Angry Metal-Fi is a series of articles that are cross posted on Angry Metal Guy and Metal-Fi as a collaborative effort to evangelize dynamics in metal.

Angry Metal-FiWritten By: Alex-Fi

I know it can seem like it sometimes, but Metal-Fi’s whole existence isn’t just to criticize every hyper compressed monstrosity that gets released. On the contrary, our main goal is to raise awareness, particularly within the metal community, that production has intrinsic value, and that as a community we need to make a concerted effort to cherish those artists, labels, and engineers who consistently deliver great sounding recordings. But when I claim that production has “value,” what am I really talking about? Is high production value simply a consequence of the DR score under every review, or is it much more than that? So in today’s episode of Angry Metal-Fi, I want to discuss a little bit about DR scores, what they do and don’t tell you, and finally, why they are still important even if they’re ultimately flawed.

Colin Marston of Gorguts fame once told me, “…if a good recording gets a bad mastering job, it can often still sound good. Low dynamics mastering doesn’t necessarily prevent everything from sounding good at all.” I like to call this concept the Marston Rule™, and many of the records that grace these pages are shining examples of that fact. The truth is that most of the metal albums we listen to on a daily basis aren’t that dynamic, yet we still manage to strain our necks listening to them anyway. That’s why to a certain extent, most headbangers, and to be really fair, most music fans in general, don’t really care about the production behind their favorite recording; they see production as simply a means to an end and provided that end is met, life is good.

However, I still believe that there is indeed a point of no return, where terrible production choices really do start to interfere with the source material at hand. But how does that correlate to a record’s DR score? Hint: it doesn’t, at least not in itself.

For instance, Metallica‘s Death Magnetic is often cited as one of the worst sounding albums ever recorded, clocking in at a miserable DR3 and constantly serving as the de facto whipping boy for the Loudness War. Yet the recently well-reviewed Ulcerate and Mithras records are not far from the mark, both clocking in at an equally abysmal DR4. Yet to my ears, Death Magnetic sounds a helluva lot worse despite the fact that its DR score is only a point less than the other two.

And what about black metal? A genre notorious for its lo-fi production. In GardenTales‘ great review of the album Fra Doden Fodes Liv by Uburen, he makes the case that although black metal has historically held high fidelity in contempt, it has always been by choice. But today, it’s done mostly out of ignorance or worse still, incompetence. But is it? In fact the three black metal bands he cites as purveyors of high quality production are actually by DR standards prime offenders. Enslaved haven’t released a truly dynamic record since 1997s Eld. Deathspell Omega just released their latest clocking in at paltry DR4. Same is true for the record before it. How can these obviously, highly compressed monstrosities sound good?

Well first off, not all DR scores are created equally. One record’s DR4 can sound a lot more compressed than another’s. And a lot of that has to do with the mix. Case in point, the new Virvum record, which has a master that’s way past the point of no return but is still able to retain a modicum of fidelity through its clean room sounding mix. In fact, I’d argue that though the Vivrum, Ulcerate, and Mithras records all measure DR4, Virvum sounds the best by far. That’s also why to a certain extent, production super villains like Jens Bogren [Boggggggggrrrrrrennnnnnn! – Dave-Fi] are able to compress records to such mediocre levels yet still end up with albums that sound stellar. The man clearly knows how to mix.

Another failing of the DR score is that it doesn’t encapsulate aesthetics. There are plenty of bands and engineers who really do love that amorphous wall of sound, and consider hyper compression and brickwall limiting as key tools in their arsenal to achieve it. Make no mistake about it, Ulcerate knew exactly what they were doing when they applied the copious amounts of dynamic range compression on their latest. Same goes with Mithras. In other words, records like these were engineered to sound oppressive at the expense of fidelity. Do I personally think these albums could have sounded a lot better with just a few extra points of dynamics behind them? You betcha, but that doesn’t mean I’m right and they’re wrong. It’s an artistic choice, and one I respect even if I don’t necessarily agree with.

Finally, how the TT meter calculates dynamic range isn’t exactly an agreed upon standard, and some industry experts with clear signs of hearing loss have even disputed the TT meter’s accuracy and the whole concept of the Loudness War altogether. The truth is the DR meter measures a track’s short-term peak to loudness ratio (PLR), or crest factor, which is indeed a very good way to measure dynamics. However, it doesn’t really embody the micro- and macro-dynamics within a given track. So even though a song measures low on the TT scale, parts of that song can still sound lively. Conversely, just because a track is brimming with dynamics doesn’t mean there aren’t other major problems with its recording. And then of course with some formats, like vinyl, the DR score is dubious at best, as the process of digitizing a record causes the score to loose any real meaning.

