Monday, August 01, 2011

A Renewal

To those who've visited while I've been slacking. I apologize. Good news everyone: Band Chat's back! But this time it's in Turbo 256-3D-Pro-GTX-Modern Form. Come follow me over at the new location and remember what you've been missing.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Short Takes: Black Gives Way to Blue

Black Gives Way to BlueYesterday Alice In Chains released their long awaited new record, Black Gives Way to Blue. It's good, but, not surprisingly, missing the gnarl and snarl of their previous work. Nothing quite explodes off the page like the opening riff of "Dam That River" or has the massive stomp of "We Die Young." Yet it does have some good slow 'n' sludgy burners ("Check My Brain", "Lesson Learned", "Take Her Out"), haunting ballads a la the Sap and Jar of Flies EPs ("Your Decision"), plus that classic Alice In Chains tone. Recommended.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Black Sabbath at the Wallingford, CT Chevrolet Theater, 08/27/2009

Heaven & HellI refuse to call them Heaven & Hell; get over it.

I think the last time I saw a band at this theater was the mid 80s, when it was called the Oakdale, across the street, in the round, and John Sebastian and Weird Al were playing (yes, Al puts on a good show). Only a mere five years ago the venue was mostly used for various trade shows, so if I wanted to pick up some gray market computer games or a cheap network card, it was the place to be.

And now one can see bona fide decent music there. I've seen Ozzy solo, Dio solo, and even Sabbath with Ozzy a few times, but Sabbath with Dio has always escaped me, so it was time to fill a hole in my concert going experience.

I knew I wouldn't be disappointed before the show started, what with the two huge gargoyles with glowing red eyes flanking the stage, and crystal balls grasped by bony skeleton fingers all over the place. That decor, plus the lack of huge buckets of water, clearly meant Ozzy wasn't going to make a guest appearance.

Dio was his usual polite self, exchanging hand shakes with the audience, pumping the devil horns triumphantly forth, and making all the right gestures when singing about wheels, circles, and anything vaguely round.

Lately I've been impressed with the sound quality of the last few concerts I've attended. Everything was in perfect balance here, with all instruments, plus Dio's voice, never fighting for ultimate control. The standards from Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules sounded as good as one expects, and the tunes from Dehumanizer got some extra heft since the reverb that drenches that album was peeled away. Iommi's main riff of "I" sounded particularly mighty, and hearing "Time Machine" was a pleasant surprise. "Heaven and Hell" went on (and on and on) for about three hours, and while I can't say I was ever bored listening to it (Iommi and Geezer really show no sign of aging when it comes to deftly coloring outside the standard rock music lines), I also can't say I would've been disappointed if they had shortened it a tad to make room for "Voodoo" and "Sign of the Southern Cross".

Vinny Appice was the usual rock while drumming, and while people enjoyed his solo, it's always difficult for me to watch this sort of thing. It's hard to live up to a guy I've seen perform a dozen times who's got a whole DVD dedicated to constructing drum solos.

The only improvement I'd suggest to the band is to beef up their video screen entertainment. It was a nice LCD, but they couldn't have paid more than five dollars to some grubby 13 year old to come up with the CGI that was displayed on it. Most of the time it was by the numbers animation of lightning, rain, clouds, canyons, and crosses. When it wasn't, we got treated to ten panel looped animations of the album cover mascots. Life for me just isn't the same after seeing the Live Evil knight swing his sword aimlessly left and right for five minutes straight.

The only thing worse than these animations was the opening band, Coheed and Cambria. I think I was supposed to like them, going by the likes of their Rush-y progressive style, plus well executed guitar solos (very creamy tone coming from their Flying Vs), but it was far too emo for my taste. Their cover of Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" is quite good, but man is it emo-fied.

The final song, however, is what did me in permanently. They took every cheesy rock staple they could think of: the theremin, the talk box, and using a drum stick as a guitar pick, then lambasted the audience with this nonsense. If they were good at using any of these trite devices, that would help, but I'd much rather hear Jimmy Page on the theremin, David Gilmour on the talk box, and Thurston Moore wack on his ax with the sticks (he knows how to wedge them in the guitar neck...a key to stage coolness). At the end they topped it off by attempting to coax feedback from their amps in some kind of weird tribute to Kurt Cobain, but were largely unsuccessful, and left the stage noiseless.

Set List:

The Mob Rules
Children of the Sea
Bible Black
Time Machine
Falling Off the Edge of the World
Follow the Tears
Die Young
Heaven and Hell

Country Girl (edit)
Neon Knights

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Digitally Louder Beatles Coming In September

"Engineers used de-noising technology and cleaned up glitches like electrical clicks and microphone vocal pops, so long as it didn't affect the original integrity of the songs. They also slightly boosted the volume levels."

Ooh, yay.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Faith No More to Reunite For Tour

Angel DustThis clinches it; 80s and 90s alterna-metal is back in full swing. Sadly, original guitarist Jim Martin won't be joining them, since the band is opting to use the lineup that recorded their final record, Album of the Year. Martin always has his pumpkin growing to fall back on.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Quick Takes - No Line On the Horizon

No Line On the HorizonDue to the recent leak of U2's No Line On the Horizon (the current theory is that Universal Music Australia had it for sale online by accident), the powers that be have made it available, legally, at their MySpace page.

It's a strong release, but what I find curious about it is that it isn't exactly a large musical departure for them, even though everything that's been said about it up to this point led me to believe otherwise. Sure, we get some unusually minor key feel via rockers like "Get On Your Boots" (including a midpoint drum break which reminds of Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks"), but the rest is mostly a mish-mash of U2's last two albums peppered with a bit of techno a la Achtung Baby.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The title track is a space-y number with catchy sing-along bits ("Oh whoah oh whoah oh whoah oh-oooh!"). "Magnificent" begins with a foghorn inspired guitar line, is followed up by some Pop-esque keyboards, before exploding into a standard Larry Mullen drum roll and The Edge's trademarked delay-ridden arpeggio picking. And for those who truly dig songs like "Stuck In a Moment", that's here too, via "Moment of Surrender" (which has a very effective, restrained, slide guitar solo), and "White as Snow" (with horns that remind one of "Love Rescue Me"). Bono's lyrics? U2 fans are all familiar with his wordplay by now, and it hasn't gotten stale here.

