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A Gruesome Discovery
01-04-2017, 06:32 PM
I'm an audiophile. That means I have sex with audio. Look it up.

I don't hear much talk about the sound quality of Marilyn Manson albums. There's plenty of talk about the song quality, or how this album is better than that one, and this other one sucked, or this one has a cool sound, but I've yet to have a good, substantive chat about the production, engineering, mixing, and mastering behind these albums. There's a reason for this: most of Manson's albums are a big sonic mess, and audiophiles would normally run screaming from them. Not me, though. I charge in headlong.

So I'm going to basically prattle on about it for an entire thread. You're welcome to read along or join in, but I'll be fucking shocked if anyone does once I bust out the math. There might be some math.

And to throw some red meat on this nerdy fire, I'm going to break down every album with a review of its sonic quality – intentionally trying to avoid discussing the quality of writing – and rank them from best to worst. There's a good chance that an album I don't like will win out against one that I love when compared on a sonic level, but that's just the way this cookie crumbles.

My goal is to do this as objectively as possible. That may sound like a contradiction; how could a “review” be objective? And you'd have a point there, but we're talking about quality. I think there's a way to discuss and compare each album's sound objectively, and even definitively say one sounds better than another. But how?

I'll use an example of two different photos. Two digital photos. They're both photos of cats, because it's the internet. Now, which one is the better picture? That is purely subjective. But dig this: one is taken on a camera phone built in 2003 with dirt on the lens at a resolution of 640x480, and the other is taken on a DSLR with a goddamned Zeiss lens at 4K resolution. It's still subjective as to which one is the “better” photo; folks might prefer the charming "retro" style of the former one, but I think there's a case to be made that the latter photo is objectively of higher quality. So I'm going to approach reviewing the sonic quality of Marilyn Manson records from that perspective. There's still going to be plenty of subjective stuff (read: my asshole opinions), but I'll try to behave.

And this is going to take a few days. And there will be tangents. Oh yes, there will be tangents.

So, let's start with a tangent:

A Gruesome Discovery
01-04-2017, 06:34 PM
Dynamic Range and You: Why Your Music Sounds Like Shit Compared to Your Dad's

I'll get to the album reviews eventually, but first we need to talk about a thing called dynamic range. I hate to have to give a lecture, but I'm going to be mentioning this a LOT when I start talking about the albums.

Wikipedia defines it as this:


Dynamic range, abbreviated DR, DNR, or DYR is the ratio between the largest and smallest values that a certain quantity can assume. It is often used in the context of signals, like sound and light. It is measured either as a ratio or as a base-10 (decibel) or base-2 (doublings, bits or stops) logarithmic value of the difference between the smallest and largest signal values, in parallel to the common usage for audio signals.

So basically, it's a measure of the “volume” range between the loud parts and the quiet parts of a song. If something has a HIGH dynamic range, the loudest parts are way louder than the quiet parts. If something has a LOW dynamic range, the loudest parts aren't really much louder than the quietest parts. If something has NO dynamic range, it's just a long fucking BEEP that never changes in volume. That's a gross oversimplification, but it's not entirely inaccurate.

Why does this matter? Because most modern recordings have very low dynamic range, and they fucking sound like shit because of that. Many come close to sounding like that aforementioned long fucking beep.

Why would they intentionally make recordings sound shitty? Well, in part because of the Loudness War. Google that for a long fucking read if you want, but it comes down to this: when it comes to music, the human brain equates “louder” with “better”, up to a certain point of course. But there's a problem; you can only make a digital audio file so loud. There's a limit, which we call “the ceiling”, “0 dB”, or “digital zero”. Nothing can be louder/higher than the ceiling. So they try to make songs as loud as possible, but since there's a ceiling that cannot be breached, the only way to do this is by reducing dynamic range.

How do you reduce dynamic range? Compression, and a specific type of compression called “limiting”. What compression does is turns the loudest parts down in volume. Once the loud bits have been turned down, you can then increase the volume level of the entire song, because you “shaved off” a bit from the loud parts.

If that didn't make any sense, I can put it another way: how do you fit 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag? You need to squish it in there. And compression and limiting is “squishing” the audio.

So what's the problem? Compression can actually sound great; in fact, it's the sound of rock and roll, if you ask me. But it's a problem when the engineer gets greedy and tries to squeeze it too much – tries to make it the “loudest” album around. Remember, this is accomplished by making the loud parts quieter so you can make the quiet parts louder. But go too far, and a song becomes hard to listen to. A delicately fingered acoustic guitar should not be as loud as a hard snare drum hit. A sparse verse shouldn't be as loud as the full band kicking in on the chorus. But if you compress/limit it too much, that's exactly what happens; there's too little dynamic range, the entire track is all at the same volume, and the attempt to make a song “louder” actually just made it boring and difficult to listen to. The contrast between loud and quiet has been dulled, and all life has been squeezed out of the track. You are left with a recording that is at best boring to listen to, even though it's now “loud”. At worst, it's annoying and painful.

Have you ever had an album where you like the songs, and you dig the band, but you just don't listen to it that much? It's probably because it's been compressed to shit. It's a boring mess.

Another major problem with this is digital distortion. Not the good kind of distortion that you'd get by turning up the gain on a guitar amp, but the kind that occurs when you try to breach that digital ceiling. You see, when you actually hit “the ceiling” in digital audio, it distorts, because digital doesn't know what the fuck to do with values above its limit. This is called “clipping”, because the audio actually gets “clipped” as it tries in vain to reach beyond digital zero. The sound manifests itself as awful noise, and this shit actually makes it on to professionally produced albums, if you can believe that. If you're wondering what clipping sounds like, go buy a bucket of the tiniest screws you can find from your local hardware store and dump them all into a clothes dryer. Then set it to “high”, hit the start button, and then start banging your head against the metal door while listening carefully. That's what clipping sounds like.

Now, many of MM's albums are mixed and/or mastered “too hot”, too loud; the dynamics are destroyed and you're left with a noisy mess consisting of bags overstuffed with shit and dryers full of screws. I long to hear what some of them would sound like had they not been raped by limiters. Now, they're not all like that, and the bad ones aren't nearly as egregious as some albums out there by other artists, particularly in pop music. And I can find things to enjoy about each album, but I really do need to stress that this Dynamic Range thing is a serious problem. Like I said, I'll be mentioning dynamic range a lot.

Anyway, here's a bit about how I listened to these:

-All albums are judged on the original CD release. I have some on vinyl too, and I'll mention those in a few reviews, because they really do tend to sound a lot better. There's actually physical reasons why vinyl records aren't squished as much as CDs and other digital media.

-I listened to each one twice over the last few weeks; once on a pair of Grado SR225 headphones through a home-rolled headphone amplifier, and again through a pair of Event ASP8 monitors. The D/A converter for both listening sessions was a Universal Audio 2192 Master Converter via the AES/EBU inputs. Feel free to look up all that shit, but believe you me when I say it's fairly high end gear. I'm also listening to them as I write through a Marantz receiver and Polk Audio tower speakers, which are more in line with a typical home setup.

-I used a program called “TT Dynamic Range Meter” to measure the dynamic range of each album, so the Dynamic Range score is an objective, repeatable measurement, not just a “score” based on an opinion. Higher numbers mean more dynamic range.

Are you still here? Holy shit, really?! Well, ok, let's find out what the best sounding Marilyn Manson album is.... soon-ish.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-04-2017, 06:43 PM
#1: MECHANICAL ANIMALS
Dynamic Range: 7 (Too loud, but mostly tolerable)
Overall Production Grade: A+

THE LOWDOWN: This is it, the best sounding Marilyn Manson album. I cannot stress how great this album sounds. The production is top-notch, the mix is superb, and the dynamic range isn't too shabby either, at least compared to other contemporary albums. Again, just a reminder, we're not talking about my favorite album or the “greatest” album here, just the best sounding one. Although, in my opinion, this is all three of those.

THE MIX: This is a brilliant mix. The separation is flawless, every element is clear, and there's a fantastic feeling of spaciousness in each track. This really is as close as MM has gotten to sounding like a full band playing in a real physical space. Michael Beinhorn seemed to have a very clear and consistent vision and just nailed the recording. Tom Lord-Alge absolutely killed it behind the console. What's most noticeable is the use of what's known as “LCR Panning”; this is kind an old school way of setting up a stereo soundstage in a mix.
See, a mixing console has something called a “pan pot” (panning potentiometer) on each track, which balances a sound between the two speakers. A mixing engineer can “place” an instrument in the left speaker, the right speaker, or anywhere in between, so it sounds to the listener like it's coming from a certain spot on the stereo field. Something that comes out of both speakers equally, for instance, sounds like it's coming from directly in front of the listener. Panning something slightly left makes it sound like it's coming from just left of center, and so forth. Nowadays, many engineers place instruments in various places across the stereo spectrum, imitating what a live band would sound like to an audience; the bass and kick are dead center, guitars are somewhere off to the sides, the snare can be either centered or panned slightly out, etc. But back in the old days on the old consoles, all you could pick was fully Left, Center, or fully Right, and that's what's going on here. You'd think with something as dense as this album, that would be a disaster, but it totally fucking works. Notice it on “Fundamentally Loathsome”, which goes a step further by panning the vocals and drums fully opposite each other, something that used to be done back in the 1960s when they first started releasing rock records in stereo but hadn't quite settled on a “standard” for using two channels. Very cool.
The bass and drums hit you in the chest thanks to the decent dynamic range (any more compression and the impact would have been severely weakened). You can really hear this on I Don't Like The Drugs and The Dope Show; the kick-snare-bass are locked tight, just pounding away. There's not a shitty guitar tone on this album; there's a few that are kind of weak, but fit the mix perfectly, whereas a thicker tone would just be too much. All harshness and fizz often found in high-gain guitar has been masterfully tamed, yet presence has been preserved. Space has been carved away for Manson's voice, which is far more melodic compared to prior releases and thus occupies a more consistent range in the lows and mids when contrasted with his screaming, mid-heavy vocalizations. And the synth work is tucked in nicely amid all of this; it's far less bombastic than on, say, Antichrist Superstar, but still an important contribution to the overall mood and tone.

STANDOUT MOMENT: Practically the whole thing, but dig that bit after “the nervous system's down...” in the bridge on “Disassociative”. You know the part I mean. It's dense, heavy, and beautiful with multiple vocal tracks, distorted guitar, slightly cleaner guitar doing arpeggios with chorus and delay, thick bass, pounding drums... it's almost a miracle that it all fits together the way it does. That's great mixing.

WEAK POINTS: “I Want To Disappear” doesn't survive the overcompression as well as the rest of the album – when the chorus kicks in, it kind of lands with a wet thud instead of the intended kick in the balls, primarily due to the almost equally loud verse. “User Friendly” is a little messy, too, though this might be an arrangement issue; it never seems to lock into the groove that it desperately needs. “Posthuman” is way too loud, but it kind of works given its electronic stylings, although it doesn't really sound like it fits in with the rest of the album.
Now, the album's mixes are fantastic, but the dynamic range is still just so-so; I have no doubt this would sound even better at a DR of 8, 9, 10, or higher. In fact, the vinyl has a DR of 8, and does indeed sound even better. I'd buy the shit out of a high dynamic range, high sample rate, high bit depth digital reissue.

FINAL THOUGHT: Eargasm.

Next up: #2, which generally comes after #1. Not for a while, though; I have to listen to it and I might be drinking.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-04-2017, 07:35 PM
#2: ANTICHRIST SUPERSTAR
Dynamic Range: 9 (Yay!!!!)
Overall Production Grade: A

THE LOWDOWN: Oh, Antichrist Superstar, what a special album you are. With a score of 9, this has the highest dynamic range of any Marilyn Manson CD release, yet have you ever heard anyone complain that it's “too quiet”? Fuck no; this album goes from sulking to soaring like nothing I've heard. This should be a benchmark against which all other MM releases are judged. DR9 isn't loud enough? Fuck that noise.
Honestly, I almost went with a two-way tie for the number one spot, but that would have been a pussy move. I made a decision, but it's almost too close to call. Mechanical Animals wins on the classy production, but Antichrist Superstar gets a gold star for its sane levels and insane sound.

THE MIX: I don't even know where to start with this. When I first heard this album, it was a revelation. I was familiar with NIN and Ministry and Skinny Puppy and all that jazz, but I'd never heard such a style with such accessible pop sensibilities as well as (paradoxically) a grim edge normally only found in the deepest, darkest metal.
What we have here is a mix that manages to hold itself together while perpetually threatening to fly apart. This is an album of contradictions and synergies; digital recording and editing meets the analog saturation of reel-to-reel tape. Catchy hooks meet violent screams. Distorted, punishing beats meet weird little percussive flourishes. And classic, recognizable tones meet bizarre, “what the fuck is THAT?!” soundscapes. Even if this isn't your type of music, Antichrist Superstar is a fascinating listen.
Starting with the drums, well, they're all over the place tonally. Note the mechanized hi-hat firing off artificially precise 16th notes over the trashy drum kit in “Irresponsible Hate Anthem”. The famous 12/8 beat in “The Beautiful People” oppressively pounds away, its tight dryness offset against the roomy sound of a simpler pattern in the chorus. That's one thing that I love about this album; there's an incredible sense of space around the drums – draped in a short but natural reverb, the performances sound like they exist in a real room. And a lot of scary shit is going on in that room. This is most prevalent on “Tourniquet”, which gets top honors for its tone; Marilyn Manson, the band, just ripping away at their version of a somber but powerful ballad. A creepy ballad.
Bass is of utmost importance on this record, and it remains clear and present throughout, periodically darting away to allow a song to breathe. I consider Twiggy an honest-to-goodness underrated bass player; he's single-handedly holding much of this chaos together, and the mix seems to approach the bass from this angle.
The guitars are... well, they're adequate. There's some harshness here that is missing from my #1 pick of Mechanical Animals. The tones here work for the most part; the gain is sensible, the arrangements make musical and technical sense (with one exception...), but they're a little too thin at times. This is most noticeable on Little Horn and 1996, two tracks that both feature bits where you can hear the rhythm guitar by itself. It can be hard to pick out the fundamental notes behind the fizz. Now, when the guitars are going along with the bass, it does sound huge, which is a telltale sign that the mix just fucking works, but there's an identifiable thinness in the sound.
Synths are heavily featured, ranging from simple, dulcet tones to ear-splitting, reverb-laden shrieks. These are bizarre sonances, but it's a testament to the mixer(s) that none of this sounds out-of-place in context.
The vocals feature Manson at his most menacing; multiple tracks thicken them up, whispers layer atop screams. There's a warmth to many of the vocal tracks, but sometimes they're thinned out for effect; “The Minute of Decay”, for example, begins with a severely filtered, distant-sounding vocal, stripped of its powerful lows - likely a stylistic choice to convey the vulnerability of the singer. And some more extreme effects pop up every now and again, namely the vocoder in “Cryptorchid” and the heavy distortion in the title track. There's a lot of variety here, adding further to the colorful tonal tapestry.

STANDOUT MOMENT: Like Mechanical Animals, there are so many here that it's hard to choose one. I'll stick with the theme of dynamic range though and draw your attention to the part in the title track, “the time has come/it is quite clear...”. It's loud and it's raucous; Marilyn screaming away while those two-dozen layered guitars (!) hit that chord hard. Then what happens? BOOM, the chorus returns even more powerfully. If this had a lower dynamic range, the BOOM of that chorus would be lost, because the preceding bit would already be as loud as possible. Once you're at top volume, where is there to go? That's right; fucking nowhere. Since this album was mercifully not squashed to hell and back, we all get to enjoy this magical moment.

WEAK POINTS: Well, as I mentioned, the guitars are a bit thin and harsh at times. Overall, the mixes can sometimes be a little thin too, as if there's a slight dip in the all-important mid frequencies leaving a space that never gets filled. This is a minor complaint. We're talking about Antichrist fucking Superstar here, for Christ's sake.
Two tracks that have room for improvement are “Deformography” and “Wormboy”. The former seems to lose its way in the chorus; the drums don't seem present enough to carry the song forward. The latter has some instrumentation problems; the guitars never really “gel” with the mix and seem to lay on top of the track without ever really integrating into it. They're fairly experimental guitar parts, certainly, but it does stick out on an album that's otherwise so coherent and perspicuous.

FINAL THOUGHT: The apocalypse sounds fabulous.

I think that's more than enough for today. #3 is up next, and I'm not actually sure which one it'll be yet (it's a too-close-to-call scenario between two of them). I guess I'll have to blast both of them tomorrow and then ask my neighbors which one they preferred.

Zimscum
01-04-2017, 07:53 PM
Omg fucking finally!!!
Someone besides me makes a good post.
Totally agree with everything so far Mechanical Animals is my 2nd fav album. EMDM is my first. I hope it gets a good score.

Nemoris Inferioris
01-04-2017, 08:49 PM
I've been waiting for someone to post something like this, actually. Can't wait to hear (ha) what you have to say for others. I'd say TGAOG is too loud, i've been saying that for a while. Sure as hell am too tired to go into depth, i'll leave it to you.

Mok
01-04-2017, 09:57 PM
If you think MA is too loud, I can't wait to hear what you have to say about GAOG lol. Even I have always thought it was too loud and there wasn't enough room for the music to breathe so to speak.


Omg fucking finally!!!
Someone besides me makes a good post.
Totally agree with everything so far Mechanical Animals is my 2nd fav album. EMDM is my first. I hope it gets a good score.

EMDM is ear candy imo, especially when you listen to those instrumentals on their own.

Enname
01-05-2017, 03:46 AM
I will preface this by saying I am not a true audiophile, nor at all technical when it comes to production and mixing (I am however fine with math, so have at it) and often I prefer rough as guts because in the end I see my music rather than hear it. And after all, if I want perfection I can find it elsewhere. But what I have always liked about Manson is that combination of utter hot sonic mess and often amazing sound textures and landscapes created in the layers of voice, instrumentation and effects that just gush out. Even if sometimes you have to metaphorically squint to see it.



What we have here is a mix that manages to hold itself together while perpetually threatening to fly apart. This is an album of contradictions and synergies; digital recording and editing meets the analog saturation of reel-to-reel tape. Catchy hooks meet violent screams. Distorted, punishing beats meet weird little percussive flourishes. And classic, recognizable tones meet bizarre, “what the fuck is THAT?!” soundscapes. Even if this isn't your type of music, Antichrist Superstar is a fascinating listen.

To my actual point though. Thank you, for articulating precisely what it is about Antichrist Superstar that I love. All too often reviewers and people commenting on it get overly fixated by either by it sounding like NIN or on the thin sounding guitars, when there is so much else that is absolutely wonderful in its vicious, tug of sonic war. When I first heard it I didn't so much hear the album, but the experimentation, the colder bits contrasted to a blast and rush of reverb and noise and I hated it. The mechanistic drive of the drums felt like I was being forced into things, the sudden loss of bass. The way the space around the drums carries over into a more general feeling, as you said, of being in an unseen room where bad things are happening - oddly freaked me out. How that very sound and its culimination in Tourniquet creates the spiralling creep and madness that is the first part of the life cycle. The contrasts between Minute of Decay and Reflecting God. Only then I was obssessed and couldn't get the flavour of it out of my head. And well... now, here I am.

Mechanical Animals will always my favourite on all fronts for many reasons, but not least for its sound. So I can only concur, especially with Diassociative. Anything else will just be me listing bits of songs without the half decent vocabularly to talk about them.

I look forward to rest of the posts, and the math.

profane
01-05-2017, 01:33 PM
I love this fucking thread.

