Throes of Compression: Slowly We Raw

2003
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Do you care about album production at all? If you don’t, I envy you.

There was a time when I was so broken-hearted didn’t really care about an album’s quality. I mean sure, if an album sounded so obviously bad it gave me headaches, I’d tend to stay away from it. But over the past few years it’s gotten to the point where I willingly don’t listen to albums I used to love because their sound irks me. My brain has irreversibly learned to hone in on the frequencies where audible distortion most commonly appears, and thus I can’t ignore bad quality even if I try to focus on other stuff (like, you know, the music). Needless to say, I only listen to lossless files; badly coded mp3s make me want to punch things.

The point I’m trying to make here is that I’m an audio nerd of EPIC proportions, and you should take everything you’re about to read with at least like 100 grains of salt.

We cool? Alright.

The other day I got to listen to the new Obituary album, not expecting it to be anything remarkable composition-wise. And, lo and behold, I was not wrong about that. However I was very surprised at how the album sounds, and unpleasantly so. I thought I was listening to a demo tape! The vocals aren’t even leveled and the toms sound like a toy gun I used to have when I was a kid. What the hell is up with that?!? I did some research: apparently the band was aiming for a “raw” sound, but the results are just inexcusable considering they got more than $60,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to fund the album.

Due to my ire I’ve been inspired to write about modern metal album production. I’ll be focusing on albums I think sound exceptionally good/bad and the people responsible for making them so. I’m not going to post videos, because discussing audio quality and posting youtube links would be like giving a sexism seminar while getting a BJ under the podium.

“Polished” albums that sound “good”

Bloodbath? Opeth? Katatonia? Edge of Sanity? Pretty much every Swedish band ever? They’ve all worked with a demigod that goes by the name of Dan Swanö. Recently he’s chosen to stay off the stage and works mixing and mastering albums for a buttload of bands, and boy does he ever master that stuff LOUD. But if audio nerding has taught me anything at all, it’s to trust my ears above any other audio analyzing tool (DR meters and the like, for any fellow audiophiles reading this. I hate that word, but I am what I am). Yes, his albums are very loud, but they sound really good!! In a world where record labels (especially metal ones) often require albums to be mastered at obnoxious volumes, doing so and not making the end result sound like ass is a really amazing skill. Just listen to the latest Hail of Bullets album; it sounds great with no audible distortion. This is because of the classic swedish “buzzsaw” guitar tone, which Swanö masterfully uses to mask the distortion caused by peak limiting. Genius.

Ever heard of Steve Evetts? You’ve probably heard his work: The Dillinger Escape Plan, Warbringer and Suicide Silence have all benefited from his expertise. Even though the albums he’s worked on are loud and have some traces of audible clipping (he doesn’t usually master stuff), they definitely don’t come from the production stage. Dillinger and SS’s latest albums are great examples of metal albums that sound “processed” (or whatever the kids these days call it) without blowing chunks.

“Polished” albums that sound “bad”

To bands everywhere: PLEASE stop working with Nick Raskulinecz, period. Nearly every album he’s been involved with in some capacity has copious amounts of audible distortion. A recent example of his musical atrocities is Mastodon‘s latest album. If you listen to the dual-guitar section of “High Road” it’s quite obvious there’s noise that isn’t supposed to be there. Some of his other screw-ups include Trivium‘s Shogun, both of Alice in Chain‘s post-breakup albums and Rush‘s Clockwork Angels. I love all these albums, but I don’t listen to them as much as I’d like because they sound like crap. You don’t even need a good pair of headphones and an amp to notice either, these albums have been criticized for being too loud by people who aren’t massive nerds, believe it or not.

Speaking of Trivium, their last album is a very good example of a big budget album that sounds like complete crap. I’m no Trivium hater; 2011’s In Waves is one of my favorite sounding albums of all time, no doubt thanks to master Colin Richardson. Let it be a lesson: this is what happens when you get David Draiman involved in anything you’re doing.

 “Raw” albums that sound “good”

Anything and everything that Colin Marston touches. Seriously. This man is something from another planet, no wonder Luc Lemay tapped him for Gorguts. Here you have a man who does it right: he doesn’t rely on anything but his ears to mix, if he thinks something starts to sound too hot, he dials it down. This interview has some great insight into his methods (and his madness). He’s worked on the last three Origin albums, the new Artificial Brain and the latest Gorguts, Krallice and Dysrhythmia (on which he also played). All these albums strike a really good balance between being “raw” and sounding great. His stuff sounds organic, yet you can hear every element perfectly and across the whole frequency spectrum. I’d totally bang Colin Marston, is what I’m getting at.

