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Q&A: Why is most heavy metal so poorly recorded?


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i read an article somewhere, which quoted a band like The Kinks, or something; they came to the studio to record a single, with their cranked amps and slashed speakers; and i do believe they sounded much cleaner then any of the modern rock bands. as soon as the recording engineer heard them play, he raised his hands and said; "i ain't gonna record this noise".

 

then, it were The Kinks; not really heavier than Beach Boys. my point is: i agree with lars Ulrich. I am not necessarily goingto like what 20 yr old bands play, or how they record it. a band like Between The Buried And Me would be put into soul asylum as soon as they would try to record a demo in any studio anywhere in the world back in 1964. i won't be surprised if in 15 years, future metal bands will use 8-bit AD converters, clipping as f*ck, to make their record. or something.

 

and the dude in my sig has put it quite well, too, so i won't type any more for today

 

:wave:

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It's a BAD craftsman who blames his tools.


 

 

Right on!!!

 

Some of the guys here have mentioned some newer metal acts that I haven't heard of, but I haven't picked up a new metal album in years.

 

 

For me, the Best metal album for sound and music is Pantera - Vulgar Display of Power.

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Excellent point.

...

Good metal recordings CAN be done, but there are some significant issues, and doing a great one requires a lot of good communication between the musicians and engineers / producer, as well as extra attention to carving out individual frequencies for all the parts, and extra attention to the musical arrangements.

 

 

You guys have a wealth of good information here and interesting perspectives... however, metal is my primary genre... and I would LOVE to know what kind of tips you all might have for mixing/mastering it. Can anyone offer some specifics on doing this?

 

As a bit more concrete example than the OP... can anyone here tell me what was wrong with the production for Metallica's And Justice For All album? As I recall, that one is rather famous for its lack of engineering quality.

 

As my two cents, I would also offer that contra Jazz and Classical, Metal generally seeks to create a sound that frequently has a sort of fantasy or otherworldly feel to it. I don't think it's a coincidence that so much metal has been associated with fantasy artwork. That said, the recording probably shouldn't really faithfully reproduce the instrument. Fear Factory's melodic vocal parts, for instance, just don't sound like the human voice... and shouldn't. For metal, I think part of the musicality comes from the effects. Producing metal seems to me to be like doing fantasy painting... sometimes it's best to resemble reality... sometimes not.

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You guys have a wealth of good information here and interesting perspectives... however, metal is my primary genre... and I would LOVE to know what kind of tips you all might have for mixing/mastering it. Can anyone offer some specifics on doing this?


As a bit more concrete example than the OP... can anyone here tell me what was wrong with the production for Metallica's And Justice For All album? As I recall, that one is rather famous for its lack of engineering quality.


As my two cents, I would also offer that contra Jazz and Classical, Metal generally seeks to create a sound that frequently has a sort of fantasy or otherworldly feel to it. I don't think it's a coincidence that so much metal has been associated with fantasy artwork. That said, the recording probably shouldn't really faithfully reproduce the instrument. Fear Factory's melodic vocal parts, for instance, just don't sound like the human voice... and shouldn't. For metal, I think part of the musicality comes from the effects. Producing metal seems to me to be like doing fantasy painting... sometimes it's best to resemble reality... sometimes not.

 

 

That's a big part of the appeal of metal, I believe.

 

I personally like the way "...And Justice For All" sounds, but then again, I like the album as well. I've heard some people criticize the sound as lacking bottom end and bass, and a lot of people can't stand the way the kick drum sounds. And you can probably say that about most Metallica recordings, but that's the way they sound in person.

 

Also, if someone is playing the kick drum rapidly, you can't have that much bottom end or it will distort and sound horrible. That's just simple physics.

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I think part of the musicality comes from the effects. Producing metal seems to me to be like doing fantasy painting... sometimes it's best to resemble reality... sometimes not.

 

I couldn't agree more. :thu:

 

Another thing Fear Factory has is it's machine gun kicks (obviously samples) notorious in modern recordings of metal.