I'm not an audiophile by any means, but I find this sort of behind-the-scenes discussion interesting and it certainly gives a new life to records which I've played countless times. I look forward to the rest of your posts on the albums.

Thus far, I can't disagree with you that Mechanical Animals has the 'best' sound quality, although I love the grimey nature of Antichrist Svperstar. If it was mixed like MA was, it wouldn't have that same filthy vibe to it. Eager to hear your take on Holy Wood, which for me, has some of the most atmospheric and sensational moments in Manson's catalog... namely details of certain areas of production.

josharchangel
01-05-2017, 04:09 PM
I think your analysis is amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this entire post. I'm not a technical guy at all, but when it comes to anything Manson related I want to read it all. I agree 100% that the guitars on Antichrist are way too thin, incredibly fuzzy and maybe even a bit tinny. Although I have a feeling that if this sound were to change, the entire tone of the album wouldn't work. It needs to have that 'twangy' almost 'sick' 'out of tune' 'off sounding' sound on the guitars. Think of Wormboy on the bridge when everything drops out and we have that out of tune guitar and Manson singing "When I was a worm..." - the guitar makes me feel a bit queasy in the stomach and uncomfortable - which is what you want to feel on ACSS! BTW I'm new here, have been watching this forum for years and only decided to sign up today. Expect to see me around! :)

Justsomeguy
01-06-2017, 10:20 AM
Phenomenal fuckin' work mate. I'm sure many here have been longing for exactly this kind of professional objective look into the sound quality of the albums alone. I'm no 'real' audiophile, my ears are quite elementary, but I do own all the vinyls and I'll fellate a shotgun before I listen to any song at 192 on itunes or whatnot. I get what you're saying about low-dynamic songs for whatever reason being more forgettable, whether they're solid tunes or not. That was always my sole gripe with Holy Wood. A phenomenal album song-by-song that somehow had no genuine space to it. You're doing a good service for us all, and getting our learn on.

I'm guessing EMDM will be #3. Especially after GAOG, that album baffled me when it came to the depth of sound alone. Worst has to be Born Villain, by far. I'm most interested in what you think about Portrait, I imagine there's quite a lot of things to assess with that one.

Skull
01-06-2017, 10:36 AM
Great read, thanks. Keep 'em coming.
I don't agree with the previous post though about HW. I think the "claustrophobic" feel may have more to do with the mixing and the arrangements/layering than with the dynamic range, which I think is quite good, there's lots of volume difference between the quiet and loud parts. Listen to the Fall of Adam for a good example of what I mean.

Justsomeguy
01-06-2017, 11:22 AM
I'm moreso comparing to the previous two albums. Songs like The Fall of Adam, Coma Black, Valley of Death, Lamb of God, are certainly high points sound-wise. I happen to own a lot of albums Dave Sardy's worked on, and he's definitely known for some of the sins the original poster mentioned (particularly the 'beyond the limit of loudness' thing, which fucked up a lot of choruses. Think Born Again or Target Audience), not specifically the dynamic range, I just don't know the proper terminology and I won't be pompous by pretending I do. It's certainly not claustrophobia, I get HW is a more straightforward rock and roll record. Songs like The Fight Song, The Love Song, Burning Flag, mostly the 'heavier' songs on the record, absolutely suffer from little to no contrast or depth, it's hard to appreciate the heaviness or abrasiveness of those songs. Again, I'm really just speaking in the context of the Triptych. There is absolutely a noticeable dichotomy in terms of, y'know, the depth and dynamics and space or what-have-you. I think Holy Wood could definitely be remastered to 'gel' a lot better with the previous two records. That being said, it's certainly better than something like GOAG, or frankly even Pale Emperor.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-06-2017, 05:24 PM
Oh wow, people are reading these! Thanks everyone, and I'm heartened to see interest in the topic at hand. Hopefully you don't hate me by the end of the thread, because pretty much everything after review #3 is going negative :D

A Gruesome Discovery
01-06-2017, 05:37 PM
#3: PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY
Dynamic Range: 8 (The early 90's were a magical era)
Overall Production Grade: B

THE LOWDOWN: I'm only at #3 on this list and I'm already in a quandary; what if an album has a great mix, but was ruined at the mastering stage? How do I rate its “production”? And, conversely, what if an album is merely adequately mixed, but was left largely undamaged at the mastering phase?
Portrait of an American Family is in the latter category. The mix is adequate. In fact, it's “good". The engineers did their jobs; they equalized out harsh and non-contributing frequencies, balanced the relative levels of the instruments, placed the vocal front-and-center while both integrating it into the song but ensuring that it does not clash with any other mix elements, and worked in the ear candy in a natural and cohesive way. And the mastering engineer did his job; balanced the relative levels from song to song, maybe gave a touch of EQ to enhance the lows and highs with a possible dip in the mids/low mids, and compressed the album somewhat to give it a nice, even level. What he didn't do was ram it up the unlubricated asshole of a digital limiter until all life was squeezed out.
To answer the question posited above, I have decided that I need to rate these on the final product. If an album sounds shitty because it was ruined in mastering, the listener isn't going to care when you explain “no, really, this is a great mix, you just can't really tell because of all the clipping and lack of dynamics”. There are albums with better mixes and tonal balance, but they will be demoted further down the list due to damage done at the final stage of the record-making process. I've come not to bury Portrait of an American Family, but to praise it.

THE MIX: The mix was very clearly approached in an early-90s alternative style; gone is the bombast and sheen of 80's pop/rock mixes, replaced by a “back to basics” style of a strong rhythmic foundation buttressed by mid-to-high gain rhythm guitars and clean, bright vocals straight up the center. Style points are awarded for the myriad samples, sound effects, and keyboard/synth work seamlessly folded in, creating the sound that distinguished Marilyn Manson from the remainder of the grungy/alternative 90s landscape.
The drums sound nice; a little too nice. I strongly suspect these are primarily programmed samples (a quick google search confirms this), but the programming is very nuanced and lacks the rigidity often found in typical drum machine tracks, especially from this era. I can only guess that these were either captured via a MIDI kit, or the drums were tracked live and later replaced, resulting in a looseness and “groove” onto which the other instrument tracks lock.
The bass is quite fetching. Tonally, it hearkens to rock and roll and early punk; lots of bottom, some nice mids, not too clicky or clacky in the top but with some good gain (and sometimes LOTS of gain, such as in “Misery Machine” and “Get Your Gunn”). The bass plays very well with the drums, most notably in “Cake and Sodomy”, where their interlocking is essential to the feel of the song. It's not Jaco Pastorius, but it gets the job done in a workmanlike way.
Guitars are pretty standard fare; we have your basic double-tracked rhythm hard-panned to the sides. The tones are fairly saturated, but stop short of being “heavy” in the “metal” sense, filling out the middle frequency spectrum without becoming too thin. The numerous guitar solos add spice to the mix, often employing extreme modulation effects. Note the solo in “Lunchbox”, which combines a very heavy chorus effect with a short but strong delay, as well as the solos peppering “Dope Hat”, which do sound intentionally very thin, as if recorded directly to the mixing console's preamps. The strong core sound of the album along with the variety of tones in the supporting bits make for an overall exciting listen.
Vocally, this is the “driest” Marilyn Manson we've heard. Raspy but controlled screams dominate the running time, but the low, menacing vocals we've come to know and love play a supporting role as well. In subsequent albums, Marilyn seems to have favored doubling, tripling, and quadrupling his vocals (and he's actually extremely good at it), but here they're fairly naked. And they're great! It's nice to hear Marilyn's raw voice carry an entire song. In fact, this is the most “live” sounding album we'll probably ever get from MM; with the exception of the samples and whatnot, the whole thing could feasibly be pulled off by a five-piece band and retain the tone and vibe of the record. That's unique, and cool.

STANDOUT MOMENT: The bit in “Wrapped In Plastic”, starting from “I'm only as deep as the self that I dig...”, all the way up to the end. This is a great sounding chunk of the song, beginning with just Marilyn singing over a tom groove with what sounds like somebody scraping dinnerware with silverware (right?). The bass comes in, followed by the guitar, until finally reaching a crescendo at the chorus and then... wait a minute! It pulls back for another breakdown and buildup, this one instrumental with some great atmospheric effects, until reaching a second and even harder-hitting crescendo with a final double chorus. What's cool, besides everything I just said, is how every separate section sounds great individually as well as when the band is going full blast. That's hard to pull off in a busy mix.

WEAK POINTS: “My Monkey” is a goddamn mess. I'm not really sure if it's fair to blame the mixer here; how the hell do you mix these elements into a coherent song? It seems an attempt was made to at least ensure that the bass and drums are the focal point of the song – otherwise, the listener would be hopelessly lost in the cacophony of horns, toys, funky guitars, voice samples, and pitched-up vocals. The battle between the guitars and those horns is never decisively won by either side; they just constantly stomp all over each other. It's actually admirable in its audacity. It's fun, but I wouldn't want to have to clean up afterwards.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I don't think I've sat down and listened to this album in a long time. I'll throw it on in the car or put it on while I'm making a big pot of chili on a snow day or whatever, but I haven't actually placed myself in the center of two big honking speakers and concentrated on what I'm hearing in a while. And you know what? It's a fun album - more fun than a barrel of monkeys - and it's moved up a notch on my list.

Enname
01-06-2017, 06:56 PM
Oh wow, people are reading these! Thanks everyone, and I'm heartened to see interest in the topic at hand. Hopefully you don't hate me by the end of the thread, because pretty much everything after review #3 is going negative :D

I doubt anyone is unaware of sound issues across the albums. And we all have our reasons for tolerating or enjoying the worst parts, even if it trashes all best practice. Not much will change that for me, but it is fascinating to read the technical elements and to have a different take on the albums.

:)


otherwise, the listener would be hopelessly lost in the cacophony of horns, toys, funky guitars, voice samples, and pitched-up vocals.

Admittedly this mess is why I find My Monkey hilarious at all times, and is precisely what I enjoy about it. Coherency really is over rated some days.

Zimscum
01-06-2017, 07:05 PM
Fuck yes!!
Portrait is my third fav album!!
I'm so relieved to see a technicians point of view agree with my own.
Take that portrait haters!!!
Go analyze some stupid fucking lyrics or jack off to holy wood.

Justsomeguy
01-06-2017, 07:10 PM
Oh wow, people are reading these! Thanks everyone, and I'm heartened to see interest in the topic at hand. Hopefully you don't hate me by the end of the thread, because pretty much everything after review #3 is going negative :D

In a sea of subjective opinions on everything, you're providing something really g'damn concrete and valuable, and most of all objective and logic-based. Keep at it man. Believe me, we're all reading.

See that's why I was interested in hearing about Portrait. Again I'm no audiophile, and I'm drinking at the minute, but it comes off like a record designed to sound 'shitty' for lack of a much better term. Messy, chaotic, garage-ey, punk-ish, not-giving-a-fuck? Idunno. However, the way it all comes together, for the most part, is wonderful, and dynamic, and depthful, in the fuckeyest of ways with the fuckeyest of albums. I would've sworn it'd be 3 or 4, and I didn't know why until now.


My money:

#4 - EMDM
#5 - HW
#6 - THEOL
#7 - PE
#8 - GAOG
#9 - BV

that'll likely change once I re-binge all the albums tonight because of this thread's inspiration.

Zimscum
01-06-2017, 09:48 PM
I'm just really REALLY fucking happy at the thought of all the typical mansonfan idiots who put HolyWood at the top of every list without even referencing the fucking actual music or production getting to read some shit from someone that actually KNOWS wtf they're taking about.
"Oh its got the best social message. deeeerrrp"
Stay tuned morons. This fucker is gonna teach some real shit.
Holy isn't even close to being a masterpiece and even if it gets #4 this guy is gonna explain very well some of the albums flaws.
I really hope EMDM gets number 4.
That album is so underatted by the Manson fan base.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-06-2017, 10:03 PM
I'm just really REALLY fucking happy at the thought of all the typical mansonfan idiots who put HolyWood at the top of every list without even referencing the fucking actual music or production getting to read some shit from someone that actually KNOWS wtf they're taking about.
"Oh its got the best social message. deeeerrrp"
Stay tuned morons. This fucker is gonna teach some real shit.
Holy isn't even close to being a masterpiece and even if it gets #4 this guy is gonna explain very well some of the albums flaws.
I really hope EMDM gets number 4.
That album is so underatted by the Manson fan base.

Funny you should mention that one... :)

A Gruesome Discovery
01-06-2017, 10:03 PM
#4 HOLY WOOD (IN THE SHADOW OF THE VALLEY OF DEATH)
Dynamic Range: 6 (You maniacs; you blew it up! Damn you; damn you all to hell!)
Overall Production Grade: B-

THE LOWDOWN: Holy Wood's production shares many similarities with both Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals. Like MA, there's a certain old-school vibe present throughout, though it's a warmer, dirtier sort of vintage sound in contrast to MA's cleaner, glitzy opulence. Like AS, there's a malevolence perpetually hiding around the edges; distorted ambiances and otherworldly noisescapes sometimes stepping into frame in a most unnerving way, like some nightmarish shadow figure. Holy Wood is “The Even Darker Side of the Moon”. “Let It Bleed To Death”. “The Black Album” (if Spinal Tap hadn't already taken that, and then Metallica a decade later).
...At least, it would be those things, production-wise (remember, I'm not saying ANYTHING about the actual songwriting here, just the studio stuff), but unfortunately we are now entering the 21st century, where the Loudness War has gone full nuclear. This album is a sad casualty of that, but I do consider it the best sounding of the "way too loud" era. There's a certain cleverness to some of the mixing here, as if it was known ahead of time that this album was destined to be interred in a tiny 6dB box for all eternity. Or maybe a lot of this was done at the mixing stage, with the all-too-common bus compressor doing the lion's share of the squashing. Either way, a great disservice has been done to a great-sounding recording, but let's go in for a closer listen.

THE MIX: I like to use a lot of adjectives that are traditionally reserved for visual media to describe sounds. Things can sound “bright” or “dark”, “clear” or “murky”, “shimmering” or “muddy”; and things can take on different “colors”. Color is a major component of Holy Wood, and one thing that at least lessens the damage of the overcompression; there's too little contrast in volume, but there is a certain contrast achieved by changes in colors, shades, and tones. Tonal shifts are the saving grace here, and the album is full of them. The individual parts are too loud, sure, but the juxtaposition of tonal opposites does serve to provide some impact. Take “A Place in the Dirt”, which consists of very “quiet” verses abutting very “loud” choruses. In actuality, every part of this song is very loud and lacking in delicate dynamics, but the changes in tone do create forward momentum and keep things interesting. A solitary dry vocal comprises the verse, the lows filtered out to lighten the tone; but a bright, deep vocal punches through the chorus, swimming in atmosphere. The drums are “darkened” with a lowpass filter and various effects in the verse, but allowed to bleed out in full “color” during the heavier bits. The verse guitar is clean(ish) and occupies very little tonal space, but in the chorus it becomes a formidable wall of sound. The impact would be even more cutting were volume dynamics preserved, but this is pushing the limits of what can be done to create such moments at these ridiculous levels.
The songs that fit this color-shifting dynamic fare well here; “Target Audience”, “In the Shadow of the Valley of Death”, “The Fall of Adam”; their structure, arrangement, and instrumentation help them to survive the onslaught. “Burning Flag”, “Lamb of God”, and “The Love Song”, conversely, maintain more consistent “color” throughout their running times and fall victim to The God That Eats Dynamics.
The sounds on this album themselves, though – damage aside – are beautiful. The entire disc sounds as though it's made on old, possibly decrepit gear; you can smell dust giving way to smoke on the hot amplifiers and the metallic oxidization of the mixing console's transformers. Flakes of rust fill the air on every hard snare hit. The synthesizers' cacophonies are warmer and more rounded in comparison to the sharp and cutting tones on Antichrist, further building the “vintage” motif. And the ambient sounds are given a far more important role than just “stuff that sounds cool in the background”; the allegedly real thunderstorm in “The Fall of Adam” and the sounds of firearms being cycled, cocked, and dry-fired being prime examples of using non-musical sound to enhance the mood and feel of a composition.
Bass is a little less prevalent here than on previous Manson outings. It's still the primary driver for some of the songs (“President Dead” being the most obvious example), but the reins are often given over to the guitars. “Target Audience” is almost entirely guitar-driven, along with “The Fight Song” and “The Death Song”. The tones are, for the most part, great, and the playing is very tight and precise.
Vocals are interesting here; there's a level of intimacy on some parts that hasn't been heard on a prior MM record. Manson absolutely SEETHES in the verse to “Target Audience”, pulling in close to the mic for the sharpest barbs. Aside from the choppy vibrato effect on “Valentine's Day”, the vocals tend to be pretty dry in terms of modulation effects, instead relying on reverberation for space and mic technique for texture.
It's the overall mix that really shines, though. I feel like I've said this about every album so far, but the mixer did a commendable job combining the disparate and often bizarre sounds into coherent mixes, but here he goes a step further and imbues consistent, pleasing, and thematically relevant tones to the whole affair.

STANDOUT MOMENT: The track “In the Shadow of the Valley of Death”. The drums being absent and the bass being scarce for most of the song makes for a powerful ending when all elements converge.

WEAK POINTS: There's a lot of them, unfortunately; pretty much any moment where the album needs to punch up to a higher level, but can't because it's already too loud. Take the bit in “Valentine's Day”: “Flies are waiting...”. Then when the chorus kicks in, it should burst through the wall like the Kool-Aid man and knock your ass out of your chair, but no; it's impotent. This happens in “The Love Song”, “Burning Flag”, “The Nobodies”, “Disposable Teens”, “The Death Song”, all over the damn thing.

FINAL THOUGHTS: So we have our first fantastic mix that's truly been ruined by overzealous mastering. I should reiterate that I'm only reviewing the CD here. I do own this on vinyl; it comes in at DR10, and it sounds SO. MUCH. BETTER. Night and day. Maybe some day we'll get a digital release that measures up to it.

Justsomeguy
01-06-2017, 11:51 PM
Well shit. I've already lost some theoretical dollars.

Gruesome, man, you've made valid and put into the most perfect learned words the weird shit I always kinda sensed when listening to that record. These reviews put sense to the primitive instincts of the ear. You're a prof for the masses.

Would've sworn EMDM had to be next. By my own bias I prefer HW by leagues and miles. I'm only going by the shitty Sony stereo system I picked up at a Best Buy years back, but when I listen to EMDM, that record always stood out as being so radically against the volume wars of the age and since. The depth, the tiniest little noticeable tweaks and twerks, the spaciousness and ambience. Interested to hear your insight into that record, and all the rest.

This is now primetime. Which album will it be next?

Enname
01-06-2017, 11:57 PM
Color is a major component of Holy Wood, and one thing that at least lessens the damage of the overcompression; there's too little contrast in volume, but there is a certain contrast achieved by changes in colors, shades, and tones.

The colour (it acts almost like a chiaroscuro in places) and sounds are incredible. I have always enjoyed how it managed to sonically reflect that warm, decaying decadence presence all the marketing and album work. Even if I am always a bit saddened that more often than not I am chasing to hear them properly, especially if I am stuck with shitty quality headphones and a digital copy. In particular the way the colour interacts with layering around the vocals right at an individual song's climax - I am looking at you Nobodies. But oh well, the fact that the album still is almost tangible in terms of aural 'flavour' and colouring is really worth everything else. It is in the end what sets the mood of the whole piece, and backs the intricate detail to be chased. That and the vinyl exists to experience it far more fully.

