METALLICA: 'Death Magnetic' Sound Quality Controversy Focus Of BBC RADIO 4 Report

"You and Yours", a British radio consumer affairs program broadcast on BBC Radio 4, has aired a segment on the fan-generated controversy over the audio quality of METALLICA's new album, "Death Magnetic". Among those interviewed for the show was Ian Shepherd, a mastering engineer and DVD author at Sound Recording Technology (SRT).

Listen to the segment in two parts below.

Several articles from both the mainstream press and recording industry web sites have discussed the album in context of the so-called "Loudness Wars," a term used by UK publication The Guardian, which claims that the music industry is trying to make recordings as loud as possible mainly to stand out on radio.

An audio clip has surfaced on YouTube comparing music from the "Death Magnetic" CD to tracks from the album used for Guitar Hero, which were prepared differently. A number of fans prefer the Guitar Hero versions.

A petition circulated by some fans asking the band to remix the CD has gathered several thousand signatures, although they are dwarfed by the more than a million copies the CD has sold in the U.S. since going on sale September 12.

Ted Jensen, the engineer who mastered the album at Sterling Sound in New York, recently responded to fan complaints that the CD is too loud and the audio is pushed to distortion levels by writing, "I'm certainly sympathetic to your reaction, I get to slam my head against that brick wall every day. In this case the mixes were already brick-walled before they arrived at my place. Suffice 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."

Mastering is the process of preparing and transferring recorded audio from a source containing the final mix to a data storage device, the "master," from which all copies will be produced.

Blame for the sound quality has been laid at the feet of the band itself, producer Rick Rubin and his recording engineer, Greg Fidelman.

In a recent interview with Blender.com, METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich responded to the complaints by saying, "Listen, there's nothing up with the audio quality. It's 2008, and that's how we make records. Rick Rubin's whole thing is to try and get it to sound lively, to get it to sound loud, to get it to sound exciting, to get it to jump out of the speakers. Of course, I've heard that there are a few people complaining. But I've been listening to it the last couple of days in my car, and it sounds fuckin' smokin'.

"Somebody told me about [people complaining that the Guitar Hero version of 'Death Magnetic' sounds better]. Listen, what are you going to do? A lot of people say [the CD] sounds great, and a few people say it doesn't, and that's OK. You gotta remember, when we put out '...And Justice for All', people were going, 'What happened to these guys, this record? There's no bass on it. It sounds like it was recorded in a fuckin' garage on an eight-track.' And now '...And Justice for All' is sort of the seminal METALLICA record that supposedly influenced a whole generation of death-metal bands. The difference between back then and now is the Internet.

"The Internet gives everybody a voice, and the Internet has a tendency to give the complainers a louder voice. Listen, I can't keep up with this shit. Part of being in METALLICA is that there's always somebody who's got a problem with something that you're doing: 'James Hetfield had something for breakfast that I don't like.' That's part of the ride.

"I will say that the overwhelming response to this new record has exceeded even our expectations as far as how positive it is. So I'm not gonna sit here and get caught up in whether [the sound] 'clips' or it doesn't 'clip.' I don't know what kind of stereos these people listen on. Me and James made a deal that we would hang back a little and not get in the way of whatever Rick's vision was. That's not to put it on him — it's our record, I'll take the hit, but we wanted to roll with Rick's vision of how METALLICA would sound."

Part 1:

Part 2:

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