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maybe most metal is recorded by metal heads because any time we talk to you "proper studio types" all we hear about is how our genre of music is "crap" or how its all about "shredding" and just all manners of rediculous stuff. I mean, jesus, if im going to plunk down good hard earned money on a recording, im certainly not going to give it to some stuck up prick who thinks my music is played by a bunch of screaming monkeys.

 

I swear i get so damned sick of always hearning how inferior "metal" is to what-ever genre. I mean, i get that its not for everyone. I wouldnt like it if it was, but to belittle the musicians that create it, that play it, to belittle the genre itself and its millions of fans just because you cant figure out a good way to record it to "your obviously far superior standards...." is just plain rediculous.

 

No, no i believe if im spending money to record its going to the guy who know sthat the sound of heaven is a Marshall turned to 10. Besides, your nose is so far up in the air you can't even look me in the eye to tell me i suck.

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maybe most metal is recorded by metal heads because any time we talk to you "proper studio types" all we hear about is how our genre of music is "crap" or how its all about "shredding" and just all manners of rediculous stuff. I mean, jesus, if im going to plunk down good hard earned money on a recording, im certainly not going to give it to some stuck up prick who thinks my music is played by a bunch of screaming monkeys.

 

Nor should you IMO.

 

If I absolutely hate something, it's not fair to accept the gig - for me, or for the client. If you're not working with an engineer with a similar attitude, IMO, you're working with the wrong engineer. They don't have to worship you or your band, but they have to be respectful to what you, as an artist, want to accomplish, and be willing to do whatever they can to help you get there. If they can't / won't do that, you should seek out another engineer who can / will. There's certainly no shortage of engineers out there who like hard rock and metal and who can / will do a good job on it if you do your part and give them something decent to work with.

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maybe most metal is recorded by metal heads because any time we talk to you "proper studio types" all we hear about is how our genre of music is "crap" or how its all about "shredding" and just all manners of rediculous stuff. I mean, jesus, if im going to plunk down good hard earned money on a recording, im certainly not going to give it to some stuck up prick who thinks my music is played by a bunch of screaming monkeys.


Nor should you IMO.


If I absolutely hate something, it's not fair to accept the gig - for me, or for the client. If you're not working with an engineer with a similar attitude, IMO, you're working with the wrong engineer. They don't have to worship you or your band, but they have to be respectful to what you, as an artist, want to accomplish, and be willing to do whatever they can to help you get there. If they can't / won't do that, you should seek out another engineer who can / will. There's certainly no shortage of engineers out there who like hard rock and metal and who can / will do a good job on it if you do your part and give them something decent to work with.

 

You are correct, of course. And i appologize for my venomous post. I just get so sick of hearing people demean metal around here sometimes. Ive been trying to soak up as much recording info and knowledge as i can since we are about to start on our first album. In the process, ive seen more metal bashing around HC then i could have imagined. In this case i felt like i'd had enough. Although reading through some more of the OPs posts it seems like he has an axe to grind with metal heads (now THATS an ironic saying..lol). And perhaps i shouldn't have taken it so personally. I'm sorry for being so hateful in your forums here. Its just that i've been a metal head most of my life, and its the music i care very very deeply about. As does everyone in my band. I love heavy metal. Indeed, it really is the closest thing i have to a religeon. Be that right or wrong, its true. And to come on the forums sometimes trying to expand my knowledge base so i can make the best album i can with my limited budget and equipment, only to have what i've worked so hard on be dismissed as some kind of "lesser music" is just really really aggravating.

 

And for my buck, alot of metal records sound fantastic. Iron Maidens 7th Son, Metallica's Master of Puppets, Justice...., and (begrudgingly) Black album, Pantera Far Beyond Driven, Type O Negative Oct. Rust, Dream Theater Awake... all these albums sound perfect to my ears. And as far as im concerned these are the pinnacle of perfect sounding albums for the respective bands.

They didn't do it wrong, and neither do alot of other bands. They just didn't do it like you would. That doesn't make it wrong....just different.

