Thunder of Metallica Comes to Estonia with the Help of Meyer Sound
Flanked on two sides by the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland, Estonia has seen many changes since it emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The country's capital, Tallinn, is now a thriving and energetic Eastern European city that is more than ready to rock to the sounds of head-banger legends Metallica. Around 80,000 eager fans crowded into Tallinn's Song Festival Grounds — an open-air venue that hosts the All Estonian Song Festival (Laulupidu) every five years — to hear the band as it celebrates its 26th year with a tour through Europe and Asia.
UK sound rental company Major Tom Ltd. partnered with local sound hire company Eventech and Taylor, Mich.-based Thunder Audio to provide a massive system of self-powered Meyer Sound loudspeakers for the show. Thunder Vice President Paul Owen — who also mixes monitors for the band — oversaw the loudspeaker rigging by Major Tom's system tech, Ali Viles. The two main hangs each consisted of 17 MILO high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers and one MILO 120 high-power expanded coverage curvilinear array loudspeaker. Two side hangs each comprised four MILO cabinets and one MILO 120 unit. Five delay towers housed six more MILO cabinets each.
The MILO arrays were supported with a truly earth-shaking amount of low end coming from 30 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers, groundstacked five wide by three high per side, plus a stack of 12 650-P high-power subwoofers in the center. "Metallica's FOH Engineer, Big Mick, rather enjoys a bit of sub," says Viles drily. "That's a polite way of putting it. Tight punchy, poppy sub is what he likes. It's pretty energetic stuff."
The whole rig was driven by a Galileo loudspeaker management system consisting of two Galileo 616 processors under the control of Compass software.
For Owen, it was more than just another stadium gig, it was a big-league proving ground for MILO. "This show has been a perfect opportunity to show how interchangeable the Meyer Sound gear is," Owen says. "We can walk in for a major gig like this with as many MILO cabinets as we use in a main hang and integrate 36 supplementary MILO boxes from the local Estonian PA company with no effort. We don't have to ask them how it's wired, how it's packaged, or what voltage it runs at. We just plug them in and away we go. Metallica had used MILO in arenas, but we hadn't really used a MILO system on a stadium show before, so this was really a big test for MILO and it did the job quite easily.
"What we have done, in association with Major Tom," continues Owen, "is given MILO a lot of exposure over the last couple of years. We can see other PA companies having problems with their line arrays, like consistency and dealing with amp racks, and we simply are not incurring those problems. Not only that, but the system can give us the SPL for bands like Metallica as well as the coverage we need for acts like Andrea Bocelli."
For a show of this size, Meyer Sound's technical support staff was brought in to help create a system design that would have all the SPL, subwoofer energy, and coverage that Metallica requires. The system was sketched out utilizing MAPP Online Pro acoustical prediction software, and the system tuned on site using a SIM 3 audio analyzer.
Both Big Mick and Owen were concerned about the amount of sub-bass that the system would provide, but for different and conflicting reasons. Big Mick, as previously mentioned, is a connoisseur of big bottom out front, while, on stage, Owen's concern was that the sub-bass didn't affect the band. Normally, one would expect placing 12 subwoofers directly in front of the lead singer to pollute the stage with low frequencies, but using MAPP Online Pro, delay times were worked out for the three piles of subwoofers that spread the coverage and steered the extreme amounts of low-end energy away from the stage.
Sitting atop the huge wall of subs were some of Meyer Sound's smallest boxes, in the form of M'elodie ultracompact high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers, which came into their own providing frontfill. "There was some amusement that here we were doing this monstrous rock act using this very small — but high-powered — box. However, they hold up well and sound sweet down the front," Viles says with a grin. On stage, the Meyer Sound theme continued with a flown sidefill array comprising four MICA compact high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers and one groundstacked 700-HP on each side.
Big Mick was enthused about his new discovery. "This is only my third gig with MILO," he says. "I used it first in Iceland, and then in the Gelredome in Arnham. On both occasions, the system sounded absolutely amazing. I thought, 'Finally, a system that has the same upfront punchy mid-bass sound that I remember being present in older systems, which employed much larger enclosures with a great deal more drivers.' The thing that immediately impressed me with MILO was that it had the same feel as an older system but with the addition of a smooth, great sounding high-mid and high that new technology allows."
Founded 25 years ago, Thunder Audio has been very busy of late with more than Metallica. Recent tours using Thunder have included artists ranging from the White Stripes (a tour which has garnered Thunder a 2006 TEC Award nomination), Robert Plant, and Slipknot to Kirk Franklin and Andrea Bocelli.
Major Tom Ltd. is headed by famed FOH engineer Lars Brogaard. Brogaard and Major Tom provided sound for Rod Stewart's recent world tour (as well as for Tonight's the Night, the musical based on Stewart's music), and tours by other star vocalists, including Diana Ross and Avril Lavigne.
With Metallica about to embark on an extensive tour in the next year, Thunder Audio and Major Tom are likely to be providing MILO systems on both sides of the Atlantic, allowing Big Mick and Metallica to rattle the rafters all over as the band rolls on with their seemingly endless supply of energy.