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.

Written By: Alex-Fi

2016 was another so-so year for dynamics in metal, with the number of hyper-compressed, brickwalled recordings far outweighing the number of well produced ones. Yet I still remain cautiously optimistic since our little Metal-Fi community is slowly but surely becoming not so little anymore, with more and more headbangers joining the cause everyday. But even more importantly, I see so many of our readers transforming their passive aggressiveness toward poorly produced metal into outright evangelism by actively petitioning bands, labels, and engineers to at least consider recording a high dynamic master in the future – even if that means just offering the dedicated vinyl master as an alternative digital download. Kudos and keep it up!

Now before I go over the list, I’d like to take this opportunity to formally thank AMG, Steel, and the whole staff at Angry Metal Guy for introducing Metal-Fi to many of you. I hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s Angry Metal-Fi series of articles and perhaps learned something along the way. I know Dave-Fi and I think of AMG as a second home, and that is a direct result of how friendly and accommodating both the staff and all of you have been to us. So thank you!

Alright, without further ado, I present to you the top five best and worst sounding records of 2016.


The Best

The production calculus here was quite simple: A7X explicitly wanted The Stage to sound as dynamic as possible without sacrificing a single ounce of its progressive glory. So they tasked two of the greatest living engineers, Bob Ludwig and Andy Wallace, to get the job done. And of course, these gentlemen delivered in spades. But even outside of this record’s obvious high caliber production pedigree, you have to give it up for A7X and their commitment to dynamics. First off, this isn’t their first dance with dynamic metal. Their last, 2013’s Hail to the King, was also quite dynamic, and really proved that you don’t have to be insanely loud to be commercially viable. In other words, The Stage’s high dynamic production wasn’t an accident. Secondly, as my interview with Mr. Ludwig revealed, A7X had several masters to choose from, one more compressed than the next since there was still some concern within the band that The Stage might get lost in the playlist shuffle if it wasn’t mastered loud enough. But the band choose the most dynamic one anyway because ultimately they wanted to release the best sounding product regardless of any pseudo-industry volume requirement, and that takes guts! Finally, A7X have been very vocal about their disdain for the Loudness War and in my humble opinion, are currently serving as the de-facto evangelists for high-fidelity metal. These guys are really committed to the cause and with The Stage, it most certainly shows. If you are looking for the best sounding metal record of the year, this is it.

Dan “The Man” Swanö. Need I say more? Not really, but I will anyway. I had the extraordinary opportunity to listen to a few tracks of Witherscape‘s latest, The Northern Sanctuary, through Sennheiser’s new $50,000 HE-1 electrostatic headphone system and I will never forget that experience till the day I die. It was fan-fucking-tastic! And even though I think you should opt for the FDR version of Sanctuary, the truth is even the standard DR8 master is dynamite too. As my A Sanctuary for Dynamics rant concluded, You see unlike Inheritance, which clocked in at an obviously bricked DR6, Sanctuary’s standard release now measures at a brisk DR8. That makes the level-matched comparison between its standard mix and the FDR one far less dramatic. In fact, in many respects, Dan’s engineering talents here are his own worst enemy; listening back and forth through iTunes with Sound Check on, the FDR mix is only subtly better, mainly in the more aurally dense parts sprinkled throughout the album. With the FDR mix, I found that instrument separation, especially when things get hoping, sounds a lot more spacious, and it adds a bit of punch to those quiet to loud buildups on some of the more progressive tracks as well. But it’s subtle, and if you’re just a casual listener you’re probably not going to notice much of a difference (of course if you are casual listener I doubt you’re reading this anyway).” Bottom line, this is one of the best sounding metal records of the year regardless of which version you own. Period.

I could kiss Dr. A.N. Grier. I really could. In his fantastic review of Rimfrost‘s self-titled third full-length outing he concludes, “Have I mentioned yet that the production is also fucking fantastic? There is so much bass presence and openness in the master that I forgot I was listening to an old-school, Scandinavian black metal record.” The great thing about a dynamic, well-produced record is that it can really put an album over the top and I’ve got to believe this was at least partially what happened here. He even thought some of the weaker material on the record actually benefited simply because it was so well recorded. I agree, and if you are looking for probably the best sounding pure black metal record of the year, this is it. Please read Dr. A.N. Grier‘s full review for all the gory details and then head over to the album’s Bandcamp page to take a listen for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

I had a brief conversation with Moonsorrow‘s mastering engineer, Mika Jussila over at Finnvox, and found out that this time around, Mika was given free reign when mastering their latest, Jumalten Aika. The net result is not only one of the best sounding records of the year, but easily the best sounding Moonsorrow record ever. Angry Metal Guy Himself even noticed how good this album sounds in his epic review by concluding, Jumalten aika‘s epic scope and sound is helped by a beautiful and airy production. A roomy master gives ample space for the music to resonate and undulate even though the album is otherwise a sonic sibling to the band’s later material.” Though I fundamentally agree with AMG that musically this record doesn’t really add anything to the band’s already well-received canon, for me, it still acts as a step forward with respect to production. Simply put, the band has never sounded this good.

