Please, Rick Rubin: Leave Metal Bands Alone

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Photo courtesy of MSO PR
Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard that Black Sabbath recently released their long awaited comeback album, 13. It's their first with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals since 1978's Never Say Die, and riding high at No. 1 on the UK Charts, their first No. 1 hit since 1970's Paranoid. So: comeback successful, right?

Well, pretty much. The record itself is better written and performed than anyone could have possibly expected from Sabbath at this stage in their career. Their songs still have a lot of the power they once had, and even reality TV hasn't diminished the effectiveness of Ozzy's evil wail. There's really just one big problem with this record: producer Rick Rubin.

Rubin has been in the news a lot lately for his work on Kanye West's new record Yeezus, and he has quite the esteemed reputation in that field. He is, after all, the same guy who produced classic records from the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Run-DMC, the recently reunited Geto Boys, and a little track called ""99 Problems." He's also been an acclaimed metal producer in the past, producing iconic records by Slayer, Danzig, System of a Down, and Rage Against the Machine.

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Rubin is even a master of orchestrating comebacks, which Rocks Off praised him for when Sabbath announced they were working with him. But at the same time, he's also taken a ton of heat over the years for some particular production choices, especially ones related to the loudness war. Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of Rubin's most acclaimed records and a huge comeback for the band, has also been deemed "unlistenable" by some publications due to Rubin's production, which maxed out the volume on all the instruments into the red.

That's like the Stooges' Raw Power, a legendarily poorly mixed record, on steroids.

Well, it seems in the case of Sabbath, Rubin is up to all his old tricks again. He's orchestrated yet another massive comeback and also marred yet another great record with the same old production traits that have practically ruined so many. Let's compare it to his last big metal comeback, for instance: Metallica's Death Magnetic.



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8 comments
david.amnesia
david.amnesia

(This may double post, apologies in advance...) It's the mastering. Rubin doesn't master the records he produces. The article glides over this a bit in mentioning the "loudness wars." Check the wikipedia article for that subject, it's too long to explain in a comment, but it's not about mere volume. If you find yourself listening far less to more recent records than say, pre-90's (or so) records by bands you love, you've probably been a victim in that war.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

If it's too loud, you're too old.  Take a napkin punch a hole in the middle of it, compare that to the human anatomy and that's precisely what you are..

LindaLeseman
LindaLeseman

I find it ironic to criticize a metal record for being loud. It's metal. It's supposed to be loud. It's the tone, not the volume, that grates.

Daniel McCrary
Daniel McCrary

I think the new album rocks. It's supposed to be loud, crunchy, and over the top doom metal.

Jason Smith
Jason Smith

I'm just listening for the first time - on computer speakers mind you. Does anyone know / can you point me to a link where they talk about recording process? Was this album tracked in analog at all? It sounds a little thin, but like I said, I'm listening on Rhapsody on my computer, not my living room vinyl set up. As for the songwriting, I can tell they did not mail it in. It sounds like they really wanted to put one more album in the books to show they could still do it. At times it sounds like they're ripping themselves off. I guess it would have to sound like that since that's essentially what anyone is doing when they relive their glory days. I'd like to know about the "analog in the recording chain" just so I know if this is worth getting on vinyl. I'm definitely going to listen to this more than this once - but I'm still undecided if I'm going to spring the $ for the vinyl or if I'll just stream it on my subscription service.

billybadass
billybadass

Blame modern mixing techniques for this, not Rubin. Plus, Rubin doesn't "produce" the way other producers do. He has a team twiddle the knobs.

Lupe Mendoza Jr
Lupe Mendoza Jr

Well apparently to the author the song is just the words. Guitar solo's aren't part of the song? Does metal not have guitar solos? I'm pretty sure that's a primary trait of black Sabbath and many other metal bands. Did the author grew up listening to jimmy eat world and linkin park? You're a douchbag. There are no fucking rules in rock and roll.

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