD500 tone settings in these 2 posts:

Jason’s POD XT Live Tones
Jason’s POD HD500 Tones

I was also using a variety of VST plugins (LePou’s Legion and Recabinet). I went back and forth on tones, recording, re-recording; I must have re-recorded some tracks more than 100 times.

I was literally driving myself mad with tweaking different tones from different amps and amp simulators. I ultimately ended up going with the HD500 FBALL (ENGL amp sim). Looking back now, that was the perfect metal tone for the Apocaypitc Dreams album.

You’ll also hear some clean and ambient tones throughout this instrumental metal album. Some of these have a synth effect but these are all guitars.

I used the HD500’s Fender amp sim for the clean parts and the ambient sounds are coming from different reverb and delay settings I programmed.

There’s a very cool spacey effect I was able to dial in. There are several songs where I kind of snuck this in. It captivated me so I hope it has the same impact for you.

Real Drums Without a Drummer

All of the recordings were direct…

  • HD500 for guitars
  • Plugins for bass
  • Double Bass Mania by Beta Monkey for drums

I did now know any drummers at that time, and to be transparent, I didn’t have the budget to hire one anyway. But I still wanted ‘good drums.’

After a ton of searching, I stumbled upon Beta Monkey, a company that sells drum loops from real drums that were recorded and mixed in a real studio. To me, this was like finding a goldmine. I bought a couple of packs of their Double Bass Mania series (I think I and IV).

Here’s a video I made on how to use Double Bass Mania (Beta Monkey) drum loops in your studio:

Although the drum loops pre-recorded, the drums were still quite challenging.

I wrote the music first then had to go through hundreds of loops, compiling different ones to various parts of the songs trying to find loops that fit those parts of the songs. This was extremely time-consuming, but also kind of a fun process.

The Final Countdown (Mix)

Believe it or not, I didn’t struggle too much with the final mixdowns. I recorded through headphones some but most of the time I used my KRK Rokits while recording and mixing.

I dumped the tracks to an mp3 from my studio and then listen to them on multiple sources (computer speakers, 2 types of headphones, and my car). I decided at the last minute to have someone else do my mastering.

I originally wanted to do every single part of this project in-house but no matter how good you think you are at something it’s always better to have a second ear involved.

Mike Olson, owner of JMO Services LLC, and guitarist of Ariel’s Attic had reached to me to have some of my music played on his online radio station.

He ended up doing the mastering for Apocalyptic Dreams which turned out amazing. I can honestly say I’m proud of this project being my first instrumental metal album, or rather, my first album in general.

Gear used on Apocalyptic Dreams

  • ESP M-1000 Deluxe guitar (most songs)
  • Ibanez RG1570 guitar (certain parts on 2-3 songs)
  • Dean 5 string bass (using Presonus Studio One plugins)
  • Line 6 POD HD500 (Angel FBALL/ENGL Fireball; Fender sim for clean and ambient tones)
  • Presonus Studio One Pro 2 recording software
  • PreSonus AudioBox USB interface
  • KRK G5 Rokit monitors
  • Beta Monkey Double Bass Mania drum loops (versions III and IV)

To top it off, this album was recorded with minimal gear. And most of it was performed and mixed in the living room of our small apartment, which I had made into a home studio.

I spent relentless hours writing, recording, and perfecting every note. As my first album, I’m extremely proud of this and will always remember these humble beginnings!

Keep it Metal,


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Apocalyptic Dreams Album – Special Thanks

– God, first and foremost.

– Candy, my beloved soul mate. Her love, support, and belief in my dream is beyond anything I’ve ever known. This album may not have ever been released had it not been for her support.

– Mike Olson at JMO Services LLC who mastered the album Apocalyptic Dreams. Thanks for your patience and guidance as well.

– My parents Miller and Sherri Stallworth who raised me with love and believed in me enough to support my passion for music. They bought me my first guitar at the age of 15.

– Ron Goodman who was my musical mentor in my early years and fueled my interest in music. He’s a phenomenal musician, guitarist, and songwriter. Had it not been for Ron I may have never picked up the guitar.

– Ronnie Miller went with my dad and me to pick out my first guitar (that bright red Gremlin) and who introduced me to Joe Satriani’s music (Flying in a Blue Dream).

– Uncle Fred (Freddie Stallworth, my dad’s brother) who encouraged me to get into music. I started messing around with his old acoustic; he restrung it for me and bought me a Mel Bay chord book.

– Eddie Gray for being a close friend and brother. He introduced me to my first real band that he managed. Ed and I later formed our own band. He’s been a huge encouragement in me creating this album, listening to demos and giving me feedback.

– Tom Sherman for also being like a brother. Tom joined the band Ed and I formed, which was short-lived. We’ve been close friends since and he’s always encouraged my music. He kept pushing me to get this album completed as he was also listening to my tracks and giving feedback.

– Will Pufall who was the worship leader for the church band that I was a part of for the first few years of my adult life in Pensacola, FL. I grew tremendously as a musician and vocalist under his mentorship and guidance during this time. He also wrote his own music and had some of his songs published.
Will passed away in 2009. He is indeed with Christ now.

– Jon Castillo, worship leader at Bridgeway Church in Wesley Chapel, FL. Jon has always inspired me with his talent, compassion, and love for people. I am honored to have played on stage with him for several years. He’s also been an encouragement to get this album out.

Jason Stallworth

About the author

Jason is a melodic metal solo artist, songwriter, acoustic performer, and co-founder of Metal Mastermind.

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