Australia’s Inverloch are for all intents and purposes, disEMBOWELMENT‘s spiritual successor, and every since their EP made my top 10 list, I have been eagerly awaiting their proper full length debut. And as expected, they delivered in spades. However, what did worry me going in was that the extremely dynamic and warm production they accomplished on that first EP would get lost on their debut. Luckily, it didn’t, as Grymm noted in his stellar review, “Produced by Skarajew and Joel Taylor, the sound is quite warm and full. Mazziotta’s drums thunder convincingly, and his cymbals shimmer without too much shine. The vocals cut through the pea soup-thick fog of the guitars nicely.” I continue to expect big things from these Aussies as they continue to evolve their already potent death-doom punch. Definitely one of the best sounding records of the year and one that proves yet again that You Don’t Have To Brick To Sound Thick™.


The Worst

If you told me that Ulcerate‘s Shrines of Paralysis is their strongest effort to date, I’d probably wouldn’t argue with you. If you told me that Jamie Saint Merat is one of the best drummers in the world, I definitely wouldn’t argue with you. However, if you told me this record sounds good and is well produced, I’d offer you a ride to the otorhinolaryngologist. What’s worse is that Shrines’ sound is not the product of some miscommunication between mix and mastering engineer or Relapse stepping in and forcing the issue. Every single engineered note on this record was designed by none other than Merat himself who wanted it to sound this way. Shrines is a prime example where the aesthetic choices being made at the time of the recording were not grounded in engineering reality. Putting it another way, Merat pulled an Anaal Nathrakh [I hate it when that happens. I hate it! – Dave-Fi]. Nothing on this album sounds even remotely real. There is zero stereo image to really speak of nor any real bottom end either (Merat’s kick drums are laughable on this record in terms of impact). There is also zero definition to any of the instrumentation despite the obvious adeptness of the musicians playing them. The end result is one amorphous blob of sound that yeah, sounds oppressive, but also feels monotonous not to mention fatiguing after a while, giving the record a very short half-life. And if that wasn’t bad enough, both the high definition master found on HDTracks as well as the special edition vinyl will offer your eardrums little reprieve. It’s such a darn shame too since this would have easily been an AOTY contender for me with even a passable master.

I really don’t get it sometimes. I really don’t. Oranssi Pazuzu‘s latest, Värähtelijä, is a bloody mess production-wise and I suspect it is not finding itself on more AOTY lists because of it. If you aren’t familiar with OP, their claim to fame is taking Pink Floyd aesthetics and throwing some black metal into the mix. That’s kinda, sorta what these crazy Finns sound like. However, now imagine if that hybrid psychedelic rock/black metal mix wasn’t mastered like a Floyd record at all, but instead mastered like it was an Anaal Nathrakh one, clocking in at an abysmal DR4. That’s Värähtelijä! Does it make a slick of sense? Nope. What’s even stranger is that this is a first for OP; the overwhelming majority of records in their discography are fairly dynamic and generally sound pretty good. Why Värähtelijä came out this way boggles the mind. I also don’t know if its vinyl master suffered the same fate, but I suspect that it does.

I want to get this off my chest right now: Subrosa‘s latest, For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages, is my favorite record of theirs to date and certainly one of the best records of the year. However, its production is borderline ridiculous, clocking in at DR3! In fact, the only reason why I think this record is even listenable is because Brad Boatright of Audiosiege mastered it, and he happens to be very talented at making ludicrously compressed mixes sound halfway decent (he does dynamic too, if you let him). What’s really sad here is that out of all the records on this side of the list, Ages is far and wide the one that would benefit from a dynamic master the most. You have long, drawn out soft passages that are suppose to build tension and give way to these bouts of doom inspired fury. You have abrupt starts and stops that are clearly being played louder or softer depending on context. You have unorthodox instrumentation, with plenty of violin to go around. The truth is – Subrosa have always had production woes, but Ages is way beyond the pale. Remember, when everything is loud, nothing is, and Subrosa‘s latest is a shining testament to that fact.

