Question Of The Week: What Shall We Re-mix, De-mix, and/or Pre-mix?
Last week in a dazzling MetalSucks interview, Selim Lemouchi (ex-The Devil’s Blood) dispensed a vital reminder: Listeners must avoid the temptation to get wrapped up in the aesthetics of something; focus on its message, its essence, its form. (That’s a paraphrase, sorry SL.) It’s like dismissing a perfectly good wang/wangina because you dislike the undergarments that clothe it: In all but extreme cases, totally loony!
But there’s a reason that Lemouchi’s statement bears reiteration: To be distracted by a jam’s presentation is easy! A listener will be like, Dammit man what’s with that snare drum? Or, Great god is that what they wear on stage? Or a favorite of mine for redundantly intense frontmen: Say it don’t spray it, dude! So let’s indulge that temptation in today’s MetalSucks Question Of The Week! But then we’ll divorce ourselves from the desire to change other people’s work lol.
Inspired by the newly mixed version of a decade-old Rush album, we asked our staff the following:
You have the power to order a remix/remaster of one album. What is it?
There’s no shortage of choices! lol Have an awesome wknd!
What else — Metallica’s St. Anger! It would be an awesome challenge to spend hours in the studio, trying my damnedest to make that thing listenable. Don’t get me wrong, the songwriting would still be lackluster, but I bet you could siphon out a Metallica album of that mess with some serious tinkering. How serious? I’d have Erik Rutan on speakerphone and a studio set-up similar to the cockpit of an airplane. I’d have seventy Pro-Tools windows open at once. But with time, patience, and alcohol, who knows what I might create.
Not every mainstream metal album aspires to hugeness, but those that do really deserve a production in the style of Bob Rock’s 1989-1991 stuff. The thundering drums, the planet-stuffing guitars, the bass that’s actually there — all perfect but not mechanical, super-human not inhuman. That’s my jam! So me and ace producer Jay Ruston could fill the rest of our lives re-doing awesome albums of metal eras from nu-metal to prog, just to open up post-Pantera vacuum sonics and to tame Townsendian spray. Then Stabbing The Drama would sound like Sonic Temple, Alien like A Little Ain’t Enough, Lateralus like Dr. Feelgood, and Colors like Blue Murder!
I was listening to D.I. “Horse Bites Dog Cries” the other day and it is literally half as loud as everything else on my Spotify playlist (which is exclusively post-2010 artists). It definitely needs a remaster. And lol @ anyone who thinks that a loud, full master means that it has to lack dynamic range. If your mastering guy (and I say “guy” because lettuce be cereal have you EVER seen an album that credits a woman with the mastering? lol, women) can’t make it sound huge while still preserving the dynamics then you’re going to the wrong person. Do u even Alan Douches, bro?
Honestly, I wouldn’t wanna “fix” any of my favorite albums. Even if they’re not perfect, they’re a snapshot of a band at a particular time and place, and I love them, warts and all. To mess with them now would be akin to the whole George Lucas thing, y’know? That being said, I’ve had a lot of fun fucking around with band’s music when they release the individual tracks to the public for just such a purpose (see: Lamb of God, Nine Inch Nails). To that end, I’d really love to remix something that’s crazy over-produced and has a ton of shit going on — say, Guns N’ Roses‘ Chinese Democracy, or even Use Your Illusion for that matter. Those albums have at minimum three guitar parts on every song, two keyboard parts, a chorus of Axl Roses, and sometime a chorus of other dudes, too (including, on the Illusion album, Shannon Hoon from Blind Melon, a fact many people seem to have long since forgotten). Slash has always said that he envisioned the Illusions albums as being more raw and Appetite for Destruction-esque; is that even possible? How many trillions of versions of each track must there be for Chinese Democracy? What would it sound like if you dropped one of thirty of the guitar parts, or rearranged the solos, or brought up one keyboard in the mix and lowered the other? I don’t know if the results would be “superior” to the original releases, but I do think it would be a great way to waste hours of my life.
I really, really, really like a lot of records Erik Rutan’s produced lately. The last two Goatwhore albums have sounded polished-yet-punchy and Cannibal Corpse’s late-career resurgence is due in part to the crisp enormousness of their records’ production. So it’s odd that Rutan makes the aural choices he does with his own band. At best, Hate Eternal sound like an impenetrable monolith of tech-death: everything’s bunched together to the degree where things can tend to get lost. It’s off-putting at first, but you grow used to it. He finally went too far on 2008’s Fury & Flames. It’s not a lousy album (it’s a great one, obviously) but is fatally marred by the sheer awfulness of its sound. Anyone who’s spent time with it knows the culprit: the goddamn drums. They’re right the fuck up front, pounding everything else into the wall on the other side of the room. This is an weird move considering Hate Eternal’s strengths: serpentine, hypertechnical guitar work (especially considering it’s Rutan himself playing it). But all of Fury & Flames‘ best riffs are lost in a blizzard of puh-puh-puh-puh-puh-puh-puh-puh. I’d love to hear a remaster of the album where the drums sound like they’re anywhere but directly in front of the mic. Hell, I’d love it if most of Hate Eternal’s catalog could be presented with the same fierce clarity of his studio work with extreme metal’s greats instead of being stuffed into a Pringles can to fight it out. But then how would we know it’s Hate Eternal?
DAVID LEE ROTHMUND
How ’bout this: An album I’d never remix despite everyone being like “omg what terrible production quality yo.” Lamb Of God‘s seminal As The Palaces Burn. What an era-defining level of grit and grime, most of it found in the B-grade guitar tone and Randy’s cigarette voice. Polishing this thing would be like asking Tom Waits to sing like Frank Sinatra. Fuck that shit.