It’s been happening for a few years now. CDs have slowly been getting louder and louder. I personally think the culmination of overdoing actually happened about 3 years ago with the release of Songs About Jane by Maroon 5. That’s the CD where I noticed it was overdone with volume. I’m sure that’s not the first CD to do it, but it was the first I purchased and noticed it. It was so loud that it’s actually distorted in it’s volume.
Since then I’ve spent time listening to a CD before I think about buying it. Unfortunately there have been so many that are pushed to the point of being so loud they’re actually distorted, that I forgo buying the CD and then only pick up the one song I really like – a complete change in my buying patterns. I strongly support buying the CD of an artist as long as the CD is listenable. Thus major labels and their desire to have their artists “pop” via volume have actually been giving me a reason to stop buying their CDs and go digital for a song or two per release, not a choice I prefer.
The straw that broke the camels back may have finally happened. The release of Death Magnetic from one of the former biggest bands in the world, and a definite leader of the metal genre, Metallica. Known for some loud shows, at least to me, I went deaf for nearly three days after a Metallica show, a reason that I now wear ear plugs at any event of raised volume including parties. I have some of their older CDs and none are pushed in volume to the point of unlistenability (a new word needed for the dictionary). That’s all changed with Death Magnetic.
Death Magnetic is so compressed, so squished, that it’s entirely unlistenable. I refuse to purchase the CD or the mp3s. Its too compressed and sounds like utter ass. I’ve read that the guitar hero version of the songs are actually more appropriately mixed. Meaning they’re sonically better to listen to. A video game has better mixes of a song? That’s fucked up. Usually it’s the other way around, the CD is better and the video game is over compressed.
I’ve read funny messages saying that it’s Metallica’s way to prevent illegal copying of the songs online. Which is entirely funny. Generally the blame gets laid at the feet of the mastering engineer. In this case though, Tony Jensen has come out and said specifically that he is not the reason behind it. Instead he has spoken up and said that the mixes came to him over compressed and loud. Any good mixing engineer knows that doing that leaves the mastering engineer no room to do anything. Tony Jensen went on to say that he is actually not proud to be associated with Death Magnetic. Read that again: He’s NOT proud to be associated with Death Magnetic. That’s a powerful statement from a big time mastering engineer.
Even more surprising is the reaction from fans. There have now been fans that are putting a petition together to get the album remixed and remastered. You know you’re doing something wrong when fans start grouping together to ask for something like that. Actually I had read that fans of the Red Hot Chili Peppers did the same on their last CD but nothing ever came of it. I’m not sure that anything will come of it now with Metallica. However the one constant for both of these releases: Rick Ruben. Hmmm…
I don’t expect that this petition will get Metallica to correct the problem. But it’s obvious that fans are now starting to get pissed off about this loudness war. It’s about damn time. Rather than petition it would be even more damaging to return to the store and return the purchase. Nothing speaks louder than wanting your money back for a purchase that doesn’t live up to expectation. I would hope that Death Magnetic becomes the most returned album of all time. That would speak volumes (no pun intended).
A recent release from Weezer actually comes with a sticker saying it’s not as loud because they opted for the dynamics. That’s fantastic! Me personally I’ve already told fans that my next CD may have two versions, a normal dynamic one, and a digital release version that is pumped up (though not as loud as to go distorted).
In light of this, I’d like to promote the grandfathers of modern metal. But I’m going to do it with a CD they were attempting to emulate with their new release, Ride the Lightning. All the stories about Death Magnetic were saying how Metallica was going back to the sound that made them them. Unfortunately they failed miserably. But one can still purchase those old CDs and actually listen to a properly mixed and mastered release.
Thus enjoy some old school metal with Fight Fire with Fire.
Oh and I ought to write that if Metallica or their label comes after me about this post, I’ll have to pull the audio. The post text will remain. It’s important to know that being too loud ain’t always a good thing.