Deathspell Omega is one of my all-time favorite bands so it is with a heavy heart that I am forced to place their latest, The Synarchy of Molten Bones, on this side of the list. Truth be told, DsO‘s production woes started way back in 2010 with Paracletus, where the band decided to eschew any sense of dynamics for that very compressed, stereotypical wall of sound, clocking in at paltry DR4. 2012s Drought followed suit, and now Bones as well. What’s ironic is that DsO have become synonymous with bleeding edge French black metal for quite sometime, but production-wise they are pretty much par for the course. Part of the problem here is they are trying to get their anti-Christian angst through hyper-compression and brickwall limiting instead of dynamics and transients, which would definitely serve their music well. I understand they want to sound aggressive, but bricking everything into oblivion is just silly, and like with that Ulcerate record, sounds extremely jaded after a while. Moreover, the kind of black metal DsO plays is just screaming for the FDR treatment given how intrinsically dynamic it is. Hopefully somebody over in the DsO camp will paradoxically see the light for the next go around and lay off the DRC.

If there is one record on this list that most exemplifies the totality of the Loudness War, it’s this one. If you aren’t yet familiar with Witchcraft, think of them as a doomier Graveyard or a Swedish Black Sabbath, i.e. 70s rock and doom worship at its finest. So with that in mind, why does their latest record entitled Nucleus clock in at pathetic DR5 and even in some spots dip into DR4 territory? This is a classic case of a label’s commercial aspirations for a band not lining up with the source material at hand. There is no doubt in my mind that Nuclear Blast wanted this master extremely hot given how radio friendly the music is. But it comes at a cost: none of the iconic 70s sound these talented Swedes are trying to emulate rubbed off onto this recording. No analog richness or warm tubey fuzziness here. Nucleus is as sterile as it gets and that’s because volume, not fidelity, was the driving force behind this recording. It really makes no sense either to push this record this hard. I mean for Satan’s sake, this album is louder than the last Behemoth record. Dumb.

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  • AjmsaenZ

    I was hesitant about the new A7X, but the production is incredible and it really feels like you’re listening to something special because of it. The album being good helps too.

  • Nikola Tesla

    I’m surprised that Vainaja “Verenvalaja” isn’t listed as one of the best sounding records. I thought that one sounded fantastic!

    • Sigh. Absolutely. But we have Swano quotas at Metal-Fi. Dan can’t hog the list. Sorry.

      • Nikola Tesla

        Fair enough.

      • ssorg

        Not sure I understand this justification… surely including it would be beneficial for, say, the newcomer who might not have time to delve into the MetalFi or AMG back-catalogue. Holy hell, I could practically feel the kick drums reverberating in my skull on that Vainaja.

        • It has been included. You just did it! :-)

          It’s an AWESOME record no doubt about it (btw, the band knows our opinion as well). In fact, read my interview with them to get a deeper understanding behind the album! :-)

    • Dymanic

      And the louder you play it, the better it sounds. What is more metal than that?

      I wish some of these other bands would get that through their deaf fucking heads.

  • slipjackthewanderer

    How does the vinyl version of the Subrosa album stack up? I’m no audiophile but it sounds good to me.

    • And that doesn’t surprise me. My guess is (without asking Brad) he softened it up for the vinyl format. He does that normally and given how hot this master is, I can’t imagine him just leaving it as is. Couple all that with the fact that vinyl has the property of softening up the digital edges somewhat, it doesn’t surprise me that the wax version of this album would translate better on vinyl than on CD.

    • Carlos Parlo

      I love the Subrosa record, have loved all of theirs but this one is my favorite by far. I have it on vinyl and have only heard it that way other than a few streams on Spotify. I think the vinyl sounds fantastic with one caveat that might be particular to me and my copy–on mine there are several fuzzy as hell passages with heavy surface noise, particularly sides A and B. It was like this brand new out of the box so I am thinking it was a pressing issue.

      • slipjackthewanderer

        It might be your copy. I’ve got the clear/cream version and haven’t noticed any fuzziness. Album of the year IMHO.

  • Casey Mahaffey

    Excellent post Alex,so very insightful.
    It’s efforts like this that really make an impact on the loudness war.
    That A7X album really does sound great, hats off to those guys.

  • Satthia

    No love for Krallice? Or have we taken our lord and savior, Colin Marston, for granted??

    • Too late in the game, i.e. I haven’t even heard it yet!

    • Jrod1983

      Its gotten to the point now where if I know Marston mastered something, I’ll at least check it out.
      I wasn’t disappointed in 2016 with Anicon, Crator, Black Table, and Krallice obviously. Among others I’m sure.
      I also really hope Artificial Brain enlists his skills for their next one again.

