I know everyone has them. Those albums that rule, but are just horrible sounding. Yes, I know a grimy, nasty sound can bring a certain aesthetic to some genres. It’s desirable even. This is not about those albums. It’s about those albums where you love the songs, so you don’t care that it sounds like junk. But you still really wish there was a way to hear the songs you love as the band really wanted. Sometimes the bands agree (and are given the budget) and we get new, better sounding versions of the albums we love. Sometimes labels do this without band input and make it worse. More often than not, we don’t get anything. And those last two are what this list is for.
#5 Dimmu Borgir – Spiritual Black Dimensions
This album wants to be epic, I can feel its epic-ness (is that even a word, I don’t think so, but I don’t care) trying to break out at every turn and floor me with its grandiosity. Too bad, because all you get is mush. Warm, sticky, squishy mush.
#4 Tie: Strapping Young Lad – City re-master and Pantera – 20th Anniversary editions.
Both of these “re-masters” sound terrible. Like hot ass. It feels like disrespect to not put any effort into re-mastering a classic album and putting out junk like this. The new versions try to correct none of the errors of the originals and improve upon them, they just added a few db, which muddies everything up, and crapped it out to try to make some $.
#3 Fleshgod Apocalypse – Agony and Labyrinth
Intertwining melody lines! Fantastic orchestration! Cross instrument interplay! Impressive and technical riffs! At least that is what I assume is happening on these albums. I can’t really tell because all I hear are drums and a few keyboard twinkles between brick-walling and compression pumping. These songs are so intricate and well crafted, but it just comes across as noise. Granted, Labyrinth was a step up from Agony, but it’s still way worse than a band of this caliber deserves. Seriously, just turn the drums down, they aren’t doing anything interesting anyway.
#2 Meshuggah – Chaosphere
This is probably my biggest disappointment on this list, since I love it so much. It honestly sounds like someone disconnected your woofers when you pop this album in. And if you decide to take it upon yourself and turn up the bass, well, you’re in for some of the worst sounding, muddiest, muffled junk ever. Destroy/Erase/Improve sounded great, and they remixed/re-mastered/re-recorded Nothing. What gives? I would kill for a full remix, or even just a good (not like those worthless re-masters for #4) re-master of it.
And #1 goes to…. Nile’s guitar sound – every single album
The closest they have come to a guitar tone that doesn’t completely mask whatever they are playing is Those Whom the Gods Detest. I mean their guitar tone is so crappy, when they sweep pick, it could be one of those “Shreds” videos on Youtube, and no one would know the difference. I can hear the comments already “Oh, but that is their signature sound!” Crap? Crap is not an acceptable signature sound. Just because you rip at playing does not mean you know what a good guitar tone is. Could you imagine a Nile album where the guitars where clear? It would be fantastic.
There you have it. Sure, some examples, like bad tone or bad engineering and mixing, can only be fixed so much. Budgetary constraints also contribute, I’m sure. But it really feels like a LOT of metal bands sacrifice good sound for volume. As if at some point, someone in the chain said, “Yeah, it sounds alright, but can you make it louder?” I feel like that thought process has ruined a lot of great metal albums. I know this list only scratches the surface, so what are your favorite top notch yet atrocious sounding albums?