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.

By: Alex-Fi

Angry Metal-FiIt’s that time again where we extol those releases that exemplify high caliber production and condemn those which exact tyranny on all of our collective volume knobs. 2015 was a break out year for production in metal if you ask me. Not because the percentage of releases had higher DR scores mind you. Quite the opposite actually. But because you guys have made production a real talking point across the web. I can’t tell you how many times I stumble over some online conversation condoning or condemning some production choice made behind some random metal release. And I truly believe that this trend of treating production as a first-class citizen when talking about metal has a lot do with the movement started right here with the Angry Metal-Fi series of articles! So I thank you!

Just a reminder, our little list here is by no means definitive and I’m sure some of you will think Dave and I are clinically deaf after reading it [What was that? – Dave-Fi]. I know I’ve said this before but I can’t belabor this point enough: this list is meant to start a conversation about production, not finish it. Angry Metal-Fi’s chief goal is not just about promoting great sounding metal but to promote the idea of production itself having real value, and to cherish those artists and engineers who truly understand that fact. So without further ado, let’s begin.


The Best

Horrendous - Anareta

In L. Saundersinsightful review he states, “Production-wise Anareta boasts a sound that somehow outdoes the critically acclaimed work on Ecdysis, featuring an equally dynamic yet somehow bigger and punchier sound that is both authoritative and comforting.” Nailed it. Damien Herring did an absolute stellar job producing Anareta since not only did he preserve all of the dynamic goodness found on Ecdysis, but somehow managed to give this record even more oomph, infusing it with this sonic sense of unbridled aggression not really felt on Horrendous‘ previous two masterworks. As I stated in my review, I lived, breathed, and shat Anareta for a good two months straight on a myriad of listening setups and it always sounded fan-fuck’n-tastic to me – a hallmark of every great sounding release.

Trivium - Silence in the Snow

Say what you will [Oh, I will – AMG], but both Dave and I feel that Trivium’s Silence in the Snow is one of the best produced metal records on the planet. It is not only just wonderfully dynamic, but really showcases how big budget production can work for music instead of against it. And this was no accident. In an interview with Blabbermouth guitarist Corey Beaulieu stated, “…because we felt like metal bands really don’t make records like that anymore, unless you’re bands from that era; you just don’t have the uniqueness in the sound and the songs. Everyone uses the same fucking drum samples and this or that, and they mix everything the same way; there’s no dynamics, ’cause they master it so loud that when you turn it up, it hurts. And we just kind of used it as… What everyone does now for metal, or the way they make metal, it was kind of, like, [let’s] not do that — let’s do the exact opposite and make a record that breathes and has dynamics and has the variety in songs, from your short, straight-to-the-point song to something that has a little bit more elaboration in it.” So it’s no wonder Snow sounds extremely punchy when you turn dat volume knob up! Yeah, I know, it’s not Shogun 2.0, but given their popularity, it takes a lot of cojones to produce a record like this. In fact, most of the big record labels would probably reject this record outright for being this quiet, and I really respect Trivium for sticking to their guns and stressing quality over quantity (with respect to production at least).

Kauan - Sorni Nai

Back in 2013, my partner in crime ranked Kauan‘s Pirut as the best sounding record of the year. Well, Kauan is back with a new release entitled Sorni Nai, and it sounds just as glorious. Granted, this isn’t really a metal record in the traditional sense and is more in line with Tenhi than Tryptikon, but here we are nonetheless. If you haven’t yet heard of these talented Russians, they play a mix of folk, doom, and now post-rock apparently. Their latest record, Sorni Nai, attempts to reconstruct the tragic events that led up to the Dyatlov Pass incident, where nine students died under mysterious circumstances camping in the Ural Mountains [Clearly a Yeti! – Dave-Fi]. This whole record is about texture and atmosphere, and the production serves these purposes well but letting the music breathe and envelope your auditory senses as you embark on this horrifying mental DR10 field trip. Best of all, it’s free via Blood Music’s Bandcamp page.