I can’t come up with any other examples. Sue me.

“Raw” albums that sound “bad”

Aside from the aforementioned Obituary album, a lot of Grindcore and lo-fi stuff comes to mind. But that’s kinda the point with grind, black and all the other fun stuff, isn’t it? That’s partly the reason I decided to write this article: if something raw sounds “good” it’s kind of an added bonus (unless you’re KSoFM, obviously), but polished stuff is supposed to sound “good”. If something polished sounds bad you can tell right away, but if something raw sounds bad well, duh!

Which brings me back to the Obituary album. Generally speaking, Grindcore and Black Metal albums don’t have huge budgets, and are expected to sound relatively low budget. But nowadays you can get a professional sounding album for waaaaaaaaaaaay less than what Obituary spent (or rather didn’t spend) on an album that sounds pretty dismal (and I’m pretty confident wasn’t supposed to), so it all depends on what type of sound you’re aiming for. With this in mind, I wanted to address the new Fallujah: here’s an album that’s obnoxiously loud (second loudest in my entire library losing only to Anaal Nathrakh) and overwhelming. But that’s the point. People on the internet have jumped on the bandwagon complaining that it sounds horrible, but I call bullshit: it sounds just fine. There’s so much stuff going on you can’t hear the distortion, so major props and a shoutout to Zack Ohren for a job well done.

Like I sorta mentioned when talking about Colin Marston, it’s totally possible to make an album be “raw” or “organic” without it sounding like it was recorded in a basement in 1992. If you don’t want your stuff to sound super polished, take it to someone who knows what they’re doing! And if you don’t have the money to do that, do it yourself. Now THAT’s the key to being RAW, bro.

 

So what do you think? Do you only listen to stuff that was recorded in the bathroom of an abandoned Satanist Temple?? Do you even care about any of this?!? I plan on writing more of these, so deal with it metalheads: PRODUCTION IS HERE TO STAY.

(Photo Via)

  • Kurt Ballou…That is all.

    • MoshOff

      I was going to mention KB asan example of raw, but at the end of the day his albums sound just a liiiittle too polished for my tastes.

      • old_man_doom

        Ultimately, I value clarity above rawness, but Kurt strikes an excellent balance between the two. Case in point: Kvelertak

        • AWWhellyea…That sound on the self titled is fantastic…those drums got some pop to them.

      • CyberneticOrganism

        What do you think of something like this? Good or bad?

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIVy-hDoGRA

    • His touch on the newest ETID album = sex

      • MoshOff

        I actually really dug that album. Might be top 10 for me.

        • Hell yes! So good. They’re one of my favorite bands ever. Best show I’ve ever been to was an ETID show in a tiny bar in my college town. It was like partying with your best friends.

    • He also did Code Orange’s newest from this year, which was also great.

    • Kurt is the man, I enjoy so many albums he’s recorded. Too many to name.

    • Lacertilian

      he did some good work on Animosity’s ‘Animal’.

      • Yup, he sure did. And that has become quite the cult album as well…Like it’s THE seminal deathcore album…along with Despiced Icon’s “Consume your Poison” and “The Healing Process” and Jfac’s “Doom”

        …all of which i own and not ashamed to admit it…This is good deathcore, none of that “bounce-boi-bounce-death-core”

        • Lacertilian

          I don’t own any of those other ones, I didn’t know what deathcore was until after the fact.
          Paul Romano’s psych-art and the Guy from The Red Chord’s guest appearance piqued my interest.
          So many top notch riffs and the drums, fuck me, the DRUMS!
          Every member of that band was stellar at what they did and have proven to be top musicians outside of Animosity.

  • Edward

    This is fantastic, well done, srs.

    • MoshOff

      Thanks man!

      • Edward

        Did you listen to, and if you did, what did you think of the production on Grave Miasma’s album from last year?

      • CyberneticOrganism

        Agreed, I want to read more.

  • Cock ov Steele

    Overkill to me is one example of polished albums that sound bad. Too tinny. And what is your opinion of anything Scott Burns touched?

