Sunday, March 31, 2013

Things I Learned While Remixing A Metallica Record

When Slayer was writing the music for "Reign in Blood", they were fans of Metallica and Megadeth but thought their songs were too repetitive. So the band just began cutting everything that was redundant from their own tunes and the resulting album barely broke 29 minutes in length. It was also fucking incredible, which got me thinking...

Fun as it is to bash Metallica, "...And Justice For All" is probably my favorite metal album ever, if we go by amount of time in my main CD rotation (100% for the last 14 years or so). But even I know it's too long and stuffed with wankery. So I decided to give it the Slayer treatment: Find anything redundant and cut it out. Just snip-snip-gone. How much could I remove? Would I ruin the album in the process?
Pretty much what I did
This isn't the first time I've re-edited an album to my tastes, but certainly the trickest job, given the amount I ended up tinkering. While I won't share my results online (because yarrrrr) here's what I learned from the experience:

1) Audacity is a great product. 

It's free, and strikes just the right balance between accessibility and power for what I needed to do. It's definitely what I'll use from here on out.

2) Shitty production can be a godsend

Everyone knows AJFA as the album with no audible bass, but it was also mixed with no reverb anywhere. While this makes the album sound a bit dry and dead (I'll probably try adding my own reverb to see if I can perk it up a little) it makes editing a lot simpler. Metallica's songwriting is so modular that it's not hard to just snip four bars here and there, and I rarely had to worry about echos carrying over from cut sections. Only one edit was really any trick at all (more on that later).

Metallica's mixing console circa 1989
3) "...And Justice For All" is 90% awesome

Some people just hate the songs on AJFA, but I don't. I started with the assumption that the songs didn't need much tinkering, and that I would just trim the deadweight. This turned out to be pretty much true, and separating the wheat from the chaff helps the album's momentum a great deal. My final cut ended up being 10% shorter overall.

Mostly I cut sections of riffs repeating themselves, and a few of those random extra beats thrown in to show off that the band can play tricky time signatures. The biggest cuts were in the title track (about two minutes, mostly the slow section in the middle) and "Frayed Ends of Sanity" (about one and a half minutes). The only songs I left untouched were Blackened (which is perfect) and One (Because I can't just "make Kirk's solo better", and the song doesn't work without it). By the way...

4) "The Frayed Ends Of Sanity" is a terrible song

The riffs in the middle are amazing, but this is definitely the track I hated editing the most. In fact I saved it for last knowing it would be my nemesis. I managed to remove Kirk Hammet's entire solo, where it sounds like James and Lars just sort of spaced for a solid minute and let Kirk murder a guitar. This was the aforementioned edit of doom. I had to do some serious multi-tracking to get this done, but it was worth it. The song has been thoroughly de-Kirked, and is now clean.

Kirk Hammett: Lowering Metallica's
asshole quotient by 25% since 1983
5) Kirk Hammett is probably a really great dude

This isn't a thing I learned, but I beat up on the man constantly and should probably show a little respect. He's a fine guitarist, just not meant to play speed metal. His bluesier work on Metallica's later albums is awesome. "The Outlaw Torn" alone, man... He practically made the sky cry on that one.

6) Remixing is fun!

As tedious as this exercise ended up being in places, I am super jazzed with my results. I love re-editing albums the way I like. Hell, after I clear my head of Metallica for a little while I might even try fixing Death Magnetic someday. Someday when I really hate myself.

1 comment:

  1. What about, "My wife REALLY hates Metallica"? Or did you already know that full-well?