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Metallica - Death Magnetic CD (album) cover




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3.31 | 465 ratings

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5 stars Most people already know what they think of Death Magnetic, but the general consensus, with which I do not disagree, seems to be that it's a striking return to form that was fatally marred by absolutely abysmal production. It's considered one of the worst examples of the "loudness war", a trend in which engineers crank out dynamic range compression to ever-increasing levels in the pursuit of loudness, at the expense of sound quality. If done ineptly, as was the case here, it results in digital clipping that removes the peaks and troughs from the audio signal and results in a distorted, muffled sound. Admittedly, metal is supposed to sound distorted, but not like this.

As a result of the abysmal mastering, fans generally resorted to various fan-made mixes of the Guitar Hero III versions of the tracks, which surprisingly were not subjected to the digital clipping of the other versions, and the irony that the erstwhile anti-Napster poster boys had an album that could only truly be appreciated through piracy was widely noted. While Death Magnetic is not the all-time worst example of this on a well-known rock record (that would be Iggy Pop's remaster of the Stooges' Raw Power, although there are albums that are even worse, such as Merzbow's mid-'90s albums Venereology and Pulse Demon, though this was probably done for artistic purposes in Merzbow's case, particularly considering that this trend is usually absent from his work), the album has nonetheless become a byword for terrible mastering, and fans begged the band to remaster it for years.

In 2016, Metallica finally answered their prayers, and I am happy to report that the new version is a night-and-day improvement. The digital clipping that plagued the original album is (mostly) gone on the remaster, and the album's dynamic range is literally more than twice that of the original. It's still a loud record when compared to the releases of the '80s and earlier, but it actually sounds like music now. The remaster also fixes some other flaws of the original version, such as a weak bass sound. I'll have to run some A/B tests to decide whether I can retire the Guitar Hero version, but the mere fact that I'm not certain of this is testament to how well produced this remaster is. Whenever I wrote about this album in the past I had to mention the loudness war caveats, but I can finally unconditionally recommend this album. Five stars.

CassandraLeo | 5/5 |


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