Native Construct - Quiet World

Think Dream Theater meets Haken meets Unexpect, all wrapped in a glorious DR10 Jamie King mastered package. Native Construct‘s breakout debut is actually a concept album that tells the story of an unstable, eccentric mute who falls in love with a girl who doesn’t share the same feelings for him. He decides to deal with her rejection by creating his own fantastical world in his head where he has complete control over everything and everyone is like him, i.e. mute. Hence the album’s title, Quiet World [Oh snap! I thought the title was a play on the DR score. My bad. – Dave-Fi {You’re fired – AMG}]. And though musically this record is outstanding, what’s even more impressive is that it was written, produced, and recorded all while the band members were attending the Berklee School of Music and on a college student budget. This just goes to show what Dave and I have been preaching to you all along: a record’s fidelity has a lot more to do with the production choices made in the studio than having access to high-priced gear. This is bar none one of, if not the best progressive metal record of the year. Buy it.

Intronaut - The Direction of Last Things

Intronaut‘s The Direction of Last Things is one of those records that is truly more about its sonic journey than its ultimate destination. The net result is an album that isn’t quite greater than the sum of its parts despite the fact that the parts in themselves are at times spectacular in both design and execution. To sum up Doc’s fantastic review, it lacks cohesion, which really hurts the album’s overall staying power. However, with all of that said, man this journey sounds sweet. From Doc’s review, Thankfully, Intronaut magnified all of this by hiring Devin Townsend on mixing duties. This decision was well worth the money as every instrument comes to life in the mix and the record is a truly dynamic listen.” I couldn’t agree more. Devin’s mix is not only very balanced but does an impeccable job of showcasing Intronaut‘s incredible virtuosity in the process. I almost feel that this record is some kind of penance for the debacle that was . I’ll take it.

 

The Worst

Baroness - Purple

Some days after listening to poorly produced metal I really just want to throw up my hands and scream. Other days I want just sit down and cry. Unfortunately, Baroness‘ latest release, Purple, makes me wanna do both. This record was utterly, categorically, destroyed in the production process. Purple clocks in at an embarrassing DR4, with many, many tracks hitting DR3. But the score itself is really only the tip of the iceberg as this record just sounds dreadful. Drums are utterly lifeless. Bottom end, what’s that? There is zero imaging to really speak of as every track sounds like a garbled sonic mess. The reason why this record makes me wanna cry though is because the material on it is obviously top notch, and it’s clear that if this sounded like any of their previous records, it would probably be on my overall top ten list. Here’s the thing I just don’t get: Baroness is not a boy band. Fuck, they aren’t even a metal band really at this point. There, I said it. So why the hell is this record being produced like it’s the next Ke$sha album? To add insult to injury, reports are coming in that the vinyl was most likely sourced from the same master. Oh, same is definitely true for the 24-bit/96kHz “high-res” version us Pledgers received on the day it was released. I pray the band does a postmortem analysis and really think hard about fidelity before they decide to go into the studio and record yet another homage to a random frequency range in the visible electromagnetic spectrum [My money is on orange! – Dave-Fi].

Swallow the Sun - Songs from the North

Not only does Swallow the Sun expect you to sift through 153 odd minutes of their unique brand of melodic doom/death mix, but do so with an extremely fatiguing production. Let’s break it down: the first record and arguably the only one that should have been released, clocks in at a stupid DR5. It is clearly overly compressed, but frankly, I have more problems with its god awful mix. Just listen to the drums which sit so far back that I’m not even sure at this point if that’s Juuso really playing or some session drummer warming up in the next room over. Same is true for the third album, as it too follows the same terrible production path as the first. Guitars are completely overpowering throughout, even when the source material doesn’t really warrant it. Yes, the second record which is a mix of folksy gothic rock clocks in at DR8, but I submit that its mix is just as problematic. Now the vocals dominate everything and drown out the lushness of the acoustic melodies sitting in the background. Even though I give Swallow the Sun a lot of props for having the confidence (and contract) to release a mammoth undertaking such as this one, the production of Songs from the North leaves a lot to be desired in addition to its questionable girth.

High on Fire - Luminiferous

In Grymm‘s most excellent review, he points out, “In terms of sound, Converge‘s Kurt Ballou did an impressive production job here. Matz’s bass is always audible, Kensel utterly destroys and yet the drum sound is still quite powerful and not overly bright. Pike still very much cuts through like a battle-axe, thank the gods.” Totally agree. However, as Andy777 astutely points out, “If the DR score for the past 9 albums they have released is any indication I’d say a DR5 is spot on. Plus if there was any doubt go look at the waveform on Soundcloud for the uploaded tracks, they suffer from Sausage Turd Syndrome. As one of my favorite bands it breaks my heart, but we keep on fighting.” Bingo. High on Fire records have been poster children for the Loudness War for some time now, and Luminiferous is no different. I still don’t understand why this band doesn’t warm up to the idea of adding a few points of dynamics just to give the music some modicum of realism to it. I understand they are going after an aesthetically oppressive sound, but I firmly believe that hyper-compressing each track into oblivion is the wrong way to go about it.

