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ButterLettuss

Bad Modern Metal Tones and Their Musical Impact

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I've been thinking a lot recently about how much more I enjoy the tonal qualities of older albums (specifically guitar) and why modern metal just doesn't have the same feel.  The best example I have of this is Metallica.  Their first 4 albums have a fucking HUGE, KILLER tone that just fills a room and shakes the Earth.  But now listening to Hardwired...it just felt so blah because the tone had no grit to it.  This video helps explain what I mean:

 

Does anybody else feel this way?  Is it a result of digital recording?  Is it a result of using modelling amps and DAWs?  I know some bands actually managed to keep the gritty tone, like Testament.  Now I know this isn't a problem with like Black Metal etc, as keeping production to a minimum is a key point of the genre's sound... But does anyone else feel this way?  Do others prefer modern metal guitar tone?

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2 hours ago, ButterLettuss said:

I've been thinking a lot recently about how much more I enjoy the tonal qualities of older albums (specifically guitar) and why modern metal just doesn't have the same feel.  The best example I have of this is Metallica.  Their first 4 albums have a fucking HUGE, KILLER tone that just fills a room and shakes the Earth.  But now listening to Hardwired...it just felt so blah because the tone had no grit to it.  This video helps explain what I mean:

 

Does anybody else feel this way?  Is it a result of digital recording?  Is it a result of using modelling amps and DAWs?  I know some bands actually managed to keep the gritty tone, like Testament.  Now I know this isn't a problem with like Black Metal etc, as keeping production to a minimum is a key point of the genre's sound... But does anyone else feel this way?  Do others prefer modern metal guitar tone?

Totally agree.

I doubt Metallica are using modelling amps, (and modelling amps can sound gritty) and DAWs are just tools used to organise sound, they do not necessarily change tone (Testament would definitely be using a DAW). 

What you're hearing would come down to choices in editing (EQ, high/low cuts, digital compression), the difference between analog and digital recording (analog clipping can sound good, digital clipping tends to sound bad) and choices in guitars, amps. pedals. and guitar and amp settings (so, less mids, for instance would reduce the amount of crunch, more lows would mean more flabbyness etc.).

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21 minutes ago, Will said:

Totally agree.

I doubt Metallica are using modelling amps, (and modelling amps can sound gritty) and DAWs are just tools used to organise sound, they do not necessarily change tone (Testament would definitely be using a DAW). 

What you're hearing would come down to choices in editing (EQ, high/low cuts, digital compression), the difference between analog and digital recording (analog clipping can sound good, digital clipping tends to sound bad) and choices in guitars, amps. pedals. and guitar and amp settings (so, less mids, for instance would reduce the amount of crunch, more lows would mean more flabbyness etc.).

You're right, they're totally not as they have their own custom amps and stuff, and I guess more specifically what I meant about DAWs is that I've seen bands record directly, then add distortion and effects later and I can't help but think it affects the grit of the sound, yknow?

I actually hadn't thought about clipping (digital vs analog), but that makes sense!  Is that where you think the main difference is?

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Just now, ButterLettuss said:

You're right, they're totally not as they have their own custom amps and stuff, and I guess more specifically what I meant about DAWs is that I've seen bands record directly, then add distortion and effects later and I can't help but think it affects the grit of the sound, yknow?

Yeah, I don't think that Metallica would be doing that, thought as it is usually a resource used by people for convenience sake, like not wanting to make noise with an amp or wanting to be able to only record once but being able to change tones a thousand times. I don't think they'd be doing something like that as computer generated distortion does not really tend to sound great and they have as much time and space as they could possibly need to record.

8 minutes ago, ButterLettuss said:

I actually hadn't thought about clipping (digital vs analog), but that makes sense!  Is that where you think the main difference is?

I think the main difference is probably in amp EQ settings, guitar settings, and editing (specifically spectral and volume editing for the sake of cleanliness and consistency). Testament would be recording digitally so the clipping can't be the main thing unless someone has set up an almighty hybrid workstation with witch to apply analogue compression.