    • MoshOff

      Was good for its time, but I haven’t heard anything recent he’s done. Gotta have mids, man.

      • Cock ov Steele

        I was a huge fan of that kinda mushy sound he added to everything. It kinda resonated with the rawness. I read the last album he did was Frozen in Time in 2005. Now he’s a computer programmer.

        • Gurp

          Probably making way more money doing that, too.

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      Scott Burns was not good. I don’t know how the Morrisound got popular. At the time it must have been good, I guess.

      • Cock ov Steele

        It was delightfully shitty.

    • Max

      For me he was hit-and-miss depending on the album:

      Beneath the Remains – good
      Deicide s/t – bad
      Legion – okay
      Tomb of the Mutilated – bad
      The Bleeding – good
      The End Complete – REALLY good; my favourite job of his by far
      Harmony Corruption – bad; as in totally unsuited to that band’s aesthetic.

      All up I definitely preferred Richardson and Skogsberg, though. The more Skogsberg made all his bands sound like Entombed, the more I liked it.

      But whatever I might say about Burns, I think he was really dicked around by the industry and sometimes the artists too.

    • A lot of his stuff started sounding the same to me. While most of the bands were enjoyable to listen to, some kind of suffered because the mixes sound identical to my ears. I do really enjoy Retribution by Malevolent Creation, that one sounded best.

      • Max

        That one sounded pretty good; I forgot to mention it.

  • I’ve seen quite a bit of discussion on the subject of audio quality in the comments since the site began. It seems like there are a bunch of you guys that really know your stuff so allow me to speak out on behalf of the philistines: I don’t care about audio quality. If a song is good, the quality will most likely shine through to me. Guided By Voices is one of my favorite bands of all time. They’ve recorded hundreds of (forgettable to outstanding) tunes on the shittiest equipment available to man. It seems weird to me to let how something was recorded deter you so much from your enjoyment of the product.

    • MoshOff

      Good point. I couldn’t give two craps how something is recorded as long as the sound fits the music and it doesn’t distort.

    • JamesGrimm

      vveerryyyy different genres doing very different things, reaching out to very different people.

      • If you substitute GBV with your favorite lo-fi BM, grind, or hxc band the point stands.

        • Edward

          I have been listening to some hardcore lately that I wish was recording with better quality, some bands my ex tried turning me on to.

          • What have you been listening to?

          • Edward

            Um, I want to say it was live recordings of Bane. Great lyrics, but it sounded so dreadful I couldn’t do it, and I like some music that sounds like shit intentionally.

        • JamesGrimm

          i dont like GBV or any of said genres, so no, it does not.

    • Max

      I’d say that for many of us who do blather on about production, it’s not so much that we’re deterred from enjoying the music if we don’t agree with the methods; it’s more that we have very sensitive ideas about artistic intent, and the ways that can be enhanced or hindered by the technical process. And for that reason, sometimes the production can be a real let-down, even if you do like the music.

      In other words – for nerds like us, we very often go into a new record with an expected sonic picture already painted in our head based upon any number of factors – genre, name of the genre (I’m serious), name of the band, previous records by the band, other records in the genre, peer enthusiasm, cover art, colour scheme of the graphic design…you name it. If the actual sound of the record once heard deviates from our favourably-anticipated sonic picture in any major way, we get disappointed or start nit-picking – unless we can adjust to the new, unexpected artistic intent that’s being presented to us. It’s a similar process to what the artists themselves often go through when they finish a record and feel that it doesn’t really capture what they set out to achieve sound- or performance-wise – except it’s based on our previous visions of the artist instead of the artists’ vision of themselves.

      The best way I can explain it is that it’s really just another facet of the expectations that all listeners have about the actual music. In the same way that fans can get annoyed if their favourite band slows down, writes more accessible or more experimental songs, writes shorter or longer songs than previously, starts using keyboards, doesn’t come up with enough “killer riffs”, is just more boring than usual, etc. etc, everybody notices those developments immediately. And for us, the production job just becomes one more point of deviation against whatever expectations we had, based on the cultural and aesthetic status attributed to that artist.

      It certainly doesn’t make us “better” listeners than anybody else, though. If anything it makes us worse than you “philistines” because we’re harder to please and it makes our lives potentially less fun. But our vindication, I think, is that sound, as much as music, DOES count for something. In a genre like metal, it has to.

