Sunday, September 07, 2008

Metallica's Death Magnetic on Vinyl

Being a dedicated Metallica freak since I walked into my St. Scholastica dorm room in 1991, I'll be first in line to grab the new album. However, because of my dedication for analog records, and my increasing weariness for "the loudness wars," I'll be avoiding the CD version of Death Magnetic. Thankfully, two different vinyl LP releases will be available next week with the CD.

The standard Death Magnetic LP will be a double-album (as every Metallica album since Justice has been), two records at 180g, gatefold sleeve...the usual treatment. It is reportedly being mastered at Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, one of the trusted "Cadillac" audiophile brands. MoFi, in fact, essentially started the audiophile movement in vinyl lp's 25 years ago.

However, MoFi was also responsible for Warner Bros' recent reissues of the first three Metallica albums, and they just sounded terrible. Just bloody awful, especially when compared to your vintage copies of Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets. So it's an open question how the new album comes out. It really all depends on the state of those master tapes. Hopefully they won't be hideously over-compressed like nearly all CD's these days.

The "loudness wars" is one of the most frustrating and infuriating trends by the music business this past decade. It's no wonder they're losing money hand and feet; we aren't even being given real music anymore. It's just muddy distortion and a thin-reed backbeat. Hopefully, the Vinyl Revival will reverse this obnoxious trend.

Back to Metallica and their latest triumph. In addition to the standard LP, there will be a limited-edition (5,000) box set. This is a monster, and it's going to cost you anywhere from $100-$200. Ouch! Definitely for the diehard fans. So basically it all depends on how much tear gas and body blows you took from the stormtroopers. If those evil fuckers beat the shit out of you, you're going to need that extra-strength dose of Metallica to keep sane.

The Death Magnetic box comes with five albums, at 45rpm speed. This means one song per side, which is kinda funny, since this is what records were like before the advent of the LP in the late '40s. We've come full circle, kids.

The best part is that the 5-LP set is being mastered at ATI, the masterful home of Kevin Grey and Steve Hoffman. Their reputation is beyond reproach. They've given us so many fantastic album reissues, from Joni Mitchell's Blue to Black Sabbath's Paranoid to John Coltrane's Giant Steps. All of which means that you will have the best version of D-Mag there is.

The box set should also include the album on CD, which is pretty standard these days. Metallica is also throwing in demos of the songs? Groovy. You'd likely be better off just making a needledrop of those 45's, and throwing those on your iPod.

I've dug around for more info, and some e-retailers promise the D-Mag box will also include a making-of DVD, guitar picks, a t-shirt, a flag, and a fold-out poster. Is this for real? Tough to say...I guess we'll just have to wait and see. It's just my luck that I'm flat-busted broke yet again.
Hmm...say, doesn't the coffin photos from the box set remind you of Led Zeppelin's Presence? Weird.


slerch666 said...

Hate to burst your bubble, but the 5 vinyl DM release is also plagued by range compression and clipping. It seems it was mastered from the same master as the CD, which also suffers from these issues.

I did what you recommended and did a "needle drop" copy using my PC and Sound Forge 9. Turns out that while I recorded it at the proper level, the clipping present on the CD is clearly heard on the vinyl release as well.

So save your $125 on the 5 vinyl release. I was hoping MoFi would ensure quality, however it seems that just didn't happen. Garbage in, garbage out.

Anonymous said...

I have every version possible of the new album, and the 5 album version sounds a lot better then the CD (heck, even the 2 album 33 1/3 RPM version sounds a lot better then the CD) but is it really worth investing $108 on the 45 rpm version?!?