You can get a dirty, crunchy tone using digital equipment pretty easily.

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3 minutes ago, Will said:

. I don't think they'd be doing something like that as computer generated distortion does not really tend to sound great and they have as much time and space as they could possibly need to record.

I think the main difference is probably in amp EQ settings, guitar settings, and editing (specifically spectral and volume editing for the sake of cleanliness and consistency). Testament would be recording digitally so the clipping can't be the main thing unless someone has set up an almighty hybrid workstation with witch to apply analogue compression.

You can get a dirty, crunchy tone using digital equipment pretty easily.

I would agree they're definitely not doing that, but their tone changes may be a result of their more mainstream fanbase (who knows why people would choose to sound worse).  Did you check that video out?  IMHO, simply changing the guitar tone on that song alone turns it from kind of boring to gritty and real so I don't know why they would choose not to do so, and some groups are heading that way (cough cough Megadeth is a huge offender).  It just ends up sounding sterile, yknow?

That's the thing, you CAN get dirty tones easily through digital kit, so artists are actively choosing not to, and I don't understand why, yknow?  I'd love to hear someone from one of those bands talk about why they shape their sound the way they do, and what's changed in their minds about how they approach it. 

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9 minutes ago, ButterLettuss said:

I would agree they're definitely not doing that, but their tone changes may be a result of their more mainstream fanbase (who knows why people would choose to sound worse).  Did you check that video out?  IMHO, simply changing the guitar tone on that song alone turns it from kind of boring to gritty and real so I don't know why they would choose not to do so, and some groups are heading that way (cough cough Megadeth is a huge offender).  It just ends up sounding sterile, yknow?

*cough cough* Kreator *cough Anthrax *cough cough every second thrash band. 

I did see the video. It was neato. I think they're just making everything as clean and spacious as possible to compete at with more modern bands (Distirbed, Five Finger Death Punch etc.) to attract a modern audience. I have friends that only like modern production.

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3 hours ago, Will said:

*cough cough* Kreator *cough Anthrax *cough cough every second thrash band. 

I did see the video. It was neato. I think they're just making everything as clean and spacious as possible to compete at with more modern bands (Distirbed, Five Finger Death Punch etc.) to attract a modern audience. I have friends that only like modern production.

Youre so right haha. I honestly think testament is one of the only thrash bands that didn't sanitize their tone (if anything they got heavier, especially vocally) .

 

Thats fair! Wow seriously? I cant imagine what the draw of that tone is, if you get to a point on some songs where a synth could replicate your rhythm guitar youve made a mistake. Imho.

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28 minutes ago, ButterLettuss said:

Youre so right haha. I honestly think testament is one of the only thrash bands that didn't sanitize their tone (if anything they got heavier, especially vocally) .

I do really like the new Testament album, my only complaint would be that they had Steve Di Giorgio on the album (and in the band) but didn't seem to make as good of use of him as they could have. Oh well, I guess too many obnoxious bass solos or distinct basslines wouldn't really sound like Testament.

 

28 minutes ago, ButterLettuss said:

Thats fair! Wow seriously? I cant imagine what the draw of that tone is, if you get to a point on some songs where a synth could replicate your rhythm guitar youve made a mistake. Imho.

Yeah, I can't say I really understand it.

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1 hour ago, Will said:

I do really like the new Testament album, my only complaint would be that they had Steve Di Giorgio on the album (and in the band) but didn't seem to make as good of use of him as they could have. Oh well, I guess too many obnoxious bass solos or distinct basslines wouldn't really sound like Testament.

It's the best "dadthrash" album to come out that year, and one of 2 to contain harsh vocals (Annihilator's Suicide Society being the other), which I never understood as they fit the genre so well when used in the right places.  That's a reasonable complaint, honestly didn't even know he was on the album.  I am always a fan of some sweet ass bass riffs/solos so that wouldve been a nice change of pace thrown in once or twice.

1 hour ago, Will said:

 

Yeah, I can't say I really understand it.