What stood out to me was the excellent flow of the album. I don't think they've ever produced a record that segued so well track after track. For that reason, it's almost concept album in feel, and that goes a long way towards making Horizon a very pleasant listening experience. So kudos to Eno and Lanois for that touch, but a big minus for not caring enough that any dynamics that were in the album (and there were) are lost in the compression.

The bottom line is that this is clearly a U2 album, so it will go over well with anyone who's enjoyed the band's last two releases, but its contents aren't going to turn the music world upside-down. This is truly ok with me: they already did that in the 80s, so I don't expect it again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

nin and Jane's Addiction to Tour

JAThink they'll honor my tickets for the JA show that got canceled around the time Dave Navarro divorced Carmen Electra? I didn't think so. At least I'll have some time to figure out how to secure tickets. With luck it'll be more than one show in CA. And this better happen quick...before JA remembers why they dislike Eric A so much.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Sabbath Album to Be Released This Spring

Black SabbathBillboard is reporting that Heaven and Hell (i.e. Black Sabbath with Dio) will release an album of brand new songs, The Devil You Know, on April 28th. Blabbermouth has a number of further details, including song titles, plus the news that a fair amount of it will sound like their last full album, 1992's Dehumanizer.

I admit that I've started to appreciate Dehumanizer as the years have gone on, but it's still very pale compared to Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules. It plods just a bit too much, and sadly, that feel is very present on their three latest songs (found on their The Dio Years collection). But I have faith that as long as there's at least a few references to rainbows, circles, chains, keys, darkness and light, or at least doorways, then we'll have something worth listening to.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Metallica at the TD Banknorth Center, 01/18/2009; Prudential Center, 01/31/2009

JaymzI haven't seen Metallica live since the Load days, nor been too upset by this, considering their material hasn't made me jump up and down with glee in a while. But their latest, Death Magnetic, really is an excellent release, so I jumped at the chance to catch them on this tour.

I had the good fortune to catch them twice: from the 4th row on the floor in Boston, and from the 8th row in a section right next to the stage in Newark (big thanks to Mark Yarm and Blender magazine). Much like the gigs they did for "The Black Album", the band is "in the round" for this tour, meaning that the stage is in the very center of the auditorium. James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, and Robert Trujillo run all over the place so everyone gets a chance to see them throughout the night, plus Lars Ulrich and his drum set rotate every few songs as well. In theory this sounds great, but in actuality there's quite a few times where the band can't be seen because they're across the stage or their backs are to you.

Fortunately the band was in top form, so even if there were times when one couldn't see them, the audience was still treated to an excellent performance. Six songs from the album with "the little coffin on it" were played, and while a lot of people hate it when bands play new material, I felt they went over really well with the crowd. There was no shortage of fan favorites either, with "One", "Enter Sandman", and "Master of Puppets" really getting huge reactions. And the truly faithful were treated to some extra goodies, with "...And Justice For All" being played in full, plus "Ride the Lighning" and "Blitzkrieg" making appearances in Newark.

What really impressed me during these shows was just how much fun the band was having, and how hard they worked to engage the audience. I've now seen Metallica half a dozen times, and they are one of the few bands (I'd put U2 on this very short list) that are flawless in just about every way live. They are true professionals: they play well, have great stage presence, engage the audience in a genuine matter, and make it all seem effortless. In Newark they even pulled an eight year old boy out of the audience onto the stage. The look of awe on his face as Lars pointed out the immense size of the audience to him was priceless, which continued as Lars sat him down on the drum kit for photos, then let him do the intro cymbal hits to "Seek & Destroy".

James light heartedly encouraged passing the heavy metal down to future generations by telling the boy to come on back when he has children of his own since, "We'll still be here." Judging by the energy I saw those two nights, I don't doubt it.

(For more information, set lists, and full downloads (mp3 and flac) for all shows Metallica has played lived on this tour, visit

Thursday, October 23, 2008

AC/DC's Black Ice: What Did You Expect?

Black IceI've been on something of an AC/DC kick ever since snippets of their newest, Black Ice, started hitting the tubes. Truth be told, it's only over the past few years that I've started to appreciate the band beyond the perennial favorite Back In Black. Sure, "Thunderstruck" will probably always be my favorite tune by them (who are we kidding; it's the best song they ever wrote), but it's rather impossible to put in a classic album like Highway to Hell and shut it off. It's one foot stompin' good tune after another.

So the answer to the big question, "Is Black Ice a worthy addition to their catalog?" is a yes. As per the course for an AC/DC album, it blasts forth immediately with the crush of "Rock N Roll Train" and "Big Jack," then settles in nicely via their unique brand of pop courtesy of "Anything Goes". Angus Young's leads slash like a knife through Malcom's tight rhythms and sound renewed. Fear not: it's an AC/DC record.

Sure my wife's comment about "Train"( "That's 0ld sk00l.") is beyond apt, since the band hasn't really changed much since 1980. Would it hurt Phil Rudd so much if he played a drum fill every so often? If Malcom used a guitar effect? Hell, I'd be appreciative if they could at least get back the really big drum sound of the For Those About to Rock album.

Initially, regardless of the relative strength of the songs, like others I was about to dismiss the album as nothing more than "just another post-Flick of the Switch AC/DC album". Enter oddity: Black Ice is a beastly 55 minutes long, so for the crazy among us, it does invite some deeper examination. In my opinion, no AC/DC album should push past 40 minutes, so this can initially be a bit tough to take. But after a while you realize that at the midpoint, when most current AC/DC material begins to falter, this album gets some extra juice in the tank. It's hard to not smile during Angus's slinky Led Zeppelin slidework on "Stormy May Day", or Cliff Williams's funky bass on "She Likes Rock N Roll". It's touches like these that make one realize, "Hrm, maybe this band has evolved."

So for a big taste of the old, and maybe just a hint of new, take the surreal experience of visiting the "Rock Band AC/DC Store" within your local Wal-Mart, and grab a copy of Black Ice. Hell, at under $10 for the rest of their catalog, pick up a ton of their other discs el cheapo while you're at it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Chinese Democracy" Hits the Airwaves

Chinese DemocracyAxl Rose's overwrought new song, "Chinese Democracy," hit radio stations today, and you can listen to it (if you haven't already downloaded the leaked version) via imeem. I personally like it, and feel the solo is cool, even if a bit of it is Rage Against the Machine-y.

Preorder the CD or vinyl via Best Buy if you dare.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rush: Retrospective 3 to Feature Remixed Vapor Trails Tunage?

