A Napster lawsuit affair, a documentary with the feel of a reality show, and now a CD with crippled sound. It seems like Metallica have become better in stirring controversy than writing songs.
‘Death Magnetic’ might well be the loudest- and lousiest-sounding mass-marketed album. Its dynamic range is compressed into a monolithic wall of noise. Apparently, volume sells and sound mixes are more and more influenced as we change our habits to listening on the go. But despite all the slick iPods, the limitations inherent in today’s digital technology still mean there is only so many bits to describe how loud the sound is. People deciding this for ‘Death Magnetic’ failed to realize that “when everyone’s super, no one will be.” (A point made in ‘The Incredibles.’)
Audible distortions left some people wondering whether their speakers were broken, or whether they downloaded improperly encoded MP3’s. This also shows how much the consumer approach is changing. It does not end with the move to online media though. Just as people like to customize their software with skins and add-ins, some of us make their own cuts of disappointing movies. (A trend “helped” by George Lucas and Wachowski brothers.) When it turned out that the same songs for the console game Guitar Hero did not suffer the compression problem, it was inevitable that people would start creating and sharing their own versions of the album.
And the music itself? It is definitely better than the last painful effort but just as bloated, and now overshadowed (some think intentionally) by the controversy.