Saturday, September 27, 2008

Death Magnetic

Metallica's new album "Death Magnetic" is, in my humble opinion, their best work since 1991's the Black album. Metallica is my third favorite band EVER (1. Black Sabbath; 2. Pantera), and so for me, this is kind of a big deal. Their late '90s albums Load and ReLoad were case-studies in mediocrity. Their 2003 outing "St. Anger" was just crap. So they've made a good album, their first in 17 years. Excellent. So why am I pissed off?

BECAUSE THE ALBUM WAS NEARLY RUINED IN THE MIXING STAGE. The problem is called "compression": it clips the high and low ends of the signal to create the illusion of volume, thereby distorting the original audio recording and diminishing its crispness and clarity. This is not the "good" kind of distortion that musicians intentionally aim for; it's the bad kind that deprives the music of its complexity and character. 

As it happens, two versions of Death Magnetic were released: the official album and the Guitar Hero 3 version which owners of the game were able to download. Because the GH3 was not unnecessarily FUCKED WITH, it sounds a lot better. To wit, here is the album version of "The Judas Kiss":

And here is the GH3 version:

And just in case you think I am making all this up:

If the music biz wants to use compression techniques to make shit bands like Fall Out Boy sound poppier, so be it. But stay the fuck away from my bands. That is why I signed this petition calling for Death Magnetic to be re-released in the format in which it deserves to be heard.

1 comment:

Ragoth said...


I'm mostly in agreement with you on this one. I was one of the Metallica fans who was really willing to stick with them through Load and Reload. I appreciated the directions they were expanding into, and was having fun going along with them. Bleeding Me and The Outlaw Torn are still two of my favorite songs by them. I sort of feel that what they gave up in terms of instrumental and sonic impressiveness, they made up for with lyrical and vocal depth.

Now...St. Anger...we just don't talk about that. That was the point that I walked away from Metallica and said "Never again. At least not until you've cleaned up."

When Death Magnetic came out, I was cautiously hopeful. Having listened to it...well...I'm very impressed. I feel like they've returned to their roots with thrash and speed metal, but they allowed their maturity to come through - it's not all adolescent angst and rage any more. What we have now is a record by very professional musicians who have come to realize that they explore new territory, have great lyrical depth, and still kick the metal world in the teeth with their speed and technical ability. So, all in all, I'm proud of them. I also like Billboard's summary of it as "Kirk Hammett's Revenge." Yes...yes indeed.

Now, as for the compression, I completely understand. I still like the album, though I was a little disappointed to hear the crispness taken out from the guitars (and I'll also admit, I'm not entirely pleased with the overall mixing. It's not as intricately layered and structured as some previous albums), but I don't think I realized how upset I was until I heard the GH versions. I want those. I want to put them through my stereo system and just turn up the volume and let that pure, blissful wall of noise to wash over me.

Because, ultimately, that's what Metallica is good at - incredibly intricate, devilishly fast, kick-your-teeth-in good noise.