So now that I’ve convinced you that DR scores are somewhat flawed, why use them? Because they show intent. When you see a low DR score on the bottom of a review, you already have a some idea of the thought processes behind the recording. You know that an extremely low score means technical fidelity definitely took a backseat to volume. But even more importantly, higher scores tend to highlight great sounding recordings. And that’s key in order to raise awareness about the Loudness War and the value of dynamics in general. In fact, as I said, the whole point of this exercise isn’t just to condemn Loudness War style mastering in general, but rather to showcase the stellar sounding, high dynamic recordings in order to prove to bands they don’t always have to squash every record to sound oppressive or “metal.” The last two Gorguts records are shining testaments to that fact.

Coming full circle, production, like Metal-Fi, isn’t just about DR scores. DR scores are in fact just one indicator in a long list of attributes that can indicate high production value. That’s why when evaluating your favorite release, you must always listen with your ears, never your eyes.

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  • El_Cuervo

    “I’m right and their wrong”?

    • The bands (Mithras and Ulcerate respectively).

  • mtlman1990

    Eld was before 2004

    • I thought it was rereleased in 2004. Hmph, let me double check. But I think you get my point regardless.

    • RuySan

      Enslaved is a great example, since their music would sound so much better with a much higher DR. Probably their last record that i remember sounding somewhat ok was Below The Lights.

      Or maybe i’m remembering it wrong.

      • mtlman1990

        I thought Axioma Ethica Odini, RITTR and In Times sounded good.

        • RuySan

          In Times was too loud. AEO was slightly better but not by much.

  • Irineu Carvalho

    Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms and AC/DC Back in Black are masterpieces. Thanks for reminding me of those treasures of Western civilization!

    • flashgordon

      I was listening to Virvum and found it ok, But then switched to Brothers in Arms for the sake of comparison… It’s not ok anymore.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Except the new Mithras still sounds like ripping ass. Ulcerate and DSO are much more dense records so it makes “a bit more” sense that DR would be lower. Just comes with the concept. No excuses, though.

    I want to listen to your records, guys. Actively loud records seriously make it hard for me to give several listens.

    • It’s true Andre. I really feel your pain. I love that new mantar record but boy does it sound like dog poo on my setup.

  • Zach Ward

    No album will ever sound better than Tetragrammacide.

    • True. True.

    • Bandido

      I see the comment and looked for the band….. waste of time!!.. I loss 1:30 min of my life.

  • Diego Molero

    Hey Alex, great article. I wanted to ask you a question since you clearly know about the subject.
    I’m 17 years old and I will be graduating from highscool on february 2018, and over the past year I have become very interested on this kinds of subjects, so I was thinking that I would like to study audio engineering in college. But I have my doubts, because I’m aware that on this days you can “easily” record and produce your own music and that is what a lot of bands do, and they don’t have a degree on audio engineering or anything like that, just the experience of being a musician. And I’m no musician at all. I also know that there are audio engineers that are no musicians but live producing music, but do you think that is something that can get even more difficult on the future? Being an audio engineer without music skills and still be able to live producing music?

    Hope you get my point, english is not my lenguage and I can get a little messy when trying to explain something extense.
    Anything that you can tell me about this is going to be very usefull, so please do.

    • Danny

      My name isn’t Alex (sorry), but I have some experience as a musician and most of us don’t have the skills to produce good sounding music. When they say “anyone” can produce good sounding music “easily” they mean that the tools to learn how to do so are available to everyone, but it will still take a lot of time and effort to be able to make something worthwhile (as opposed to the pre-computer days when quality recording equipment was almost impossible to afford outside of a label-backed situation). I know a bit about recording and can make demos but I still go to a local producer for material I want to release properly.

      That said, if you want to become a producer learning a bit about music goes a long way. Being able to play keys, hear harmonies, and otherwise bring musical skills to the table will make you a way more valuble producer.