Melechesh - Enki

Melechesh‘s Enki is another fine example of when volume runs amok. This record suffers from Anaal Nathrakh syndrome in that Ashmedi decided that if he “pushed everything to 11” Enki would have an even greater impact on first listen. I’m here to tell you (and him) as a listener, it doesn’t.

In fact, it has just the opposite effect. Unfortunately, what he falls to grasp is that if everything is loud, nothing is. Grymm‘s great review makes the case beautifully, “Another beef I have with the album is how squashed it is sonically. While George Bokos (ex-Rotting Christ) did a good job in capturing the richness of the guitars and the pummeling of Lord Curse’s drumming, Jonas Kjellgren’s mix compressed things way too much, with bassist Scorpios taking a major hit. This wouldn’t be too big a deal if their sound wasn’t so heavily based on their tuning their instruments to 432 MHz instead of the standard A440, which is perceived to leave deeper sonic vibrations within your psyche and make the listener more attuned with the universe. Of course, when you brickwall the music so much that Nergal is shaking his head at you, it becomes moot, and it’s such a bummer as there’s a ton of rich instrumentation to be had.” What I would like to see Ashmedi do is offer the vinyl master as a digital download since it has a less crushed and a much better overall sounding master. Who’s with me?

disarmonia mundi - Cold Inferno

Meet this year’s Fleshgod Apocalypse release. Disarmonia Mundi‘s Cold Inferno sounds like hot garbage and that’s because volume was clearly the primary motivator behind every production decision made in this DR3 release. Production woes have always plagued these Italians ever since their 2004 breakout record, Fragments of a D-Generation, which clocked in at an abysmal DR4. I’m at a loss on how Ettore Rigotti, the Italian mastermind behind this project, can release a record that sounds this bad; I mean it’s literally like listening to an album recorded through a paper cup. I’m going to go out on a limb here and make the case that Rigotti seems to be more musician than producer and for whatever reason, can’t accept that fact. His last reasonably acceptable master was on his debut, 2001’s Nebularium, which clocked in at DR6 before it went all downhill from there. Cold Inferno is exactly that, production wise, and it’s a damn shame too since I think Rigotti is an extremely talented chap and if he could just let say, oh, Dan “The Man” Swanö produce his next release, it would literally be a match made in melo-death heaven. Hint, hint.

 

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  • Jm from nj

    What is the general attitude towards Vattnet Viskar’s album? I so want to get into it, but I can’t listen to it due to its production.

    • Jm from nj

      PS…I’m a newb to some references regarding sound quality, how to determine it, and what I should be looking for. Is there any basic explanation of DR quality, relative to other DR quality and how to determine what it is I am listening to?

      • Search for Dynamic Range on metal-fi dot com and you will get many articles with excellent explanations of what it is and how to measure it :)

      • Dave

        Here’s a pretty excellent primer for you. (And yes, definitely check out Metal-Fi as well) https://youtu.be/dcKDMBuGodU

        • Jm from nj

          Do all mp3’s and aac’s have decreased dynamic range due to compression?

          • Dave

            Nope. Lossy compression like MP3 or AAC are able to reduce file sizes by cutting out audio frequencies – for example everything above 16kHz. They don’t alter recorded volume or dynamic range in any way. I wrote about this subject in a lot more depth here: http://www.metal-fi.com/compression-vs-compression/

      • Jm from nj

        Thank you very much for the responses. I plan to do a little research.

        • Jm, if you have any questions, please let us know (or join the forum!).

    • Arjan Zwamborn

      Many people criticise it because of the production, but personally I am not bothered by it at all. Settler ended up being the best album of the year for me :)

      Maybe go for the CD or vinyl, rather than the digital release? Perhaps that sounds better. I hope you hang in there since the music is of rare quality.

      • tomasjacobi

        The CD is a digital release. If the vinyl has a different mastering it might sound different, but the CD will sound exactly the same as any other digital version.