      Heavy metal, by original definition, is riff-based blues-rock that utilizes a distorted guitar sound. Nobody can ever tell me that the main riff of “Seek and Destroy” would sound anywhere near as compelling with mild distortion or none at all as it does with what it has. Clearly in that case, what’s being played is only as important, or possibly even less, that the sound it’s being played with. Distortion, as much as technique or melody, makes that riff. So if listeners have strong opinions about what makes a pleasing melody or rhythm, then really, why WOULDN’T they also have a strong opinion about guitar tone? All the arguments about drums, mixing, mastering, etc. really just flow logically from that.

  • I remember when Avenged Sevenfold’s “City of Evil” came out, the local rock station would play the single from that album about bats or whatever. I swear they ripped that track from youtube or something. Awful tinny sound for the highs and a muted muffle over the lows. Just awful despicable audio quality, coming from a Clear Channel station too.

    What I’m trying to say is fuck the radio.

    • MoshOff

      Seconded. Sirius sounds good though.

      • YourLogicIsFlushed

        Really? My XM radio sounds like garbage with anything heavier than Taylor Swift.

        • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

          Why would you want to listen to anything heavier than Tay(lor Swift)?

    • A7X’s last album, boring and stupid as it was, was a shining example of great production IMO. It’s as though they even ripped the dynamic range of The Black album off.

  • old_man_doom

    Well, my problem with the new Fallujah record is not any kind of audible clipping, but the fact that there is so much stuff going on that the mix blurs together and the only thing that sticks out are the drum transients, which are often times stabby rather than punchy. It’s the loss of dynamics that bother me.

    • strange, right? from a band considered “ambient death metal”

      • I’ll have to say I like the production on the new Fallujah album. I’m glad its loud. I would say the guitars could be a bit more forward in the mix (the drums are taking up a lot of space). I might be a little partial, from the simple fact that I enjoy the band so.

        • i really do like the record as well; but it’s funny that the compositions are so dynamic, but the mixing/production is not

      • old_man_doom

        To each their own I suppose. I just can’t hang with the tic-tac drums

    • TURN EVERYTHING UP ALL THE WAY THAT WILL SOUND GOOD LOL

      • Lacertilian

        that’s how my mates fix the ‘noises’ their cars make.
        Crank up the stereo and ‘what noise?’

    • Guacamole Jim

      I enjoyed that, though. The mix felt intentionally muddy and thick, like they didn’t want any one part to really shine, but they wanted to music to create a heavy wall of sound, meant to be experienced as a whole. The vocals and solos are so blended in with everything else I can only conclude it was deliberate.

  • Being a vinyl fan, this subject resonates with me. That being said, the best sounding album I own is Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms”. It’s an original pressing from 80-something by WB and the sound is orgasmic. Whoever did the work on that piece of wax is a pure audio genius.

    • Duder, I went and bought it today because of this comment. My tiny local shop had a copy for six bucks so I figured why not. Never heard it before.

      • Check the back to see if it says CRC somewhere or “Manufactured by BMG under license.”

        …if it does these are mail order record club issues and are usually cut from inferior masters.

        • Nothing like that. Just ‘Warner bros, blah blah, address, 1985 Phonogram, Made in USA, blah, unauthorized blah blah’

  • I cant listen to anything “raw” sounding. All the lo-fi BM stuff isnt listenable to me, especially considering the points made about how high-quality sounding production can be achieved for a relatively low budget nowadays. I understand that analogue/lo-fi sound is what a lot of bands go for, but it just seems like pissing in the wind. And getting piss all over yourself. Grindcore has this self-sustaining problem, as well, where I’m sure i’d like a lot more of it if it didn’t sound like it was recorded in a tin garbage can.

  • NefariousDude

    Being a live sound technician for asu for two and a half years has taught me that I can’t enjoy live music anymore. Because I’m backseat mixing and bitching about it to my friends.

  • Cock ov Steele

    I really wish Ghoul would re-record We Came For the Dead, with at least the quality of Splatterthrash. That album’s good but even I couldn’t help but get irked by the production. And that’s saying something.

  • This is exactly why there are some days I just can’t listen to grindcore. I need to be in the right mood otherwise the production just completely turns me off. I need to be able to hear every little note in my music clearly. That’s just how I am. So grindcore with that awful production quality doesn’t do much for me unless I’m pissed off. Also, Anaal Nathrakh is a band I mostly avoid listening to because it’s just too damn loud.