      And finally, not to be negative but just to be honest, you are unlikely to be able to live off this. Regardless how you feel about Napster, The Pirates Bay, and Spotify they have changed the music industry for good, and there simply isn’t that much money in it anymore. Unless you plan on mixing dance music you are very unlikely to make enough money to live off. That is no reason not to get into music production, but do it as a hobby. A hobby that sometimes makes you money, but not the job that pays the bills.

      • Diego Molero

        Was asking Alex because it was his article, but any response is appreciated, so thanks anyway Danny.
        And I totally undestand your points.

        With knowing music and that making you a better producer, sure, I know that and I will probably ended up learning something about that. For example I’m going to start guitar lessons soon, but what I mean is that I don’t plan on being an actual musician.

        And regarding the last point you maked, that’s what I figured. Which is a shame. And yes, I could make it a hobby then, but if it’s going to be just a hobby then it’s not worth it that I go to college and choose that as a career I guess. Perhaps later as a second career then.
        Thanks for the response.

      • Danny, great response. I forgive you for not being named Alex. LOL!

    • Hey Diego! Wow, that is a really tough question to answer (you really caught me off guard so congrats).

      [puts on guidance counselor hat]

      I think you should follow your passions wherever they lead you. Just be aware that doing what you love and living the way you want are for most people diametrically opposing forces that are in constant conflict. But in the end, I think you will live a happier life if you stay TRVE.

      [takes off guidance counselor hat]

      Talk to engineers. Email them. Most of them are really friendly and will give you tons of honest advice on how you can get started and what your expectations should be.

      Setup your own DAW. Start recording friends or local bands, even if its only with one mic. Doesn’t matter. Learn and play.

      Learn to play an instrument. Anyone. You don’t need to be awesome at it, but you should know what the chromatic scale is, what’s a chord, what’s a harmony, what’s a multi-part harmony, major vs minor keys, etc. It’ll help you converse with your clients better if you know their lingo or what they are trying to accomplish.

      Finally, think about taking some business courses as electives when you go to school. Learning how to mix and master music is one thing. Learning how to make it into a viable career is quite another.

      PS Always have a plan B too!

      • Diego Molero

        Hahah I know, I was planning on sending an email to you this week but saw this post so I might as well just do it now.
        I’m going to do what you said about sending emails to engineers, that should be helpful.
        I have a friend who’s father is a drummer and he has a recording studio on his house, so I’m going to ask him If I can go and see what they do there, learn a thing or two.
        And yes, I’m going to start learning to play guitar soon, I know that is super helpful when it comes to be an audio engineer.
        Haven’t thought about taking business courses, I will keep that in mind.
        And of course, I have my plan B and even C. I haven’t made up my mind yet.

        Thanks a lot Alex, that was really helpful, really appreciate it.

    • [not a Dr]

      Also, take the cost into consideration. When I was still able to learn stuff, a college degree used to cost 200$/year in Québec.
      that’s 400$ for 2 years and then off to university or 600$ for a technical degree and you’re off to work. An audio engineering certificate used to cost 10K$ in a private academy for a year and a half worth of courses.
      Like Alex said: contact people who went through it and map out your options.

    • BaboonKing

      Beyond the excellent advice that Danny and Alex gave you, I just wanted to offer a small thought, regarding the viability of turning this into a professional career: music is just one of the things that you can do as a sound engineer. Movies, TV and other media offer options beyond that, and possibly more job opportunities. So if you were to go that way, once you’ve settled and are able to pay the bills, you could branch out into music and make use of the skill overlap in audio theory and recording techniques. And in the meanwhile, you may use the time to learn guitar or keyboards and dabble into home recording, to see if you really like it. So there, just a thought… whatever your choices, good luck!

      • Diego Molero

        Yes, that is also very true. Thanks!

      • eloli

        I was going to write exactly that. :D
        Three pieces of advice I got from one of my uncles, who was a painter and sculptor:
        1) If your goal is to live off any creative endeavor, be aware from the start that most of your income will come from work that you don’t care that much about or enjoy.
        2) If you value the comfort and stability, or just want a steady income brings, don’t even think about getting a creative career.
        3) All successful artists are either keen businessmen or smart enough to surround themselves with trustworthy people that can handle their business effectively.
        Now, for some advice of my own.
        It really helps when your plan b has something to do with your passion, and studying something that’s related to that (or at least can see as a professional asset) helps a lot.
        At 19, I was majoring in economics and decided I wanted to be a professional musician. Instead of switching to music, I switched to communications, and eventually got degrees on advertising and audiovisual production. Later, at 24, when I decided I valued stability more than being passionate about my work and couldn’t handle the whole starving artist lifestyle, switching from to struggling young musician to junior copywriter on an advertising agency wasn’t that hard. :D

        • GardensTale

          These points are the main reason I did not go into game design after I finished an education in it. After a traineeship I became a junior web developer instead, and I make about 500 a month more than I would in the games industry with less back breaking work. No ragrets.

