Finally, A High-Profile Act Gets Too Loud. Enter “Death Magnetic”

An unprecedented backlash from fans over Metallica’s 9th studio album “Death Magnetic” has cast new light on the music industry’s highly debated and controversial “Loudness Wars.”

The album hit the shelves in Sept 2008 to a slew of negative reviews; “It sounds horrible!” “Crushed.” “Dynamically dead.” “Unlistenable.” The criticism was not directed at the songs themselves, patient nor the musicianship but rather the sonic quality of the album, that is, how the album sounds. There is no dynamic range, no contrast between loud and quite; thus no punch and no musicality. In fact, there is audible clipping and distorting on every song. Truly, this CD sounds awful!

Of course, “way too loud” is the trend these days but c’mon, this is Metallica!!! This is the band that set the stage for metal sound in the 90s with what some still consider to be the greatest sounding metal album ever “ The Black Album.” It’s inconceivable to me that “Death Magnetic” slipped through the hands of some of the best engineers in the biz without someone saying, “hey wait a minute, the songs on this album don’t sound very good.” Didn’t the band listen to the album before saying, “OK, lets put it on the shelves!”

This is a dark day for audio. In 20 years of being in the music business I have not seen such an uproar from music fans since Milli Vanilli’s grammy was revoked! “Death Magnetic” is being raked over the proverbially coals on countless blogs, forums, industry papers and web sites. Rolling Stone cited a petition from fans to remix or re-master the album. The petition had gained over 21,000 votes as of November 2009, and I hope it continues to grow!

In my opinion a high-profile backlash is exactly what the music business needs; a great band to take their “loudness”over the top. Maybe this will convince producers and engineers of the world that “louder” really is “too loud” and that music listeners aren’t immune to the “crushing” blow of brick-wall limiting.


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