Mok
01-07-2017, 04:11 AM
Edit: wrong thread, delete.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-07-2017, 09:11 AM
#5 EAT ME, DRINK ME
Dynamic Range: 6 (Beyond the pale)
Overall Production Score: C

THE LOWDOWN: Recorded by just Manson and Skold, with Sean Beavan handling the mix, this is a "back to basics" outing with some surprises.

THE MIX: Raw and dry. Gone is the sweeping production and atmosphere found on older releases, replaced by a direct and up-front sound. There's very little reverb in the mix; sure, it's used for effect here and there, mostly on drums, but there's no single “master” ambiance tying the whole thing together into a cohesive unit. That's a stylistic choice, and not so much a flaw, but back-to-front spatial placement is of utmost importance when you've removed volume dynamics from your palate.
Let's talk about this back-to-front placement for a moment. It's easiest to think about this as you would the composition of a photo; you keep your subject in focus, so other elements in the background and foreground tend to blur. You're setting a “stage”. This is done in a mix as well. I've already mentioned positioning mix elements on a left-to-right field using panning in the Mechanical Animals analysis, but we've also got a foreground/background dynamic to utilize; things can be “brought forward” or “pushed back” to give a sense of depth to a mix.
The simplest way to accomplish this is with simple volume; things you want pushed into the background are mixed lower than things in the foreground. Very basic, although in this case we're battling hard limiting that's trying to push the foreground elements backwards while bringing the background elements forwards. There's also the use of reverbs, delays, and time-based effects to create a sense of “depth”. Giving an instrument a little more reverb “pushes it back” into the mix. Think about something that sounds “far away”, like a tree falling in the distance. Your ears tell you that it's far away not only by its lower volume, but also the smearing of the sound caused by “echo” and “reverberation”.
What about vocals, though? Those are the focus of most mixes, yet you hear some amount of reverb on vocals more often than not. Why would they want to push those into the background? Well, a vocal that's absolutely swimming in reverb will indeed be pushed further back, and this can sound neat sometimes (or it can also sound like the Billboard Top 10 Singles circa 1986). But you can use it to make a vocal actually sound more present by delaying the reverb a bit - shifting it forward in time (this is usually the knob or key labeled “pre-delay” on electronic reverb units). This way, the dry vocal arrives at your ear first, followed immediately by the reverb or “echo”. You hear the singer's voice, followed by the ambiance of the room, which makes it sound like you're close to the singer and also gives information about the size of the room you're in and the volume of the singer's voice.
Why am I going on about front-to-back staging? Because EMDM has very little. This can often make a recording sound more intimate, as if the band's in a small room with you in the middle, but for that to work you really need to preserve some dynamics, or the whole thing just sounds flat. And that's what we've got here. The intimate setting makes perfect sense; we're pretty much hearing an album recorded by two guys in a room. It's raw and upfront, and they did a good job with that, but the lack of dynamics flattens it out too much and kind of ruins the effect.
That's not to say it's all bad. There's some non-traditional guitar tones here that are neat; pretty harsh, but goes along with the “give no fucks” style of production. And the relatively massive amount of guitar solos compared to other MM albums do sound fairly dynamic; you can tell a “loud” note from a “quiet” one, which is essential here. At least something has some dynamics.
Bass is lacking, and this is a problem. There's bass there, but not enough to properly create a throughline over the course of a song. There's a lot of synth bass, sometimes just covering the sub-bass frequencies, so it's not exactly thin but an important performance element of the rhythm section is largely missing. The songs with strong bass are the ones that sound most balanced, such as “Heart-Shaped Glasses”, although the song with the loudest bass, “You, Me & the Devil Makes 3”, is also the biggest mess.
Synths and sound effects play more of a supporting role than in previous outings, but that's not to say their importance is diminished. This album has a lot of little sonic touches that the listener might not hear on the first or second listen; I'm still finding little bits here and there that I never noticed. The album isn't swimming in atmosphere like Holy Wood, but it has its own richness that can be appreciated by paying close attention.
Vocals are at least double-tracked with stereo hard-panning, and all vocals are up-front and dry. The multitracked vocals are extremely tight; at times, it sounds like some sort of chorus effect, until you detect a very slight difference in phrasing or timbre on one side. That's actually pretty impressive. The level stays pinned throughout the album, which works for Manson's voice but doesn't help the dynamics issue one bit.

STANDOUT MOMENT: “Just a Car Crash Away” and “If I Was Your Vampire” seem to sound the deepest here, while still sounding intimate, so depth and intimacy are not mutually exclusive. The opening drums in IIWYV sound great; the kick is mixed almost like a death metal kick – fat lows, no low mids, and a sharp click up top. The snare has a wonderful delay effect on it, with each delay tap treated by a rising filter and some sort of pitch shifting effect. It's very cool and adds texture.

WEAK POINTS: Picking out specific “weak points” is getting harder as the list goes on, as we're now discussing overall weak sounding albums. I can point out some specific moments where all I can do is sigh and mutter “...god dammit”. They happen in every single song, usually right when verse transitions to chorus, but I think the clearest example comes early in “Putting Holes in Happiness”. Listen carefully to where the first verse shifts to the first chorus; the song's going along, sounding ok, and we hit the line “Ways to make the tiny satisfaction disappear...” (do not let the irony of this line be lost on you). On the first downbeat of the chorus, the kick hits hard, triggers compression, and the sound of the whole song gets sucked down. “Sucked down” is the best descriptor I can conjure for this; you can visualize the song “deflating” right on that beat as the volume level sinks. This is a moment where it should soar to new heights, not be spanked down. It's frustrating. And this continues for the rest of the album; any time the song sounds like it's about to break free, it hits the electric fence and recoils in pain.
“Evidence” is worthy of mention for the same issue, but it's even worse here due to a tonal shift that does not play well with this sort of dynamics reduction. Again, verse going into the chorus; shit's about to get real and then... thud. But in this case, we actually lose a lot of the bass as well, which further weakens the chorus. This is sort of the opposite of how the superior-sounding Holy Wood does it; there, the bass would have been light or absent in the verse, only filling in the low end in the chorus. That's really the only way to escalate something when we're dealing with these insane levels, and “Evidence” is a great example of doing it ass backwards.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I like this album, and I like its rawness even if I prefer a more professional, artisanal approach. It's got some glaring flaws in tone and direction, and of course (say it with me now) the dynamic range, but it's different and different is OK. Remaster this shit soon.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-07-2017, 12:10 PM
Would've sworn EMDM had to be next. By my own bias I prefer HW by leagues and miles. I'm only going by the shitty Sony stereo system I picked up at a Best Buy years back, but when I listen to EMDM, that record always stood out as being so radically against the volume wars of the age and since. The depth, the tiniest little noticeable tweaks and twerks, the spaciousness and ambience.

Interesting! I don't really hear much of that on EMDM; it sounds very dry to my ears. There is certainly space there, but it's a tiny space, which I think works in favor of the album's overall theme, but doesn't come through as well as it would under better circumstances. The drums do have a lot of atmosphere, but they're kind of sitting all alone in that atmosphere; the rest of the tracks are in a completely different space.
I definitely hear and measure some serious loudness, though. I didn't touch on this part, but the individual song sections don't suffer as much as they do on other albums; there's some life there. Those transition points, however - verse to chorus, etc - really get slammed. Once you're past those, I can see how this fares well against the other albums in this loudness range.

Skull
01-07-2017, 01:39 PM
I agree with what you're saying so far, and I was wondering what your thoughts were on the SAY10 bit that's out there?
Also, what do you ascribe the vinyl version of HW being better to?
And does this go for all the other albums (if you own the vinyls)?

adam_777
01-07-2017, 03:42 PM
Alright, really interesting reads here. I love the discussion about sound quality and dynamic range because to me more often than not the albums and songs I find myself liking more is the ones that also have the best mixing on them. I think especially in the case of the Tryptych albums this is important because they are meant to be listened to as one piece, so if you have an album that is loudness wars right to hell, you get listening fatigue. Could you imagine if ACSS sounded like GAOG, I find it hard to believe it would have sold what it did. Despite the amazing song craft and themes, it would have been hard to sit and listen to and by the time you got to songs like Antichrist Superstar, you'd be mentally tuning out the harshness. Instead the album is just ramping up then. Agree completely about the beauty of the chorus kicking in for ACSS and how effective the loudness is there because everything else before it hasn't been brickwalled to shit.

As for Holywood I see one member here doesn't think much of it or it's fans haha, but to me I agree whole heartedly that it is a fantastic mix and of all the material in Mansons catalog would benefit the most from a remaster. The band Rush released the album Vapor Trails in 2002 and the album was plagued by a terrible mastering. It was so horrible it was near the top of the fans wishlist for future projects. The band did eventually release a completely remastered album and the difference was truly incredible. Pretty much any albums released from 2000-2008 or so are damn near unlistenable to me. I agree totally with the Holywood vinyl being far superior. I am one who enjoys the sound of vinyl more than digital releases to begin with, but Holywood is such a noticeable improvement that I seldom listen to that cd anymore. Listening to the Tryptych on vinyl is pretty impressive over all, and there is very little improvement I can imagine happening across all three albums.

Also, I agree with MA being the best sounding album. The sound is so slick and clear. As for Dissassociative, it might be my favourite mix on a Manson song, listening to that with a proper stereo is just an immersive experience. There is so much going on in that soundscape that without a proper DR it would be an absolute audio shit show, but thankfully that isn't the case at all. By the way, what is with the people not hearing the 4,3,2,1 in that song? To me it was as clear as day the first time I heard it and in subsequent spins (and because I'm a tool) I would quietly use my fingers to count that down. One day a friend asked me why I was doing that and I said I was mimicking the countdown and they were like what countdown? so I showed him and it was like pointing out the Northern Lights to someone, he had never noticed it before. Since then I've seen countless people across Manson sites ask what countdown people were talking about. Is this like the audio version of that black and blue dress or something, wtf?

Justsomeguy
01-07-2017, 04:39 PM
Interesting! I don't really hear much of that on EMDM; it sounds very dry to my ears. There is certainly space there, but it's a tiny space, which I think works in favor of the album's overall theme, but doesn't come through as well as it would under better circumstances. The drums do have a lot of atmosphere, but they're kind of sitting all alone in that atmosphere; the rest of the tracks are in a completely different space.
I definitely hear and measure some serious loudness, though. I didn't touch on this part, but the individual song sections don't suffer as much as they do on other albums; there's some life there. Those transition points, however - verse to chorus, etc - really get slammed. Once you're past those, I can see how this fares well against the other albums in this loudness range.

After reading your review, I can absolutely hear now what you're on about. I definitely get the 'back to basics' dryness and intimacy of the recordings. I always said that EMDM sounded like the house band of Satan's personal lounge club. Particularly in songs like Red Carpet Grave, They Said That Hell's Not Hot, Are You the Rabbit, and a few others, I definitely hear this 'beyond the max' dark garage-ey feel, particularly being a uniquely guitar-driven album within Manson's catalogue, though I always saw that as an intentional maneuver, and it is. After listening to HW and EMDM back to back, your reviews make a ton of sense. My ears sort of deceived me into focusing on what's recorded over how it's mixed or mastered. When I'd listen to a song like Evidence, or Eat Me Drink Me, or Just a Car Crash Away, I heard the dryness and messy distorted crunchiness, particularly in choruses or in the vocals overall, but I could also hear the velvet, the satin, each individual vocal track, the echos of the smallest components, the wavering drippy slowness, like a sex scene out of a movie.

Admittedly I rarely listen to the singles or single-sounding songs on that record a bunch, I loved this album for it's slow purple-blood-bleeding moments of slow pulsing vulnerability, but I definitely get the utter fuckup of certain transitions and levels before and during choruses that you mention. I don't think I'd listened to Heart Shaped Glasses in about two years, same goes for Putting Holes in Happiness. The approach taken overall definitely works with this album, but I can see there's massive room for improvement if only in certain crucial regards. After HW, this is an album that definitely deserves a remaster, even if it's just a large tweak of glaring problems.

Also, adam_777, I know right!? I don't know how some people are listening to that tune, but the 4,3,2,1 is clear-as-day, even if it's a component within the beautiful clusterfuck of sound around it. In my few posts on this forum, the one thing I do recall mentioning is my love of that song. Depending on the day or my mood, Disassociative is quite often one of my favourite Manson songs if not the favourite, both musically and lyrically. What comes after that countdown is indescribable, an utterly immaculate explosion of the soul, a beautiful glittery chaos of stripped bare emotion. I place it with some of the greatest musical moments in the history of recorded mainstream rock music. Some may piss all over me for that statement, but I just do. It's up there with the end of The Wall.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-08-2017, 12:03 AM
I agree with what you're saying so far, and I was wondering what your thoughts were on the SAY10 bit that's out there?
Also, what do you ascribe the vinyl version of HW being better to?
And does this go for all the other albums (if you own the vinyls)?

I liked the SAY10 clip, but haven't heard it on decent speakers yet. I have high hopes, though, based on the personnel involved. I loved TPE's sound, at least I did until (((spoiler!))).

The thing about vinyl is that it actually has less available dynamic range than a CD; vinyl has about 80dB, whereas 16-bit digital audio has about 96dB. I think the reason why vinyl often (but not always) gets a more dynamic mix is that, quite frankly, normal people don't buy records. They cost a bit more, they're impractical, and every time you play one, you're doing some small amount of damage to it. Weirdos buy records because they like the sound, therefore when a release goes to vinyl, the mastering house plays to their target audience and goes for utmost quality instead of maximum loudness.
CDs and MP3s/AACs are made for the masses. People will be listening to them in their cars, on earbuds while jogging or on a train, or in other noisy places where it may be desirable to have heavily limited audio. You can't listen to vinyl while doing any of those things, so there's no real reason to limit them so severely.
There's nothing inherently special about vinyl in my opinion, it's just that the goal for a vinyl pressing seems to be "make it sound good", whereas digital tends to be "make it sound louder".
Holy Wood sounds better, I suspect, because there's two different masters; a good one, and a loud one. The good one went on the record.

Skull
01-08-2017, 06:32 AM
I think especially in the case of the Tryptych albums this is important because they are meant to be listened to as one piece, so if you have an album that is loudness wars right to hell, you get listening fatigue. Could you imagine if ACSS sounded like GAOG, I find it hard to believe it would have sold what it did. Despite the amazing song craft and themes, it would have been hard to sit and listen to and by the time you got to songs like Antichrist Superstar, you'd be mentally tuning out the harshness. Instead the album is just ramping up then. Agree completely about the beauty of the chorus kicking in for ACSS and how effective the loudness is there because everything else before it hasn't been brickwalled to shit.

Exactly! Although I love GAOG, I hardly ever manage to listen to it in one go.


By the way, what is with the people not hearing the 4,3,2,1 in that song? To me it was as clear as day the first time I heard it and in subsequent spins (and because I'm a tool) I would quietly use my fingers to count that down. One day a friend asked me why I was doing that and I said I was mimicking the countdown and they were like what countdown? so I showed him and it was like pointing out the Northern Lights to someone, he had never noticed it before. Since then I've seen countless people across Manson sites ask what countdown people were talking about.

Honestly, I have no idea what the fuck you guys are talking about ?!

And thanks for your reply A Gruesome Discovery!

A Gruesome Discovery
01-08-2017, 06:55 AM
#6 THE GOLDEN AGE OF GROTESQUE
Dynamic Range: 6 (Buzz-buzz)
Overall Production Score: C

THE LOWDOWN: Here's another release coming in at DR6 and it's got all the inherent problems with severely limited music. Its saving grace is that stylistically it sort of almost survives the onslaught; this is a very “electronic” sound and can handle a little more limiting than a straight-up rock album. Just not this much.
It should be noted that while this comes out to a DR6, the same as Holy Wood and EMDM, it's pushing into DR5 territory. Now, dynamic range isn't technically expressed in decibels, but its derived in part from the average level in decibels (dB RMS) to the point where a correlation exists. The thing about the decibel scale is that it's not linear, it's logarithmic (base 10). This means that the power of the sound level increases tenfold for every 10dB; 20dB is ten times more powerful than 10dB, and 30dB is one-hundred times more powerful than 10dB. So a decibel is a fairly big step; doubling the power of a sound only adds three decibels, so losing one DR unit of dynamic range is significant. This is indeed DR6, but comes very close to the ludicrous DR5 level and ends up sounding louder and more compressed than the other DR6s on the list.

THE MIX: The mix is pretty good, at times very good. Now, it's quanitzed and edited to death and doesn't really have a lot of life to it, but it's clean and “expensive”-sounding; overall, a very slick production. Nothing's terribly obscured, and each element is identifiable, with one major exception that I'll get into later.
What helps is the reliance on drum machines. That's nothing new on MM releases, but here they're embracing them to an extent that we've yet to hear prior to TGAoG. Much of the time, these are severely equalized hits, allowing each drum sound to only occupy a small area of the frequency spectrum. Kicks are bandwidth-limited enough to only really fill out the ultra-low end, with a bit of thud and click in the highs to guide the ear. The snares are mostly mid-crunch with a top-end sheen, and all cymbals and hats and such - squashed as they are – are pretty much filling out just the top end. There's a few instances of “real” drums here, sure, but they're treated a similar way from an EQ perspective. This gives the mix more space for other elements, and it admittedly does allow for some hits to sound pretty powerful at levels where a full-on traditional kit would be hopelessly smashed.
This is a guitar-heavy album; they're pulling double duty in their typical rhythm role as well as filling out what would normally be handled by synths and keyboards. They're also handling a lot of the bass range, with bass guitar and synth bass only supporting the lowest frequencies. These guitar tones are mostly high-gain, but extremely smooth – maybe a little too smooth for this much gain, but that's just the amplifier snob in me editorializing.
Vocally, TGAoG begins the era of “dry doubles”, where Manson's vocals are at least doubled, fairly free of spatial effects like reverb, and loud. They're also extremely strident in the high frequencies and lack a natural sound, but that works with Manson's voice up to a point.
Overall, this is an electronic album with a heavy reliance on guitars instead of synths. In addition to a lack of level dynamics, there's a lack of tempo dynamics; we're rigidly locked in at fixed beats-per-minute and don't really have any sense of groove or musical “performance”. This is clearly a stylistic choice, and you either like it or you don't. Personally, I like the illusion of “Marilyn Manson: The Band” and not “Marilyn Manson: The MIDI File”, but now I'm giving a subjective opinion and I said I wasn't going to do that. I just had to throw some shade. I got it out, and I feel better now. Let's move on.

STANDOUT MOMENT: It continues to get harder and harder to point out moments that “sound great” on these albums with severely limited dynamics. I mean, this mix is good in a technical sense, but it's so slammed that the would-be great moments all suffer. I will say that “This Is The New Shit” has some great editing and ear candy; the cut-up beats and stuttering guitar bits add a lot of excitement. That first chorus would be a fucking fist-pumping moment of triumph if it weren't so squished; instead, the excitement goes to the words “ARE YOU”, while “motherfuckers ready for the new shit?” gets slammed down in volume and sounds polite in comparison. That's ass-backwards.