      • SelfIndulgence

        A lot of truth in here. One of the bands I was in worked on an album that Nick Blagona was involved with. Great guy and he has some hilarious stories of the use of his services elsewhere (like being called in to fix the levels of a car radio in the movie Rain Man) or his work with other bands.

        The one thing I always realized is that while we were starving musicians working 2-3 jobs trying to survive these guys were making good money working the one job they loved. You won’t go wrong choosing to be an engineer.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      Diego, I spent 5 years as an audio engineer before learning much about actually playing music. I didn’t stick with it (the need to eat, and please a significant other, crushed my dreams), but my mates who did often went on to big things, working with everyone from Megadeth to Shania Twain. I studied production for a year and found it very valuable, both for the theory and practice as well as the contacts it generated. If it’s your dream I recommend going for it. Work your ass off and you can do it. :)

      • Diego Molero

        Thanks a lot Huck, that really gives me certain calm. Appreciate it a lot man :)

    • funeraldoombuggy

      If you want to make a living recording/producing bands I’d say skip engineering school unless you have the means to pay for it and not go into debt. There’s a lot of info and classes you can take online that will give you a lot of help.

      If you’re looking into other fields of audio it might be worth going to school but I’d first get some software and start tweaking things and seeing if it’s something you’ll be interested in. I have a friend who worked for Skywalker Sound for 10 years and is a top sound designer for major box office movies that went to school for sound, but he was also always really into sound engineering and everything involved since high school… so it was pretty much in his blood and his passion.

      • I agree with this a lot. The most you will ever learn is from being around people that know what they’re doing, like offering to help out at a local studio and make coffee etc. A great musician and/or producer is somewhat of a natural gift and no amount of formal training is going to make a tone-deaf half wit into a musical genius.

  • Scourge

    Is there a way to tell loudness caused by compression apart from loudness caused by a mix? Seeing Ulcerate live recently my brother-in-law and I both independently said the same thing after the show: all the guitar and bass they have in the studio recording they are able to replicate live, and yes it’s loud and oppressive as hell, and this is a three piece band we’re talking about. I’m aware compression is used live too, and I’m also sure there were several guitar tracks layered and mixed in studio, but I’m curious if their low DR score has more or at least as much to do with the mix as compression.

    • No (at least if you are asking when DRC and brickwall limiting was applied). Death Magnetic in fact I THOUGHT was ruined in the mix even though Ted Jansen got a lot of slack for it. But I could be remembering my history wrong.

      I actually said exactly that to Ulcerate btw. I think this whole DR3 wall of sound crap sounds fake, and really distracts from the intrinsic oppressiveness of the music itself. YMMV.

      • MastersApprentice

        Alex, you are correct, Ted Jansen got a lot of slack for something that was already ruined before he even touched it.

        Here’s what he said:

        “In this case the mixes were already brick walled before they arrived at my place. Suffice it to say I would never be pushed to overdrive things as far as they are here. Believe me I’m not proud to be associated with this one, and we can only hope that some good will come from this in
        some form of backlash against volume above all else”.

        I think once you get down to DR3 it’s practically game over for sound fidelity, it’s just going to sound horrible regardless.

        • I completely agree. I have never heard a really good sounding DR3 or even 4 record (the Virvum release is definitely listenable, but it is by no means a pillar of high fidelity).

  • GardensTale

    Great article, Alex. Thanks for the compliment! You’re right, my examples actually didn’t have a high DR either, but the difference in fidelity from the ‘I puncture my equipment’ style recording is still night and day. What’s some really great sounding black metal anyway? It seems one of the most dynamics-shunning genres.

    • It’s a tough one. The last Blut aus Nord record I think was DR9 and sounded pretty tight to me if my memory serves me. I also think the Woe records are very well produced too (Chris Grigg FTW). There are others.

      Btw, GT, I was not picking on you or your comments. Just using them to make an example about a broader point regarding DR scores as a metric for high fidelity.