I get it for certain genres, especially the techy ones where the notes themselves need to stand out, or when the guitar is used as like a percussive instrument rather than for melody (like in some djenty stuff).  But for the classic stuff, and anything where atmosphere plays a roll it's gotten really dry from a lot of bands (obviously not all).

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59 minutes ago, ButterLettuss said:

It's the best "dadthrash" album to come out that year, and one of 2 to contain harsh vocals (Annihilator's Suicide Society being the other), which I never understood as they fit the genre so well when used in the right places.  That's a reasonable complaint, honestly didn't even know he was on the album.  I am always a fan of some sweet ass bass riffs/solos so that wouldve been a nice change of pace thrown in once or twice.

A bass break somewhere would've been nice. I only found out he was on the album reading the booklet, would never have guessed from the sound.

59 minutes ago, ButterLettuss said:

I get it for certain genres, especially the techy ones where the notes themselves need to stand out, or when the guitar is used as like a percussive instrument rather than for melody (like in some djenty stuff).  But for the classic stuff, and anything where atmosphere plays a roll it's gotten really dry from a lot of bands (obviously not all).

Even for tech stuff, there's still a bit of wriggle room between not being able to hear the notes and being unnecessarily sterile in your rhythm guitar tone.

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8 hours ago, Will said:

A bass break somewhere would've been nice. I only found out he was on the album reading the booklet, would never have guessed from the sound.

Even for tech stuff, there's still a bit of wriggle room between not being able to hear the notes and being unnecessarily sterile in your rhythm guitar tone.

Ahh there's the issue, I don't have a booklet to look at haha, I wish they would have hit some CA destinations on tour with Annihilator... Europe is so damn lucky.

That's true!  i mean if you hear some of the gnarlier DM rhythm work it's still gritty but you can hear everything.  I think you can be clear with gritty tone if you've got the right pups and setup. They're not particularly "brootal" but I always though a good example of gritty modern metal tones was the first Protest the Hero album (Kezia).  They got a really gritty sound on that album, but it's full of technical parts that are still clear. I'm admittedly a huge PTH fanboy so I'm probably being a bit biased though.

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To me the biggest problem is lack of dynamics largely thanks to loudness wars. Another frustration is when the audio spectrum is just too cluttered, they add so much stuff and instruments that it gets extremely hard for the mixer to maintain any sort of punch with too much shit going on at once.. Basically what i want from metal is either a proper kick in the nuts with dynamics, or beautifull/atmospheric/moody melodies.

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2 hours ago, ChainsawAkimbo said:

To me the biggest problem is lack of dynamics largely thanks to loudness wars. Another frustration is when the audio spectrum is just too cluttered, they add so much stuff and instruments that it gets extremely hard for the mixer to maintain any sort of punch with too much shit going on at once.. Basically what i want from metal is either a proper kick in the nuts with dynamics, or beautifull/atmospheric/moody melodies.

I think you've definitely got a point there!  It's hard to be loud and clear.  Cluttering is a huge problem, with digital tracking you've got unlimited options in terms of filling up a song with sound, eventually it keeps things from sticking out. Agreed!  Ideally both!  There's no reason the tone can't suit the mood, but it should never be sterile or boring.  

What's a good example of a "kick in the nuts" song?  I've been listening to Lich King recently, and they got some grit.

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9 minutes ago, ButterLettuss said:

What's a good example of a "kick in the nuts" song?  I've been listening to Lich King recently, and they got some grit.

I suppose Vader and Krisiun are pretty good examples.. The song i chose from Vader has some orchestral stuff but still is "punchy", and Krisiun is.. Krisiun. I love both bands. :D 

 

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The obsession with the ‘modern’ sound is just a complete mystery.

Look at the last couple of Ozzy Osbourne albums for instance. Kevin Churko makes them sound so mechanical and terrible, yet he’s a star producer and he keeps getting rehired. His work with Five Finger Death Punch is the same. It sounds terrible and it should sound great. 

The only explanation is that albums that sound like that must be more appealing to kids. It’s just bizarre. 

Luckily European producers like Jens Bogren have the right idea. It’s an American problem I think.

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