 

 

Ok. Again.....sorry about all that. Sometimes i just get worked up. ;)

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maybe most metal is recorded by metal heads because any time we talk to you "proper studio types" all we hear about is how our genre of music is "crap" or how its all about "shredding" and just all manners of rediculous stuff. I mean, jesus, if im going to plunk down good hard earned money on a recording, im certainly not going to give it to some stuck up prick who thinks my music is played by a bunch of screaming monkeys.

 

 

If someone is contemptuous about what you are doing for any reason or just completely doesn't understand it, you shouldn't go to that person in the first place.

 

I got a lot of hardcore stuff before - for some reason I never get that stuff anymore - and I loved recording it.

 

That said, there's a lot of variance in approaches and music within hard rock/hardcore/heavy metal...amazingly broad diversity, whole universes within those genres. And not all of it I would be able to do service to, and would say so. A lot of the speed metal stuff uses triggers. A lot of hardcore people I've recorded would look down on that. It all depends.

 

And the point of all this is that anybody who thinks that all this stuff is about "shredding" or "screaming" or this or that is completely ignorant. You simply have to move on and find someone who gets it.

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If someone is contemptuous about what you are doing for any reason or just completely doesn't understand it, you shouldn't go to that person in the first place.


I got a lot of hardcore stuff before - for some reason I never get that stuff anymore - and I loved recording it.


That said, there's a lot of variance in approaches and music within hard rock/hardcore/heavy metal...amazingly broad diversity, whole universes within those genres. And not all of it I would be able to do service to, and would say so. A lot of the speed metal stuff uses triggers. A lot of hardcore people I've recorded would look down on that. It all depends.


And the point of all this is that anybody who thinks that all this stuff is about "shredding" or "screaming" or this or that is completely ignorant. You simply have to move on and find someone who gets it.

 

 

Well, i was mainly ticked off at the OP, and some various posts afterward. But we are attempting to do it all ourselves for this album.

 

However, of the last 5 i've done (albums) the first two were done by some guy in a big honking studio set up for commercials and recording top 40 acts...those cds sounded like junk. Once we wised up we found a guy with a simple but high quality set up and that liked our music. He did wonders. We actually sold cds after that!

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Well, i was mainly ticked off at the OP, and some various posts afterward. But we are attempting to do it all ourselves for this album.


However, of the last 5 i've done (albums) the first two were done by some guy in a big honking studio set up for commercials and recording top 40 acts...those cds sounded like junk. Once we wised up we found a guy with a simple but high quality set up and that liked our music. He did wonders. We actually sold cds after that!

 

Amen to that.

 

What do you think are the worst-sounding metal albums? Is there simply a lot of hate or is there also a lot of junk? Is it both?

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Oh man...worst sounding?

 

Jeez, thats a tough order. There is an abundance. Especially in the black metal crowd. Some Dark Throne albums were particularly awful. I mean, reeeeaaallllly bad.

 

For more "mainstream" releases, i cant stand the new Metallica disk. For whatever reason they took all of the good stuff out. Although it is far an away better than St. Anger. I mean, no one likes Metallica for their "garage" asthetic. People liked Metallica because they sounded HUGE, and professional.

 

I cant stand the recordings of "nu-metal" bands like Disturbed and that ilk, though, i'd be hard pressed to decide if its the recording quality, or the just really bad excuse for metal. ;)

 

I was also never a big fan of Ozzys "Bark at the moon" sound wise, the album itself is magnificent, but the sound quality isn;t what i like. I didnt like Type O Negatives "World Coming Down" for sound either. Though they are my favorite band, that album especially felt far too dense to me. Too crowded. To quote someone on here, "like you couldnt fit a credit card in the space".

 

I dont listen to most bands riding the "new wave of american heavy metal", so i cant really comment on them....but what i have heard is far too compressed and lacks almost any dynamics what so ever. To me thats equal parts recording, and the "everything must be broootal!" mentality so pervasive in metal now a days. Alot of new music lacks the dynamics that make metal great and epic. And it lacks it in both recording and writing imo.