      • GardensTale

        Don’t worry, I got that point! I meant the same, it’s funny how the DR scores can be fairly close between my examples and Uburen while sounding so different production-wise. And they’re good examples for the compression-as-an-aesthetic argument as well.

    • Wilhelm

      Some classic BM with high DR scores Arcturus – Aspera, Cradle of Filth – Dusk…, Gehenna – First Spell, Satyricon – Dark Medieval Times.

  • Treble Yell

    Great article, Alex.

  • Mauro Bossetti

    Guys, I have a very specific question… Has anyone here listened to Inner Enemy from Seventh Wonder (Spotify version ar 320 Kbps for instance)? They are one of my favorite bands and the single is fantastic, but played on anything but high-end systems, it sounds absolutely shitty, a wall of noise.

    To be clear: I played it on my UE Boom speaker, my Bose bluetooth speaker, in my car (where I have B&O speakers, quite good)… horrible. In order not to get a shitty sound I need to use my Sennheiser HD 650 with Valhalla 2 amp and my shameful knowledge of the topic discussed here doesn’t help me to understand if the production is simply shitty or there is something else.

    A friend of mine, composer, kept telling me that the music had to be produced in order to be played nicely on any speaker, not just the best, which almost no one has.

    Thanks!!

    • You need to level match Mauro. I’ll bet if you level match everything to the same voluime, it will sound just as crappy on all systems, including your HD650 unfortunately.

    • Johan

      I would also add that I think a car speaker, no matter how good, will still not be able to compare to a decent speaker setup in the quietness of your living room. Same with a small BT portable speaker like the UE Boom.

      Regarding the article, I think a good way to think about it might be that heavy compression and low DR is not automatically same as a bad sounding record, but a high DR is never wrong, no matter the outcome.

      • Well, a bad mix is a bad mix is a, well, bad mix…regardless of DR.

  • The Unicorn

    AC/DC Back In Black to these old ears is one of the best sounding albums ever. Talk about the sweet spot.

    Great article man-
    Horn Up! m/ m/

  • I seem to remember that my old cassette copy of “Garage Days Re-Revisted” had something in the liner notes about it being “unproduced by Metallica.” Which is funny because, in addition to apparently having a high DR score, that’s Metallica’s best sounding album IMO. Not drowning in reverb, yet not dry as shit, you can hear the bass, the drums and guitars kick you right in the nuts, the performances are good but loose and allowed to breathe. ANY of their albums would sound great with similar production.

    • Kim Sørensen

      Amen!

    • I actually think by far and wide their best produced record was the Black one. Say what you want about the music, but that record sounds fantastic.

      • Dead1

        Totally agree.
        I think Bob Rock’s work on Black and Dr Feelgood set the tone for production for the whole 1990s.

      • Dave

        Disagree. The Black album has decent production especially for a Metallica album as the band seems almost pathologically incapable of that. Original MOP vinyl sounds the best of them all, followed by the original KEA vinyl, and THEN Black.

        • I was talking digital releases (CDs).

  • AndySynn

    “Another failing of the DR score is that it doesn’t encapsulate aesthetics. There are plenty of bands and engineers who really do love that amorphous wall of sound, and consider hyper compression and brickwall limiting as key tools in their arsenal to achieve it.”

    This reminded me of something I recently observed with dawning horror… Anaal Nathrakh announcing that Mick Kenney was available for mix and mastering work if you wanted your record to sound like theirs… with the problem being that although this works for AN, I can really see it strangling the fuck out of so many other albums by bands who can’t see that this type of production only suits Nathrakh FOR A REASON.

    • I don’t get AN. I don’t understand what Mick is trying to accomplish in his mixes and masters. They are all squashed into oblivion and sound lifeless to me. Maybe that is the point, but I think there are better ways to go about it and it certainly doesn’t take some kind of special talent to raise the DRC button past the point of no return.

      I realize the above is not entirely fair as I’m sure he works very hard on those records to get it the way he wants them (so does Skrillex btw). Still, at the end of the day, any production nuance is lost in the brick.

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    Great article!
    One thing I’ve noticed about dynamic range and compression is how noticeable the difference is when you listen to songs with contrasting DR ranges next to each other. I often make playlists (for work, parties, or personal enjoyment) and the differences can be jarring. For example, Dire Straits’ ‘Sultans of Swing’ will be playing at a moderate volume and the sound is clear, smooth but still at a listenable volume. Then RHCP’s ‘Tell Me Baby’ will come on afterwards and it’ll sound 3 times as loud. It’s difficult to create solid playlists when this is the case, because I like a constant volume in most situations. Not only is the volume a problem, but badly compressed songs will sound pretty crap at high volumes (a big offender at house parties if people aren’t drunk enough).