StarmanThe Rush Is a Band blog is reporting that the latest Rush "best of" package will contain remixed and remastered versions of two Vapor Trails songs. My research has shown that a lot of the damage to this album was done during the recording stage, but if they've been able to improve upon it at all, is it too much to ask for a redo of the entire album?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Free Dr. Pepper For GnR Fans?

Dr. PepperWay back in the Spring, DPSU stated that a free Dr. Pepper would be available to all who wanted one if the new Guns N' Roses album, Chinese Democracy, came out this year. Unbelievably, it looks like they're going to have to make good on their claim.

It appears that Axl's management has yet to officially announce the release date, but there have been enough leaks regarding the exclusive launch via Best Buy that (and I say this with true sincerity) it's hard to believe it isn't going to happen. Is Duke Nukem Forever far behind?

Iced Earth at the Worcester Palladium, 10/15/2008

Lately I've seen the same bands in concert over and over again, so I was quite excited when I learned that Iced Earth, a band I have never seen live, was going to be on a headlining tour across America. I've seen snippets of their performances on video, plus own enough live material (including the excellent three disc version of Alive In Athens) to generally know what to expect, but that didn't curb my enthusiasm for the night.

First, I was a bit surprised at how many people showed up to see them. The club was pretty full, which is impressive for a band that doesn't receive one bit of radio airplay. The crowd was respectful towards the opening bands, but were clearly getting impatient once those sets were done and the club started pumping Iron Maiden songs ("Afraid to Shoot Strangers" being one of them; yes, quite an unusual choice) through the monitors.

Iced Earth's unveiling at the stage could only have been improved upon by Judas Priest or, well, Spinal Tap. As they stood solemnly in the darkness, a humongous banner of Set Abominae (via the album cover of The Crucible of Man) rose behind them while a recording of "In Sacred Flames" played. When complete, the band burst ferociously into "Behold the Wicked Child", the first rocker off their latest release.

I found the sound a bit mushy for the first few songs, but by the time the band paused, then introduced and launched into the chug-a-thon of "Burning Times," my fears regarding sound quality were put to rest. Throughout this song, and especially the faster galloping of songs like "Vengeance Is Mine", "Stormrider", and "Ten Thousand Strong", Iced Earth mainman Jon Schaffer's riffage on his Gibson Les Pauls and Explorers was tight and controlled. Troy Seele's solos were well played, which was welcome considering he didn't go out of his way to preen for the audience. Too bad the sound guy was probably told "Jon must be louder than everyone else," because the lead levels definitely weren't at the right volume until the encore.

I'd be shirking my duties if I didn't mention the excellent frontman work done by Matt Barlow, who recently returned to Iced Earth following Tim Owens' recent departure. Fan favorite Barlow commanded the stage, authoritatively belting out tunes that spanned across four singers worth of albums, and deftly engaged the audience during band breaks.

Although songs played came from the entirety of Iced Earth's long career, there were a greater amount played from Something Wicked, only one from The Dark Saga, and sadly, none whatsoever from Burnt Offerings (further proof that Schaffer really does hate this point of his recording career). We did get treated to a triumphant "High Water Mark", the highlight of their Gettysburg trilogy, even if the tune is a bit pompous to ever take completely seriously. But that kind of stuff is thoroughly enjoyable in a live setting, and the crowd ate it up. Also of note was a touching rendition of "Watching Over Me", a song Schaffer wrote for his childhood friend who came up with the band name before dying in an unfortunate motorcycle accident.

Set List:

In Sacred Flames
Behold the Wicked Child
Motivation of Man
Setian Massacre
Burning Times
Declaration Day
Vengeance Is Mine
Ten Thousand Strong
Pure Evil
Watching Over Me
The Coming Curse
I Walk Alone
High Water Mark

Melancholy (Holy Martyr)
My Own Savior
Iced Earth

Monday, September 29, 2008

Blender Interviews Lars On Death Magnetic Sound Quality

Blender was able to speak to Lars Ulrich and directly ask about Death Magnetic's sound quality, but sadly, he just isn't seeing it. The H-Man's take:

Of course it sounds good on a car stereo. The music was mixed to be the background in your life. Cars inherently are noisy, so it's much more difficult to pick up the distortion that's going on underneath the music. It sounds fine on my car stereo too. No matter what extra crap is happening around you, the music is just pumping along at loud volumes and it's hard to notice unless you know what to look for. If I was in the car with Lars, however, I'd be able to point out to him which parts suck, thus, he'd have a harder time ducking the issue.

It's too bad Lars probably hasn't listened to the Guitar Hero mix. If he had it, and cranked it up, even he'd hear how much more dynamic it is. The GH mix has punch, detail, plus very little haze and fuzzy distortion artifacts, compared to the CD and vinyl versions.

And of course Lars had to throw ...And Justice For All into the argument, which proves he doesn't understand our grievance. The Justice issue is a case of production. The guitars and drums are thin, and the bass is too low in the mix. But that was a production choice by Flemming Rasmussen that ended up not working out. In terms of sound quality, that album sounds great. You can crank the volume on a stereo, radio, whatever, and it comes alive. No extraneous artifacts or noise that makes the album grating. If Metallica had kept the volume level of Death Magnetic the same as it is on Justice, no one would be complaining.

So people out in 'Net land: don't let Lars try to convince you that the people complaining about Justice is comparable. It's not. Different type of problem. Production choices (Justice) vs. mixing problems (Magnetic). Apples and oranges.

I contend the mixing problems are problems, not choices. They could've made the mix loud and "in your face" without causing distortion if someone took more care to watch that the levels weren't bleeding into the red.

Metallica Reps Start to Defend Sound Quality

The Wall Street Journal is reporting on the Death Magnetic sound controversy, and has gotten Metallica's manager, Cliff Burnstein, on the record saying the people complaining are a "tiny minority".

It isn't the news fans wanted to hear, but at least it's a little refreshing that this issue is finally getting tackled by Metallica's management. The answer is no surprise though. If they admit the quality is less than perfect, then they would have to do something about it. And why bother saying anything is wrong if the album is still selling like crazy?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Frank Zappa's Widow to Sue Apple?

FrankI found this article stating that Frank Zappa's widow is unhappy with the quality of his music catalog via iTunes. Granted: the bitrate iTunes generally uses isn't that great. But, considering that a lot of the items in his catalog have been remastered, could the problem actually lie within the remastering, which may be squeezing the dynamic range and life out of the songs before they hit Apple's store?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Will Guitar Hero Save Death Magnetic?