WEAK POINTS: The biggest forehead-slapper is at the beginning of Doll-Dagga Buzz-Buzz-Ziggety-Zag. Now, higher up on the list, I've pointed out multiple instances of the lack of dynamics robbing power from what should be impactful moments, but here we have a whisper that ends up being louder than a band in full swing. Listen to the whispered “Godmod grotesk burlesk drag”, and compare it with the next measure's downbeat; it gets smacked down pretty hard, making it less loud than A FUCKING WHISPER. This is absurd; we have a heavy, upbeat, rocking song here, but what should be an exciting moment is rendered – literally – whisper-quiet by limiting.
The title track is probably the most heavily-compressed Marilyn Manson song ever released. It's a fairly sparse arrangement instrument-wise, which is what I believe makes the heavy levels of compression so obvious and inappropriate. The vocal is present and up-front, but the backing track is barely audible. We've reached karaoke-level with this one; I defy you to truly be able to focus on individual mix elements back there. What a fucking mess. This single track is what a dynamic range of 4 (!!!) sounds like, by the way. In case you're curious.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is a slick, clean, fancy-pants sounding production. It's so rigid that it can be kind of monotonous, adhering to basically one tone and color throughout the running time, with one or two exceptions. This would be fine, but the heavy compression only compounds that monotony. This results in what should be an exciting and fun listen turning into a bit of a droning slog.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-08-2017, 10:30 AM
#7 THE HIGH END OF LOW
Dynamic Range: 5 (Smash into your face like a plane)
Overall Production Score: D+

THE LOWDOWN: After the trip down the TGAoG and EMDM cul-de-sac, this represents a return to the sound of Marilyn Manson as a sort-of “band”. It's looser and less polished than the previous two outings, almost aggressively so; amp noise, feedback, string squeaks, unidentifiable buzzes and such are abound, as if lashing back against the tight editing of the aforementioned albums. It's not a slick mix, and it times it's a lousy mix, but it sounds alive. Or, rather, it sounds like it was alive at one point, and then it smashed to occupy a narrow range of about five decibels. Have you ever had an audio receiver with a segmented LED display that shows a bar graph? Do kids even know what a “receiver” is? Well, if you do, then you could throw on a CD from the 80's or early 90's and watch those bars dance around as the music chugs along. This album pins those fuckers like a light bulb.

THE MIX: Well, the mixes aren't great here, but they're appropriately sloppy and work within the album's aesthetic. It's a pretty bare bones affair; a drum track, dual-tracked rhythm guitars or a stereo acoustic, bass, vocals. I think the basic instrumentation and raw production make for a strong album, but goddamn is this too loud.
The guitar tones are junky, sometimes in a cool way, sometimes not. Take the intro chords to “Pretty as a ($)”; this isn't the Mesa Rectifier-esque heavy tone of TGAoG, but more of a small low-wattage tube amp (actually kind of reminds me of a Fender Champ) being driven to the point of possibly blowing a fuse. This is a cool sound, though it doesn't sound like much care was taken to “clean it up” for the mix. That is most likely an artistic choice, so whether it's good or bad is subjective. But it can be a little grating.
Bass is back as the main driver of the songs, though it's also among the worst casualties of this crazy loudness. Drums are nice and trashy, but lack punch.
The vocals shine; we've dropped the overly strident style of TGAoG and EMDM in favor of a looser, more natural tone. Even Manson's performance is a bit looser and more natural, spreading out to add little flourishes and not sounding so rigid.
What makes a triumphant return is the use of “color” and “contrast”, though a lot of it is lost or at least dulled in all the loudness. “Into the Fire” attempts to sound big and grand, “I Have to Look Up Just To See Hell” hearkens back to the dissonant chaos of, dare I say, Antichrist Superstar (while also sounding nowhere near as good), and “Wight Spider” grinds along like a poorly-oiled machine.
It's a shame that an album that seems to be aiming to sound “big” ends up sounding so small.

STANDOUT MOMENT: “Devour” actually almost has some decent dynamics, at least until the drums show up. It manages to build towards something. But my favorite bit is in “Blank and White”; the little breakdown followed by the guitar solo. Yeah, that bleep is annoying, but the full band coming in with Manson screaming “Yeah Yeah Yeah!” is a great moment; they're throwing everything they have at you, the wheels are coming off, smoke is blowing out the speakers, shit's falling off shelves. It's as if it's saying, “yeah, we've killed the dynamics here, but we might as crash this thing into the fucking ground”.

WEAK POINTS: Man, is this thing smashed. I almost want to go easy on it because it pales in comparison to the horrors that await us at the bottom of the list, and to be fair there's not a whole lot of clipping here – some, but most of the squashing sounds more like misuse of traditional compressors versus the destruction wrought by brickwall limiters.
Four Rusted Horses, believe it or not, is the “loudest” song of the bunch, but it almost gets away with it (relatively speaking) due to the sparse instrumentation (this can go either way; the song "The Golden Age of Grotesque" is also instrumentally sparse, but suffers for it. It comes down to how the frequency spectrum is "filled out"). When a song really loads up with parts, like "Arma-goddamn-motherfuckin-geddon", you can't ignore the lack of vibe.
And this one doesn't count, since it's on the bonus disc, but the acoustic version of “Leave a Scar” has a huge problem with the low end. It sounds like nobody bothered to high-pass the acoustic guitar, or maybe there's some low resonance in there that should be EQ'd out, but it's almost headache-inducing. I'm not sure that anyone actually listened to this before the album made it out the door, because that's, like, Mixing 101.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is a mess, but parts of it work. I think it's a strong production overall, but boy does it get a beating. Sadly, it's a beating that the album doesn't survive.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-08-2017, 11:35 AM
The last two will be posted simultaneously since revealing the runner-up also reveals the winner of this Ugly Contest. That'll be later. First...

I want to talk about compression a little bit, because that's pretty much the theme of this thread. I like compression, and as a recording musician I use it all the time. I own two analog compressors (one two-channel and one mono), as well as a compressor in guitar pedal form (ubk Fatso, Universal Audio 1176LN, and MXR Dynacomp '76 Script, respectively). I own a bunch of digital (VST Plugin) compressors as well; pretty much everything Universal Audio makes, which are primarily vintage emulations. So I'm big on compression. It does wonders for bass; evens out the tone, keeps certain notes from ringing out too loudly, and setting the attack and release controls just right can enhance a groove. Drums benefit greatly as well; you can make a snare hit with a good, stiff THWACK, or clamp down on it and let its overall tone ring out. You can run a whole drum kit through a compressor, and with the right settings, it can pump in time with the beat and make a flat drum track come to life. And used on the master bus of an entire song, it can glue the disparate elements together and make a song "breathe". They're fun to abuse, too; ramming the overhead mics of a drum kit through a compressor can really trash things up, or you could pin down a vocal so it rings loud and proud as the focal point of a mix.
Compressors work by setting a "threshold" level; let's say -18dB as an example. If a sound (let's say a bass) is playing along and doesn't go over -18dB, the compression circuit doesn't do anything. But once the bass gets loud enough, say a hard pluck of the low "E" string comes in at -12dB, the compressor goes to work, because you've crossed the threshold. It'll reduce the volume of that louder hit by some amount, dependent on the compression ratio. A low ratio will gently lower it, while a high ratio will smack that shit hard. And it doesn't smack it instantaneously; you can control how quickly the compressor "responds", so it might let a lot of that hard hit through before clamping down, and you can also set how long it takes for the compressor to "let go" of the sound - these are the "attack" and "release" controls, respectively. They're versatile and neat boxes. I've got nothing against compressors. They're my friends.
Limiters are a type of compressor, but by definition they have a high ratio - they'll smack down anything that crosses the threshold good and hard, and they do it quickly (they have a fast attack). These have their place in a mix; any time you want something to absolutely, never ever cross a certain level. They're used in mastering to keep stuff from hitting that awful 0dB ceiling, though they accomplish this by sort of acting like a "drop" ceiling just below 0dB. These are extremely useful as well, though the type we're talking about here are more utilitarian items and don't exactly have the "vibe" that a good, musical compressor has.
So I use "compression" and "limiting" interchangeably in these reviews, and that is indeed accurate; all limiting is compression, but not all compression is limiting.
My point is that I'm not ragging on compression, and I don't even hate the sound of "too much compression". The drums on "The Beautiful People" are insanely overcompressed, but they sound cool.
The problem is the misuse of the limiter on the mix. These things should be used to squeeze some extra loudness into a song by only working on the hardest hits, like say a ridiculously loud snare hit in the chorus. You don't want to have to turn down the volume of the entire song just to make room for that one loud hit; it's better to let the limiter do its job and "turn down the volume knob" for the listener at just that moment, and then get out of the way. What's happening on these records is that in order to make it sound "louder", the engineers are lowering the threshold so that the limiter is constantly working, shaving sound off of every peak so that the rest of the song can be turned up. This is turning the whole thing into mush; when you limit all of the peaks, you're left with no peaks.

I also want to clarify that when I say something is "too loud", I don't mean it in the way that Mom and Dad mean it. I like listening to my music loud. What's at issue is the overcompression/limiting is an attempt to make things sound loud at low volumes. Nobody wants to release a CD that sounds "quieter" than everyone else's CDs, because again, the brain equates "louder" with "better" up to a certain point. That's what started the Loudness Wars. But when you kill the dynamics of a song, you kill the feel; the difference between the loud bits and the quieter bits is what gives the music its life, lets it breathe. If you're only ever going to listen to music quietly in the background, then maybe a severely limited recording is the way to go. But if you're going to turn it up and rattle some windows, I guaran-fucking-tee you that a higher dynamic range release will sound better than something with too goddamn much limiting... 100% of the time.
You can try this at home by grabbing an original mix of a CD released in, say, 1990, and then comparing it with a super-deluxe-20th Anniversary-digitally-remastered version released in 2010. Chances are, the 2010 version will be sorely lacking in dynamics, because that's the style these days. Side by side, the remaster is going to sound louder than the 1990 disc. But there is a cure: TURN UP THE VOLUME ON YOUR PLAYER FOR THE QUIETER CD. You might need the volume knob set to 8 to make the 1990 disc "sound as loud" as the 2010 disc does with the knob set to 5, but it's going to sound so much better; it's going to hit you in all the right spots, and you'll understand why hipsters everywhere claim that old music sounds better. They're only partially correct, though; dynamic music sounds better, no matter what the era.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-08-2017, 01:42 PM
#8 THE PALE EMPEROR
Dynamic Range: 5 (Deep Five)
Overall Production Score: ?

FUCK: This album completely fucked up my list. Originally, this was either going to be #3 or possibly #1. I had only nice things to say about the balances, the performances, the fantastic dynamics. But there's a problem: I only ever bought the deluxe vinyl with the included download. I'd never heard the CD version, because how different could it be from the digital download? But I needed to be fair to the other albums, so I picked up yet another copy of The Pale Emperor, this time on compact disc, specifically for this post. What happened next was traumatic.

SHIT: Well, to my shock, the CD version of this is a disaster. It's a cataclysmic disaster compared to the vinyl that I love (DR11 – oh, it's glorious) and merely a garden-variety disaster even compared to the digital download that I have (DR6, still not great but a far leap from DR5). On my first (and hopefully last) listen to the CD version, I knew something was wrong during Killing Strangers, but thought it was perhaps just my memory of this album playing tricks on me. But when Deep Six started squirting out of my speakers, I knew what was wrong: somebody assassinated The Pale Emperor. Regicide is a serious crime.

GODDAMNIT: The recording and mixing of this album are so great. Were so great. The separation and sense of space is up there with Mechanical Animals. The drums hit hard and with authority, and more importantly, they can hit softly and with precision at times. The guitar tones are classy as fuck. Manson gives his best vocal performance, period. All of this is either lost, obscured, or rendered moot on CD. I'm not going into any more detail on the mix as it's basically pointless, and if you've never heard the vinyl release, describing it would be like describing a perfectly-cooked medium-rare ribeye steak to a starving person.

COCKS: “Warship My Wreck” and “Cupid Carries a Gun” get fucked the worst here; these are two of my favorites on vinyl but are unlistenable on CD. "Warship" in particular; the balance of light to heavy parts is critical to the song even working at all.
You may be thinking I'm being overdramatic, and perhaps you're right; after all, I am a self-professed snob about my audio shit. But if you've only heard the CD or some digital release, then you haven't heard this album. What's more confusing is how many digital releases there are; the iTunes one is mastered differently from the one you get from the Manson store, which is different than the one you get from Amazon, which I guess is just ripped from the CD. Or something. Let's keep this simple: make one for the masses and one for the audiophiles. I know which one I'd buy.

WHAT THE CHRIST: Bad sound quality can kill an album, and nowhere is it more clear than when comparing the different formats of The Pale Emperor. I wonder if I'd like some of my least favorite MM albums more if I heard them mixed and mastered at sane levels. The albums I have difficulty connecting with on an emotional level could just be too harsh and shrill to approach; if we could spend some quiet time together, maybe I could discover a beautiful relationship with them. It's the goddamned future, man, we should be able to get some decent versions of these from the man himself. Look what NIN is doing right now; seriously, go look - everything is now available on vinyl and/or high dynamic range lossless audio. Why are we settling for shit like this?

EDIT: I did a second review of JUST the vinyl release later in the thread (http://www.providermodule.com/forum/showthread.php/8429-An-audiophile-ranks-and-reviews-every-MM-album-solely-on-sound-quality-NERD-ALERT?p=213471&viewfull=1#post213471), because I really do like this album and the superior mix deserves some love.

Skull
01-08-2017, 01:43 PM
Well, you're more tolerant with THEOL's mix than I would be, but it's more a stylistic, subjective matter altogether. But you're absolutely right about that record being squashed to death. Look at the audio "graphs" (sorry, I don't know how you call these in English...) for I wanna kill you... :
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/zxq7UmGZuglwJH4PzTPJhOw5sxp24CedlTZWf_Ga7xTSdFMqob Nkt9xIdNusLYnjA23Ey13x3Q4=w2304-h694-no
This song's structure rests on a gradual build up, with more and more instruments and layers kicking in. Can you see any of that? Nope, the beginning is just as loud as the end, which sounds like a fucking mess. Now compare it to Minute of Decay :
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/gLVUm-aIawmS2C09490QpguE_y4MoMqiXukgnTFSHT7tOs5eata2bvkv ljKZWjmNQ8TKUZwwCrs=w2304-h591-no
Space, peaks, details, and who would say that that bass is not loud and clear?
Wight Spider, as you've pointed out, is another fine example of a botched mastering, the quiet parts are way too loud, which gives no space for the loud ones, which sound super mushy. Don't even get me started on Pretty As...and Armageddon. The first is a two-minute buzzing drone and the other is a blob. I've compared the graphs with that of its cousin The Beautiful People and it's striking how it's louder, while sounding so much weaker.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-08-2017, 01:48 PM
#9 BORN VILLAIN
Dynamic Range: 5 (Go fuck yourself)
Overall Production Score: F

THE LOWDOWN: This is a good album. It doesn't sound like a band who's been around for two decades; this sounds like the product of a younger, hungrier artist. It also sounds like shit.

THE MIX: From the very first second I knew this was going to sound bad. Whatever that chugging sound is at the beginning is a harbinger of the pain that lies ahead.

I can't even properly analyze the mix here; it's too hard to discern what the fuck is going on. I don't know how the elements are mixed. I'm not sure what's going on with the tonal balances. I like the songs, they're just trapped behind a wall of BAD.

The clipping is outrageous here. “Hey, Cruel World” is the bastard father of thousands of clipped samples and it's a fucking painful listen. In fact, every single song is a gross orgy of clipping. I do not need to use an audio program in order to hear this awfulness, but look at this shit (red means clipped samples):

http://i63.tinypic.com/j9lx52.jpg

Clipping is one of those things that, once you know what it sounds like, you'll hear it every time. I don't want to ruin your life by pointing out a specific moment, but it's almost easier to just name the parts that don't clip on Born Villain.
Just as a refresher, clipping is when you make something so loud that it exceeds the 0dB ceiling. Digital audio doesn't allow you to exceed the ceiling; it has no idea what to do with a value higher than this (since we're talking about 16-bit audio, the maximum binary value is 1111 1111 1111 1111; there's no such thing as 1111 1111 1111 1112). What it does instead is distort, and not in a pleasing way. If you look at a waveform of the song, you can see it actually “flatten out” as it hits the ceiling. You can see this in the following complex and highly-scientific diagram:

http://i67.tinypic.com/2iqd45t.jpg

It sounds terrible, and there's no excuse for this. You can clip here and there; you really shouldn't, but you can get away with it sparingly. This is just ridiculous though. Why would you do this to a song unless you hated either it or the listener?

STANDOUT MOMENT: I don't know.

WEAK POINTS: The first fourteen tracks. Every single exciting moment is beaten to death. It's a total flatline. “Lay Down Your Goddamned Arms” and “Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day” aren't the worst offenders (every song is the worst offender), but those are the two that really piss me off because they sound like they might be interesting if only they were of acceptable quality.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This album's sound quality is unacceptable.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-08-2017, 02:05 PM
Well, you're more tolerant with THEOL's mix than I would be, but it's more a stylistic, subjective matter altogether. But you're absolutely right about that record being squashed to death. Look at the audio "graphs" (sorry, I don't know how you call these in English...) for I wanna kill you... :
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/zxq7UmGZuglwJH4PzTPJhOw5sxp24CedlTZWf_Ga7xTSdFMqob Nkt9xIdNusLYnjA23Ey13x3Q4=w2304-h694-no
This song's structure rests on a gradual build up, with more and more instruments and layers kicking in. Can you see any of that? Nope, the beginning is just as loud as the end, which sounds like a fucking mess. Now compare it to Minute of Decay :
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/gLVUm-aIawmS2C09490QpguE_y4MoMqiXukgnTFSHT7tOs5eata2bvkv ljKZWjmNQ8TKUZwwCrs=w2304-h591-no
Space, peaks, details, and who would say that that bass is not loud and clear?
Wight Spider, as you've pointed out, is another fine example of a botched mastering, the quiet parts are way too loud, which gives no space for the loud ones, which sound super mushy. Don't even get me started on Pretty As...and Armageddon. The first is a two-minute buzzing drone and the other is a blob. I've compared the graphs with that of its cousin The Beautiful People and it's striking how it's louder, while sounding so much weaker.

Ouch, yeah, those waveforms pretty much tell the whole story. "Blob" is a good word it! You have to be careful with how these are scaled when comparing two different songs, particularly if one is significantly longer, but they certainly look like an accurate representation of those two tracks regardless of scale. Excellent points.

Skull
01-08-2017, 02:24 PM
^Exactly. I always wonder why these pro mastering engineers, getting paid thousands and with top-notch gear, are doing this to a record... I mean, if we know it, they know it, right? It's confusing. Earlier on, I had taken the clipping out of my screen caps for the sake of clarity, but this is how I Wanna Kill You... actually look like :
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/f_G_-GnIcNqqcpZuHvvoCbbCom5t0nUaQA0jAFzER6txSUWigV9ugrP 4rnRzz5twf988Oan4PTY=w1920-h456-no
Crazy, but there's even worse with Pretty As A Svastika :
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/VuekrJBak_zF5YX7mJqkpftjdmdOYOfdNxkWsYwbWAWsBmnsQO Yr9tyeKNLjywKpugAK2UDrlcI=w1920-h456-no
No comment...
And yes, the Pale Emperor Vinyl sounds so much better!

Skull
01-08-2017, 02:32 PM
Also, for fun, this is the SAY10 preview file :
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/coJGCbVmjq-QrQkeg6KKmeFofifIfdNSqOF_w6KOkzGNWtTuS23uy6UZrFBUv SJnQidbmmd5Qu0=w1920-h451-no
Not looking good, is it? At first I was amazed at the quality of the mix and the atmosphere, but as soon as he hits the "Cash is the poor .." you can hear the ceiling being hit by that super cool sound, which should sound way cooler. And I'm not saying anything about the chorus....
I'll be buying the CD out of collection's sake and to listen in the car, but I'll make sure the first thing I order is the deluxe vinyl version!