    On the RHCP note, it’s really disappointing that a lot of their later material is so badly compressed. They’re great musicians and a lot of their music is very dynamic musically and is often mixed very well, but I can’t stand the brickwalled sound for too long.

    Keep the wall of noise to Anaal Nathrakh and Ulcerate, where it works ;)

    • What’s sad is that a lot of bands really don’t understand volume normalization technologies and how they work (Bob Ludwig mentioned that to me in my interview with him). So what they hear in the studio is a lot different than what we hear when we are rotating through our libraries at breakneck speed.

  • Hammersmith

    Been listening to that Virvum quite a bit, despite the DR score.

  • A noted music producer just posted the following on Facebook. It seemed timely:

    I’m not going to go into details about who this is, but I just heard a couple of tracks from an album where the drummer apparently insisted on recording and mixing his parts, the guitarist his parts, and the vocalist his parts etc.
    The resulting several mixed stereo files were all then compiled by some poor bastard, who, I imagine, spent a great deal of time tearing their hair out trying to make sense of it all, and attempting to blend very different sounding layers of mud, oil and water together.
    Don’t try this at home folks. This is definitely not a sensible way to try to make a record.

    • Dead1

      Who was the producer?
      Bands are a big part of the modern production problem – they often don’t care about the master or they don’t have a clue or they’re just lazy.

      • It was Neil Kernon, and man did he let them have it.

        • dead1

          I like Neil’s work especially Nevermore!
          I wonder who the band is.

          • Dead1

            Found the post – some interesting comments indeed but no info on who the band is.

          • Exitium

            Yep, Dreaming Neon Black and The Politics of Ecstasy are amazing. “Warble” Dane and all.

  • Dead1

    Great article.
    I think there’s a lot more components that when combined with low DR make for horrid sounding records:
    1. Excessive layering.
    2. Typewriter drums.
    3. Lack of bottom end.
    4. Overproduction – any rawness/organic sound is removed.
    5. Vocal autotuning.

    The above aren’t very prevalent in older records due to restraints of technology.
    Also let’s face it – older recording staff had much higher quality standards than today. Sure there was crap sounding records back then but these usually never went anywhere and the records labels had certain standards.
    But then music is a mass produced near worthless product these days so what does one expect?

    • Spot on Dead1. Spot on. I couldn’t agree more.

    • SegaGenitals

      Very much agree. Not sure why so much of the normal quotidian fecal matter gets released

    • beurbs

      So basically Devin Townsend

      • mtlman1990

        lol.

    • mtlman1990

      That’s more of a style choice.

  • Wilhelm

    I tend to like albums with higher DR scores, I like hearing every nuance and aesthetic “fullness” of a recording but it really comes down to atmosphere and what a producer can bring to the table as far as mixing, editing, and presenting a type of sound that matches/represents the recording. Still I shudder to think of the impact that the albums, for example, Paradise Lost’s Gothic (DR13) and Anathema’s Serenades (DR14), would have had, not only my young mind, but the entire scene in general, if say these recordings were dulled down do a 5 or 6. This is why I do not buy remastered recordings, which is a waste of money, time and you’re most definitely getting an inferior product.

    I’ll also add that analog sounds more real (and better) to me than digital, so that factors in to the recording as much as the mastering, but since analog is a rare breed these days nobody tends to remember the importance or mark it as crucial but that’s the way of technology.

    • Exitium

      Yep, analog definitely sounds better than digitial usually. Although there have been plenty of fantastic digital albums that I never thought “Hmm, if only this was analog”. Regardless, the latest Anciients album is a prime example of horrific DR and a mediocre production that greatly diminishes the overall impact of an other wise amazing album. Similarly with their previous. These guys need to get a real producer and lay off the compression, because it’s making their music sound much worse than it should.