News of Guitar Hero's mix of Death Magnetic being of better quality than the CD or vinyl has now hit mainstream. Yahoo has it on their front page, and Rolling Stone has an article as well.

Some people on the Metallica forums have asked the question, "Why did no one notice this before the record went to mass duplication?" My guess: someone did know. And they ignored it.

Any reader of Band Chat knows I've been complaining about the Loudness War for some time. This is not news. Almost every CD released today is a victim to it to some degree. The issue has got some attention as of late, but the general public has mostly ignored it. So record companies have continued to punish us with this garbage. And they felt, once again, that only the audiophiles, a very small minority, would be upset with Death Magnetic.

So what was the difference this time? A direct comparison to something obviously better: the Guitar Hero mix. Metallica, in their infinite business savvy way, managed to release the album for Guitar Hero the same day the CD went on sale. Up until that day, even though the mp3 releases were unsatisfactory, most Metallica fans were uneducated and stated there was no issue. That changed once release day hit, because any fan that wasn't deaf could easily tell which version sounded better.

So now the band has a real problem on their hands, and for the sake of their reputation, I hope they address the issue publicly soon. DVDs and CDs have been recalled before, so will Metallica do the right thing and offer a trade-in?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Death Magnetic Via Guitar Hero

GHIt looks like news that the version of Death Magnetic for Guitar Hero is of higher quality than the CD version is spreading far and wide. At least two fans have gone to town furiously recording the Guitar Hero tracks and spreading them around as mp3 and flac files, and the response from listeners has been overwhelmingly positive. For weeks the Metallica forums have been spewing hate due to the sound quality of the CD, so it's good to instead see the community moving together for the common good.

What I've heard of the tracks is astounding. They are much lower in volume, have dynamic range, and the instruments don't fall into a mush when the band really kicks it into high gear. Not only that, but because the developers got this before the final master was created, their mix is a bit different in places. "The Judas Kiss" features a little laugh by James and layered vocals, "The End of the Line" has an extra chant of the title, and "Suicide & Redemption" has an intro bass line.

The lack of compression has at least one side effect I find undesirable. The riff James plays underneath Kirk's solo in "Day" is not nearly as loud as the CD and vinyl version. I really like the machine gun attack feel, and that's definitely muted via Guitar Hero.

But the overall sound is miles above the standard versions. This goes a long way to prove that the original, separate tracks are fairly clean, and that the majority of volume spiking was introduced during the mixing phase. Maybe Metallica should hire Neversoft to produce the final mix and master for their follow-up record. Or they could be all cutting edge, Trent Reznor style, and simply release the original Death Magnetic tracks to the public for the fans to remix as they see fit (a la nin's Ghosts and The Slip).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Death Magnetic, a Review

Death MagneticSo much for all the talk about the sound quality. Back to what matters: the music itself.

Death Magnetic has been a long time coming, and I was convinced it was going to be terrible. YouTube videos of new material, so aptly titled "The New Song" and "The Other New Song" had me scared. A plod fest and a Misfits this all you guys can muster?

But after what feels like an eternity, the new album is now here, and I say it is good. Very, very good. After all these years of being disappointed (at least fifteen), I'm amazed that Metallica had it in them to make an album like this.

Death Magnetic is full of details. I find the record to be a mix of ...And Justice For All and "The Black Album". Songs like "The Judas Kiss" and "All Nightmare Long" are long and strung together with many Justice type riffs, but they have a catchiness that reminds of their '91 chart topper. If there's any part that strikes one as being "off", just wait two seconds, and another new riff will back it up. James Hetfield outdid himself with his rhythm playing: it's tight, precise, under control, and heavy.

Some coolness examples: the riff at 3:49 of "Broken, Beat & Scarred", and the way it leads into the solo, plus the riffage after the solo, is classic thrash Metallica. Also note the speedy riff after the solo in the aforementioned "Nightmare" (5:21). Their galloping/chuggy riffs are back as well (4:47 in "That Was Just Your Life" into the solo...again, very Justice-y). Iron Maiden/Thin Lizzy lead harmonies are sprinkled throughout. The guys have a lot of memorizing to do for their new tour.

Lars Ulrich does a decent job drumming. I especially like the work in "The End of the Line". There's something about some of his patterns that's reminding me of some of his technical prowess he showed off in the late 80s, with a bit of timing flair I found in their "Fuel" single.

Sadly you can barely hear the bass. Every now and then it shows up, like in the beginning of "Broken, Beat & Scarred", but for the most part, er, exactly why do they say Rob Trujillo made such great contributions? If this is true, let me hear them!

Kirk Hammett's soloing is quite good, and he amazes me with his Satriani-ness in "Suicide & Redemption". His guitar work on this is beyond awesome; he threw every trick he knows into this tune. At 10 minutes, it's a hell of a long instrumental, but it's just heavenly for the musicians in all of us. I love the crazy Rush inspired progressive jam that occurs a smidge after the solo ends (8:06 to 8:42). The middle noody bit (3:39) reminds of "Orion", which is never a bad thing.

Hetfield does sing on this album, but he's been doing this since '91, so what can you do. He does yell in key as well, and at least we got a real 100% yell-fest in "My Apocolypse", which is my favorite song on the album.

The only number that flops for me for right now is "The Unforgiven III". I like the beginning moodiness (even though there's something about the very beginning which almost goes off the rails into a Pink Floyd "Atom Heart Mother Suite" jam). The rest is sort of blah "Unforgiven"-ish territory, although I do like the quiet break leading up to the solo ("Forgive me...forgive me not," croons James), which explodes with noise before turning into a wah fest for the second half.

"The Unforgiven III," plus some weirder bits at times in other songs, makes the album 10% meh. Which makes it 90% r0ck. At $9-10 this weekend at most stores, it's a must buy. It's not perfect, but if you were a Metallica fan at any point in their powerful years, you'll remember why you liked this band so much. I do personally believe they tried on their last disc, St. Anger, but while that album was a failure, this is a success. With U2 not releasing their new disc until 2009, I think you'll be hard pressed to find a better album this year. Eet Fuk!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Death Magnetic's Sound: the Scoop

Death MagneticI am now the proud owner of Death Magnetic in mp3, CD, and two LP vinyl form, and have come to some conclusions.

First, the retail CD is beyond loud. But for a CD being so loud, it's listenable. Yes, there is a layer of distortion that sits like a haze when the instruments really get cranking, but the sound guys were somehow still able to get some space between the instruments. The drums sound crisp most of the time. It's only when things get really crankin' that they, plus the vocals, recede in the mix, and the guitar tone suffers. I should be used to this: Metallica just has never been about the best sound.