Skull
01-08-2017, 02:46 PM
Also, about the different digital versions of Pale Emperor, you're right as well. Here is a comparison for Warship my Wreck : (the diagram at the top is the Cooking Vinyl download that came with the vinyl, and the one at the bottom is the Amazon one)
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/FbsC55cPaIQNICVunS6gaGNT-rLiG6DUpOwDoqNcJT_qxQ1vV8XpulepDt_7bfpQFwlb4EIyYMA =w1920-h901-no
There's is a notable amount of clipping shaved off, even if it's still far from perfect...

A Gruesome Discovery
01-08-2017, 02:47 PM
Time will tell; streaming video tends to use its own dynamic range reduction codecs, so this might be a byproduct of that. It's also basically just an advertisement for the album, so they may have clamped down on the peaks to make it sound strong coming through people's laptops and phones. That's my hope, anyway!

More on my SAY10 take:

SAY10 and BEYOND

There's hope. The Pale Emperor sounded great in some of its formats, so the damage wasn't done at the mixing stage. SAY10 will have much of the same personnel involved, so it should be of high quality. And I think people are starting to pick up on this stuff; iTunes is starting to encode loudness information in their audio files' metadata, and a feature called "SoundCheck" will then actually turn down shit that is too loud. It doesn't change anything for songs that conform to a certain loudness standard (similar, but not exactly like the DR values used here), but once a track exceeds this level, it gets the hammer. If this catches on and is fully embraced, it'll end the Loudness War; it will create an incentive to *avoid* aggressive limiting, because all that effort will be wasted when iTunes decides that your program material isn't dynamic enough and cranks the level down. Now your attempt to make "the loudest mix possible" has caused your album to play back quieter than more dynamic stuff. Ha!
That's what's needed; a standard. And there's a few out there, and they're being adopted; Europe has the EBU R128 standard, where audio for TV can't exceed a value of 23 LUFS (Loudness Units relative to Full Scale), so now there *needs* to be a high-dynamic version of music if it ever hopes to appear on TV. Then there's ReplayGain, similar to Apple's Soundcheck, which leaves your music alone if it's dynamic enough but spanks anything down that tries to be too fucking loud. As CDs continue their slow death and streaming takes over, we'll see a few things: higher quality music (I've seen a couple of albums come out in 24-bit WAV in recent months; YES!) and we will once again have color, impact, excitement, and dynamics in our music. I've already started remixing my own band's music at 16LUFS (which works out to around DR10 depending on the song); I used to go higher against my better judgment, because even I have felt pressure to make something "loud enough to compete" with everything else out there. But no more.
The future is dynamic.
Life is all dynamics.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-08-2017, 02:55 PM
Also, about the different digital versions of Pale Emperor, you're right as well. Here is a comparison for Warship my Wreck : (the diagram at the top is the Cooking Vinyl download that came with the vinyl, and the one at the bottom is the Amazon one)
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/FbsC55cPaIQNICVunS6gaGNT-rLiG6DUpOwDoqNcJT_qxQ1vV8XpulepDt_7bfpQFwlb4EIyYMA =w1920-h901-no
There's is a notable amount of clipping shaved off, even if it's still far from perfect...

Oh, thanks for that! I didn't even think to actually look at the waveforms of any of these songs in any of my reviews until the final one, when I needed a way to visually demonstrate just how much clipping I was hearing. Your post makes me feel better about my Pale Emperor assessment; I know I hear a big difference between the CD and the digital download, but this confirms that I'm not imagining it!

thatrussianman
01-08-2017, 02:56 PM
A Gruesome Discovery, you are doing God's work. And that is pointing out to the masses how irrevocably fucked Born Villain is.
I remember May 2012, lining up my speakers so they were a perfect distance away from me, so excited to hear the new Manson album as I had just become a fan a couple years after THEOL was released, so this was my first new Manson album after I was already a super huge fan. I pressed play on my iTunes track list, and from the VERY second Hey Cruel World opened, I knew something was wrong. I had that same feeling that you put into words so eloquently in your review while I listened to the whole album. I should be feeling something here, but I'm not feeling ANYTHING. I like what's going on in these songs, but something about the way they sound makes it feel like they're stuck behind, well, "a wall of bad."

To this day I shudder thinking about Born Villain. I loved the clips I had heard previously in the trailer and the i am among no one preview, so my high came crashing down like a fiery plane. I hope that one day the album will be properly remastered, but I'm not holding my breath. It's been long forgotten and is just a shit stain on Manson's otherwise impeccable discography.

Another thing you pointed out in your review that I've thought while listening as well: To the person who mastered this album, do you just hate us? Or Manson? Or the music? WHY DID YOU DO THIS?

Let's shout it loud enough for the people in the back to hear:
BORN VILLAIN'S SOUND QUALITY IS UNACCEPTABLE.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-08-2017, 03:21 PM
We can't lay blame at the feet of the mastering engineers; I have utmost respect for these guys. Their job is literally to listen to a piece of music and make it sound the best that it can. They're hired for their ears and their judgment. But if they do their job, and then the client comes back and says, "no, make this much louder", well, the mastering engineer probably has a family to feed so he's going to try his damned best to make the client happy. So while a lot of damage is done during mastering, I think the blame belongs to the guy who signs the checks at the end of the day.

It should be pointed out that the same guy who mastered Born Villain also mastered Antichrist Superstar and Portrait of an American Family, so the problem seems to be somewhere else... I'm not naming any names, but it rhymes with Cheryl-Lynn Danson.

Justsomeguy
01-08-2017, 03:44 PM
Wow, I was certainly not expecting GAOG to be that high on the list. Don't take me wrong, there are certain parts in that record I adore. Had the title track been finalized to the level of even HW standards, it'd be one of the greatest songs and greatest sounding songs the man's ever recorded. For some reason that album is just SHHHPPWWBWAAAAAA when I hear it for the most part, little to no contrast, no real 'umph' because it's all 'umph' always. After reading your review, I kinda get it.

Going off of that, I'd be interested to get a quick list of what you feel to be the 1-9 based on the vinyls. After reading your PE review, I get you're reviewing based off of compact disks. I'm merely a pissant layman with no knowledge of any of this, but I'll give a loud 'amen' to your mentioning of the fact that the vinyl of PE sounds almost ridiculously different to any other form of the album, to the point where it boggles your mind and sounds almost like a second recording entirely. I noticed that with PE more than any other recent album. So, what would the list look like if we were going off of 'the highest quality officially available'? Because presumably that'd be the version that the artist(s) said 'ok, we're done here' on, before it was fucked in various ways in various methods by largely outside parties.

BV should always and forever be at the bottom of this list. I didn't think it was possible for an album to sound like a bunch of poorly recorded demos made possible with a rock-band microphone and an iPad, while simultaneously sounding overproduced. There are some decent 'moments' on the record here and there, Vrenna definitely shines, but I'm embarrassed to listen to these songs around people and I wish it never existed. I'm a Manson fanboy as much as anyone here, back in the heirophant days I was the one dude thinking EMDM was awesome while everyone pretended to hate it, but BV is a pile of shit, for so many reasons, starting with the production itself.

As was mentioned earlier, you're indeed doing God's work Gruesome. I think we all owe you a round of applause and a couple' free drinks man. You've provided one of the most insightful and thought-provoking analyses to be seen in these depths.

Are you considering possibly expanding to the nooks and crannies? It'd be cool to hear your thoughts on some of the b-sides, remixes, acoustic versions compared to originals, OST songs, live albums, all sorts. You're our professor now, your shit is academic canon.

thatrussianman
01-08-2017, 04:01 PM
We can't lay blame at the feet of the mastering engineers

It should be pointed out that the same guy who mastered Born Villain also mastered Antichrist Superstar and Portrait of an American Family, so the problem seems to be somewhere else... I'm not naming any names, but it rhymes with Cheryl-Lynn Danson.

Right. I read the liner notes on born villain and that puzzled me. I assumed it was him and not Manson because I pictured manson as leaving the mastering process to the pros and not interfering at all with the final stages. After hearing you say that is was Manson, I know this is blasphemous on this website, but is Manson fucking retarded? (or does he not care?)

AudioViolence
01-08-2017, 04:09 PM
Right. I read the liner notes on born villain and that puzzled me. I assumed it was him and not Manson because I pictured manson as leaving the mastering process to the pros and not interfering at all with the final stages. After hearing you say that is was Manson, I know this is blasphemous on this website, but is Manson fucking retarded? (or does he not care?)

Maybe he is retarded or perhaps he is a born villain whose evil intent was ruining the album?

thatrussianman
01-08-2017, 04:13 PM
Maybe he is a retarded or perhaps he is a born villain whose evil intent was ruining the album?

Oh that crosses the line for me. Still a fan though. Can't wait for Say10. (I'm manson's bitch).

A Gruesome Discovery
01-08-2017, 04:19 PM
Wow, I was certainly not expecting GAOG to be that high on the list.
It's actually my least favorite album, as a matter of fact. But I can't help but respect the engineering behind it. As boring as I find the album, it sounds really smooth; a lot of the lower-ranked stuff can be painful to listen to in comparison.


Going off of that, I'd be interested to get a quick list of what you feel to be the 1-9 based on the vinyls. After reading your PE review, I get you're reviewing based off of compact disks. I'm merely a pissant layman with no knowledge of any of this, but I'll give a loud 'amen' to your mentioning of the fact that the vinyl of PE sounds almost ridiculously different to any other form of the album, to the point where it boggles your mind and sounds almost like a second recording entirely. I noticed that with PE more than any other recent album. So, what would the list look like if we were going off of 'the highest quality officially available'?

Oh, that's a tough question! I only have original pressings Mechanical Animals, Holy Wood, and The Pale Emperor on vinyl (I only wish I had ACSS), but if we were to add those to the mix instead of the CD versions, it'd go something like:

1) Mechanical Animals (LP)
2) The Pale Emperor (LP)
3) Antichrist Superstar
4) Holy Wood (LP)
5) Portrait of an American Family
6) Eat Me, Drink Me
7) Golden Age of Grotesque
8) High End of Low
9) Born Villain

I actually had to think about this for a while, and ended up just ordering the top 4 from "flawless" to "awesome but has some flaws".



As was mentioned earlier, you're indeed doing God's work Gruesome. I think we all owe you a round of applause and a couple' free drinks man. You've provided one of the most insightful and thought-provoking analyses to be seen in these depths.

Are you considering possibly expanding to the nooks and crannies? It'd be cool to hear your thoughts on some of the b-sides, remixes, acoustic versions compared to originals, OST songs, live albums, all sorts. You're our professor now, your shit is academic canon.

Haha, thank you very much. I'll probably just pop on here every now and again and complain about everything sounding like shit.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-08-2017, 04:48 PM
Right. I read the liner notes on born villain and that puzzled me. I assumed it was him and not Manson because I pictured manson as leaving the mastering process to the pros and not interfering at all with the final stages. After hearing you say that is was Manson, I know this is blasphemous on this website, but is Manson fucking retarded? (or does he not care?)

Well the artist definitely has to sign off on the final master, and there's probably a couple of rounds of changes. But you know, I think he's just not all that into critical listening. He's an artist, not an engineer, and I imagine his primary listening environment is in a car, volume up high, and he's looking for a certain feeling in the album and requests changes until it sounds the way he likes. Maybe his car's sound system sucks, and that's our problem.


Oh and one more burning question I had for you Gruesome, since you're here. I've listened to the CD version, the amazon version, and the iTunes version of The Pale Emperor, and I get this nagging feeling that Third Day Of a Seven Day Binge is mixed differently than the rest of the album? I can feel the UMPH in that song no matter what version I listen to, but the other tracks I feel like they're not as impactful as they are trying to be (Warship for example, even on the CD version I can hear what sounds like vinyl crackle and I'm thinking "WTF?"maybe that's just part of the song, and on killing strangers and deep six if I turn it up loud enough during the quiet parts at the beginning and end I can hear buzzing of the noise floor? The fuck?) You praised TPE so highly and I've always felt disappointed by it, again not because of the songwriting, but because every song besides Third day felt like they were mastered by a different person. I cross my fingers and hope that just because third day was the first full song released that a different guy didn't mix/master it and they didn't bother to make the other songs fit that sound.

The whole album actually has some different mix styles, though I feel it all comes together nicely in the end. Third Day stands out as having a primarily mono vocal; compare it with the Mephistopheles of Los Angeles, where the vocals are distinctly stereo and hard-panned. 3D7DB (I'm calling it this now) is also clearly panned using the LCR method, like Mechanical Animals, whereas I hear some slightly narrower panning of some elements in the busier songs (I'd have to sit down and listen closely to confirm this; I'm purely recalling from memory). I think the most significant identifying factor is that the instrumentation is so sparse; it's really just drums, bass, and vocal all in the center (some panning in the drum overhead and hat mics, but the "meat" is dead center) and just a pair of guitars off to the sides. I think that might make it hit a little harder; there's not much going on in this song, so everything has room to breathe and stretch its legs out.

thatrussianman
01-08-2017, 06:35 PM
Is the Born Villain vinyl subject to the same thing gruesome described in his review?

(Does anyone own the Born Villain vinyl?)

A Gruesome Discovery
01-08-2017, 07:39 PM
Is the Born Villain vinyl subject to the same thing gruesome described in his review?

(Does anyone own the Born Villain vinyl?)

Someone put a rip of a couple of BV songs from the vinyl up on YouTube. Judging music based on YouTube's quality isn't exactly scientific, but to my ear they sound about the same as the CD; a little more full in the low end with softened highs, but I assume that's from the necessary addition of the preamp used in the capture.

thatrussianman
01-08-2017, 09:36 PM
Someone put a rip of a couple of BV songs from the vinyl up on YouTube. Judging music based on YouTube's quality isn't exactly scientific, but to my ear they sound about the same as the CD; a little more full in the low end with softened highs, but I assume that's from the necessary addition of the preamp used in the capture.

You're right. I've listened to those vinyl rips and they sound exactly like the CD version, except with those little EQ changes you mentioned.

Zimscum
01-08-2017, 10:23 PM
So it's just as I asserted so many times before. Everything Chris Vrenna touches gets turned mediocre.
Thanks for this badass and very educational list. I'll be saving screenshots of this entire thread and keeping for ever

Mok
01-08-2017, 10:33 PM
I knew "Born Villain" would be last. Goddamn, that post gives me life. I guess it's become a bit boring just hearing me drone on and on with everything I dislike about that album, including the horrible mixing. There is just so much wrong with that album, that I'm glad someone who knows what they're talking about is finally touching on.

Well. There are people who were already here who know what they're talking about, but wouldn't dare touch upon it.

You didn't touch on it, but thoughts with "Breaking the Same Old Ground" using stock humming? I swear I used to play around with those same effects on GoldWave as a kid.

Still, I was kinda surprised TPE was so low. Sa'll good, though, doesn't change my personal enjoyment of the album. Nice to see EMDM getting more props from fans, finally.

thatrussianman
01-09-2017, 12:33 AM
Nice to see EMDM getting more props from fans, finally.

EMDM is excellent. This thread has inspired me to relisten to Manson's entire discography (excluding Born Villain, I get depressed when I listen to Born Villain) on my morning bike rides. The difference in this re-listening is that, like Gruesome suggested, I TURNED UP THE VOLUME on the less limited albums like portrait and ACSS. And good lord, has it been glorious. I have new thoughts on the 3 albums I have completed listens to so far with everything Gruesome said about dynamic range in mind.

PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY: I always considered this Manson's garage band album. Essentially the spooky kids demos but with trent's guiding hand to make it sound more professional. And while that is a big part of it, HOLY CRAP there is so much going on here. There are little guitar and bass flourishes that I never heard before, and also Manson's vocals sound even more eerie than ever. Gruesome was right about this feeling like Manson's most live sounding album. I was having so much fun listening to it my workout felt easy. I felt like I was at a spooky kids concert. While I still don't understand some fan's obsession with this era, I severely underrated this album in the past. It's definitely moved up on my list. It's an incredibly smart and textured album.

ANTICHRIST SUPERSTAR: Well. Wel,l well, well. I never liked the beautiful people. I never got why Antichrist Superstar was so high on people's lists. Admittedly, I did like the album, but it was never near the top of my list. I thought Manson retained his pop sensibilities well into albums like The high end of low, which lyrically spoke to me more than Antichrist superstar. But that was before I turned the volume up. To say this album kicked my teeth in would be an understatement. I turned on the title track for Antichrist Superstar in my car, and the song started raping me. I didn't even know how to feel. The buildup to the first power chord blew me away, followed by the simple yet effective rhythm guitars which made me feel powerful, which contrasted with manson's wailing which made me feel vulnerable. A powerful vunerability. I enjoyed it, so I guess it wasn't really rape, but it felt like that's what the song was trying to do. Force itself into my life, unapologetically. And it was unforgettable. Other great moments were scattered here and there. The drums for The beautiful people HIT YOU IN THE CHEST. Any ballad on this album like tourniquet or minute of decay become 10x sadder because Manson's screams don't sound like he's just screaming for the sake of intensity. He is HOWLING. He is putting into noise every shitty feeling you've ever felt. When it was over, I just wished the album was longer. There is no way this album will ever be lower than a #2 spot on my list. It's that fucking good.

MECHANICAL ANIMALS: I love this album to death, even though it's actually my least favorite of the tryptch. This album is so rich in spaceyness, mood, and atmosphere I can't help but to adore it on some level. Because this album does not have great dynamic range (pretty mediocre, in fact) I didn't discover anything that made me emotional like Antichrist did. It sounded for the most part like it does when I have it at normal listening volumes and I'm not searching for dynamism. However there were certain points where I could read instruments REALLY clearly and it felt so clean and polished I actually stopped my bike for a second and was checking my phone to make sure that my headphones were plugged in right. I never noticed how HARD LEFT or HARD RIGHT some of the instruments are panned. It kind of blew my mind. This is a fantastic album, lyrically and sonically, so even though I prefer the lyrics of later albums such as The Golden Age of Grotesque (because it's so punny), I'm taking into account dynamic range into my list now, and mechanical animals is nowhere near as limited as Grotesque is. Obviously, the mechanical animals vinyl must be blow-off-your-socks amazing with the higher dynamic range.

S.D.
01-09-2017, 04:16 AM
Generally, any-and-all forms of intricate technology bewilder and annoy me. That doesn't mean I favour simplicity or dislike technology, I'm just not a tech-head by ANY stretch of the imagination. This applies directly to music, its production, and the way in which I process music first-hand.
Obviously I know the very distinct difference between demos recorded in a shed over something made at Abbey Road, but the ground in-between, I don't really care about. So long as a song or album has punch, heart and a little care taken over it, I'm sure I'll enjoy it.

Manson made his name with albums famed for their meticulous atmosphere, but I don't think that was purely sonic, or intended to be. It might be why the band don't do technobabble during interviews, I've never seen them as an intentionally proficient band. Manson has even made statements confirming this. What Marilyn Manson does best is make Marilyn Manson albums, and they always sound like Manson albums, even if it takes a few listens to recognise that quality.
I usually react to the mood of his albums, and those have been generated by studio trickery just as much as photo shoots, music videos, lyrics, or quotes about the songs. Mechanical Animals (for example) might have countless hidden delights, but The High End Of Low makes up for technical brilliance by being - as described in its review here - 'Alive'.

It's always encouraging to see fans analysing Manson's work, though, so nothing here is wrong, I just don't hear music on a basis of waveforms and digital information. For all their relative minimalism, songs like Children Of Cain or Devour have far more impact than Tourniquet say, because I prefer their drive and melodies. Different strokes and all that.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-09-2017, 05:33 AM
You didn't touch on it, but thoughts with "Breaking the Same Old Ground" using stock humming? I swear I used to play around with those same effects on GoldWave as a kid.