  • Exitium

    Most of Metallica’s 80s albums had around a 12 dynamic range. Not sure what made Master of Puppets so different, but dynamic range definitely isn’t the sole factor in how good the production sounds. Kill ’em All and Ride the Lightning IMO had a much worse production overall compared to Master of Puppets, and …And Justice for All was simply bad. In fact, I can’t honestly think of another 80s metal album, aside from maybe Powerslave that sounded as good for both dynamic range and overall production. I don’t know what they did that was so different, but Master of Puppets holds up today, and is certainly better sounding than most 90s and 00s productions (especially the awful 90s recording where the transition to digital was still in its infancy).

  • MastersApprentice

    Excellent article as always. Like most things, the DR Scores/TT Meter readings are only indicators and should be treated as such. The mix will have the biggest impact on the overall sound of a record.

    I’ve been listening to the new Serpentine Dominion album A LOT recently (review……..please?) and despite many of the songs clocking in at DR4 the mix is pretty slick, which makes all the vocals and instruments easily discernable when listening.

    Also, Dan Swano is some kind of studio wizard. I don’t know how he makes even the compressed versions of his mixes sound ALMOST IDENTICAL to his full dynamic range versions.

    • Dan is indeed a wizard – regardless of studio.

  • SegaGenitals

    Best produced albums of 2016: latest albums by Meshuggah, Revocation, and Gorod. Also, while the new Opeth underwhelmed me, it sounds pretty.

    • Tardsmat

      I really hate the low end on the new opeth. It feels like it’s drilling right into my brain, and on a prog rock record that’s not what you want.

  • beurbs

    Not really metal per se, but I find that Rush’s “Moving Pictures” is an excellent reset button for the ears. If I lose perspective on good sound, that record quickly sets me straight. DR 14 and great mixing.

  • naoto

    Tool’s records.

    • Mr. Bob Ludwig is responsible for some of their success no doubt.

  • Tardsmat

    Jens Bogren is honestly a wizard. All of his Albums just sound so good, especially the more recent ones, in spite of the low dynamic range. He shows that modern production can work very well if executed correctly.

  • Shane R

    I’d like to see a discussion of how the recorded product relates to the live product. I think more metal fans are consumers of the live product than in many other genres. Let me give a personal example: back in 2006 I got tickets for Kamelot opening for Epica (with some local support – at Harpo’s in Detroit). I got hold of “The Black Halo” by Kamelot, and I still listen to that album and still think it is great. But when I went to the live show, the backing parts were too loud – I could barely distinguish Roy Khan’s vocals; and Thomas Youngblood’s lead guitar performance was terribly disappointing and bland due to being buried in the mix. It was as if the sound engineer only knew rap and was caught up on the bass to the exclusion of everything else.

    • It is in my mind, the number one existential crisis of metal, i.e. what you hear on the CD is vastly different than what you hear in a live context.

      • The Orb

        Too often it’s just too damn loud. Granted, I’m getting old (just had my 46th yesterday), but sometimes at metal shows it sounds like I’m listening to a frickin’ hurricane. If you don’t already know the tune, there’s no chance of distinguishing one riff from the next. I went to see Carcass in Memphis not long ago, knowing their music only by reputation. It was a mess, and not necessarily because the band wasn’t good. A week later when my ears stopped ringing, I checked out their stuff and lo and behold, it was pretty kick-ass.

        • Shane R

          That’s a good point. Too often, the sound system in a club with 300 people is the same as what is needed for an amphitheater with 2,000. There’s no consideration of what is appropriate to the time and place of the show.

        • ALWAYS wear ear plugs to shows. Always or you will go deaf over time. I’m serious.

        • Live metal being too loud has always been a problem, I find. Though live mixing does seem to have improved compared to when I first started seeing gigs in the 90s. I’d say it has something to do with digital technology and bands being able to cart around their preferred “settings” to each venue, then adjusting for the individual venue from that point. Except I have no idea what I’m talking about ;-)

          Mind you, I saw Enslaved a month ago and the sound was sh*t. Worst I’d heard in a long time. Strangely, Fear Factory sounded great in the same venue earlier in the year – first time I’ve seen FF have decent live sound!

  • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

    Man, I love this site. Quality discussion on a great topic. From the staff to commenters on the forum, pure class. I’m no audiophile, but the subject is damn interesting. For me, if it sounds good, listen to it. Thanks guys for keeping my faith in the metal community on the up side.

  • Max Williams

    My friend and I have been listening to metal lately on a fairly nice sound system, but we primarily listen on Spotify. Can anyone tell me how to find out DR ratings for Spotify versions of albums? Are they the same as the CD DR ratings?