    • AndySynn

      I love the album. Production doesn’t bother me either. Though I think that’s because it feels like it’s “supposed” to sound the way it does, whereas there are certain albums whose production makes me go “is this REALLY what you wanted? Seriously?”

    • Reese Burns

      In my opinion, Settler is too good to pass up, even if you’re not a fan of the production, there are some wicked ideas on that album, all pulled off amazingly.

  • Reese Burns

    Glad to see Kauan on here, getting the love it deserves! It didn’t make my end of the year list, but it’s been on rotation since it came out, a record like this just wouldn’t be possible with a DR score in the 4-6 range.

    • They don’t disappoint!

    • Dave

      Yup. The mastering on their last release was a total disaster, and I was really worried that they had fallen into the Loudness War trap. Fortunately the new one is one of their best produced albums to date.

    • Reese Burns

      Their last album was a travesty, especially considering the type of music they make. Hard to be immersed in something when it sounds like it’s coming from inside a tin can.

      • Reese, fun fact: That was the case where it was older material that had already been crushed and there was nothing they could do about it. Happens. Obviously, for the new one, they made things right again!

        • Reese Burns

          Huh, didn’t know that. Glad they fixed that with this album though, I love everything about Sorni Nai.

          • Yeah, Dave cried about it in a rant on MFi (and I DO mean literally cried) and the band responded to us privately. They are good people.

          • Reese Burns

            Hah, that’s pretty wicked, and good to hear that they respond to fans

  • groverXIII

    It blows my mind that none of the reviews I’ve seen have mentioned how absolutely awful the new Baroness album sounds. Metallica got crucified for brickwalling the shit out of Death Magnetic, but we’re willing to overlook it for Baroness?

    • Dave

      It’s too bad there’s no Guitar Hero mix for Purple, that really helped to illustrate just how bad the CD version of DM was.

    • Check Baroness’ Facebook page, there are TONS of people (including us) who have complained. Though with that said, I agree with you – it deserves more coverage.

  • Matthew

    The Baroness is tragic. The music is so, so good, but the production makes it so hard to enjoy at times. I have no idea how the band could have been happy with it.

    • Heifer Madness

      I have to agree with you and AMG. It literally makes me sad that the production is so bad, because the composition and playing is so damn good. I just wish I could enjoy it more, but the sonics make that impossible.

    • Steve

      The sludgey stuff that bands like they produce really needs a top level production, because it sounds like an utter mess otherwise.

    • Brandon Gurwitz

      Their Youtube videos say they went with a new guy for the production this time, I guess it didn’t work out that well for them.

  • AndySynn

    What, no Alkaloid? Are you deaf???

    Ok, all jokes aside, good read. Though I’m still not sure why everyone fetishises Shogun so much.

    Or why Enki was made to sound so damn LOUD!

    At least with Anaal Nathrakh they turn everything up to 11, but also occasionally find room for a 12 along the way!

    • There is no excuse for Enki. Really, none. That album was mastered way too loud and it is pretty darn obvious in our opinion.

  • It’s nice to have a few people in the so-called metal community not predictably trash Trivium.

    Each album has always been a drastic departure from the others and I find the same whiners complaining each time no matter what they do. For me personally I find their “inconsistency” to be one of the main reasons why I can’t grow bored of their output.

    Maybe if bigger bands like Trivium lead the way on listenable production it can trickle down to all the “Tr00 Metal Blogger Approved” bands and everyone can benefit.

    • Dave

      This one was an easy choice for us. Whether you’re a Trivium fan or not, the truth is that this album sounds better than 99.9% of releases from this year, or from this decade for that matter. We had to give them credit for having the guts to go dynamic instead of taking the easy DR6 route like everyone else.

      We can only hope that when bands like Trivium, While Heaven Wept etc take the lead on this others will start to look at it as a viable option. Some engineers have predicted that “Soundcheck will end the loudness wars” or “Youtube gain matching will end the loudness wars” but it’s not going to stop because of some technical change. The bands themselves have to learn that we, the fans, want albums produced the way they were prior to 1993.

  • Diego Molero

    Question: could you have an album with lets say a DR11 and still sound bad?

    • Kalsten

      Define “sound bad”.