The two LP vinyl set: it's a nice package, but don't expect miracles from it. By nature of it being quieter, and warmer, you can push the volume more without it feeling shrill. And I think the drums for "The Day That Never Comes" sound really nice on my stereo for the quieter parts. I've always felt, for whatever reason, that a good piece of vinyl on my stereo has more punch than a CD.

That being said, the distortion is still there. It's easier to take, but it's still there. We get a more pleasing experience because it's vinyl, but it doesn't change the loudness that was introduced during recording and mixing. This was confirmed by Ted Jensen, the disc's mastering engineer. When asked about the issues, he replied:

"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 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."

Forgetting the distortion for a moment, the album's biggest problem (no matter what format you buy) is that there's no dynamics. So the loud part of "Day" is just as loud as the quiet. Furthermore, in all of these songs, near the end where they really start jamming, you get a wall of sound effect.

Is it as bad as Rush's Vapor Trails? Hrm, probably not. That album really suffers in the drum department. Here, most of the time, Ulrich's drums are very easily heard. The stereo separation is pretty good overall. It actually astounds me that the album is this loud and it sounds as good as it does. They wanted this album to "rock" by being in your face, but I do believe they pushed it. Thus: distortion, fuzz, and haze that lives underneath the instruments.

So here's my advice: if you have a turntable, get the vinyl, because by the nature of it you're going to get something that's less harsh than the CD. But don't expect the sound to turn into something miraculously open and full of hidden nuances. If you want something closer to that feel by Rubin, get an unremastered copy of The Cult's Electric: that album has this production style, yet is very open and very clear. The fact is that they shoved the volume on Death Magnetic so it would be purposely intrusive ("Hear my me-TAL roar!"), and it is, whether you have the vinyl or CD.

The downloadable mp3 files are a bit quieter, which also has a pleasing effect, even though they still have haze. Someone over at Metallica HQ is trying to solve the problem, but it's a mostly futile effort since the problem is in the recording.

Metalli-Friday Is Here

MetallicaToday is Death Magnetic's official release day, and it will be historical. Partly for the music itself, which is very, very good, but mostly because of the sound quality issues people (including me) have been obsessing over. My latest observations:

Today I got the 320 kbps mp3 files from my Mission: Metallica Platinum account and they are absolutely lower in volume, and, in my estimation, a bit less distorted than the "Day" CD single I have from Hot Topic. I can tell in Hetfield's guitar tone - it's smoother at times because it doesn't have the extra distortion. I suspect the full CD will be at the louder volume of the CD single. If I'm not crazy, the engineering folks realized they pushed the CD too hot, and have compensated for it in the downloadable files. They are by no means perfect, but a little better is still better.

A guy on the Metallica forums swears up and down that the 2 LP vinyl set has no distortion. He insists, "It's no Vapor Trails." Considering what I discovered about the mp3 download, I have hope. It's tough to really judge this stuff, because they all differ in volume.

Although it sort of kills me to do so, I will undoubtedly spent the $10 on the full CD (pretty much the going price everywhere) and $15 on the 2 piece vinyl (Best Buy's price) to hear for myself. I refuse to buy the uber fanboy 5 piece $100+ vinyl set. That money is ridiculous, and who wants to get up nine times to flip the sides?

So if my suppositions hold true, I'll have wasted $10 on the CD, because it'll probably be better quality to simply master the downloadable 320 kbps mp3 files to CD myself. If only they had released them as FLAC...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sound Curve: "The Day That Never Comes"

Ever since Metallica's Death Magnetic got leaked last week by the French, the forums have been buzzing about whether the sound quality of the CD is as bad as we audio nuts say it is. I'm here to say that it is.

It is isn't sufficient to analyze the sound of leaked .wma files, so I went out and purchased the CD single for "The Day That Never Comes" from Hot Topic, ripped it to a .wav file, and looked at it in Sound Forge. Two snapshots are here and here.

It's, as I figured, a brick wall. Even more bizarre is the second picture. That's the last portion of the song, where distortion is very noticeable to even an untrained ear. You can see the squared off peaks instead of it being round. What's truly hideous is that it looks like after they were clipped, someone then scaled the volume back.

They're playing hanky-panky over there at the record company, and the listeners are the ones who suffer.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Vinyl - the "New" Hi-Def Audio?

Over the last year I've been reading how vinyl is making a big comeback (more proof than you can shake a stick at here, here, here, and here). Some bands are taking a large amount of time to make sure these releases sound darn good. They say, "Hey, if you care about how your music sounds, buy vinyl rather than a crummy CD!"

This is inherently stupid. For the moment, let's forget some technical details, such as the fact that CDs have a higher dynamic range than vinyl, and its frequency range is going to more than good enough for most people. And yes, I'm aware that the "feel" of vinyl can be more pleasurable since the analog nature of it gives off more warmth. But the fact is that in most cases, not enough care has gone into making a good CD. If engineers spent half as much time with the CD as they did with these new vinyl releases, a lot of us would be pretty happy.

And what if you wanted that extra bit of technical data on your side? Then the SACD and DVD-A formats are just great. They can store numbers with higher precision (to better approximate the sound samples), they have high frequency response, the decks play your old CDs, the medium is more portable, they're inexpensive, and they support lossless surround formats. Yes, they have copy protection, but if you're fumbling around in the hi-def arena, as long as the copy protection doesn't severely affect your listening experience, who cares? But unless your band's name is Porcupine Tree, releasing in one of these hi-def formats just isn't on your radar screen in 2008.

So exactly why are people gushing over vinyl? Large album art, nostalgia, and "the experience" of unwrapping this huge product and sliding large discs out of sleeves? That's all well and good, but the price of vinyl these days has been bordering on the absurd. It's a bit of a scam, actually. I mean hell, Metallica is going to be releasing Death Magnetic on five pieces of vinyl for around $120. Never mind the absurdity of the price; I'd have to get up off my ass nine times to hear the whole album. And for what increase in quality? Even though Mobile Fidelity is doing the transfer, chances are the original mix isn't that good to begin with, so any advantage spent by someone putting this thing to 180 grahams and at speed of 45 RPM is wasted.

