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Enough Already: Fun and Games Pt. 1


A blogumn by Jordan Weeks

Exploring the intersection of popular culture, socio-cultural politics, economics, and whatever the hell else…

Through the Looking Glass

Metallica’s new album, Death Magnetic (released September 12), apparently holds the distinction of being the first new full-length album to be released simultaneously in stores and for “download and play” with the Xbox-compatible video game Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock. It may soon hold yet another distinction.

Since its release, Death Magnetic has been embroiled in controversy and may be the first album to be re-mixed and re-released due to public outcry (read: copious negative Internet flurry) about the album’s sound. Swarms of vocal Metallica fans apparently feel the sound quality on the downloadable Guitar Hero 3 version is far superior to that of the allegedly brittle-sounding retail-available CD.

Now…I have no idea whether there’s any validity to these claims, as I have not, in-person, heard the album being played on Guitar Hero or an Xbox; I have only heard YouTube audio-posts which claim to be “A/B” comparisons of the exact same musical phrases being played alternately on the CD and then on Guitar Hero, and there’s really no way to verify whether these are legitimate, unaffected posts. Someone could easily have adjusted the playback mix of the sample song parts with a home-studio mixer (or even a stereo-component amp) for one sample, then adjusted the mix again for the comparison-post. (The Internet, as you may or may not be aware, is a bastion for subterfuge, nonsense, and loose women. Not to mention sleight-of-hand trickery from precocious, bored, dickheaded opportunists and metal fans, some of whom are probably, like, 12.)

But I have listened to much of the album on a car stereo equipped with a CD-player (i.e. not an in-dash MP3-player or one hooked-up to a cassette adaptor) with which I have listened to countless other albums by countless other artists.

I like the album. And I think it sounds decent. Decent enough, anyway; I mean, none of Metallica’s other records sound all that good – especially the uber-shitty drum sounds on 2003’s St. Anger. Ulrich’s drums always sound like shit, but, as a friend of mine very deftly articulated, they hit a new low on St. Anger, with Ulrich’s snare sounding “like a fucking elevator button.”

It’s neither here nor there whether I agree with one side of this fidelity argument or the other, or even whether the album’s any good or not. (Although as I stated previously, I am down with it.) That’s not the point.

I am taken-aback by the fact that people are listening to music on a video-game system – and that this may cause one of the biggest bands in the free world to re-mix and re-release an album. I mean – there are albums that sounded like shit when they came out and it took 25, 35, 45 years before anybody even THOUGHT about re-mixing, re-mastering, and re-releasing them. (Thank goodness for technology.)

I’m not saying it’s good or bad that the fan-feedback may have this rapid and significant tangible affect upon this giant band’s new album, and subsequently what I’m sure will be a rapid and significant affect upon the recording-industry, what’s left of it.

Sure, fans are free to dissent and take to task the artists for whose albums they paid good, hard-earned money (if anybody even does that anymore). On the other hand, these four chodes (well, two chodes) signed-off on the record and released it, and that should kinda’ be that: That’s what your boys are up to, where they’re at, sound-wise, and if you don’t like it, tough shit.

Frankly, if these outraged Metallica fans are so concerned with the fidelity of the music that they listen to, maybe they should stop listening to albums that’re recorded exclusively on ProTools and then compressed all to shit to “sound better” on smaller audio-players – like laptop speakers, iPods, and Xboxes. And they should listen to bands who are similarly concerned with the fidelity of their recordings. And they should listen to them ON A REAL STEREO. (Shitheads.)


Next time:
A continuation: The evil that men do via Rock Band and Guitar Hero…