      DR is about dynamic range. Lets say, the difference between the highest and the quietest sounds of the song. But if your guitar sounds like shit, even if the dynamic range is ok, your guitar would sound like shit. The same if the singer does not how to sing, or the drummer doesn’t know how to follow the rhythm.

      • Diego Molero

        No i don’t mean in terms of good or bad music. I mean, could you have DR11 and still end up in the worst sounding records of the year?

        • Kronos

          Early black metal records all sound like shit and they’re pre-loudness war.

          • Diego Molero

            But thats because they do have a low DR score, or not?

          • Kronos

            I think they’re generally around a DR 10 level, they’re just really poorly recorded.

          • Ernesto Aimar

            They do indeed, but some of their magic resides in that, I guess. Make Emperor’s “In the Nightside Eclipse” sound with crystal clear production and I’m not so confident it will uphold it’s true magic.

            Let me join with another doubt. I have always wanted to compare different albums by level matching them, but I don’t really know how to do it (which software to use, etc). If anyone can give me a hint I would me more than grateful

          • Dave

            Metal-Fi to the rescue! http://www.metal-fi.com/check-wreck/

          • I just want to comment if you are looking for well produced black metal – some of the Watain records are great and so is Serpents Lair record on my top 10 list this year (yeah, yeah, it was also produced by Watain’s sound guy as well). Also the last Shining records are very well done.

          • Wilhelm

            some of them have low dynamics, intentionally to give it a claustrophobic sound.

          • You can have claustrophobic sound without bricking it.

        • Dave

          The example I always use is Metallica’s And Justice For All. It was badly mixed (Newsted was mixed out entirely) and terribly recorded. Sounds MUCH worse than Master Of Puppets, and when it was released in 1988, it was DR12. You can definitely have a dynamic, yet bad sounding record.

          • Diego Molero

            Thanks, that clear it up. And what about a poorly dynamic but good sounding album?

          • tomasjacobi

            There a lots of examples. Bare in mind that almost everything (probably more than 90%) in the realm of pop, rock and metal released nowadays is mastered with a dynamic range of 6 dB or less. Often it sounds perfectly fine anyway, but VERY often when you get a lower score than DR6 it’s obvious that the music would have sounded better with a less loud mastering. To my ears, the most obvious result of overcompression is that the drums (especially the snare drum) sound flat and lifeless after having been squashed with digital limiting.

          • tomas is spot on.

          • Dave

            Check out a lot of the stuff Dan Swano has engineered – like the recent Omnium Gatherum albums. Beyond is something like DR5 if I recall correctly, and sounds fairly decent. Obviously nowhere near as good as it *could be* if it was DR8+, but that decision wasn’t up to Dan. He is very good though at knowing how to get the most out of very limited DR space.

          • Diego Molero

            I see. I will check that out. Thanks for clearing the doubts!

          • Wilhelm

            Maybe I’m the only one, but I loved the production of AJFA; I don’t even really miss the bass because the album was so aesthetically unique. I also would say the mix is not bad, everything is in its right spot, except for Jason.

    • tomasjacobi

      Absolutely. If an album is poorly recorded and/or badly mixed it will sound bad no matter what.
      I would say that a good mastering can slightly improve the sound whereas a bad (overcompressed) mastering can really ruin things.

  • SegaGenitals

    I am no audio-geek, but as a long time Intronaut fan, the latest album sounds way too overproduced– too much DT influence. Also, the recent Obsequiae sounds MASSIVE through my Bose headphones.

    • I agree about Obsequiae. It is a GREAT sounding record and definitely could have made this list (it’s a bit more obscure which hurts it – don’t forget, we freely admit that we have an agenda with this list too).

    • Dave

      Intronaut was one that we struggled with, but in my opinion, songs like “The Unlikely Event of a Water Landing” were enough to give it the nod. It’s just damn good.

  • Ernesto Aimar

    Even when it’s review here was not that optimist, I really think Riverside’s album sounds amazing. It’s a huge pleasure listening to that album, every instrument has an incredible sound. I do agree that vocals are perhaps way to upfront, but It doesn’t damages the overall experience to me.

    • Dave

      With the exception of ADHD which for whatever reason Riverside decided not to record with their usual engineers at their usual studio, all of their past albums have been at least fairly dynamic and have sounded pretty good. The latest one is solid, just not quite good enough to make one of the 5 slots.

