Metallica "Death Magnetic" - Bands comments spark furious response - Mastering Media Blog

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Metallica "Death Magnetic" - Bands comments spark furious response

If Lars Ulrich, Metallica's drummer, thought that his comments to about the distorted sound of "Death Magnetic" would put an end to the controversy, he was sadly mistaken. 

With no official word from the band, many who disliked the excessive compression and distortion of the CD release had simply chosen to listen to the much cleaner and more dynamic mix from the PS3 "Guitar Hero" game instead. On the forums where much of the debate has been conducted between fans over the last few weeks, things seemed to have started to calm down again. 

However Lars' comments have lit a blue touch-paper, and suddenly the dissatisfaction has exploded again with renewed vigour. The forum is swamped by threads, bitterly arguing about Lars' apparent disregard for the opinions of loyal fans. It's true that Metallica has picked up it's fair share of "haters" over the years - people who are determined to criticise whatever the band do - but the vast majority of people complaining about the sound have always made it clear they love the new material, and only have a problem with Rick Rubin's punishing, fatiguing production style. Lars' dismissal of the 12,000+ signatures on the petition to have the album remixed as "a few people" was greeted with incredulity and scorn by most, along with his assertion that it sounds "smokin'" in his car.

One group of fans, dismayed by what they have learnt about the so-called Loudness Wars since the release of Death Magnetic, have already set up a new site to try and stop the Loudness "arms race" - is still in it's early stages but already features an impressive level of activity. 

Since the article, a new focus of protest has also developed - a co-ordinated return of CDs to Metallica's offices on October 17th. Initially suggested on the forums, the plan has been given focus by a blog post by user mikemelancholic, and seems to be gaining considerable support amongst unhappy fans, judging by the replies on the forums.

It remains to be seen how many copies will eventually be returned, but if the organisers achieve their goal it could have considerable impact - if there's one thing that makes record companies sit up and take notice, it's returns.

Meanwhile views of the YouTube video offering a comparison between the CD and Guitar Hero mixes actually seem to have increased since Lars' comments rather than decreasing as he must have hoped, and leapt up to over 175,000 this evening, with signatures to the petition seemingly unaffected and steadily growing by about 1000 a day.

It seems this battle in the Loudness War isn't over just yet.



Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Great work! I know many fans are disappointed by Lars' comments and might feel discouraged. Please don't give up! We have already succeeded in pushing this issue further than ever. I think we're witnessing the first stage of the music listener backlash. Well, aside from the dramatic fall in CD sales. Isn't that funny how the music business can't seem to connect the two?

I am always heartened by your tireless efforts. I feel a bit guilty when other matters draw my attention away from the loudness wars and D-Mag. I'm glad to know you're still on the case.

I'm seeing more and more videos on YouTube, and they seem to be getting, well, crankier. The comments from Burnstein and Ulrich may have lit a fire. Left alone, I'd expect the furor to die down naturally, but now it's a whole new ballgame. To many ears, this will sound like Napster, Part 2.

Thanks again for all your help on this issue, Ian. It is richly appreciated by all of us.

M.Yass said...

You can put an idiot in front of a drumset, but it's still a drumset. - No wait..

Gonçalo Brito said...

I can't see how lars is an idiot.

He was also called an idiot for stepping up against pyracy and for defending his rights and the rights of his fellow musicians.

He was called an idiot, then the industry music started to collapse...

Yeah, whose the idiot now?

Brendon Shannon said...

Hi Ian
Thanks for bringing this silliness into the open and for making it available to everyone. Let me preface this little tirade by stating first off; I’m a metal head and I like my music loud. Stillman, enough is enough.

For the rest, read along and think:

I’ve been following this issue with some interest, not only as I am a Metallica fan but because I too have become disgruntled with the so called “loudness wars”. That said, I would like to comment on something I think (with all due respect) many people are not paying attention to. This being rap / hip-hop music. Now please, this should not been seen as an attack on the genre itself but merely a statement of fact.

It can be argued that those types of music are currently the most popular and given the majority of airtime globally (both broadcast and personal media included). Now I ask you, what is the most prominent component of those songs? Well that would have to be the lyrics, not so? Great, let’s Eq on vox. Not necessarily a bad thing if you had something else to work with. Right, the overriding base is not an issue as that is there for apparently aesthetic reasons. So what is the measure? What then is the gauge of dynamics? The human voice... So with this already limited instrument coupled with the ubiquitous base frequencies found throughout, is there really any question why dynamic range is no longer a factor in our music?

So what does all this mean? Our music is getting “louder” because band X or band Y are trying to keep up with the Jones’? Not at all, let’s see why. If you’re an audio book fan like me and are sitting in your favourite armchair listening to your book via hi-fi speakers or on your bed with teenie-weenie ear bud headphones, you’re not going to miss much.

Unless of course they play a violin concerto.


Surly Bastard said...

Hey Ian,

Thanks for drawing attention to this, it's something that has bothered myself and friends for quite a while so I'm glad someone is making a bit of a stink about not only this record but poor industry practice in general

Has anyone mentioned the case about how people complained about the quality of the mp3 of 'The Day that Never Comes' that was downloaded from the bands website the day the single came out back in August, and how they got a response from representatives stating that they were aware of the poor quality and were working to remedy the problem. So in other words they acknowledge that there was a problem with the mp3, but at the time thought it was related to the coding of it, not the actual mixing of the song.

Here's a link to a story on it:

My friends and I have theorized that perhaps Rubin et al mixed the album as they saw fit (read this as destroyed the record), and by the time anyone figured out there was a problem it was too late to make changes because pressing had already occurred. So knowing that, and knowing Metallica is pretty much the biggest corporate rock entity rolling these days (come'on folks don't deny it, I'm a huge fan but they're as sold out as Kiss) someone looked at the dollars and cents it was going to cost to fix this problem and said "Forget it, just say that's what we wanted all along". A lot of what Lars said in his statement just seemed fishy, especially trying to pass off 'credit' to Rubin almost exclusively seems to indicate to me something of a tacit admission that he knew something wasn't right.

Anyway, that's my tinfoil hat theory of the day. Keep fighting the good fight!

Dave Cappuccitti said...

Metallica just launched their official Canadian merch store and I just bought some awesome new shirts. I saw them when they played in Toronto in December and it was one of the best shows I've ever been to. You can check out the new store here:

Carlo said...

Yes I know this has a lot of distortion I like so much this band but the problem when I listen those distortions I have to take viagra because it alter my senses.

Matte said...

Of course they are going to defend their album, I haven't heard of a band that has trashed their own album. They will rather be forced upon drinking Cialis than trashing their album.