Reverse reverb is a relatively simple technique that causes reverb to lead into a sound rather than it trailing off after it. It can be achieved by applying reverb to the duplicate of a reversed audio track, recording that reverb to a new track and reversing it again. When this track is synced back up with the original, the audio itself is not reversed but the reverb now leads into the it instead of fading after it.
Reverse reverb is often added to a vocal line to give an eerie atmosphere and can be used very effectively in creating that creepy voice found in numerous horrors (notably Alan Howarth’s use in Poltergiest). It also can be apply to instruments such as cymbal hits or lonely chords so that the audio rises/swells to the note.
“The reason it’s so eerie is that the reverb actually starts to build up before the sound that created it — something that quite obviously can’t happen in nature without the aid of a tachyon pulse generator and a Star Trek script writer.” – Paul White
Where have I heard this?
Led Zeppelin – You Shook Me [Just after 6:05 the vocals rush in with reverse reverb]
Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus [Right at the very start, used on the vocals]
Personally, I find working with reverse reverb to be a lot of fun – hearing your own voice transcend into the realms of spooky ghosts is ace – however it’s use in music is limiting as it stands out very easily and can clutter your mix. As it is quite a noticeable effect it is best to use it sparingly/artistically and for certain sections or notes/hits. Lastly it is worth messing around with the intensity of the reverb you use as a harsh one could be provide a long build to a certain note or perhaps throw on some delay as well and see what happens…