    • turn anaal nathrakh up to 11. then ride by churches.

    • jump on the Anaal train!

      • Every time I listen to them in the car it sounds like my speakers are about to die an agonizing death.

      • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

        It is an enjoyable train. It even doesn’t seem to suffer from what could easily be considered “poor production”

    • Further Down the Metal Hole

      Stay Tech, no issues then!

  • The flush prevails! For srs MoshDizzle, I don’t know how you can call yourself an audio nerd and defend Fallujah’s production…Levitation is a great example of all that’s wrong with the album as a whole. Notice how every time the snare is allowed to hit on its own, it’s super loud, but when it’s played in a beat or competing with anything else in the mix, it’s drowned out to nothing–a clear indicator of overzealous parallel compression. Worse still is the solo section. In spite of being one of the softest parts of the album, the whole thing is rife with distortion on the synths and the guitars, and when they kick into the section they’ve “built up” to, the lead guitar is completely swallowed by the rest of the band. Compounded by the fact that there’s no volume difference between the “soft” and”heavy” sections because of the prodigious brickwalling and it’s abundantly clear the production is poorly suited for a band whose identity is wholly based in their supposedly dynamic songwriting.

    • “I’m an audio nerd of EPIC proportions” + “Fallujah sounds just fine” confused me real bad.

      • MoshOff

        I think the busy parts are supposed to be overwhelming. It just doesn’t fatigue my ears as much as say, Death Magnetic (horrible example, but still).

        • Hey man, great write up! I loved it.

          Tell me how awful the sound is on this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUaQtfnMzdw

          Horrible right (and lolbuttz!)? I swear I have two buddies that thought this was the best fucking album ever and I could say was “Cannot hear how fucking awful the sound is? WTH is wrong with you guys?”

          Anyway. This is my example of awful awful awful sound.

          Thanks,

          GL

    • Stockhausen

      I see both sides. I like the album and the songwriting, and the very modern, polished sound fits their style (even though the literal dynamics don’t) so I can listen through and not worry about it. However, I do hate when clean and/or soft sections are the exact same volume as heavy sections, because that doesn’t make any friggin’ sense.
      I think this debate in general is much like beer: I absolutely cannot understand the appeal of big-name domestics, but some people enjoy it along with craft beer, or hate craft beer and like domestics, or whatever combination. I’m the audio equivalent of a guy who drinks Shock Top thinking he’s being fancy, but I’m the beer equivalent of JAG’s audio opinions.

      • People still drink “domestic” beers? “American” mass-production beers aren’t even owned by American companies anymore. I know that wasn’t the point. I live one of the craft-brew capitals of this very drunk country, and I can’t comprehend why anyone would put that crap in their gullets.

        • Cuz cheap and cuz drunk.

          • Well, that’s what the shit bourbon in our cabinet is for.

          • Fair point. I love craft beer but sometimes it’s hard to beat the warm familiar buzz of a 6 pack of Coors Original tallboys ($7.00)

          • I’m a big fan of all sorts of “warm familiar buzzes”

          • Stockhausen

            I like Coors more than Bud. However, having had both enough times to know the difference stabs my inner snob in the butt.

        • Stockhausen

          My thoughts exactly, but it’s the same principle as someone wondering how someone else can listen to the new Fallujah and not mind all the production garbage.
          Side note: my tolerance for cheap beer grew by force as my band started to tour, because when the venue gives you your free beer for the night, it’s usually a pitcher of Coors or something. I’d usually drink some of that, then get something good.

          • Its like this: if Fallujah were a beer, it would be craft brewed, but it would have the labeling and distributing properties of one of the big boys. Something brilliant being dumbed down but still tastes amazing? I dont know if this analogy is correct. Too many drinks.

          • Stockhausen

            Oh dude, I know where you’re going. If Fallujah was a beer, they be a Goose Island beer. It comes across as craft beer, but below the surface you discover they’re owned by InBev, the massive conglomerate that owns all the big name garbage, notorious for buying emerging craft breweries and cheapening them.

        • more beer

          I also live in a place with a lot of craft beers so many awesome choices. Yet when I go out to show`s there are always lot`s of hipsters drinking pbr`s it disgusts me. I would rather not drink than do that to myself.