 

Uhm....i could go on and on......but i'll stop for now....:)

 

EDIT! I dint answer your second question. Well, i think the really bad sounding recordings never make it out from the underground. Alot of black metal and such, so for that i'd say the exposure isnt there for people to hate. I will say that what makes metal great for me is the epicness of it all. The grandiosity, the gigantic guitars and thunderous drums. However, in all my favorite metal albums i notice there is a certain "space" that can be heard (felt?) when listening to them. They sound HUGE because the recording quality lets it sound huge. Things are separated and everything has its place. The problem is when most peopel think of metal they either hear early 80s thrash (awesome music, but not super high quality sound here) or new metal music which is over compressed-sounds-like-its-on-top-of-you quality. So peopel really get turned off by that. Of course, i think there is a large and prevailing disdain for metal in general as its sort of viewed as some primitive bash around on guitars play 2000 notes ber second shred-fest devoid of space and structure. Some people veiw metal as "easy" just turn the gain to 11 and rawk! And thats nonsense. And those same people tend to view us metal heads as stupid primitive neanderthals bashing around on our kit and gear like shaved apes and choking out cookie monster vocals. A good honest metal album is by far the most intricate and complex thing i've ever tried to write. Not to mention most metal heads are actually far more intellectual than what society at large gives us credit for.

 

 

So its probably both. I think some people have assumptions they wont get over and that prevents them from hearing some truly awesome records. But there is alot of "aquired taste" metal out there...so....chicken or egg scenario prevails.

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I couldn't agree more.
:thu:

Another thing Fear Factory has is it's machine gun kicks (obviously samples) notorious in modern recordings of metal.

 

Samples? Are you saying that a lot of metal recordings use midi (via an e-kit?) to do the rapid fire double bass work? While this makes sense, it also seems like cheating since you can level the dynamics and timing easily after the fact ;)

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Samples? Are you saying that a lot of metal recordings use midi (via an e-kit?) to do the rapid fire double bass work? While this makes sense, it also seems like cheating since you can level the dynamics and timing easily after the fact
;)

 

They trigger samples from the drum set typically.

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I know dragonforce did the midi drum thing. Maybe they still do, I've only heard the newest album once. But the drums "sound like a typewriter" on the first album. Then there's the vocals which sound like they were recorded in the bathroom.

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Samples? Are you saying that a lot of metal recordings use midi (via an e-kit?) to do the rapid fire double bass work? While this makes sense, it also seems like cheating since you can level the dynamics and timing easily after the fact
;)

 

I hate it when people call it cheating. :mad:'

 

No it's not cheating what so ever. If you attach a trigger going into a midi module that is triggering a sample via midi, that's not cheating because the drummer is still playing it. :thu:

 

It's done to get "that sound" you know the ridiculous fake almost non dynamic punchy smacky kick.

 

It's done on other things as well, the kick is just usually the first thing to go. On the latest chimara album, they didn't even bother micing up the kick, samples all the way.

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I don't consider using midi cheating. In fact, I'm offended by the comment. Triggering is cool in my book, but goin one step further, I can spend hours and hours programming beats, drum loops, etc. Which consider, every bit as valid as playing my bass, piano, real drums, sitar, etc.

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I don't consider using midi cheating. In fact, I'm offended by the comment. Triggering is cool in my book, but goin one step further, I can spend hours and hours programming beats, drum loops, etc. Which consider, every bit as valid as playing my bass, piano, real drums, sitar, etc.

 

Yep. And there are not a lot of people who do it good.

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Interesting thread.

 

I think it's funny, these old school 'pros' that can't seem to do anything without enough money to jump-start Iceland's economy, or it's not 'real'. I think part of the problem is the 'guild' mentality amongst the pros and their attitudes that makes 'guitar players turned producers' like myself both revile the attitude and, unfortunately, discount any real knowledge that might be gained. While the engineer/producer doubtless spent a good portion of their life getting good at what they do, so did the artist they are recording, and I don't think due respect is often given.

 

And I'll tell you this; if I or my benefactors are paying you to record me, and I get this 'another day at the office/kid you don't know what you're doing' attitude, I am going to make sure your day at work isn't a pleasant one. Quite frankly, when you think about it, it's simple customer service and professionalism - why is it that some bands use the same producer over and over, even coming up with different sounds and styles from work to work, and some have a revolving door policy? Hmmm...