      • I feel the exact same way. Just his name on a record means, “OK, let’s see what this band’s got.”

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    Pucker up, you crazy sum bitch.

    • No tongue please.

      • Dr. A.N. Grier

        Sigh… fine.

        • I’m a prude.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Obviously… But, seriously, I’m glad to see Rimfrost up here. For awhile, I still thought I was the only one that liked it.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            I LOVE Rimfrost’s latest, but, no, I don’t want to go pick out curtains with you. This was my intro to Rimfrost. Also crazy about A Frozen World Unknown.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            That album is outstanding, too.

          • Actually, I give you *major* props for highlighting that in your review.

            Now time to make you cry: Just imagine the new Destroyer 666 record was mastered like the Rimfrost one. I would love to hear that!

            Another record that absolutely makes me cry non-stop is the mantar one. I love LOVE that record but the master is just crap. Period.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            I agree. I wish the new D666 sounded better.

          • AndySynn

            The Mantar one REALLY doesn’t bother me at all though. I can listen to that album repeatedly without getting any ear fatigue, for some reason.

          • Oh, so can I. Personally though, I think it sounds awfully compressed though.

  • Diego Molero

    What about Anaal Nathrakh’s album? Or is it just to obvious? That album would have been on my top 10, but it is just so damn loud I can’t listen to it without having a headache.

    Agree with the other albums, both good sounding and bad sounding. That Oranssi Pazuzu’s album really is a sonic mess.

    • We’ve pretty much given up on AN.

      • Diego Molero

        That’s what I thought, shame.

        • It is, truly.

    • Reese Burns

      I feel like for better or for worse, the dreadful production on AN albums is something they consider “part of their sound”. I agree with you though, if it weren’t so loud I would have appreciated it much more.

      • Diego Molero

        I know! I was thinking about that actually. I’m sure they do think that about the production, but man, it’s just so damn loud.

  • El_Cuervo

    mmm that Witherscape recording gets we weak at the knees just thinking about it.

  • LookinLike

    The drum intro to that A7X single pissed me off so much though. It sounded like absolute garbage to me. I felt like all the other instruments were fine but those drums…

  • Reese Burns

    The Stage was excellently produced, it kills me inside every time I see someone complaining it’s too quiet.

    • Please Reese, when you see that, point them to MFi. Maybe some A7X fans will walk away with a different perspective.

    • Requiem

      People… Complain about that..? Are they aware they have a volume button on their devices or..?

  • Bas

    That witchcraft has such a low dynamics is amazing. Their first albums sounded so nice.. It does not fit with their retro image/ideas… The sound of the subrosa album is probably part of the reason why it didnt click with me. For the oranssi pazuzu album… I still like it despite the bad sound :-)

  • Owlswald

    http://media.mlive.com/citpat/opinion_impact/photo/10620589-small.jpeg

    “I am neither bitter nor cynical but I do wish there was less hyper-compression and brickwall limiting in that new Deathspell Omega album”

  • basenjibrian

    shoot. I am a major fanboy of Witchcraft. Had not even heard this album had dropped, but now I wonder if it is worth picking up.

    • Reese Burns

      I’d say go for it, underneath all the production missteps, there’s a really solid album.

      • basenjibrian

        Yeah. Just visited the Evil Empire website (Praise Steve Jobs’ Name).
        Witchcraft are on my top two or three “retrodoomers” of all time. I just love his voice and the songcraft, and I even loved the previous album which stepped away a little bit from the Sabbath worship (just a little bit).

    • I would but NOT the vinyl unless you can confirm it’s a dedicated, high-dynamic master. Otherwise, stick with the CD.

  • Cockypock Aioli

    I literally get sad about the OP album. :(

    • Same. It is untenable for me.

  • Dethjesta

    Allegaeon is another of the bad ones. Sad thing is that there is a really good album beneath the brick walling (except the spanish guitar bit, that could go).

    • Yeah, we had them on the list at some point. The problem here is that as a band they are a train wreck – like in every possible way.

    • Billy Carlisle

      Nah man

    • basshole

      I had no issues getting into it. None whatsoever. Great fucking album.

  • Hammersmith

    Expected to see Ulcerate, Virvum and Khemmis in the bad section. Even though all 3 ruled.

    • Virvum’s mix is quite good actually. Very clean. But yeah, it is too compressed as my review said as much.

      The new Khemmis record is though too compressed, not dangerously so like the other two.

      • Hammersmith

        The Virvum mix is really well done, agreed. I think that’s what saves it. That and I really enjoyed the songs on that album.

