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Previous Guitar Columns: Column  #1; Column  #2; Column #3; Column #4

Column: #3

Point of No Return: Mute Requiem 
Music: Frydrychowicz
Transcribed by: Frydrychowicz

Hi everyone, at a recent show someone walked up to me and asked me a few questions about the beginning to "Mute Requiem" from Day Into Night. Since the writing phase for the new album is finished I had the time to write down the beginning of the song last week and decided to use this opportunity to refresh the lessons section of the site. If you have any questions about Quo Vadis songs feel free to contact me, and, time permitting, I'd be happy to help you out.

Let me begin by focusing on the two main riffs comprising the intro to the song - let's call them RIFF ONE and RIFF TWO.

In the case of both riffs we have the second guitar joining in for rhythmic and harmonic reinforcement. The key signatures are pretty standard for Quo Vadis songs. RIFF ONE is in E Harmonic Minor (Em with a raised 7th  note). For RIFF TWO we have the more solid sounding E Minor Natural. In the context of the song the switch from one scale to the next helps resolve the tension created by RIFF ONE.

For more information on the basics of the Harmonic Minor scale and some notes on relative major and minor scales, please refer to lesson 1 and lesson2.

The harmonic minor scale is often used in metal for its slightly exotic feel, here are some reasons why:

In the case of the E Harmonic Minor scale, the raised note [the 7th note of the E-minor scale] is a D sharp (D#). This is the specific note that gives RIFF ONE its tense and mysterious feel. The raised 7th is only one semitone away from the tonic of the scale [D# to E], and it is this interval that creates the mood of the scale.


The feeling of tension occurs because the human ear "wants" to resolve the melody on the tonic [E] but it never quite gets there. This scale is most effective when used to embellish a riff adding some exotic feel to it.

Below is an example with the melody from "Silence Calls the Storm" [0:52 - 01:12 - Example 1]. Bar 1-3 is in E minor until Bar 4 where we briefly modulate into harmonic minor adding a little bit of color to bar 4.

In both the case of RIFF ONE and RIFF TWO new elements are introduced gradually building up and supporting the theme. In the first two repetitions, we have guitar two reinforcing the bass and drum punches with an open E string [bars 1-6]. For repetition 3 and 4 the second guitar launches into a harmony adding the final layer to the mix. In this way, even if the main theme of the riff repeats 4 times, we hear it differently every time so it remains fresh and original to the ear. When a section reaches the desired complexity it is often ready to lead into the next riff.

An interesting example of putting the same basic riff in a different context would again be the riff in "Silence Calls the Storm" . The variations on the initial melody used in the beginning [0:37 - 01:12] are then fit over a syncopated midsection and clean guitars [03:45 - 04:20]. It's the same basic riff! Changing the context 'puts the riff on its head' in a manner of speaking, and makes it sound fresh and interesting.

If you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me at bart at quovadis dot  qc dot ca.