The hiss and noise effect? The use of presets and commercially-available samples doesn't bother me as long as they're used well. The "choir" sound on that very song is from a primitive "sampler"-style keyboard called a Mellotron and has been heard on countless prog rock albums; it's even used on Antichrist and I think somewhere on Holy Wood too. I recognize that sound immediately, but my first thought upon recognizing it is "oh cool, a Mellotron", and I don't think using it is much different than using a widely-available and recognizable processor on a mix.



Still, I was kinda surprised TPE was so low. Sa'll good, though, doesn't change my personal enjoyment of the album.
You weren't nearly as surprised as I was! Hearing the CD for the first time after an entire year of listening to the LP nearly broke my brain. It's one of the very best albums in my opinion, but I find the CD version unbearable in a critical listening situation.
That's not to say I don't listen to or appreciate the lower-ranked ones. In fact, I listen to and enjoy a couple of Born Villain tracks quite often because they're in my running/jogging playlist. When it comes time to sit down and really listen to an album, though, that's where the lower ranked ones fail. "Ear fatigue" sets in quickly.
None of this should affect anyone's enjoyment of the music, though! I'm just pointing out where there's room for improvement. Born Villain could potentially sound great with a higher dynamic range, and I know for a fact that The Pale Emperor does.

Nemoris Inferioris
01-09-2017, 11:57 AM
Also, for fun, this is the SAY10 preview file :
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/coJGCbVmjq-QrQkeg6KKmeFofifIfdNSqOF_w6KOkzGNWtTuS23uy6UZrFBUv SJnQidbmmd5Qu0=w1920-h451-no
Not looking good, is it? At first I was amazed at the quality of the mix and the atmosphere, but as soon as he hits the "Cash is the poor .." you can hear the ceiling being hit by that super cool sound, which should sound way cooler. And I'm not saying anything about the chorus....
I'll be buying the CD out of collection's sake and to listen in the car, but I'll make sure the first thing I order is the deluxe vinyl version!

You have to remember that the audio is taken from a video, which is compressed. The clip isn't from either CD or Vinyl. Time will tell when we get a official release.

Skull
01-09-2017, 12:35 PM
Yeah yeah I know, it was just out of curiosity more than anything else. Of course the quality was going to be bad. I have high hopes for SAY10, and if anything else, the vinyl will sound great, so it's all good!

Justsomeguy
01-09-2017, 02:59 PM
So it's just as I asserted so many times before. Everything Chris Vrenna touches gets turned mediocre.

I'd actually contend that Vrenna's flourishes were the only interesting component and [minute] saving grace on BV, which is an album that doesn't exist and what do you mean, shut up lalalalala.

I mean he was never quite the perfect-glove fit that MWG was, but that's perhaps a good thing. He brought something quite unique and different to the sound in terms of that glitzey tweaky cough-syrup-and-caffeine-pills ambiance he's known for. THEOL would be a completely different record without Vrenna and I don't think in a good way, he was definitely responsible for the overall 'feel' of that record. He was also responsible for some incredible re-imaginings and updates of certain songs played live. Take Coma White for example.


I too am glad to see EMDM finally take it's place as a genuinely appreciated album within the fanbase, it's been a long time coming. I mean, deep down we all know why out of the gates everyone said 'fuck EMDM,' to the point where even Manson disowned it, and I always thought that was outright tragic and criminal. It was just released at the worst possible time. But that record shines, it's beautiful. Perhaps in the future, if we ask Santa real nice, maybe he'll bring some of those tunes back to the live performance, because holy fuck would they sound great with his current band makeup and voice.

NapalmHeart
01-09-2017, 03:09 PM
Best thread ever, thank you for the detailed analysis.

I don't think the SAY10 audio track was finished when used for the teaser trailer, just like in the Born Villain clip which featured an unfinished, raw version of Overneath the Path of Misery.

Nemoris Inferioris
01-09-2017, 03:10 PM
Maybe if EMDM was released now, especially after the last two albums, it would have gotten a better reception. Considering when it was released, everyone was still used to old Manson, just after Personal JESUS being released and all, it was a abrupt departure and he was to never return to that person again, at least not yet.

Nemoris Inferioris
01-09-2017, 03:12 PM
Best thread ever, thank you for the detailed analysis.

I don't think the SAY10 audio track was finished when used for the teaser trailer, just like in the Born Villain clip which featured an unfinished, raw version of Overneath the Path of Misery.

I agree, I think when we listen to the full version, it'll be different, which will catch us off guard, being that we're used to how it sounds now, listening to it repeatedly. Just like Killing Strangers used in John Wick, the structure was slightly changed, and parts of it was moved to fit the movie.

Justsomeguy
01-09-2017, 03:28 PM
Maybe if EMDM was released now, especially after the last two albums, it would have gotten a better reception. Considering when it was released, everyone was still used to old Manson, just after Personal JESUS being released and all, it was a abrupt departure and he was to never return to that person again, at least not yet.

I think that was definitely the first stage of the mass-hatred, suddenly Manson wasn't 'the reflection of society,' and the poet-philosopher-sociologist-politician we'd hailed, with his bloody finger on the pulse of the world, but a man, singing as B. Warner. That was definitely a shock to some, but a much larger tragedy unfolded. I remember it, and parts of me wanted to despise EMDM as well. It was released in 2007, smack dab in the middle of the 'scene kid' era of popular culture. Despite releasing an incredible album dealing with forbidden love, self-destruction, and bare humanity, Interscope, having progressively become a more evil Bill-Hicks-esque marketing-obsessed entity in the years since GAOG, shamelessly marketed Manson as 'king of the emos' because vampires and blood and razor blades. That's when everyone started calling him 'hot topic Elvis,' and he appeared objectively more and more as a parody of himself, 'ooo, scary stuff. Your parents wont like this!' None of this would've been the route taken by Manson himself, who before that point was largely a master of his own destiny. Whatever happened in that chaos, all I remember distinctly is that I went to three shows on the ROTW tour. Before, I'd be surrounded in the company of deviants, poets, junkies, artists, the quiet, the loud, metalheads and hippies, old men in polka-dot dresses, trannies and sinners and runaways. Now I was surrounded by 13 year olds in Fallout Boy shirts and guyliner, and their moms chaperoning them. EMDM as an era was a debacle of horrid marketing, it was embarassing and frustrating to be a Manson fan yet somehow in the same basket as fans of Jeffree Star, and that made us disown the entire period. In many ways, THEOL was designed from the ground up to be a complete 180 reversal of the EMDM era.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-09-2017, 04:31 PM
So it's just as I asserted so many times before. Everything Chris Vrenna touches gets turned mediocre.

That's not nice! Haha

He just might not be a good match for Marilyn Manson. I love his Tweaker albums, but when I listen to them, the last thing I think is "this guy would be a good match for a hard rock band".

A Gruesome Discovery
01-09-2017, 04:39 PM
I'm not really getting all this Born Villain hate. Yeah, I shit all over its technical qualities, but I had no idea people hated it! I think "No Reflection" was MM's strongest single since "The Beautiful People".
I do get people's distaste for "Eat Me, Drink Me". No complicated theories, it's just kind of odd to hear such traditional song structures. "They Said That Hell's Not Hot" could well be a Neil Young tune. Now I like the album, but I always thought it sounded like Manson singing for some other band.
Then again, I like all of the albums; not equally, but each one is a goddamned gift and we should be thankful that we're treated to another entry in this great artist's portfolio every couple of years.
...It's just that some of them sound bad. :)

A Gruesome Discovery
01-09-2017, 04:45 PM
And thanks for joining in, everyone. I seriously expected this to be nine or ten posts of talking to myself.

gabrieltoxic
01-09-2017, 05:31 PM
Thank you so much for doing this, A Gruesome Discovery! I really enjoyed your analysis, as well as your sense of humor.

I downloaded a 24 bit FLAC rip of TPE vinyl for comparison after reading your comments about that album's sound (I own the CD and I can't remember which version of the digital format I got). Now, I know that is not the best source to appreciate the quality you mentioned the actual vinyl has, but the difference I'm hearing between a FLAC that I'm guessing comes from a CD rip, and the vinyl one is HUGE.

thatrussianman
01-09-2017, 06:27 PM
I'm not really getting all this Born Villain hate.

I love Born Villain. I love everything about the era. I was more excited about it than the lead up to the pale emperor or say10. I wrote the lyrics from the trailer and sketched the MM swastika and Iching almost everyday in my notebook. I love the lyrics. I love the way the songs are put together. I could write essays about how much I love the born villain project and era.

But I absolutely abhor the sound quality.

Enname
01-09-2017, 06:31 PM
I'm not really getting all this Born Villain hate. Yeah, I shit all over its technical qualities, but I had no idea people hated it! Then again, I like all of the albums; not equally, but each one is a goddamned gift and we should be thankful that we're treated to another entry in this great artist's portfolio every couple of years.

Pretty much what I was going to reply. I can hear the technical issues, but am I going to stop listening to a Manson album just because of that? No. If I wanted technical brilliance I would be listening to other stuff (and I do, because hey, I can do many things at once), but equally give compelling bit of music and a shitty recording and I'll be happy. There are so many other things to love that in reality take precedence and the reason why I love Manson is so much more than one element. That and bemoaning what could have been and failing to love what is seems counter productive. In particular when I have the ability to ignore the technical side in favour of almost everything else. One of the reasons I love Portrait of an American Family is because I got stuck in the middle of nowhere with no money and had only it and a Counting Crows tape to listen to for a year. I was either going to be adore it or hate it, and not for its mixing.

In truth, I adore Wight Spider, in spite of it being compressed, because there is something in the build and twist of the song that always gives me chills (and get me on the right day, I might even appreciate the flattening element as coming across as claustrophobic), and everything else about Born Villain is fascinating from the lyrics, narrative, and imagery down to the rest of the soundscape. I like its post-punk sensibility, its musicality and content. Whereas I am cautious about Eat Me, Drink Me not because I dislike it, but because for me it is a bright, shiny, over the top romantic album with traditional guitar solos that I really have to be in the mood for. In the rare moments I am, then it is perfect.

What is nice is to see people going back and listening across the discography, picking up new things and finding more to love, as well has getting a new language of analysis to add to the 'mix'. So thank you for the injection of enthusiasm.

Nemoris Inferioris
01-09-2017, 09:20 PM
I love Born Villain. I love everything about the era. I was more excited about it than the lead up to the pale emperor or say10. I wrote the lyrics from the trailer and sketched the MM swastika and Iching almost everyday in my notebook. I love the lyrics. I love the way the songs are put together. I could write essays about how much I love the born villain project and era.

But I absolutely abhor the sound quality.

It has the potential, but failed. It's those weaker tracks that kill it. If it were 4 songs shorter, then it'd be great. I think if they'd re-record The Flowers Of Evil, with better (Any) production, it'd be great.

Mok
01-09-2017, 09:25 PM
It has the potential, but failed. It's those weaker tracks that kill it. If it were 4 songs shorter, then it'd be great. I think if they'd re-record The Flowers Of Evil, with better (Any) production, it'd be great.

The most embarassingly bad studio vocal take Manson has ever done. That never should have made it to the final mix.

Still, I wanna hear those unused BV tracks that were supposed to be on that special edition. I think the album started out sounding more like Murderers overall and morphed into the final thing. I'm curious to see if that would be true.

But positives, I do quite like "No Reflection" and think it's one of the best videos Manson has done. I wish the song had less distortion in every aspect, but it's still something I routinely play. Murderers, Goddamn Arms, and Gardener are quite enjoyable too.

thatrussianman
01-10-2017, 11:06 AM
Murderers, Goddamn Arms, and Gardener are quite enjoyable too.

The lyrics to the gardener give me life. All the album's lyrics in fact. It might have truly been Manson's comeback album (instead of the pale emperor) had it not been smashed to shit.

That being said, I view EMDM-THEOL-BV as a trilogy, one of love, loss, and resurrection. Someone pointed out earlier that THEOL was everything EMDM was not, well the same can be said for THEOL to BV. Manson is still talking about relationships, but in THEOL he was still mourning the loss of his. In BV, he is trying to get out and make himself a better person (only to realize he's the villain all along). BV is the essential end to the story, the story of how our protagonist got himself out of a rut.

Justsomeguy
01-10-2017, 07:04 PM
Born Villain was a shoddy attempt at regaining some sort of cred or recognition critically. Despite a small number of gems here and there lyrically, this was Manson by numbers, safe to the point of sheer ridiculousness. The album bled a neurotic lack of confidence. The production is certainly awful, the second half of the album is practically unlistenable, but that's no excuse for most of the songs being lackluster through-and-through. I'll listen to Slo-Mo-Tion or The Gardener every now and then, maybe even The Flowers of Evil on a blue moon, and there are definitely good 'moments' buried within songs (the verses of No Reflection, the ending to Born Villain, the solo on Murderers, the bridge on Lay Down), but yeah, I've never felt good listening to the album. There are certain points where it could be improved with a better vocal delivery (seriously, some songs make a man cringe to listen to), but overall BV could've profited from a good 6 more months of work. That being said, that is merely my own personal opinion, and I can't say whether or not it was a necessary, vital album for the artist. We cannot change the past.

I too see the period of EMDM-THEOL-BV as a concept period, but I'd also throw in GAOG. Get a bit more jim beam into me and I'd go on about it for days, but I still believe in 'the legend of Manson,' in the face of many years of people listening to recent albums and trying to establish that he's just some guy, nobody special, making rock songs and raking in cash. All rock and roll legends and heroes were just that, and I think decades from now, there'll be some beautiful recognition of and analysis into the man, his accomplishments, and his story. If you space yourself right out, and think about it, Manson's career, his work, his progression, and his place in the world, almost eerily follows the general story of the triptych, which he's claimed himself to act as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy written in time. Looking in groups of four, Portrait to Holy Wood is Holy Wood, GAOG to BV is Mechanical Animals, and PE is the 'Irresponsible Hate Album' of his career. After Say10, I do believe the man has only about two albums left, so I'm intensely excited, and intrigued for where things go from here.

Skull
01-15-2017, 09:27 AM
thatrussianman, yes the Born Villain vinyl version is better, I've just blasted it and there's more range and the lyrics sound less "in your face" strangely.
Otherwise, I've done a very quick, amateurish remaster of that SAY10 preview, just to illustrate the DR discussion. Remember, it looked like that :
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/gq7VlD_wRxqAcJME5MalKS3SToSMBmKy3mB8G2xBDj8fh3lCkz lPKYa2EC_amSsm89G0tpw-x8WaT_ZfW85OHhEn8bmf1ndhGMI4CbbvWof1rCNJqul1IAXuFT 9oalqvjQE2kjdUeXR5mQ6KRIZzuGgzYoU2G6EDNros1KG0eikP YZ5FUxtCRdrQa2nAei8A5O6n1uFCbjEt7t1Va8qrcyI8seB4GF fDbhmMEMSga8-5S9HHetpem0R4c8YoenDzpqbOBu3-NDprZCjYcojzvJZqq5aD8cAGlIFBElUF8yK7xGeg0z6qZZPF-S_lex1UJiODBQfX32RlTB5PHOvGHdXaCx50_ABNhBzGw5pCz_a RNPUYfvpF9Vaxnt4aoN0aorAVDyoFGDfwS3SMs9Z9Fx8XCMWzQ RWCdD6hNo2F_sbIsaHg2GzIceKn6BrN8OSuKJUvx1ptHNWhWtK _ivK9iQrNjBqe7ovWa0noMpmz7a93A7JPZNgocKuOLyws_rNqc uhtg6bp30hmzgw4avfP0gUrW3BUCQjg9clDccj3VC8uYt0p31A QF546okz87z6jKHV_bAI3siTLhclsnqAwI2x1jkv8ncBlGMfLH iX94uXo21SZJg=w1920-h445-no
Now, it looks like that :
https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/_Je6iPmdTNX5jQfrCW5RrFRQ8q1VQ2GVNvMXrNJBGRCa-iNPX-guiYNI1PZPABrGs2BaocpUxyBaDkyU7m_EOUAPCov8nC7K9oPQ CY4RTnf_PYuUDcRW7XyF8E__54QivFFMfCs1lvUQcSKZCr_wLk 3s1g4aSygZk8dXO54Xq-MmRgii9uMsue7WNHQLxKbmvf0g8TMhsjSgP3tLbQJ3fVOWihOQ in9IklDQtD7_S8coy0NXSN4zdAFzZfdYF-mjY0pD4ChxH3cjr7XuJwAihtfd1-Zz9yStoyqc5b2VFcdC1e3wRe8OO2Z3WXuSYy4tcvEedd1hlijJ 8vO4Gz2MBCrvDMctVeRD1AgNVsA4WgC_W5Icfs2CY8EIk_WYlm UTESM68C7IKEMNW8xWW6EKG6hYAxfCYJNRn4xVpyYj5dVVpoKT vHI571TpKfOlgto3D9smhH9OPoWuejWH0GVXYcJYDdv9do9MRb ES9m1UA8ab7wBNthMl1DFfBBFb35Qlst3eIhce2og6G6i8GJge U367NaE-togZjHPDdWdke1G0iYwB3WlasEhkpOZHCotGnnZFfnJnxgsQVc q5iEEGLuwKZo1MJx6WxTNrkFjaBb0qN-PLUg=w1920-h444-no
The quiet part is now much more quiet, to give more kick to the end. Just turn the volume up a notch, and I hope you'll be able to hear the difference. Tell me what you think.
https://soundcloud.com/enaultguillaume/sets/say10-preview

Mok
01-15-2017, 11:11 AM
SAY10 is just SO good. What a dicktease only releasing part of the song :/

Justsomeguy
01-15-2017, 03:33 PM
SAY10 is just SO good. What a dicktease only releasing part of the song :/

Hell of a lot better than the 'previews' of past eras. Bit of a dicktease, yeah, but an official dicktease! With a video! That doesnt sound like it was recorded from a tape player! Y'always gotta get some teasing foreplay in there mate.

What excited me the most about the SAY10 tease, is that it's entire setup was 'modern,' which is something I've been waiting on for about three albums worth of time now. The Manson camp seems to play each era like we're still living in the 90s MTV era, it's stale, it's old, it's forgettable. A particular gripe of mine is videos that are made 'radio-length,' which in too many cases ruins both the video and the song itself, whereas other artists are releasing short-film length videos on multiple platforms. Manson, of aaaall people, could with little money and resources do some utterly wicked shit in terms of viral marketing and promotion, in endless ways, that gets in the face of a lot of people, trolls some good ol' institutions. In other words, gets attention and comments, which is what matters these days. Some Manson fans will say in their desensitized way what they will about 'ooo how oh-so shocking, donald truuump,' but what matters is that he out-of-nowhere released an album tease on the day of the US presidential election that 1) no other artist thought of doing and 2) nobody else would've had the balls to do what he did. My work is in politics, so I was following that day from 4am like a spastic sports fan with his life savings on the superbowl. In-between rapid election coverage on my flipboard app, I was surprised to see headline, after headline, from both major and less-major news organizations mention SAY10. 'Violent!' 'Shocking!' 'Has Controversial Rocker Committed a Crime?' 'Marilyn Manson threatens GOP Nominee!' etc. I'd never seen comments sections fuller, with people actually thinking, and debating. Go surf youtube in the following week or two when the SAY10 clip was released to see endless half-hour commentaries from evangelicals, 'illuminati conspiracy' types, to relatively popular pundits, all debating, all talking. Some will respond 'But it was a cop out. He was being shocking for shocking sake,' and I've always disagreed with that, and I think it's a product of too many people out in the interwebs in the past decade smugly pairing 'shock rocker' with 'irrelevant.' It's good to see Manson finally figure out how to do what he's always done but in the 21st Century Manson way that has been desperately needed for much too long.