    • Nathan McCain

      I’m listening to Hunted on wax right now, and i can tell that you that while not as dynamic as it could be, it’s wonderfully balanced and packs quite the punch :)

  • Levly

    I would never have given A7X a chance if not for your post on Metal-Fi since I never really enjoyed any of their music, and oh I’m glad I followed your advice on this one. The Stage is pure sonic bliss, and that helps greatly to appreciate the (surprisingly diverse and progressive) compositions on it.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I still enjoy the Ulcerate and Oranssi, even the Anaal Nathrakh, despite the sound. Only once have I ever had to stop listening to an album I liked because of the production: Baroness’ Purple.

    • Thatguy

      I agree exactly with all of that. I don’t usually get too fussed about the mix but I would really like to hear a dynamic version of the Ulcerate.

      • Ain’t gonna happen TG.

  • Tardsmat

    To be honest, i don’t really like the a7x production that much. Sure, it’s dynamic, but otherwise it doesn’t stand out to me, plus i really don’t like the clicky bass drum.

    • That was the first thing I noticed about it when I heard it. Almost clacky rather than clicky. Even the toms suffer during the fast rolls.

  • RuySan

    For some reason the compressed mastering on the SubRosa album doesn’t bother me as much as the one on the latest Khemmis and Dark Tranquillity.

    Still, SubRosa would benefit even more than every other band on the planet from a good dynamic mastering.

    • They really would and it so damn obvious.

  • Akerblogger

    Brilliant write-up. The production on that Inverloch album is tasty, particularly when the lead guitars spiral through the fog in the opening track.

    I must say, I am still very much a novice when it comes to understanding the little quirks and variations that go into creating a well-produced album. I suppose it comes with time and continued research, and money to spend on good listening systems.

    I currently listen to the music I review using the white Apple earphones that come with the phone – they give all music a true sense of authentic rawness that is unparalleled. Thinking of getting Dre. Beats next, I know they lend a lot to the dynamism of hip-hop but I heard they are good for metal and they’ll fit nicely on my big head.

    Let’s hope my ears don’t give way before musical nirvana is opened to me.

    • I’ve heard only bad things about Beats (I didn’t have them on my head though). They are known not from dynamic, but from overIy loud, boomy lows. I strongly recommend getting some headphones from one of the producers which specialize in, you know, heapdhones (or studio stuff generally), like AKG, Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, Audio Technica, or – if you are disgustingly rich – Grado, Koss or Audeze.

      I’m sure that you’ll find detailed and more competent advise somewhere at Metal-Fi forum. Good luck!

    • EsusMoose

      Go with v-moda, audio technica, or some of the closed back ones that bart mentioned. Check out head fi as a good place to see what people think of headphones.

      • Chris_Martin

        I’d add the NAD Viso HP50 as an option as well. Got a pair in May, and it’s been a fantastic pair of headphones–you can probably find them for not much more than a new pair of Beats.

        Also, +1 to Metal-Fi’s forum as a really good resource. The thread on headphones was extremely helpful to me in making an informed purchase.

    • Ugo Poifol

      u wot m8.

    • RuySan

      I hope it’s not to late to stay away from beats. For the price of that garbage you can buy some classic headphones like Sennheiser HD650.

  • Wilhelm

    Agatus is missing from the best list.

    • Mr. Wilhelm, you might be onto something here.

  • krisdaschwab912

    Surprised Transcendence didn’t get any nods here.

    • Jm from nj

      For good or bad? I actually think it’s the best sound DTP album…ever?

      • krisdaschwab912

        Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I love Transcendence. Certainly the best sounding DTP album other than maybe Ghost.

  • basshole

    Bitching about production is fucking lame. How are the riffs? Memorable or not? Do the songs get stuck in your head or not? This is what really matters.

    • Jeffrey Dean

      There are a ton of other lists AMG has released already for that kind of thing. This is strictly about production and sound, not composition.

      • basshole

        I’m sure you could find some Black metal debuts that sound 1000x times worse than Shrines of Paralysis.. This is splitting hairs here.

        The people who record and master this stuff probably went to school and have lots of experience, maybe this is what the bands want.

        • We are the experts of our own tastes for sure, and that gives us right to discuss.
          Sometimes a self-taught engineer can do much better work than an experienced professional, especially nowadays when everybody can have f***in’ Abbey Road in his laptop, and that’s beautiful:)

          • basshole

            This is true and this is not my area of expertise or really anything I normally care about. I worry about shitty production most of the time (normally I’ll just turn it up) and the quality of my mp3 rips ha ha.