    • I agree Ernesto, the Riverside album is a great sounding record nonetheless. Though I’m not sure at this point it is even remotely metal.

  • Vice-President of Hell

    enki sound bad? i must be a fucking deaf. little overgained, but still a very huge.

    • Not on my system unfortunately.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    No Tetragrammacide?

    • Reese Burns

      We don’t speak of Tetragramicide.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      I personally thought it was a wonderful, sonic exploration of the human condition

      *adjusts suspenders*

    • Who?

      • André Snyde Lopes

        I invite you to input the string “0.0” in the search bar up top. It should be the first result.

        • Who? (maybe one more round of this will both get the point across I’m making and a little laughter from you)

          • André Snyde Lopes

            I had this sinking feeling… But somethings are best forgotten. Like last night.. hm..

          • Remind me that for S&G’s to post about Tetragrammacide as best sounding record of the year come April 1st, 2016!

  • tomasjacobi

    I completely disagree about “Songs from the North”. No doubt the mastering would have been better with more dynamics, but everything else is fine; I don’t have any issues with the mix at all.

    I can see why people think the record(s) is too long and bloated, but I really don’t think it belongs on a “Worst sounding records” list.

  • burialxchamber

    I’ve been really trying to enjoy Hope Drone’s ‘Cloak of Ash’ but the vocals seemed to be buried in the mix. After reading this and checking, a DR of 4.6 makes sense. Interesting stuff, could become a new obsession. Thanks.

    • Kronos

      They are indeed buried, but since it’s such an atmospheric album, it doesn’t bother me.

  • Luke_22

    Great write-up. With all the stuff I listened to this year, Horrendous had the best production and Baroness the worst. Purple is so damn good that it makes me angry the production is so terrible.

    • “Purple” is just a horrible sounding record on practically every level. I think if fans level match it with any of their previous records, it’s kinda obvious.

      There is one comment about someone playing it in their radio and they thought their radio was busted. I kinda laughed at that one.

  • Wilhelm

    just a few thoughts

    1.Production/mastering is literally the first thing I notice about an album and it’s as important as the music itself, I love this site for that reason.
    2. I’m glad you didn’t pick Shape of Despair’s release for the worst, it had a low DR score but I don’t think it effected the album at all (masterpiece).
    3. I have a new found respect for Trivium’s philosophy, I just they could write a decent song.
    4) Really? Dan Swano? he remastered Desultory’s “Bitterness” (one of my favorite albums) and took the DR10 to a DR5. I would be wary about his “skills”

    • tomasjacobi

      About 5. You have to realise that mastering engineers are people who have to make a living. If Dan was given the “Bitterness” album and told by the band or label to make it “competitively loud” then he has to do it or they’ll just find another engineer.

      • Wilhelm

        Sorry, there’s no excuse for a bad sounding album. Swano is a respected metal legend/producer and people probably don’t give him many rules to follow. I could see pushing up the loud a notch or two but halving the DR score is ridiculous and it sounds terrible.

        • tomasjacobi

          Mastering engineers are guns for hire. Swanö has been outspoken about dynamics so if he’s doing crushed masters it’s because that’s what he was paid to do. Even with his own bands Witherscape and Nightingale, Century Media demanded DR6 mastering for the CD; luckily he was able to talk them into including the dynamic vinyl masters as mp3 files stored on the CD’s. He is also responsible for Vainaja recently releasing the more dynamic vinyl master of “Kadotetut” on Bandcamp, so the man deserves some credit!

          • Wilhelm

            He definitely has an arsenal of good sounding recordings under his belt which is baffling why he chooses to crush dynamics on recent albums but I guess that explains it, sadly so.

          • Dave

            Trust me, Dan never does a DR5 because he wants to, and he certainly doesn’t release his own work at DR5-6 levels because he likes it that way. The rules come down from the band, the label, or both, and he does the best he can.

          • Jaba

            The Kadotetut vinyl master sounds amazing, thanks for pointing it out!

    • funeraldoombuggy

      The new Shape of Despair album is a masterpiece! It delivered and was worth the wait. By far my fav album this year.

      • buggy, I feel bad that I haven’t even heard this one yet. Epic fail on my part.

    • tomasjacobi

      Just noticed your no. 4: The My Dying Bride is most certainly not DR10. The CD and download version has an avarage of DR6 with some tracks at DR5. Apparently there was an unmastered promo that was circulated prior to release which was more dynamic.