Im a babbling bastard and always on the sauce when I post, but in essence, I'm just as excited about how the man and his team compose and conduct the overall 'era' than I am about the music itself. So far I feel like I'm in Holy Wood or Celebritarian Corp times again.

Justsomeguy
01-15-2017, 03:37 PM
And Skull, nice work man.Of course there was little leeway to work with just in the audio of the clip, but you upped the feel quite a tad there. I sincerely hope the final product out of the band sounds a tad more dynamic and depthful. By the point where what's probably the 'chorus' kicks in, it just sounds like everything mashed together, but pinpointing your ear just makes you want to feel all the different components breathe and live alone, because they sound kickass.

Do you have a download link by any chance?

Skull
01-16-2017, 12:55 AM
^ Cheers mate. Here's the download link. Just for the fun of it, I spent a couple hours doing the same thing to the Cooking Vinyl mp3 files of TPE. It's unassumingly akward at times, granted, I'm no sound engineer, but for those who haven't heard the vinyl version, it can give an indication as to how a more dynamic, less saturated mastering would sound like. The differences may sound subtle, depending on how ear-trained you are, as well as the audio equipment you're listening with, but if anybody's interested, I can put up a link too.
http://www.mediafire.com/file/jtner44467x7j4x/SAY10_Preview_remastered.flac

Nemoris Inferioris
01-17-2017, 12:09 PM
SAY10 is just SO good. What a dicktease only releasing part of the song :/

Remember the teaser of Deep Six?

Mok
01-17-2017, 03:20 PM
Remember the teaser of Deep Six?

You mean when that website accidentally put up a minute long snippet for a bit? Yeah, we were all in the chatbox.

Justsomeguy
01-18-2017, 12:35 AM
You mean when that website accidentally put up a minute long snippet for a bit? Yeah, we were all in the chatbox.

I think he's likely referencing that 30 second clippet that sounded like it was recorded on a rockband mic off of a boombox.

What chapped my ass to the pelvis was the first No Reflection clip, I think on iTunes or Amazon. Others would know. It played the intro and then cut out literally mid-word in the first few seconds of the verse.

A Gruesome Discovery
01-31-2017, 05:34 AM
I'm pretty excited to do SAY10, sometime between Valentine's Day and July (whenever it actually comes out).

I'm also getting ready to do the vinyl release of the Pale Emperor, because it wasn't really fair to only bitch about how the CD version sounds. The album deserves better.

I'm going to need some time to prepare for the listening session, though:

http://i65.tinypic.com/6yjh51.jpg

The Empirical Guy
02-08-2017, 11:13 PM
I'm a little (lot) late to this thread and haven't read through all of the last few pages as I'm running short on time right now, but have read all your reviews on each album.

First of all, excellent work. It's great to see someone taking this much time to write up posts like these. Also, this is more in line with what music journalists and professional reviewers should be doing these days.

My criticism here, and I can't stress enough that this is not meant to take away from what you've put in to this thread, is that you seem to have based your reviews almost purely on the dynamic range. Now, as a bit of an audio nerd myself (admittedly a very amateurish one), I understand the problem in a lot of music these days being brickwalled to shit, and I totally get what you're saying. However, I don't think the dynamic range is all (or, even, the most important part) in picking apart the albums like this, as you've taken time to mention things such as tone colour and performance factors (which are of course all subjective anyway), but then often highlighted an area as being particularly bad just because of its DR (or lack of). This was meant to be an 'audiophile review', I get that, but to me at least a large part of that lies outside of concerns about the DR. In some cases, parts that you have marked out as being low points are high points for me, and I wonder if you're not perhaps a bit too presumptive in your thoughts on how certain parts "should" sound. For example, when you mention that a part "should" hit hard going in to the chorus or whatever... a lot of those parts have never really bothered me. I'm aware that the DR is often flattened out there, but I've always felt like the songs are mostly how they are meant to be. Maybe the chorus isn't meant to hit hard just by getting louder - volume is, I've always felt, a rather crude way of making an impact anyway.

Excellent work though, and one point where I kind of agree with the concept of what you've said is where the first chorus kicks in on Hey, Cruel World... That doesn't have so much to do with the volume though (it is quite noticeable there though, even to the layman listener) as it does the sounds chosen for the drum programming, which just seem at odds with the message the rest of the instrumentation is presenting.

A Gruesome Discovery
02-09-2017, 01:47 AM
I'm a little (lot) late to this thread and haven't read through all of the last few pages as I'm running short on time right now, but have read all your reviews on each album.

First of all, excellent work. It's great to see someone taking this much time to write up posts like these. Also, this is more in line with what music journalists and professional reviewers should be doing these days.

Thank you! I'm glad this is opening up dialogues and such.


My criticism here, and I can't stress enough that this is not meant to take away from what you've put in to this thread, is that you seem to have based your reviews almost purely on the dynamic range. Now, as a bit of an audio nerd myself (admittedly a very amateurish one), I understand the problem in a lot of music these days being brickwalled to shit, and I totally get what you're saying. However, I don't think the dynamic range is all (or, even, the most important part) in picking apart the albums like this, as you've taken time to mention things such as tone colour and performance factors (which are of course all subjective anyway), but then often highlighted an area as being particularly bad just because of its DR (or lack of). This was meant to be an 'audiophile review', I get that, but to me at least a large part of that lies outside of concerns about the DR. In some cases, parts that you have marked out as being low points are high points for me, and I wonder if you're not perhaps a bit too presumptive in your thoughts on how certain parts "should" sound. For example, when you mention that a part "should" hit hard going in to the chorus or whatever... a lot of those parts have never really bothered me. I'm aware that the DR is often flattened out there, but I've always felt like the songs are mostly how they are meant to be. Maybe the chorus isn't meant to hit hard just by getting louder - volume is, I've always felt, a rather crude way of making an impact anyway.

And this is indeed a fair point. The one counterpoint I'd make is that the lack of dynamic range is in fact a hindrance to getting deeper into critical listening; it actually becomes difficult to analyze mix elements such as tone, separation, and depth when dynamics are flattened out so much. These things get smeared and obscured to such a degree that it's impossible to really delve into the finer points of the choices made in the mixing stage. It was a lot easier to write about how Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals sound than Born Villain or The High End of Low; I could have completely avoided even mentioning dynamic range for the former two, but it's impossible to ignore with the latter two - it's front and center, the elephant in the room.
But yeah, it wasn't until after I had sat down and listened to every album in chronological order that I decided to base my thesis statement around dynamic range and view each album through that lens. I will, however, admit that I've always seen MM as rock music, and rock music thrives on dynamics. There are genres - mostly on the electronic side of things - where dynamic range is less important or even detrimental, and if a listener prefers to view MM as more of an electronic artist (which is entirely valid), then yes, the less dynamic albums may be preferable, and this is something I didn't really consider from the outset. I mean, I'd still find it pretty surprising if someone preferred, say, the version of Tourniquet from Lest We Forget over the album version, but hey, the heart wants what it wants.
So yeah, good point - I should maybe have distributed grains of salt in the first two posts for people to take while reading the rest. :D

A Gruesome Discovery
04-21-2017, 04:27 PM
EPISODE V: THE PALE EMPEROR STRIKES BACK
VINYL VERSION!!!!
OVERALL PRODUCTION GRADE: A

WARNING: Ok, so I was drinking a lot of Jade 1902 absinthe when I was listening to and writing this one. See if you can spot the exact point where I stopped being sober.

THE LOWDOWN: As mentioned, it was only fair that I compare the CD versions of each album against each other; apples to apples. A level playing field, and all that. For the longest time I had only owned the vinyl version of The Pale Emperor, so I made a special trip just to grab the CD release for the sole purpose of this thread, and... well, it was a waste of money. But I love this album so much that I'm breaking my own rules (with no intention of gluing them back together) and including a review of the vinyl release. This is the version that I know best and, as far as I'm concerned, it's the definitive version.

THE MIX: Oh, FUCK yes. This is one of those albums where the musical and production styles complement each other perfectly, and it's a rare thing among latter-day Manson albums. It's essentially straight-up rock but with Marilyn Manson's signature all over it, and this is how the mix was approached; the guitars, bass, and drums lock together but retain their individuality instead of turning into monotonous mush. This sounds like a band.
Now I've bitched about the overuse of compression in pretty much every other review, and this album's got compression all over it. Listen to those drums! They're smashed to hell, but in the most glorious way. This is the correct way to abuse compression; you don't slam the life out of the whole song, you slam life into each element. Take the drums that open “The Devil Beneath My Feet”; they live and breathe, they pump, they hit hard and the hits ring out. Then the bass comes in, and it's heavily compressed too (as almost all bass tracks should be), but it's treated as its own individual mix element. That's how you do it; by compressing each instrument individually rather than applying way too much on the track as a whole, you preserve the essence of what makes each performance great. It's like layering on many thin coats of varnish versus slathering on one big sloppy coat and ending up with an ugly mess. A hard drum hit doesn't bring down the rest of the song; everything's allowed to exist in its own space and come together as a cohesive whole without forcing it. Sure, there's some bus compression gluing the tracks together, but it's just a touch and it's appropriate. Fuck appropriate; it's beautiful.
Back to the drums: they sound fantastic. We've got a nice, roomy kit; but in typical Manson fashion we've also got samples worked in, albeit very tastefully. For example, the first half of the album is pretty heavy on the “claps” and “snaps” samples; they're laid on thick over the snares, adding some high-end crack to the snare's otherwise mid-range-heavy tones. The raw drumkit is a great sound for Marilyn Manson, and I hope we stick with it for the next album (I'll admit that I was a little taken aback by the liberal use of drum machine in the Say10 clip, but I'm holding out hope).
The bass does its thing, working in concert with the drums to supply a solid rhythmic foundation. It's not featured as heavily as on releases such as Antichrist Superstar and The High End of Low, nor is it completely ignored like on The Golden Age of Grotesque or Eat Me Drink Me. Twig shows up and does his job, and does it well.
But really, this album is all about guitars and vocals. Starting with the guitars, they're exceptional; we've got plenty of clean tones, as well as some warm overdriven stuff, but we never really get into full-on high-gain distortion territory. This works with the album flawlessly; in fact, the forward mid-range of the overdriven tones works better with Manson's voice than on previous higher-gain outings. Have I mentioned that these tones are gorgeous? I'll admit that I haven't really done my homework on the behind-the-scenes of this album (and quite frankly, there isn't enough behind-the-scenes info available for any album; please do a fucking studio film someday, MM, okay?); I mean, these could be software amps, an AxeFX, or a Kemper for all I know, but holy shit do I hear the signature of old-school tube amps being driven hard.
And this brings us to the vocals – the star of this album. I've already wandered into editorial territory in this review, which I've tried to avoid in other reviews, but I might as well come out and express an opinion: these are the finest vocals that Marilyn Manson has ever recorded. The thing about Marilyn is that he doesn't have a great voice or even a good technique, but he's got an extremely interesting voice; incredible bass, clear treble, and a remarkably consistent midrange. Sadly, his voice has been obscured on releases over the last decade by the overuse of overdubs, harsh EQ, effects, and bizarre technique – which, quite honestly, comes off to me as a lack of confidence. That's the adjective I'd use to describe the vocals on The Pale Emperor – confident. I've read that Birds of Hell was the first song that was recorded, and that seems about right – it sticks out on this album, and in that song we have Manson lacking confidence in his own performance. His biggest weakness is “sticking the landing” in his lines; you may notice that on Birds of Hell Awaiting (and quite a few of the post-Holy Wood albums), pretty much every line doesn't so much end on a note, but a sloppy scattering of notes around the intended note - “It's your death's desireuh-ah-oh-uh-ah-ohhh-uhh”. Compare this with every other song on this album, but particularly the bonus tracks: Third Day, Fatal, and House of Death feature the most confident singing I've heard from Marilyn Manson in his entire career. It's fucking exhilarating!
Speaking of the more technical aspects of the vocal recording – and forgive me for expressing yet more opinion – but thank god that reverb is back in style. The last few releases have had vocals that are far too dry in terms of spaciousness and depth, but this isn't unique to Manson; it seems to have been a trend in music on the whole. Apparently it wasn't cool to use reverb starting sometime around 2004, and this persisted up until roughly the mid-2010s... but now it's back with a vengeance. I could write a whole other thread as to why this might be; I highly suspect it's due to classic 1980's digital reverbs being ported over to software, such as with the UAD AMS RMX-16 and Lexicon 224 plugins, but now I'm wandering into geek territory. Let's just say that hearing tasteful reverb and wonderful front-to-back depth in albums again is a good thing.
You may notice that the majority of this album consists of single vocal performances panned straight up-center; there's certainly some stereo vocals here and there, most notably on The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles, Cupid Carries a Gun, and the chorus of Odds of Even, but we are treated to plenty of raw, in-your-face Manson vocals for most of the running time. And it's FUCKING GLORIOUS.

STANDOUT MOMENT: I fucking... this whole album is a standout moment in Marilyn Manson's discography. This isn't supposed to happen; bands don't put out their best material 20 years into their career, and yet here we are. If I had to pick one moment that is just absolute sonic bliss – for me – it's the second half of the chorus in “Warship My Wreck”, when he just starts belting that shit. This is also one of the lowlights of the CD version, because this song lives and dies upon the dynamics – it builds and builds and finally lets loose on vinyl, whereas on CD it's all kind of just a mush.
But there's so many other great moments, it's easier to just point to the entire wax disc and say “this is fantastic”.

WEAK POINTS: I almost want to say “none”; the production and engineering is just that top-notch throughout. This is the crew Marilyn Manson should stick with for a while; the George Martin to the Beatles, the Toni Visconti to David Bowie, the Andy Johns to Led Zeppelin.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The mix that was pressed to vinyl – in my opinion - pretty much proves everything I've been bitching about regarding dynamics. Listening to this on wax is an exhilarating experience, and listening to the mix they burned onto CD is kind of a crashing bore. The reason I started this thread is that I rarely see any discussion about the technical elements of Marilyn Manson albums, particularly the strengths and weaknesses, and nowhere are they more apparent than here. This is a fantastic album any way you cut it, but when the dynamics are respected, you end up with some magical, classic shit like this.

THE END....
....
....
...at least until I complain about how SAY10 sounds

Twiggz
04-22-2017, 06:18 AM
this is my favourite thread ever.


STANDOUT MOMENT: I fucking... this whole album is a standout moment in Marilyn Manson's discography. This isn't supposed to happen; bands don't put out their best material 20 years into their career, and yet here we are. If I had to pick one moment that is just absolute sonic bliss – for me – it's the second half of the chorus in “Warship My Wreck”, when he just starts belting that shit. This is also one of the lowlights of the CD version, because this song lives and dies upon the dynamics – it builds and builds and finally lets loose on vinyl, whereas on CD it's all kind of just a mush.
But there's so many other great moments, it's easier to just point to the entire wax disc and say “this is fantastic”.

^^ This is fucking great to read, i've not had the pleasure of listening to Warship My wreck on Vinyl, but, i now have perfect reason to get TPE on vinyl....and dedicate an evening drinking spirits and listening to it on my record player.

thank you, sir.

Enname
04-22-2017, 06:56 AM
Nice, I am glad you revisited this. I learn something every time.

I liked the Grammy Museum interview where Tyler said he was trying to make the guitars weave and fit to Manson's voice, while Manson was arguing he was trying to weave around Tyler to let the guitars shine (which he always does). The end result just shows that dynamic seems to have worked on both sides.


...these are the finest vocals that Marilyn Manson has ever recorded. The thing about Marilyn is that he doesn't have a great voice or even a good technique, but he's got an extremely interesting voice; incredible bass, clear treble, and a remarkably consistent midrange. Sadly, his voice has been obscured on releases over the last decade by the overuse of overdubs, harsh EQ, effects, and bizarre technique – which, quite honestly, comes off to me as a lack of confidence. That's the adjective I'd use to describe the vocals on The Pale Emperor – confident.

I agree with most of this except for the bit about lack of confidence and his technique. It is bizarre, and while that may stem to some extent from less confidence because of not being a 'singer', I also think it is also a deliberate stylistic choice. After all, he sings almost entirely counter to every piece of vocal advice you'd get from a coach - dithering around in vocal fry and drawing it up the registers, compressing the crap out of his vocal chords at an given moment, while belting out notes. It takes some determination to avoid anything resembling good technique even accidentally. But it is just as much about creating vocal sounds that are abnormal, about dragging a 'regular voice' to something less than normal and tormenting it. Indeed, much of the interesting textures in his voice now have been shaped by this particular 'technique.' And it is also kind of playful - over drawing notes, collapsing into winding drawl, using the back of the mouth and throat to create scratchy sound chambers (Birds of Hell) and roll the sound around, with layers of grit, and fry etc. Doing it is like fun in the way vocal warm ups for acting are, seeing just what sounds you can elicit. My hypothesis is that, particularly in the early stuff, the point is less about singing and more about sound experimentation much like you would with an instrument, much like the band does with the samples and loops.* Hence the interest in overdubs, harsh EQ etc. Sure, there is a time and a place where you just want to hear his more natural timbre (live is great for that), but I think it would be wrong to read all of it as lack of confidence. He is aiming to sound smothered and not like his voice, which of course... becomes his voice.

However, having said all this, it is nice to hear him rethink the process and stretch again. To want to 'sing', for lack of a better word, and embrace his current voice with all its sharp fractured bits and rolling depths (uncage the vibrato). Not trying to avoid them like on Born Villain. Greatly aided by being put in another key which fits his current vocal range more comfortably. Change of key! Who would have thunk it.




*Thus my main issue with some of the later album vocals is not the quality of the singing (some of it seems lost under production issues), but that sometimes the experimentation has become the norm. And I say issue, but in reality he could probably sing anything and I'd still be happy.

Mok
04-22-2017, 02:06 PM
Great as usual, dude.



And this brings us to the vocals – the star of this album. I've already wandered into editorial territory in this review, which I've tried to avoid in other reviews, but I might as well come out and express an opinion: these are the finest vocals that Marilyn Manson has ever recorded. The thing about Marilyn is that he doesn't have a great voice or even a good technique, but he's got an extremely interesting voice; incredible bass, clear treble, and a remarkably consistent midrange. Sadly, his voice has been obscured on releases over the last decade by the overuse of overdubs, harsh EQ, effects, and bizarre technique – which, quite honestly, comes off to me as a lack of confidence. That's the adjective I'd use to describe the vocals on The Pale Emperor – confident. I've read that Birds of Hell was the first song that was recorded, and that seems about right – it sticks out on this album, and in that song we have Manson lacking confidence in his own performance. His biggest weakness is “sticking the landing” in his lines; you may notice that on Birds of Hell Awaiting (and quite a few of the post-Holy Wood albums), pretty much every line doesn't so much end on a note, but a sloppy scattering of notes around the intended note - “It's your death's desireuh-ah-oh-uh-ah-ohhh-uhh”. Compare this with every other song on this album, but particularly the bonus tracks: Third Day, Fatal, and House of Death feature the most confident singing I've heard from Marilyn Manson in his entire career. It's fucking exhilarating!

I've been saying a much less smart sounding version of this ever since the album was released. It is definitely some of his best vocal work, and a HUGE step up from the last two.

ReversedHate
05-21-2017, 09:09 AM
Great as usual, dude.


I've been saying a much less smart sounding version of this ever since the album was released. It is definitely some of his best vocal work, and a HUGE step up from the last two.