            I’m not dropping tons of money on vinyls and Sony studio headphones over here.

        • One last thing, you’re wrong about everyone who records and masters stuff “went to school and have lots of experience.”

          It’s true for most professional releases, but many metal records are mixed and mastered by the bands themselves and the results are very often a mixed bag. Not saying a band can’t do it, just saying that to assume every record was produced by a team of professionals is very naive.

          • basshole

            Fair enough. Good point. Every metal band isn’t Metallica. But do you think any of the releases on your list were done in some DIY basement studio?

          • Other than that Witchcraft record, I’ll bet most of them were done on a budget – a small one at that.

          • basshole

            Recorded April 2016 at MCA Studios & Depot Studios, Auckland, New Zealand.
            Engineered by J Saint Merat
            Mixed/mastered by J Saint Merat
            Format mastering by B Boatright & AudioSiege

            Blame it on their drummer then. MCA studios sounds expensive to me.

          • Let me ask you this, why did Death Magnetic turn out the way it did when that had an unlimited budget?

            Your assumption that everyone who goes into a studio comes out with a great sounding record is just not true.

            Btw, when it comes to that Ulcerate record, that was his decision entirely, i.e. it had nothing to do with budget as I stated above.

          • basshole

            Death Magnetic probably came out like that because its a pop album made by a pop band that contains band members with egos bigger than Mars and so fucking out of touch, they think they still haven’t made their best album yet.

            I wasn’t saying that, I was saying most of these guys should have some kind of experience with recording/engineering and its more than likely their choice. An international touring band on Relapse should at least be able to drop a couple thousand on recording their new album, but maybe J Saint Merat should stick to drumming.

            If its the record labels fault and they force this “loudness” thing on bands, then I didn’t know that. But then again the first best sounding album on your list is another pop album.

    • Review sites are fucking lame. How are the riffs? Memorable or not? Do the songs get stuck in your head or not? This is what really matters.

    • Dymanic

      Wrong.

      Both the quality of the material and the quality of the production matter. What the fuck is the point of having awesome songs that are painful to listen to?

      • basshole

        Painful how? Distorted? Cant make out the riffs? Pops in the audio? You have a volume button and should be able to make some small adjustments to treble, mids and bass. Cry me a river.

        You always have Fallen Angel of Doom to fall back on.

        • Dymanic

          “Volume button”? That’s pretty funny because that’s kinda how a lot of these recordings sound – two positions, either LOUD or OFF.

          I’m not sure what your point is. We are all a bunch of whiners because we care how our music sounds?

          If you’ve got cloth ears and can’t tell the difference, have at it, buddy – good for you. I’ll be right here fixing up bad production jobs by fiddling with my treble and bass knobs.

          • basshole

            Rock on. Discard your favorite bands new album because it came out in 2017 and its “loud.”

            You are (and this entire site is dedicated to apparently) complaining about something you can’t control.

            I like old Nintendo games too, but we’re never going back.

          • Dymanic

            Well, I disagree with you that there is nothing we can do about it.

            But even if that were true, your argument boils down to: “don’t even question what you can’t control”. We shouldn’t even discuss it because there’s nothing we can do? That’s a pretty pathetic attitude.

          • basshole

            Sure… going to find my way back to sites that talk about the actual music.

            You guys can go in circles arguing essentially about American politics. Drain the swamp of metal engineers.. IT BETTER SOUND LIKE THE HELLHAMMER DEMOS!!! or maybe.. BATTLES IN THE NORTH!!!

            Be careful what you wish for..

          • James Utvandraren

            Do you go to pornsite forums, too, and scream “Looks don’t matter!!!”?

            Let me try to explain it to you:

            http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ffb1d4fbc06ad179177df37a0d9755ee8a2a08c1de65ae4890790ad7bcce65d4.jpg

          • basshole

            So there are two forms of bad production. Fallen Angel of Doom bad and The Flesh Prevails bad, right?

            Somewhere in the middle is “good” production. So i’ll judge albums on production first and throw out half of my collection I guess..

          • James Utvandraren

            You are correct, Sir.

            One bad production (Blasphemy) is both culturally conditioned by the expectations of that particular metal community AND also directly derived from smaller budgets and resources. This one is easier to forgive, and usually matters very little to the fan base in the end. It’s all about the “trv metal”.

            The other bad production (Fallujah) comes from a (somewhat self-admitted) mis-management of excellent tools and resources available, not clearly set expectations, as well as lack of communication between band, label and engineer/producer, resulting in an absolute shit brick. This one is more detrimental to the overall listening experience as it distracts, distorts and detracts from an otherwise excellently executed piece of metal music. What could have been an absolute monster album, is now a 6 out of 10 at best. All the well thought out and crafted layers and arrangements drown in each other and the whole album is a choke-fest.