      • I’m not even commenting on the quality of the songs themselves. The album has an overall glossy sheen but underneath that it’s total mush. Nothing is allowed to stick out. The guitars are completely lacking any kind of pick attack, the bass has had all the low end sucked out, leaving only a hollow clank buried under the washes of white noise synth and the drums are so compressed there might as well not even be any cymbals. This isn’t even Shock Top, this is like someone laminated a bowl of oatmeal and sprinkled it with glitter.

        • MoshOff

          I disagree (except about the lack of low end), but I laughed.

        • Stockhausen

          I don’t have a problem with the guitar sound, I think the lack of pick attack adds to the atmospheric sound they go for. However, I was always baffled by the bass sound they chose, because it’s the complete opposite of that. I would have expected a really warm Dan Briggs or Martin Mendez-like sound to match the guitars, but it cuts out all the body and is an indistinct, fretboard-y mess. And yeah, the drums suck, there’s no way around that.
          Also, I’m using that oatmeal line as much as possible now.

    • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo

      Yeah, I don’t think they EQed/compressed the snare OR the keyboards on that album correctly. If an element of your mix either 1) sounds like it’s buried or 2) overpowers the rest of the mix depending on the section of the song, you haven’t EQed it properly. Even automating the EQ and compression plugins/parallel compression fader seems like it would have solved this issue.

    • MoshOff

      I’ll have to listen to that more closely. I agree that for the most part the snare sounds neutered, but aside from the volume levelling (which is a problem) it sounds fine to me.

  • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

    Great article, I am not an audiophile but I do, to an extent, care about the quality.
    As long as you won’t try to convince me that Scott Burns still has it or that Andy Sneap’s sound of choice ever did anyone any good (‘cept maybe Accept) I’m in for the ride.

  • Here’s a great example of raw AND bad

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDEiftHqPk8

    • dem snare hits

      • My friend bought this because it had cool album art and was like $4. we plan on throwing it away or burning it later.

      • CyberneticOrganism

        So real!

  • ONLY DEMO LEVEL 90S DEATH METAL IS REALLLL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrgVbI_8g3o

    • CyberneticOrganism

      FOUR TRACK FROM 1987 AND A SINGLE MIC OR GTFO

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

    Since, I got name dropped. Fukk off.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2WHHg0Y040

  • JamesGrimm
  • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo

    I’m a big fan of that “gritty hi-fi” sound. Relatively clean sounding production so that it doesn’t sound like it was recorded in a bathroom, but so that I can hear shit like pick scrapes, silence isn’t edited out/heavily gated, and it’s not just the same cut and pasted, perfectly played phrases 2 to 4 times over in each section of the song.

    Gojira’s from Mars to Sirius is one of my favorite examples of this.

    And for Christ sake, let the dynamics breathe in the mastering. A lot of people’s qualms with metal albums these days actually have more to do with they way they are mastered, rather than the production/mixing process.

    Take a look at this article for an explanation of what I’m talking about:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war

  • God

    Well written article! I guess I’m in the minority that doesn’t care how the production is. regardless if it is some Raw recorded-with-playmobil-microphone or super polished and shiny, as long as it’s pleasin to me ears that’s all that matters.

    • W.

      You aren’t alone

    • Guacamole Jim

      Good artists will sound good, regardless of mix.

  • Is it just me, or does Throes of Compression sound like an awesome (edit: tech-death) band name?

  • Mother Shabubu III

    I’m just gonna throw this out there: I hate what Jason Suecof does to drums. His polish makes it sound like a drum machine instead of a human. There’s no variation or imperfections, which are what make a drum performance. That said, I understand that is what some bands want, but it’s just not my thing.

  • Guacamole Jim

    As soon as you mentioned raw production that sounds good, I immediately thought of Brendan O’Brien and RATM’s The Battle of Los Angeles. The entire album sounds like it could have been a live show, the energy is killer and the tones are raw, but it sounds perfect. It’s actually one of my favourite mixed albums, ever.

    • MoshOff

      That is a great sounding album. Sadly Renegades has Rick Rubin all over it. I didn’t even bother writing about him because I knew I was going to feel like punching something after I did.

      • Guacamole Jim

        I agree.. though How I Could Just Kill A Man is a fucking killer tune.

  • W.