      • Wilhelm

        I’ll look into this, thanks!

        • tomasjacobi

          Well, I was referring to the postings on the Dynamic Range Database where the DR9 is listed as “unmastered promo” and the DR6 is listed as “final loud master”. But if you have the actual CD then I guess that settles it :-)

          • Wilhelm

            Ah I see, they actually put out a deluxe edition with some of Andrew’s (guitarist) mixes, which are not as dynamic as the rest of the album, so maybe they measured that along with it. I should write to them =)

  • Heifer Madness

    I have to STRONGLY disagree with placing Luminiferous in the “worst” ranking. As noted, all the instruments and vocals are well balanced, audible, and the songwriting helps as well to make sure everything is complementary. Just because Pike & co use a lot of fuzz and play heavy and loud does not mean they sound bad. The sound has texture and personality. Low DR does not always mean a bad-sounding record.

    • Yes, I agree, Kurt’s mix is great. Fuzz does not mean compression. Heavy and loud does not mean brickwall.

      The HoF records in general though are not well mastered in our opinion by any stretch of the imagination. I think if you level matched this record with other records of its ilk, you’ll understand exactly why it’s on this list.

      At least Heifer you are talking about it…mission accomplished!

    • Dave

      There are bands that do lots of fuzz and play heavy *without* resorting to crushing everything to death. In fact, Tempel’s latest, The Moon Lit Our Path, is fuzzy, heavy, and loud, and though it didn’t make the final top five, we did consider it as an option for best of the year. This type of sound can be done well. HoF, in our opinion, didn’t do it well.

      https://youtu.be/k970Xe3_BU0

  • beurbs

    Seems odd to leave out “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” since it was arguably one of the best sounding records of any genre this year.

    • Our list is very metal focused. I’d love to put Mozaic’s Sunset in the 12th House on this list too. But it doesn’t pass the litmus test for metal.

      • beurbs

        Ah, I wasn’t aware it was a metal only list.

  • Lasse Momme

    That’s an interesting list man, kinda surprised Steven Wilson didn’t make it to the top though. Hand.Cannot.Erase. is probably my favorite sounding record of the year.

    • It’s not metal. I KNOW it sounds lame, but them be the rules.

    • Dave

      I thought about it, but as Alex said, for us this list has to be best sounding *metal*. Aside from that, we think it’s beneficial to highlight great production from areas you might not necessarily expect (such as Trivium this year). Everybody already knows that Steven Wilson productions are going to be great.

  • manimal

    I contend that your worst-of list, good sir, is incomplete without Autokrator’s self-titled album.

    It’s so pancaked that the transients and cosmic background radiation are more or less on the same level.

    It makes Anaal Nathrak’s albums sound like subtle, dynamic masterpieces.

    Do check it out. You’ll be delighted.

    • manimal, that third sentence about AN literally made me LOL.

      • Kronos

        It’s even worse than he says.

        • I am streaming it on Spotify now. Wish I had a high-res version of it. LOL. This is hilarious.

  • funeraldoombuggy

    Yes, the Intronaut album sounds pretty good but I wanted to hear more of the bassist.

    Also, I’ve got to strongly disagree with the remarks about not being able to hear StS drums. They are plenty present. remarking that the first disc is the only one they should have release is a little ridiculous; you might not be a big funeral doom fan but you can’t deny that disc 3 at the very least has some noteworthy moments and from reading the comments on the review y’all did it seems a lot of folk were actually really into it.
    I do agree that StS needs to ease back on the compression overall.

    • No, hold on. You misunderstood me (and so did tomas to some degree).

      I’m saying the first record is the only one that should have been released as “Songs from the North.” If they wanted to do two follow up records called “Songs from the South” and “Songs from West” I would be fine with that.

      But the fact is 153 minutes with this kind of mix and master is really unforgivable in our eyes.

  • This is good, but I do think that both Hand. Cannot. Erase. and Our Oceans belong somewhere here. Maybe the latter not in a Top 5, but definitely a top 10. But Steven Wilson’s newest record is excellent. He’s probably the best active producer in progressive music.

    Also, I listened to that Trivium record after seeing it on this list, and I kind of have to give that band props. The album sounds good and I enjoyed it a lot more than I was expecting. I guess I’ll have to be keeping my eyes out for their stuff in the future.