I fucking love his voice in the song Devil Beneath My Feet. I've been a fan for 15 years now but that song became my favorite after Mechanical Animals. It has a very simplistic feel to it. It sounds like the band is just jamming inside a fucking garage with a couple of beers and it just fits so well.

Alice Morthem
05-24-2017, 08:11 PM
Mr. Gruesome!


Bit of an audiophile myself here (though I have not income enough to buy decent equipment which is terrible sad and depressing, Damn University)

I've been wondering, as you love the Vinyl version of The Pale Emperor, if you happen to own the HDTracks version?

Have you compared them? Does it sounds worthy?


PS: I Enjoyed your posts.... A LOT, Hope to see more of that soon :)

A Gruesome Discovery
05-25-2017, 08:31 AM
I've been wondering, as you love the Vinyl version of The Pale Emperor, if you happen to own the HDTracks version?

Have you compared them? Does it sounds worthy?

I have not, but I may need to scrape a few bucks together to buy this. For research purposes, of course.

EDIT: It's just the CD master, presented at the same sample rate (44.1kHz), but in 24-bit. Since the difference between 16 bit and 24 bit is more available dynamic range (48dB more, to be precise), offering a higher bit-depth version of a master with very low dynamic range is utterly pointless. The extended bit depth goes unused; they're literally charging more for nothing but a bigger file.

Alice Morthem
05-25-2017, 11:34 AM
Sad that is, but good to know before hand in order to save a few bucks

thatrussianman
07-01-2017, 09:49 PM
I downloaded a vinyl rip of Slo-Mo-Tion and ran it through TT DR Meter, and it came to a DR of 11. Yet again, vinyl is the clear winner when it comes to the best sound. I did a comparison between it and the CD version and the difference is night and day.

Here is the link for anyone interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGRXMbR6CnI

I wish they ripped the whole album and not just one song. :/

HG131
07-02-2017, 02:26 AM
I'm almost thinking we need to create an off-site group for pooling our money and creating a Manson Vinyl Rip library. Off-site because the mods would definitely not be okay with that happening here.

JennyVonB
07-08-2017, 05:26 AM
I love this thread; thank you so much for posting.

Skull
10-09-2017, 11:15 PM
@ A Gruesome Discovery : don't know if you've noticed, but the HUD mp3s that Loma Vista send with the album purchase come with no saturation / clipping whatsoever. Rare enough these days to be noted. Has someone been reading these lines, or plain coincidence?

A Gruesome Discovery
10-10-2017, 05:37 AM
@ A Gruesome Discovery : don't know if you've noticed, but the HUD mp3s that Loma Vista send with the album purchase come with no saturation / clipping whatsoever. Rare enough these days to be noted. Has someone been reading these lines, or plain coincidence?

It's definitely lacking in ear-piercing awfulness, though it's still a bit too loud in my opinion. I'll elaborate later :)

But yeah, I think the whole industry is catching on to the idea that digital clipping is affecting people's enjoyment of music. There's a lot of new mixing and mastering tools that are specifically designed to get strong volume levels sans that harsh, piercing digital edge, and the introduction of the "Mastered for iTunes" standard is going to turn out to be a game-changer.

Nemoris Inferioris
10-10-2017, 07:43 AM
It's definitely lacking in ear-piercing awfulness, though it's still a bit too loud in my opinion. I'll elaborate later :)

But yeah, I think the whole industry is catching on to the idea that digital clipping is affecting people's enjoyment of music. There's a lot of new mixing and mastering tools that are specifically designed to get strong volume levels sans that harsh, piercing digital edge, and the introduction of the "Mastered for iTunes" standard is going to turn out to be a game-changer.

God i hope so. Gives me a headache if i listen to digital music loud (Even at a reasonable level). I think TGAOG is a perfect example. Which is why i love Vinyl, at least a good manufactured Vinyl, it usually has a softer, warmer sound to it. I have yet to receive any of the versions of HUD i pre-ordered, but i want to hear the vinyl.

Skull
10-10-2017, 08:50 AM
Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but the vinyl is fucked up for whatever reason...I have both the white and the red and the issue is the same, so it's not a one-off mistake like a mishandling or something. Most of it is fine, but the end of side A is marred by an awful surface noise, a droning FFFFFR FFFFR in the background. KILL4ME is unlistenable. Both were cleaned twice with special fluid and microfiber cloth but still the same. Tried other vinyls as I thought there was an issue with my turntable, but no, they all work fine...I am waiting for the red US edition, let's hope it's ok. Anybody else experiencing this?

pabloccb
10-10-2017, 10:42 AM
Just dicovered this thread, great read. Thanks!

NapalmHeart
10-11-2017, 02:01 AM
Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but the vinyl is fucked up for whatever reason...I have both the white and the red and the issue is the same, so it's not a one-off mistake like a mishandling or something. Most of it is fine, but the end of side A is marred by an awful surface noise, a droning FFFFFR FFFFR in the background. KILL4ME is unlistenable. Both were cleaned twice with special fluid and microfiber cloth but still the same. Tried other vinyls as I thought there was an issue with my turntable, but no, they all work fine...I am waiting for the red US edition, let's hope it's ok. Anybody else experiencing this?

You mean that repeated background noise that sounds like someone's rubbing their hands? Please tell me that's what you hear.

Skull
10-11-2017, 02:25 AM
I don't really know what you mean, but it's not something that's designed to be there thats for sure. It starts during SAY10.

A Gruesome Discovery
10-15-2017, 04:41 AM
HEAVEN UPSIDE DOWN
DR SCORE: Hot Metal in the Setting Sun
OVERALL PRODUCTION GRADE: B
.
THE LOWDOWN: Heaven Upside Down is the first album that I'm reviewing while it's fresh; in fact, I've only listened to this album a couple of times as of this writing (and, as always, will be spinning it up again as I write). Unlike, say, Antichrist Superstar, which I've listened to so many times that it's imprinted on my DNA, I have no sentimental attachment to HUD and can truly be as objective as fuck about its production, engineering, mixing, mastering, etc etc etc. You know the drill.

I've given up on my rule of starting with the CD versions because FUCK CDs; it's 20-something-TEEN and we deserve better than the 16-bit, 44.1kHz Redbook audio standard from the early-goddamned-1980s. I also didn't bother digitizing the vinyl (yet) or converting the digitals to WAV to measure the DR values, which is why I didn't include a DR score; I'm going purely by ear here, and nobody really uses DR anymore anyway - it's all about the LUFS now. So, ironically: fuck math. I'm shooting from the hip today.
.
THE MIX: This is the most challenging review I've done yet. I'm going to say it now: parts of this album are a sonic mess. Yet, it's not a horrid mess; it's more like the portrayal of a messy room on a TV sitcom - there's clothes strewn around, drawers are haphazardly left open, and the curtains are askew - it's an organized, deliberate mess. Born Villain, by comparison, is more like a messy gas station bathroom; there's shit and piss everywhere and someone jacked off on the toilet paper roll.

Yeah, I'm never letting that one go.

Now stay with me here, my dears; I'm not being critical of Heaven Upside Down just yet. Some albums SHOULD be messy, especially energetic rock albums like this one. Many of the tracks here have a hard, metallic edge, sometimes bordering on "harsh" but sanded and polished just enough to go down easy. But in terms of fidelity, this isn't a punk rock album or a bedroom demo where there's a charm to the rawness. This is a precise, technical, slick production with a huge helping of utter chaos, and for the most part, they pulled off the juxtaposition quite well.

I suppose the best place to start is the drums, and this also my first point of contention: I have a love/hate relationship with drum machines. I love them when they're appropriate, but with a rock band where most of the instruments are played by humans, a drum machine can be a liability. There's the obvious aspect of human drummers being imperfect and imprecise, another way of saying that they play with feeling. This sense of "groove" is lost when an electronic device is playing with precision down to the microsecond. On songs like "Saturnalia", the electronic drums sound perfect; drenched in atmosphere, throbbing menacingly. It's a perfect choice for this track, and real drums take over when it comes time to push the track into overdrive. With something like We Know Where You Fucking Live, on the other hand, the programmed drums are too polite and lack the excitement of a guy beating a thing with a stick. And that song needs a guy beating a thing with a stick.

Overall though, be they real or "fake" drums, it doesn't really matter in the end: even the real drums kind of sound like a drum machine. And this is a bit of a problem. I'm not simply ragging on electronic drums, mind you; on The Pale Emperor, the drums sounded wonderful, and there was plenty of drum machine all over it. The difference here is that TPE was a fairly straightforward rock album that called for simple, basic rock beats. Heaven Upside Down is a lot harder, a lot heavier, and a bit more daring, and the simplicity of the drums don't work in its favor. This is the sort of album where a great drummer can show off his rhythmic skills. I know, I know... "don't write beats that confuse strippers", but I'm not talking about throwing an impressive-sounding prog-metal fill into a pre-chorus; I mean things as simple as ghost notes between the beats on the snare - performance flourishes to build energy, momentum, and make for an exciting listen. The drums as tracked and mixed sound great, but many of the drum beats themselves seem like an afterthought - a placeholder that would have been re-recorded at the end with a truly dynamic performance. But it never happened. Again, they sound good - sometimes great - but they often the lack style and personality that a drummer imbues when he lets loose.

The bass is pretty huge on this album, and Tyler seems to recognize the importance of the instrument. This is where Marilyn Manson differs from similarly "heavy" music. In the more generic areas of modern metal, for instance, most of the "bass" comes from the guitar tone, with the bassist usually just playing the same notes as the guitarist, and it's mixed to only cover the sub frequencies and a bunch of clangy grit in the upper midrange. And it sucks. The bass on Heaven Upside Down, however, gets proper attention. Particularly on Tattooed in Reverse (that bass tone is fucking monstrous), but the low-frequency foundation for the entirety of Heaven Upside Down is solid and unwavering.

As on The Pale Emperor, the guitars are great! Of course, having an album produced by a guitarist usually leads to great guitar tones, and Tyler has excellent taste and seemingly has an affinity for classic amps (or at least digital simulations thereof; with modern processers like the Kemper Profiling Amp, we've gotten to the point technologically that the difference doesn't matter anymore). He has an understanding that most "metal" guitarists lack; more gain doesn't necessarily mean "heavier". Here, we have medium gain tones where the note definition is clear, and it still sounds heavy as fuck.

There's far more synth and samples here than on The Pale Emperor (I realize that I'm mainly comparing Heaven Upside Down to The Pale Emperor, but it makes sense - it's basically the same crew at the helm). The album kicks off with a wave of noise and speech samples, previewing some of the chaos to come. Much more than The Pale Emperor, Heaven Upside Down is a treasure hunt for headphone listeners; there's drones and ambient soundscapes lurking just beneath the surface, adding layer upon layer of depth to the overall mix. Traditional synth lines, such as the awesome and simple riff that thrusts us into the upbeat KILL4ME's chorus, add yet another layer. Stylistic editing is abound as well; songs like We Know Where You Fucking Live and JE$U$ CRI$I$ employ the sort of transitional edits often found in modern film - heavily filtered swells, mechanical stuttering, and fading delays push the songs from one section to the next, making for a fluid and dynamic listen.

Vocals, above all else, was the area about which I was most concerned, particularly after hearing the first single. The Pale Emperor got it right - get Manson in front of a mic and let him rip. He was daring, he was confident, he challenged himself; it's a subjective opinion, but I feel Manson is stronger with a single, raw performance than with the strident, overproduced, multitracked vocals heard on the albums from that "awkward" decade starting in 2003. Thankfully, THANKFULLY, that continues here; there's a treasure trove of raw vocal performances, warts and all. Sure, there's double-tracked stuff, such as the rather interesting mixing choice of stereo hard-panned vocals with an additional chorus effect on the verses of We Know Where You Fucking Live. In fact, there's an unprecedented variety in the vocal sounds on Heaven Upside Down - everything plus the kitchen sink is employed at varying points; there's moments of raw, overdriven screaming, there's heavy delay, there's deep reverb, chorus, flanging, vibrato, extreme distortion, and - most importantly - clean, naked vocal performances where the singer's entire range of tone and emotions are on full display.
.
STANDOUT MOMENT: An impressive job was done keeping all this goth/industrial craziness under control, but the entire production comes together on one of the most traditionally straightforward rock songs on the album - the title track. Whereas the busier tracks require some amount of compromise to not only fit in every element but also make them work together, here we have just the main elements of a rock band assembled flawlessly. In addition to being possibly the most solid song that Marilyn Manson has ever released, it's their finest example producing a classic-sounding track showcasing Manson as a vocalist and Tyler as a master of his craft.
.
WEAK POINTS: The album's mixed and mastered way too hot, I'll say that right now. We've got the same types of problems with impact and flow from which most of the 21st century releases suffer - the familiar problem of a lack of dynamics preventing important parts from being able to punch up to the next level. It's not extreme, though; care was taken to strike a balance between sounding exciting and sounding too fucking squashed, and fortunately the album is seemingly bereft of digital clipping.

That's not to say it's perfect: there's moments where it could be better, dynamics-wise. SAY10 builds up to a chorus that somehow sounds "lighter" than the verse due to a loss of low frequencies when the band kicks in, a common side effect of mixing/mastering too hot. There's a bit at the end of WKWYFL where the kick drums start playing a fast run of 16th notes, triggering compression and bringing the level of the whole track down. There's moments here and there like that; room for improvement, but not enough to spoil the bunch.
.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Prior to the release, I avoided leaks (as usual), but was more than a little concerned about quite a few people with fewer scruples than I comparing Heaven Upside Down to Born Villain and The High End of Low - good albums in their own right, don't get me wrong - but returning to that era or songwriting and production would be a giant leap backwards after 2015's extremely solid and classy-as-fuck The Pale Emperor. But after a critical listen or two, I agree that a comparison with BV/THEoL is warranted. I would not necessarily say Heaven Upside Down sounds like either of those, but I would say this: Heaven Upside Down succeeds where those albums fail.

thatrussianman
10-15-2017, 09:42 PM
Another wonderful review! Have you listened to the vinyl yet and what are your thoughts?
I have the red 180gram one and it sounds fucking fantastic. Jesus Crisis especially came as a surprise hearing just how fucking hard it was throughout the entire song. I have noticed that slight fuzzy noise that some people have pointed out on side A everytime the vinyl makes a revolution. Other than that, no complaints! (except they forgot to package a lyrics sheet with my order >.<)

Skull
10-15-2017, 10:20 PM
I have the red 180gram one and it sounds fucking fantastic.
I have noticed that slight fuzzy noise that some people have pointed out on side A everytime the vinyl makes a revolution.
So no, it doesn't sound fantastic sorry. How can that piece of shit can pass test pressing quality control and then be sold as deluxe is simply beyond me...

thatrussianman
10-16-2017, 02:01 AM
So no, it doesn't sound fantastic sorry. How can that piece of shit can pass test pressing quality control and then be sold as deluxe is simply beyond me...

If it wasn't obvious, I'm talking about the music sounding fantastic. As big a dynamic range as the pale emperor. I'm not even really bothered by that fuzziness, it's hardly noticeable on my pressing.

Skull
10-16-2017, 02:19 AM
Sowe agree that the songs are good, but the sound is not then. Pressing a good quality vinyl for 25€ shouldn't be a problem in 2017....

A Gruesome Discovery
10-16-2017, 04:57 PM
Wait, what's the problem with Side A? Fuzz? Is it throughout the whole thing? I'm not hearing anything out of the ordinary.

Skull
10-16-2017, 11:14 PM
Good for you! I don't have the black vinyl, but both red and white are plagued by some scraping surface noise. On SAY 10 and KILL4ME.

NapalmHeart
10-16-2017, 11:23 PM
Maybe it's intentional. Still sounds like someone's rubbing their hands to me. Not a ghost?

A Gruesome Discovery
10-17-2017, 03:32 AM
That sounds like a warping issue; if the record looks anything other than perfectly flat or if you detect an up-and-down wobble while it's spinning, you should contact Loma Vista and get a replacement. It may have happened during shipping, but if multiple people are experiencing this then maybe there was a bad batch or poor storage practices before shipping. My red vinyl plays just fine, but I'll look very closely for any evidence of warping when i get home.

Marsmind
10-17-2017, 04:47 AM
#9 BORN VILLAIN


It sounds terrible, and there's no excuse for this. You can clip here and there; you really shouldn't, but you can get away with it sparingly. This is just ridiculous though. Why would you do this to a song unless you hated either it or the listener?

BV is full of crazy things to make you sick and feel like shit. It's intentional. Manson even tells us he hates us on this one.

Edit:This is the only album I can't find the FLAC files for. I really want it if anyone knows where to get them or would like to share them with me?

Skull
10-17-2017, 06:46 AM
That sounds like a warping issue; if the record looks anything other than perfectly flat or if you detect an up-and-down wobble while it's spinning, you should contact Loma Vista and get a replacement. It may have happened during shipping, but if multiple people are experiencing this then maybe there was a bad batch or poor storage practices before shipping. My red vinyl plays just fine, but I'll look very closely for any evidence of warping when i get home.
No neither are warped...Mind you I'm talking about the Euro red and white editions. I've just received my US red vinyl and it's clearly different to the Euro one looks-wise, so different pressing, materail, etc. Let's just hope it's like yours and plays fine.

A Gruesome Discovery
10-18-2017, 01:21 PM
BV is full of crazy things to make you sick and feel like shit. It's intentional.

I've read that, but he's talking about weird stuff going on in the stereo spread, sub-bass trickery, and "sounds only dogs can hear" (which, uh, wouldn't be possible on a CD but ok). And that stuff can be cool, but overall BV is just garden-variety bad sounding and has the same types of problems you'd hear on a mid-2000s Avril Lavigne CD.

Marsmind
10-20-2017, 05:00 AM
I've read that, but he's talking about weird stuff going on in the stereo spread, sub-bass trickery, and "sounds only dogs can hear" (which, uh, wouldn't be possible on a CD but ok). And that stuff can be cool, but overall BV is just garden-variety bad sounding and has the same types of problems you'd hear on a mid-2000s Avril Lavigne CD.

I guess that's why No Reflection was nominated for a Grammy.

A Gruesome Discovery
10-20-2017, 05:15 AM
I guess that's why No Reflection was nominated for a Grammy.

Well, it's a great song.

Nemoris Inferioris
11-20-2017, 12:29 PM
Good for you! I don't have the black vinyl, but both red and white are plagued by some scraping surface noise. On SAY 10 and KILL4ME.


Maybe it's intentional. Still sounds like someone's rubbing their hands to me. Not a ghost?

This is the first I'm playing my White vinyl, And I hear this too. I hear it mostly in the right channel, it's just like the sound rubbing hands together, it actually starts from the left to the right. I heard it first in Tattooed In Reverse. What a shame. Sorry but Loma Vista really took a shit on this release.

Haven't played any of the other vinyls.

*Edit: The sound is now more apparent on the left for KILL4ME.

Anyer
03-02-2018, 02:39 AM
I have no doubt this would sound even better at a DR of 8, 9, 10, or higher. In fact, the vinyl has a DR of 8, and does indeed sound even better.

You say that the vinyl sounds better but which version do you own ? The blue and white original or the Simply Vinyl black repress ? And do you know which one sounds better ? I'll help me a lot! Thank you for your amazing work.

A Gruesome Discovery
03-05-2018, 10:02 AM
You say that the vinyl sounds better but which version do you own ? The blue and white original or the Simply Vinyl black repress ? And do you know which one sounds better ? I'll help me a lot! Thank you for your amazing work.

The original pressing. Note that it's only a slight difference, though; just a tiny bit more energy and thump. But the digital formats sound great, too, and I much prefer the CD's track order.