But hey, someone gets a lot of money from the fanboys. And that's what counts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Your Metallica Sound Quality Questions Answered

I've been busy reading the Metallica forums regarding the whole sound quality issue with the Death Magnetic sound clips and full song releases. There's so much misinformation out there that I feel it's necessary to take the most common questions regarding this topic, Metallica's producer Rick Rubin, record production, mixing and mastering, plus the Loudness War, and answer them here.

The new Metallica songs rock! I don't hear any problems at all!
Until one knows what to listen for, issues of this sort often aren't recognizable. Listen with a good set of headphones to the loudest part of the song. You'll often notice how the instruments aren't very well defined (they tend to mush together), the drums tend to slip in volume, and in worst cases, fuzzy noise and pops occur.

St. Anger sounded terrible! How can you say these new songs are worse than that?!?!
The majority of St. Anger's problems are due to production choices. For that record, a conscious decision was made by producer Bob Rock and Metallica for the music to sound like it was made by a garage band, which is why the drums are clanky and the guitars are tinny. Granted this album also suffers from being too loud, but the main sound "problem" with St. Anger is a deliberate one. I assure you that the issues heard on the Death Magnetic tracks are not something the band chose to occur.

Production? Mixing? Mastering? What's the difference and who cares?
As implied above, production work is done by someone hired by the band, and his job is to point the musicians in a certain direction with regards to songwriting. It's also the producer's job to make suggestions with regards to recording technique and soundscaping. For example, he might recommend effects such as reverb or echo be placed on a singer's voice or certain guitar passages.

Mixing engineers are responsible for taking the separate tracks (at its simplest there are four: vocals, guitar, bass, and drums), and putting them together to deliver a (nearly) final song. The mastering engineer takes this output and performs certain processing to enhance the sound quality. It is at this point that certain tools, such as compression, are added (compression delivers punch to rock oriented music) to accomplish this task. Misuse of the tools at the mixing and mastering stages has led to what is known as the Loudness War.

WTF is the Loudness War? Is this bad? Hell, I want my heavy metal loud!
The Loudness War took off in the early 90s as a way for record companies to get their bands' albums noticed rather than relying on the listener to turn his own volume knob. Psychologically, a louder piece of music is often determined to be "better" by the average listener when compared to a quieter piece of music. So engineers started making the final mixes of the records they were working on louder and louder, and this is what was transferred to CD. Unfortunately, this process, if applied improperly, can lead to a loss in sound fidelity, which makes the music grating to the ears. At first the effects of this could only be heard by people who knew what they were listening for, but the problem has gotten so bad lately that many "normal" people can hear problems with certain current releases. For more information see this Wikipedia article and this YouTube video.

Rick Rubin is a well respected member of the music community and highly sought after by big-name bands. His stuff can't possibly be affected by this!
Sadly, this is not the case. While his older records, such as The Cult's Electric, Danzig's self-titled debut, and Slayer's South of Heaven and Seasons In the Abyss are landmarks in album sound quality, his recent releases are notorious for being too loud. The problem cropped up with Red Hot Chili Peppers One Hot Minute, and reached peak awfulness for their Californication. The production of Rubin's albums still appear to be quite good, but the final result on CD has gotten worse with time.

Well, even if Rubin doesn't care, Metallica must. Those guys are musicians; they won't let this happen!
Alas, Metallica's track record is not so good when it comes to sound quality. Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets are not exactly hallmarks of great recording due to limited dynamics. Justice suffers from very tinny sounding drums, and we already discussed the issues with St. Anger. So when it comes to an issue like engineering of the final product, which even famed music nerds Rush messed up on Vapor Trails, it's quite likely Metallica will be ignorant of the matter.

I still don't buy it! Those clips must be demos. After all, they're not polished. There's not even any reverb anywhere! Either that or they're purposefully bad because they're free!
It's unlikely the songs are demos or the outcome is deliberate since iTunes is selling them and they're not listed as demos. The "dry" sound quality is most definitely a decision the band and Rick Rubin made, since Rubin is lauded for his "stripped down" approach to recording. Also note that Justice sounded pretty similar, so Metallica is undoubtedly trying to recreate the feel of that record to some extent. We won't know until release date, but if it really was simply an issue with the ripping and encoding of the mp3 files, why does "My Apocalypse" still have issues? Metallica's staff said that any single released after "The Day That Never Comes" would be free from sound problems, but clearly this has not yet come to pass.


Any other questions or concerns? H-Man will be happy to answer, so comment away.

Quick Takes - "My Apocalypse"

My ApocalypseIt looks like Metallica has finally taken the lid off the Death Magnetic box. The last song on the album, "My Apocalypse", was released to their web site, Mission: Metallica, and iTunes this morning.

The tune rocks. The only song Metallica's written in the last fifteen years that's come close to thrashing like this is "The Struggle Within", and that's pushing it. "My Apocalypse" is much closer to "Damage, Inc." and "Dyers Eve" in tempo. James is actually yelling on this one, and it isn't touchy feely stuff about about his alcoholism. Corpses and mangled flesh ahoy! The riffage is fast and tight, and Kirk even pulls out a bit of "Whiplash" flavor for part of the solo.

So far Metallica has a really nice album on their hands, but I fear, regardless of what their "people" say, that the album will be a milestone in the Loudness War. Once again the 256 kbps version of the song is way too loud and hideously distorts. This is a cryin' shame because their efforts deserve better presentation. Let's hope the right people are reading the forums, they stop putting lousy mp3 files out to paying customers (note to those responsible: lowering the volume after the song has been clipped doesn't solve the problem!), and the album itself doesn't suffer from these issues.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mastering Problems Plague Metallica's "Day" Release

Although the writing and musicianship on Metallica's "The Day That Never Comes" is very good, the quality of the recording itself is not. The version I originally listened to was from their MySpace page, which ended up being about 96 kbps, so I accepted the poor quality. Since then I've acquired the 256 kbps versions from iTunes and the pay section of Mission: Metallica, and even though the bitrate is higher, the distortion and clipping due to excessive volume is still present.

Present? Wait, let me rephrase that. I meant to say, "The compression is a Godzilla beastie that has hunkered down within Metallica's homeland, and is now busy sonically destroying anything on the landscape within a 500 mile radius." Just listen!

The tune is so wrecked that even people unaware of the Loudness War can tell it's awful, and are loudly complaining on Metallica's forums. Rick Rubin's last decade of albums under his command are notorious for being some of the worst casualties of the Loudness War, but not even those discs are this bad. Since their cover of Maiden's "Remember Tomorrow" survived intact, here's to hoping the actual Death Magnetic CD isn't fried like this. It would be awfully amusing if the Guitar Hero version, which by design features a remix and remaster of the original tracks, ends up sounding better.

