Metallica "Death Magnetic" - Manager claims complaints are a minority - Mastering Media Blog

Friday, 26 September 2008

Metallica "Death Magnetic" - Manager claims complaints are a minority

Media coverage of the "Death Magnetic" loudness controversy continues to spread, with articles in the LA Times:

and the Wall Street Journal:

Several source have quoted a response for the band's manager, Cliff Burnstein, who says

'98% of listeners are "overwhelmingly positive"... there's something exciting about the sound of this record that people are responding to.'

In my opinion this statement needs to be treated with extreme scepticism. Presumably his number is based on the 10,000+ signatures on the petition to remix the album compared with sales of nearly a million copies. However conventional business wisdom is clear that only a very small minority of dissatisfied customers actually complain. Estimates range between 1 in 3 to 1 in 500. On this evidence as a conservative estimate those 10,000 signatures could well represent in excess of 100,000 unhappy Metallica fans.

The cleverly ambiguous statement about people "responding to" the album's "exciting" (Read: distorted) sound is clearly intended to draw attention away from the fact that the band and producer have resolutely declined to comment - probably since it now seems likely they weren't present for either the final mix or mastering sessions. 

Since Burstein's comments yesterday there have been an additional 1000 signatures on the petition, and 10,000 more views of the YouTube comparison video, which is now the UK'S 3rd "most favourited" music video, after only a week online.

Meanwhile Ted Jensen, the engineer who mastered the album, has confirmed that the quote from his email last week was genuine, saying

'I'm not sure I would have said quite the same thing if I was posting it to the bulletin board... [but] it's certainly the way I feel about it'

Fans are now reporting that national Radio stations in Australia and elsewhere are discussing the issues and playing comparisons(*) on air. Tellingly, when pausing to play tracks from the album, they chose to use the less distorted version from the soundtrack of PS3 game "Guitar Hero", rather than the "crushed to death" CD version.

(*) Approximately 50 minutes into the show

I encourage anyone who hasn't already done so to help Stop The Loudness Wars by submitting this issue to the BBC to help encourage further media interest.


M.Yass said...

Cliff Burnstein: FAIL!

Another song mashup comes to mind:
it's not you its the wallEt talking..
repeat 20x

bassnode said...

Too add to your comment on the low complaint numbers: I think consumers who aren't audiophiles, engineers or even close-listeners might take awhile to realize that the album sounds crap. After they listening in iTunes and have it shuffle from Master of Puppets to Death Magnetic - they'll figure it out. And, therefore, hopefully give some feedback to the Metallica machine.

Music Guru said...

Hey Ian, I linked to your blog from mine, very interesting series of blog posts, especially from someone with technical savvy... hope you don't mind!

Booga said...

I'll tell you what is a travesty. The recently release audiophile vinyl versions of the first 3 albums. Half speed mastered by mobile fidelity from analogue tapes. I have the single album versions (they have also been release as doubles). the first 2 are definately inferior to the original UK vinyl on Music for Nations. Ride The Lightning in particular is attrocious. The sound is very well compared to a xerox of an original. Muddled and 'blured', and the top end of the frequency range is really harsh.

Kill 'Em All isn't as bad, but you have to really crank the volume (further than any previous vinyl) to get any sound. This can't possibly be to aid in dynamics BTW, as by the time the output is at a decent level, they still sound poor.

Master Of Puppets is the only one which surpasses (just) the original single disc release, the others being significantly worse than the originals.

On the basis of the rational for these releases, I bought them for a sonic improvement. The originals, after all, are still no sonic masterpieces. THIS is a travesty of sound.

swepett said...

What I think is so strange is that people involved in these bad sounding albums refuse to comment, like the Springsteen people in the WSJ article. It's like they know they have done something wrong and is afraid they'll say the wrong thing when asked about it. If they like that sound, why not just say so? If they stand by their product and think people who are complaining are wrong, then why not say so? At least Ulrich says he thinks DM is fine.

The times I have tried to research this over the years, I also have received the "no comments" reply.