 

A lot of it is quite ham-fisted, like a country fan asking why those bluegrass guys have to play so fast and make recording/editing more difficult.

 

Density, the sheer amount of events per second (drum hits, guitar bass and synth notes, vocals, samples), etc, does not make this an easy genre to record. Imagine the trouble Black Sabbath had - Iommi went around to amp manufacturers with an idea for a built in overdrive/distortion back in the day, and they all went 'who in the world would want such a thing?' Now, every little practice amp has one. Sepultura's first couple of albums were recorded in Brazil by people who were used to doing local folk music. I somehow doubt the engineer was prepared!

 

Perhaps a 'good engineer' and a 'good metal engineer' are two different things. For instance: Metallica's new album comes out and everyone wants Rubin's head for the squashed dynamics, then it's the mastering studio's fault, and finally we come to find it was the engineer who squashed all the tracks on their way to tape and thus it's practically irreversible. And someone is going to blame Metallica in a few years for it, or the metal genre in general. This 'pro' made a mistake that quite a few amateurs never would have made, especially considering the millions at stake.

 

One of the things I didn't see mentioned was the fact that since A) many metal bands are underground or niche, and thus don't have a lot of money to spend on recording compared to a Top 40 act, and B) a recording that is harder to accomplish is going to cost more to do 'right'. Put the two together and it's not hard to see why the trend is what it is.

 

This is a surprising easy topic to expound upon. I'll stop here, since I'm at least a quarter over my two cents by this point. :wave:

 

I think I might start a thread called 'Classical music needs more Marshall Stacks and Double-Bass', might be an interesting discussion. ;)

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Interesting thread.


I think it's funny,
these old school 'pros' that can't seem to do anything
without enough money to jump-start Iceland's economy, or it's not 'real'. I think part of the problem is the
'guild' mentality amongst the pros and their attitudes
that makes 'guitar players turned producers' like myself both revile the attitude and, unfortunately, discount any real knowledge that might be gained. While the engineer/producer doubtless spent a good portion of their life getting good at what they do, so did the artist they are recording, and I don't think due respect is often given.

 

 

I'm not an "old school pro", as you can probably tell by my posts in this thread. But I gotta say, if you are gonna call for respect from those guys, you shouldn't lump EVERYONE in the same category.

 

If you want people to give you respect, it should be returned.

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Rocket Pig:

 

Yep I get it, but the only guy that fits into the category your referring is the Ma Suk Dong, and since he is quite obviously a moron, then I think we are safe.

 

By the way, check out the post I did with the links, my example of what fake drums can sound like on a good day.

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Oh man...worst sounding?


Jeez, thats a tough order. There is an abundance. Especially in the black metal crowd. Some Dark Throne albums were particularly awful. I mean, reeeeaaallllly bad.


For more "mainstream" releases, i cant stand the new Metallica disk. For whatever reason they took all of the good stuff out. Although it is far an away better than St. Anger. I mean, no one likes Metallica for their "garage" asthetic. People liked Metallica because they sounded HUGE, and professional.


I cant stand the recordings of "nu-metal" bands like Disturbed and that ilk, though, i'd be hard pressed to decide if its the recording quality, or the just really bad excuse for metal.
;)

I was also never a big fan of Ozzys "Bark at the moon" sound wise, the album itself is magnificent, but the sound quality isn;t what i like. I didnt like Type O Negatives "World Coming Down" for sound either. Though they are my favorite band, that album especially felt far too dense to me. Too crowded. To quote someone on here, "like you couldnt fit a credit card in the space".


I dont listen to most bands riding the "new wave of american heavy metal", so i cant really comment on them....but what i have heard is far too compressed and lacks almost any dynamics what so ever. To me thats equal parts recording, and the "everything must be broootal!" mentality so pervasive in metal now a days. Alot of new music lacks the dynamics that make metal great and epic. And it lacks it in both recording and writing imo.

I listened to all of those and I'd generally agree, though Bark at The Moon still sounded okay to me just like I remembered.

 

What about offshoots like say.. Deftones, Stone Temple Pilots, Filter? Are their productions more consistent or better sounding to you?

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