Edit 1: The song has been removed from Met's MySpace page, but still remains at their other two sites.

Edit 2: Metallica's "people" have addressed the issue. Read about it at Blabbermouth.

Edit 3: A new version has been released on Mission: Metallica, but people claim it's simply the same clip at lower volume. Unintentional distortion still rules!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Day Finally Came

Day Never ComesMetallica's hotly anticipated new single, "The Day That Never Comes", hit the airwaves today. Go to any of their three websites (main site, their MySpace page, and Mission: Metallica) to listen to the stream. The quality, as expected from a stream, is less than perfect, but it gets the job done.

I'll skip to the chase by saying this is one of the best things they've done since The Black Album. In fact, there's a lot about this song that's better than the stuff on that record, especially once it starts really movin' in the middle.

But let's start at the beginning of this eight minute monster. I was turned off at first by the slow picked opening because it reminds me of Korn's "Falling Away From Me". Fortunately that goes away pretty fast, and we're left with a pattern that's very similar to what we've come to expect from the fourth song on an album from their good days. This pattern ends up sounding very "One"-like due to the song's production, which is very dry. There's no hint of 80s reverb here.

I personally wish James would stop "singing". Metallica's songs always seem better when he yells in key. So whenever he croons a slower number, I end up thinking of "The Unforgiven", which isn't a high point for me.

At the four minute mark James starts riffin' out. It's a bit on the slow/slinky side, and has a cool feel to it.

At five minutes Lars ups the ante with a "Whiplash" type beat, and James speeds up the riffs with some "One" endgame style fast picking. Next we we get some lead bits, in harmony, then some cool pull-off type riffage, and similar pull-off high notes.

Right about 6:30 Kirk shows up and does some soloing reminiscent of Kill 'Em All and Ride the Lightning. He isn't quite as smooth, and it doesn't scream or wail as much as we were accustomed to, but he tried really hard, so I suspect he's just getting a bit old.

Verdict: win. At this point in their long career I really couldn't ask for any more from them. They're back to playing heavy metal with their own unique combination of acoustic bits, tightly pieced together riffs, and rapid-fire soloing. Welcome back to the fold guys.

Friday, July 18, 2008

More U2 Deluxe Remasters

Amazon U2 ExlusiveHot on the heels of U2's The Joshua Tree deluxe remaster comes similar offerings for the band's first three albums. No DVDs this time, but if you're fanboy #1 like me, you can order an exclusive version from Amazon which includes an outer shell to hold them all (plus space for a 4th, undoubtedly the September release of Under a Blood Red Sky) and poster. Also available are 2-disc sets (2nd disc is B-sides and rarities), single CD (album only), or limited 180 g vinyl.

If the sound quality mimics what we got on The Joshua Tree last November, it'll be a good purchase. Available July 22 (Amazon's special set pushed back one week to the 29th).

Remember Tomorrow

Iron MaidenThe Metallica hype machine has been in fifth gear as their new album, Death Magnetic, approaches release. So I felt it was apt to review their first official release with Rob Trujillo on bass: a cover of Iron Maiden's "Remember Tomorrow". Currently you can listen to a lo-fi version of it here.

Some background: although I'm a big fan of the covers they released on their Garage Days EPs, plus tracks like Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy" from their Black Album days, I was less than thrilled with the new work on Garage Inc. (i.e. the first disc; except for the Motorhead gunk, the second disc was all good, re-released material), which seemed just a bit too by the numbers. Their cover of Ramones classic "53rd & Third" is reasonable, but it pales big-time compared to the original.

This is why I was pleasantly surprised with their version of "Remember Tomorrow". Interestingly enough, they Metallica-fied it quite a bit by adding a "Creeping Death" style intro and outro, plus "Sanitarium" style leads during the quiet bits. Lars Ulrich goes rather nutty with the drums (especially the snare, but at least it doesn't make a St. Anger style clank sound), but I feel it works more than not. James Hetfield is crooning through most of the song, which does good homage to Paul Di'Anno's original take.

The riffage is decent, although I would've preferred a bit more crunch to the guitar sound. The production is very dry, a la Justice, but fortunately the guitars aren't thin. The bass playing is acceptable, but to be honest, this song isn't exactly a typical Steve Harris thump-a-thon, so any judgment on "the new guy" will have to wait for Fall.

I am, sadly, disappointed with Kirk Hammett's solo. It's decent enough, but it doesn't have the fire of Dave Murray's original, nor does it mimic that lead in any way. Which is surprising, since Kirk is more than capable of dishing out some awesome tributes to other players' solos (granted it's old, but ye gawds his leads in "Am I Evil?" are incredible). Where's the feel?

Summary: song good, solo meh. Kirk: please step it up, and maybe there will be something to talk about when Death Magnetic gets released.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Journey's Revelation

RevelationI'm not too ashamed: I like Journey. If you grew up in the late 70s and early 80s they were a staple, thus, almost impossible to ignore if you went anywhere near a rolling skating rink. Steve Perry could make the ladies swoon and Neal Schon played guitar licks that rocked. What's not to like?

Sadly, over the years Journey's had some problems with their main frontman (Perry was not their first singer), which hasn't helped them any considering Perry is one of the main reasons the band shot to gargantuan popularity levels. In his absence they've had a few clones step up to the microphone, but they've all fallen by the wayside. Until the latest: Arnel Pineda. This Fillipino (yes; it boggles the mind) was hanging out singing cover tunes when Schon discovered him on YouTube (further boggling), flew him in for an audition, and subsequently hired him (now the mind wobbles). The buzz on Pineda and the band grew after Ellen DeGeneres talked about them on her daytime show, then featured Journey as musical guests. They rode this wave and subsequently released their newest album, Revelation, as a three disc Wal-Mart exclusive. This is where I couldn't ignore them any longer, and got the set to see what all the nuttiness was about.

For $11.98, if nothing else, one is getting their money's worth. The Revelation package is a fold-out digipak which includes fabulous classic 70s era Journey artwork, two music discs, plus a live DVD. In my opinion the most interesting piece of the set is the second music disc, which holds fifteen of their greatest hits, all instruments re-recorded, and all re-sung by Pineda. This disc is instantly dismissed by the fans for the obvious reasons (the chief one being, "Unnecessary."), but I find it fascinating simply because of the very reasons they hate it: these redos are beyond similar to the original recordings.