            However, your life may be easier if you don’t look for extreme solutions to small problems. Throwing out half your collection seems a tad rash. Giving it to a homeless metal head, suffering from just a mild hearing impairment, may be a more rewarding scenario for all involved.

          • basshole

            Fair enough.. and I get it. I still consider it splitting hairs and not enough for me to hate or disregard an album..

            In the end, I would still MUCH rather listen to TFP over FAoD. For the sole reason, despite the “wall of sound” or whatever.. I can actually tell what the guitar player is doing..

            Over produced to me still doesn’t mean “bad” in the Blizzard Beasts sense of “bad.”

          • El_Cuervo

            I can see you’re being intentionally belligerent now.

            We at our sites enjoy well-produced music. Therefore we comment when something sounds particularly good, or when it sounds particularly bad. At worst a record won’t sound worse if it’s produced better. At best it will sound much better.

            We aren’t going to change simply because you’re bitching about us bitching about the ‘wrong’ part of the music.

  • nomrom3

    The production on that SubRosa album makes me so sad. It’s still one of my favorites of the year, but it could have sounded so much better.

  • Andrea Hhdesign

    If you rate Ax7 among the Best of the year and deathspell omega in the worst it means that you’re doing band and label game…please shame yourself.

    • “best and worst SOUNDING”. Go read again (and listen again too).

    • You’re doing reading wrong, bro.

    • In all seriousness Andrea, check out my top 10 over at Metal-Fi. You may want to rethink that statement.

  • Treble Yell

    It’s crushing to hear about how poorly mastered the new Witchcraft is. I love that band and have been looking forward to new material but this makes me want to steer clear entirely.

    • Reese Burns

      I’d advise against that, in spite of the production flaws, it’s real good! Though as Alex said in another thread, I’d spring for the CD rather than the vinyl.

  • I don’t think the Moonsorrow album sounds particularly good. You can barely hear the kick drum and the high frequencies are very harsh making it quire difficult for me to listen to it for long periods.

    I think Alcest’s Kodama sounds fantastic.

    • Though I completely disagree about Moonsorrow with you, I totally agree about Alcest. It almost made the list too! Btw, Alcest is DR8 or 9 or something. It’s very dynamic.

    • Ugo Poifol

      I love the mix of Jumalten aika, but I see why one wouldn’t like it. It’s not an album I’d listen to in any setting.

  • Jrod1983

    Being such a fan of Ulcerate it pains me to completely agree with this, but you’re totally right about it.
    With that being said it’s also one of the few albums where I’m willing to deal with it.

    • I feel your pain. I really do.

    • Alan Smithee

      A shame, really. They’ve had notoriously bricked records for a while too, but this is the first Ulcerate album I just CANNOT get into, no matter how hard I try. :(

  • Ugo Poifol

    What about Negura Bunget’s ZI ? I found this one to be quiet airy, with lots of different dynamics and both quiet and more intense sections.

    • I mentioned the production on the review back when it came out. It’s a very effective listen on headphones.

      Great album and also a much unloved one in year end lists.

  • I.B. Hurtin

    My hearing sucks so I thought that the differences in dynamics would be too subtle for me to notice. I spent more time educating myself on the subject through older AMG articles on the subject and decided to test out my educated ears with this list. OMFG, that Witchcraft album sounds horrible! I couldn’t take more than a minute of it before I had to rip the headphones off!

  • Maik Beninton™

    Hey, did you see that Mithras released a full DR edition of their album?
    https://mithrasuk.bandcamp.com/album/on-strange-loops-the-hi-res-full-dynamic-range-edition

    • WHAT? WAIT! Holy COW!

      Alright, now joking aside, I want you go to metal-fi.com and read for yourself. Please.

      • Maik Beninton™

        I see, I think the HDR is better, so I thought you would mention here.

        • It is and it made my top 10 list to boot. Mithras are so talented.

    • Requiem

      Holy fuck :D

  • beurbs

    The latest Devin Townsend is a nightmare too as usual

    • No surprise. He seems to think for some strange reason that he has to go loud to sell. He doesn’t.

      • I think the new Devin Townsend sounds fantastic. It sounds huge and lush, has a nice smooth top end and a punchy and well defined low end. I have no idea what DR it is and it doesn’t matter one bit.