    • The problem with those two records are neither of them are metal. Sorry.

      • Bah!

        • You do realize you are about this –>||<— close from having the metal police show up, raid your servers, and forcibly change the name of this site to "Angry Kinda-Metal Guy." Caveat emptor.

          • I think the complaint is legit in this case. We’re focusing on dynamics in metal. Well-produced progressive records have existed and will exist, while metal has gone up its ass.

            The problem is that bands like Haken and Soen are still putting out records that are crushed to fuck when they’re making dynamic, progressive music/metal. Soooo…

          • You got it! Adding Wilson on this list adds ZERO to the conversation. And I do mean ZERO. As you stated, there are TONS of great sounding prog/indie rock albums in addition to “Hand. To. The. Face.”

            I was even hesitant last year to put Opeth on last year’s list because of its proggy-ness.

            I agree about Haken and Tool. However, our focus is strictly metal at this point.

          • Dave

            Haken’s latest release sounds excellent on wax. I finally gave in and spent $80 to get one of the original 500 pressed…. RIGHT before they repressed the album. GRRRRRRRRRR…..

          • Aw man! That sucks. But man, I’m betting it sounds amazing…

          • Dave

            It do. There’s a vinyl rip on Youtube that you can check out. Few clicks and pops here and there during the quiet sections, but nothing bad at all, and it blows the CD away.

          • Jaba

            After reading this post I consider myself very lucky…they played a few months ago in Amsterdam and I got the vinyl for 20 EUR from the merch guy. It does sound amazing!

  • brutal_sushi

    I can’t stop listening to Sorni Nai. Fantastic production, fantastic writing. Kauan rule.

    • Kauan does indeed rule.

    • unsound

      I’m also very glad that the Kauan record was mentioned here. I had never heard this band before, and AMG never seems to have reviewed this record (or any of their previous ones). Still, this is one of the best records I’ve heard in a while.

    • RuySan

      Kauan are great, and their albums are ‘Pay what you want’ on Bandcamp. Blood Music also publishes some great limited edition albums.

      Doesn’t Blood Msuic send their promos to AMG? Because they have a very interesting roster.

  • Grymm

    I’m kinda surprised that Vattnet Viskar’s Settler didn’t make the worst-sounding list.

  • Levly

    I wished ALL bands would put the vinyl version of their records up for download. Do they think that only those with the time, space and money to invest in a good vinyl installation and hunt for records enjoy good sounding music?! Plus I’m sure many people would be willing to pay for a high DR version of albums they love rather than pirate them in their normal format… Truly a win-win situation here, hope it’ll happen one day!

    • Dave

      That’s pretty much why we started Metal-Fi in the first place. Still trying to change one mind at a time.

      • Levly

        Then I thank you deeply and pray for the best in your righteous crusade :).

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    I give the nod to Blackie. Babylon is the best sounding album of the year, DR7 if I remember correctly.

  • Really enjoyed the article. Thanks for the recommendation of Kauan, as bandcamp name your price deals are something I likey. Also, I keep coming back to that Native Construct album repeatedly, it sounds so….dynamic!

    • Awesome record all around.

  • Andre Dupuis

    No love for Subterranean Masquerade’s The Great Bazaar… Great album, great dynamics…. great bazaar!

    • Dave

      I really enjoyed that album. The CD is decent enough, but it’s only *great* on wax.

  • The Metal-Fi About page on DR has full links with instructions as well.

  • Nag Dammit

    Have to agree on the Luminiferous thing. Great record, amazing riffs, murderous drums but turn the thing up in my car to a respectable volume and it sounds like I’m playing a recording of the worlds loudest farts through cheap, aftermarket bass bins. It upsets me that due to me being a penniless layabout, I will only ever listen to this album through pathetic iPhone ear buds. Boo hoo. Whine over.

  • GREEN MIST BLINDS

    No matter what I do blind guardians beyond the red door, which is a great album, sounds off.

  • Ozan Yavuzbilge

    imo trivium’s album is overly compressed and sounds extremly weak.

  • sicknick

    I don’t know much about production, but everything in the last Stratovarius album sounds too loud to me, expecially the keys. Plus, it sounds kinda messy whenever there’s a choir (the “we are what we leave behind” in Shine in the Dark is probably the worst offender).

    I’d like to hear what an expert has to say.