If you play any of the tunes for a person who is not a rabid Journey fan, they'll assume it's the golden oldie. Yes, the playing is that exact and the singing is eerily similar to Perry, straight down to his well-known vocal inflections. Heck, the order of the songs even mimics the order that's on their original Greatest Hits release which debuted twenty years ago in 1988. Whether it was created so they would have less trouble releasing the songs for promotional use, or because Wal-Mart insisted on it being made (most likely a combination of both), what's clear is that the band is still capable of playing their old material well, and their new singer is firmly up to the task. Some songs fare better than others, so it won't make you stop listening to the original version of "Separate Ways", but this is by no means a cringe worthy effort.

The live DVD features a recent show in Nevada, and proves that in concert the band is still no slouch. The songs are fiery (it amazes me how well Schon can still play the leads for these tunes) and Arnel is running all over the stage, emotionally belting out the songs. Journey seems invigorated by their new younger bandmate, and the DVD is definitely a worthwhile watch.

The CD of new music is equally fascinating. Here is where Arnel is not quite as Perry-ish. It's clear to me after listening to the music numerous times that he simply sounds a lot like Perry, but is in fact his own singer to boot. The disc starts off mightily with the lead single "Never Walk Away", a rocker in the same mold as "Be Good to Yourself", with a nice riff, cleanly executed leads, and an emotional chorus (complete with Journey's trademarkable vocal harmonies) that you can't help but sing along to. The next four tracks shouldn't disappoint any Journey fan, since they include "Lights"-esque ballads ("Like a Sunshower"), rapid-fire modern fare ("Wildest Dream"), and sweeping arena rockers ("Faith In the Heartland").

The music wobbles a bit at the halfway point. Their second single, "After All These Years", aims for the heights of ballads like "Open Arms" and "Faithfully", but comes up short. The lyrics are respectable, but the music doesn't reach the same catchiness, and even though one can feel the build, it never pays off the way their better known ballads do. The next three songs teeter as well, and I can't help but feel it's all rather Survivor-like. Unfortunately, it's in an "I Can't Hold Back"/"The Search Is Over" sort of way, not an "Eye of the Tiger" sort of way.

The album does close with a wonderful instrumental, "The Journey (Revelation)". The beginning of this piece starts with a tribal flavor similar to Eric Johnson's "Venus Isle" or "Friends", with leads that remind one of Eric's live intro to "Cliffs of Dover". It's too bad that a lot of Journey fans don't seem to enjoy this, because I feel it's a great instrumental, proof of Neal Schon's prowess as a musician, and the tune clearly demonstrates how underrated he is as a guitar player.

Don't let some of the failures of the second half sway you. I heartily recommend the set. We all remember Journey for their hits, but they shouldn't be held exclusively to that standard. I give them credit for this release, even if it is a bit by the numbers. But I ask every one of you: do you really want Journey to grow and develop that much?

(adjusted up 1/2 star for value of package)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Iron Maiden Covers CD to Accompany Kerrang!

Maiden HeavenMuch like Kerrang's Remastered CD from 2006, which was a bunch of artists covering Metallica's Master of Puppets, issue 1219 will include Maiden Heaven, a disc containing covers of Iron Maiden classics. The most talked about one of the bunch will likely be Metallica's cover of "Remember Tomorrow", which, judging from the sound clip on Kerrang's web site, doesn't sound so bad. I'm actually quite intrigued to hear Dream Theater's cover of "To Tame a Land".

The magazine is easily found in the UK, but for those of us in the USA, our best bet might be to order it direct. It'll cost about $8.50 shipped.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tom Petty's New Release: Quiet CD

Mudcrutch, Tom Petty's old band from the 70s, is doing a vinyl release of their new material this Tuesday. It comes with a CD of the music, which is not so unusual (after all, Judas Priest's Nostradamus vinyl release also comes w/CDs). What is unusual, however, is that the CD packaged with the Mudcrutch vinyl is purposefully quieter than the standard CD that will be sold standalone. You can read about it (and other aspects of the bad quality found in today's recordings) in USA Today and The New York Times.

Bravo to their record company, who realizes that the audiophile wants good sounding music on the home stereo, in a car CD player, on ripped to an mp3 player.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Jon Schaffer's Call For Dynamic Range

The Crucible of ManIced Earth history was remade last week when they released their latest EP, I Walk Among You. Popular vocalist Matt Barlow is back, and sounding just as good as ever did. The lead single for September's Something Wicked Part II (officially entitled The Crucible of Man), "I Walk Alone", is a mighty stomp which pleases even though it doesn't exactly stun the listener with anything unexpected.

Also on the disc are reworked versions of "Setian Massacre" and "The Clouding". Poor Ripper: it's like he never existed. These songs are more or less like the original, sans Owens. "Massacre" gets some flanger added to the guitar, and "Clouding" has Barlow holding a note longer before the big metal flourish. And if you wanna really erase poor Tim from memory, feel free to buy the iTunes exclusive of "A Charge to Keep".

An unexpected spiffiness about the release is this liner note from Schaffer:

This is a dynamic metal record! Play it loud!!! (We refuse to ruin our production by compressing the hell out of it so that it's mastered at ridiculous volumes! That kills the vibe and dynamics of the mix. Just turn it up on your stereo!)

Confusingly said, but kudos for the heart being in the right place, even if it's still a bit loud for my tastes. It definitely sounds better than a lot of other modern CDs, but when compared to most from the early 90s, well, someone apparently forgot to tell the mastering engineer how Jon feels....

Judas Priest's Latest Released

NostradamusWell that escaped me. On Tuesday the Priest released their 2-disc Saucy Jack, entitled Nostradamus. If two discs aren't enough, you also have the option of getting it with a hardcover book. And if that isn't enough, you can get it from Best Buy with three pieces of vinyl and a poster. Yay!

Just look at the cover...I'm scared. Comments after I pick it up this weekend.

New Metallica Album Title Revealed

Death MagneticThey've been teasing us for a week or so, but the reveal has happened. Not a bad title, and I'm happy to see the old logo make it's return. There's also a little video with some music playing in the background, and the riff isn't half bad. Check it here or (currently) here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cosmo Promotes Music Piracy

Hey ladies! Can't get yer guy to buy you the sick new tunes? Cosmo to the rescue! Just get your gal-pals to help you steal it. What a great way to get a new BFF! Lollerz! (thanks HardOCP)