For years many musicians, producers and music fans have been crying foul about the “Loudness War“. This is when a mastering engineer compresses and limits the dynamic range of a song to make it louder to the point of ruining the music. Many times it’s not the engineer’s fault as he or she is just following directions from the label or the band. It makes some sense you would want your album to be louder than others as it would stand out but when everyone is doing it the end effect is music is simply ruined.
Things have finally boiled over with the release of the new Metallica album Death Magnetic. Apparently it sounds so squashed that even their metal head fans can’t stand it. To add fuel to the fire a version of some of the album tracks appear mastered more tastefully in the newly released Guitar Hero 3 (video game).
“Music released today typically has a dynamic range only a fourth to an eighth as wide as that of the 1990s. That means if you play a newly released CD right after one that’s 15 years old, leaving the volume knob untouched, the new one is likely to sound four to eight times as loud. Many who’ve followed the controversy say “Death Magnetic” has one of the narrowest dynamic ranges ever on an album.” – wsj.com
I’m pleased this is getting attention because I personally can’t stand the smashed sound. It’s fine when it’s part of the artistic endeavor (such as any song by Justice) but other than that I find it seriously unpleasant.
The Wall Street journal has a great interactive graphic online comparing the sound quality of an old and new Metallica track: click here
If your a Metallica fan (I’m not) you can sign a petition to have the album re-mastered: click here
Read the full Wall Street Journal story: click here
Wikipedia’s entry for the Loudness war: click here