    I’ve got a box of pacifiers for all you babies who can’t listen to albums because of the production.

    • Guacamole Jim

      Honestly, production doesn’t usually bother me… except on the drums. If the drums sound fake and triggered to hell, I can’t stand it. Doesn’t matter how good the rest of the music is. But if the drums sound even reasonably natural (even if they’re triggered) I won’t have a problem with guitar tone, compression, even distortion from clipping. I kinda liked Mastodon’s newest, and that was one of the reasons. It sounds like they’re too aggressive for the album.

      • W.

        I like you, Guacamole

        • Guacamole Jim

          <3

    • As long as those pacifiers fit in my ear canals I’ll take two please.

      • W.

        You know your old ears will always have a special sound-proof room in my heart, JAG.

  • Andrew Ross Millar

    I second banging Colin Marston. And Kurt Ballou. And whoever did Minus The herd by Ion Dissonance

    • W.

      Dude! Minus the Herd! That album ripped, but I never see anyone talk about it.

      • Andrew Ross Millar

        Yess it’s probably my favourite Ion album, mathy breakdown heaven. 1:39 in Of Me…Nobody Is Safe is probably my favourite breakdown ever. Also new album soon!

  • Xan

    For me, production doesn’t really matter that much. My ears are pretty much oblivious to any background static (and to a lesser extent clipping). To me, it matters much more about the content of the album. I don’t like something that is raw or polished if the riffs are ass. The music is record is mostly for fun. I don’t post it anywhere and I don’t have a recording studio. Everything is done with a microphone, condenser, and pop filter. There is a lot of static in the background on all the crap I make but it is usually canceled out by the loudness of the song. The first piece of music I recorded was in a car. Sounds surprisingly good.

  • Max

    Gorguts’s Coloured Sands is the only one mentioned here I’m really familiar enough to comment on. I think it’s a really, really good production job but for me it does have flaws:

    1) Snare drum too “cushion-y” sounding; I prefer something snappier. This one’s just a personal thing.

    2) The whole thing’s a touch muddy, clarity-wise. Apply a +3 dB shelf starting at 1 kHz and you’ll hear what I mean. Or, for non-nerds, just listen to it alongside Surgical Steel for comparison.

    3) Kick drum a little too clicky, especially considering the otherwise fairly organic-sounding drums.

    4) Dynamics just a touch squashed. If you listen to the clean-guitars intro of the title-track, when the drums and distorted guitars kick in you expect them to be just a bit louder and more impacting in contrast.

    5) “Absconders” has a noticeably different mix to the rest – although I don’t like that song and it’s not on my i-Pod; so moot point.

  • Gurp

    The only production I really mind is really tinny, shitty black metal. With ear buds its a real pain in the ass listening to some thin buzz of reverb in place of guitar riffs.

  • Good article dude, I can’t stand the over-produced type stuff with the clickety clackity drums and the overly digital down tuned guitars. My ears have little tolerance for this and usually turn it off and never revisit again. The Acacia Strain and their parade of clones are all guilty of this.

  • Good article.

    Swanö is actually getting in the habit of releasing the dedicated vinyl masters as extra data audio files on his own latest CDs.

    Also: if you liked Vengeance Falls but hated the production the HDTracks version is considerably better (although not perfect. Just much more listenable.)

    http://www.hdtracks.com/trivium-vengeance-falls

  • Simon Phoenix

    I looked at the bottom of the article and expected to see JAG’s profile. Was slightly disappointed.

    Still, good article. I only just begun to be more scrutinizing with the sound quality and dynamics.

  • Warheart

    Fuckin A article, keep up with this kind of stuff.

  • Guacamole Jim

    Also, can we talk about Tool?? How are their tones so perfect?

  • Further Down the Metal Hole

    When I read you guys talking about sound quality, I often wonder whether I should pay more attention to production, because I usually don’t care much at all, unless it’s really, really low-fi. It probably also has to do with the fact that I’m not a musician and don’t know my way around instruments.

    • MoshOff

      I don’t think it has to do with being a musician. It just has to do with being a dork, I wouldn’t recommend it.

      • Further Down the Metal Hole

        Well yeah, I guess what I meant to say was that a musician will pay more attention to production.

  • Howard Dean

    Honestly, I’ll take Varg playing into a McDonald’s drive thru headset. Because riffs