ON METAL PRODUCTION
My piece on drum-triggering a few weeks back ruffled a few feathers and even prompted a defense from Eyal. But what about metal production as a whole? Cosmo Lee at Invisible Oranges just published his thoughts on the current state of metal production, and as usual he’s (mostly) spot on.
I agree with the general thesis Cosmo is putting forth, namely that different kinds of metal require different kinds of production. I’ve never understood people who frown upon anything that sounds polished — there’s a time and a place for big, loud, slick production, just as there’s a time and a place for raw, dry, dirty, band-in-a-room-jamming production. The right band for the right producer and mixer. The argument that spiffed up mixing makes bands sound fake holds no water; the minute you place a mic in front of an amp/drum/voice and record that sound, the mic and recording equipment fundamentally alter that sound. It then takes the finely-tuned skills of a mixer or producer to get the sound BACK to how it actually sounded in the room before the mic picked it up. Sure, there’s over-production too, and that’s a separate issue — I just think certain people are way too quick to cry foul on anything that sounds good (hey Iann Robinson!) when in fact certain situations/bands just warrant that kind of a sound.
Cosmo also points out that mixing and production are more important to fans of metal than fans of any other genre, and I wholeheartedly agree; we’re really fucking picky. There is one part of Cosmo’s piece though that I take issue with:
I can’t tell these [new mainstream] bands apart anymore. Metal production has become such an assembly line that records have no sonic quirks anymore. The basslessness of …And Justice for All; the bassfulness of Severed Survival; the angry, redlined sound of Roots — such idiosyncrasies don’t happen now. Metal, as rock music taken to extremes, is supposed to be a bastion of rebellion. Instead, it has somehow become OK to sand off the edges and embrace homogeneity. I can’t help but feel that the machines have won.
There are plenty of sonic quirks and differences amongst today’s metal records. As Cosmo notes, the dry production of the recent Skeletonwitch and 3 Inches of Blood albums. There’s the whole Michael Keane / The Faceless dry/computery sound that’s definitely got its own thing going on, like it or not. You’ve got the big djenty sound of Periphery and the like. You’ve got the abortion that was the mixing job of Death Magnetic. I’d argue that with today’s production technology …And Justice for All would be BETTER! The only reason anyone could possibly like the basslesslness of that record has to do with nostalgia, that it’s the way you’re used to hearing it, and of course the back-story of Metallica’s bassist situation at the time. My point here isn’t that there’s any right or wrong way mixing is being done in the current scene, but just that there are, in fact, many different styles of mixing and production happening today.
Tell us what you think about metal production below… what do you like / not like, and what’s your favorite production style? Also be sure to read Cosmo’s full piece.