With last Friday’s release of Death Magnetic, Metallica fans knew that the band’s new album would be playable that day for Guitar Hero 3. What fans didn’t know was that the video game version of the album would actually sound better than the CD counterpart. That’s what mastering engineer Ian Shepherd discovered when, on a tip from a Metallica forum, he compared the compression rates between the CD and the GH versions. Shepherd discovered that the CD is boosted as much as compressively possible, making it 10 decibels louder than the GH version while completely bleaching out the dynamic range.
The subject of compression and the loudness wars was discussed in much more detail in our “The Death Of High Fidelity” piece, but Death Magnetic seems to be the biggest violator, with fans both demanding the band re-mix the album and threatening to perfectly-execute GH‘s in-house version and send that to fans clamoring for a proper mix. Even Ted Jensen, who is credited with mastering DM in the liner notes, admitted on a message board, “Believe me I’m not proud to be associated with this one, and we can only hope that some good will come from this in some form of backlash against volume above all else.” Jensen said the mixers of the album are to blame for the compression problems. Metallica is usually on hand for the mixing stage, but this time around they were away in Europe.