        • Do you have Infinity or Ocean Machine? Try level matching Transcendence with those records in iTunes with Soundcheck on. Or level match Transcendence with Swano’s Northern Sanctuary as a fun exercise.

          • I gather you’re saying that I’ll find that Ocean Machine sounds better when I do that, but really they just sound different. I don’t use itunes, so I just used YouTube which is probably not the best. Ocean Machine sounds good, is thinner and lacks punch, but a has a little more air. Transcendence has way more punch,has a smoother and bigger sound, is incredibly well defined and just has way more going on, so they are difficult to compare. Northern Sanctuary, I just can’t get past Swano’s clean vocals. It sounds solid production wise, but lacks bottom end and is harsher up high compared to Transcendence. I don’t thing Northern Sanctuary stands out for its production.

          • If you are using YouTube then you are never going to get a true sense of an album’s production because: a) You aren’t level matching so Loudness Curves take over b) YouTube quality varies widely and most time not in a good way and c) Many times the YouTube recording is not the same as the CD. Z2 was a prime example of these facts (the promo was DR9 and I believe what was used for the official videos while the CD was DR5!).

            Also, I get the sense you are more talking about the music than its production in some of these comments (which is fine, but a different conversation entirely).

            Anyway, if you do get a chance, use iTunes + Soundcheck or some other playback engine with ReplayGain. I think you will find for yourself that there are big differences once you level match everything. I won’t speculate what you think is *better* but at least you can be on a level playing field when you compare.

          • I’m talking about production. I just had to comment on Swano’s vocals as they ruin the album for me. I mix and “master” my own music and I’ve been buying albums for about 25 years. I understand what you’re talking about in relation to different productions and albums definately do sound different now to what they did before and the lower the DR score the more chance there is of it sounding like a mess. Transcendence is not a good example of this in my opinion. A good example is Rust in Peace. Listen to Dave’s remastered version of that. It’s horrible. The Mithras dynamic version also sounds way better. Transcendence may benefit from a DR46 remaster, but it sounds great as is in my opinion.

          • Are you level matching any of this stuff?

  • Kim Sørensen

    The sound on the Rimfrost album almost make me sad… i would listen to so much more music if the production/mastering was like that :(

  • DrChocolate

    That Rimfrost release is pretty damn awesome. They’re a criminally underrated band who have gotten better with each release. The sound on this one is just spectacular though. The first time I heard that snare roll outro to ‘Saga North’ I quite literally sat up and stopped everything I was doing to listen. It’s so clear yet almost ethereal, it’s near perfect and oddly might be my favorite 30 seconds of the whole album.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Can’t argue with any of that… which is kind of disappointing…

  • where is king Fleshgod Apocalypse?

    • Where it should be.

  • The Unicorn

    That Rimfrost sounds goddamn incredible. Thank you how did I miss this. Holy fuck my list is now all topsy turvy again!

    • SegaGenitals

      Great album.

  • 王雋

    I love metal, but I don’t have the ears to distinguish the differences between a good production and a bad one. Would you guys help me with that? Is there a way to train my ears?

    • Read the AMG articles and join the forum. You will get the hang of it in no time!

  • RuySan

    You should send this link to the bands involved with a “Care to comment?” subject. They should be congratulated/ashamed for their mastering choices.

  • Dymanic

    I really like both the Ulcerate and Oranssi Pazuzu releases but I have resolved not to buy them. I am voting with my wallet. This is the only power I have as a lonely consumer. Fuck that shit.

    I must admit, I caved on DsO though…

  • Don C

    The best sounding metal album of the year in my opinion was Starspawn from Blood Incantation. Especially the drum sound.

    • Luke_22

      Yep, definitely up among the best sounding of the year in my book. Love how organic and beefy it sounds.

  • Heifer Madness

    Agreed on the Oranssi Pazuzu album. I love them and their sound, but that album sounds like trash. Unlistenably bad.

  • lel

    Saint “Merat”, Goddammit.

  • beurbs

    I’m surprised Anaal Nathrakh isn’t #1. First time in a while that I was physically unable to get through an album.

    • I missed this. Tell them (AN) so.

      • beurbs

        Sure thing, but they probably won’t be able to hear me over the ringing in their ears lol

  • Alessio C.

    The problem with this things is always the same: the choices depends on how many albums one has listened in the year.

    Moreover, sometimes the best sound is not in bands more or less famous, with certain budgets etc.

    Also, talking about production, dynamics etc. in absolute terms has no sense IMO, for i don’t want a black metal record sounds like a prog metal one, or death metal like heavy metal and so on.

    But it’s interesting to review albums concentrating on production only and analyse in deep that aspect.