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Thread: An audiophile ranks and reviews every MM album solely on sound quality. [NERD ALERT]

  1. #11

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    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.

  2. #12
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    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.

  3. #13

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    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.
    Last edited by Justsomeguy; 01-06-2017 at 11:28 AM.

  4. #14
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    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
    This space intentionally left blank.

  5. #15
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    #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.
    Last edited by A Gruesome Discovery; 01-12-2017 at 06:12 PM.
    This space intentionally left blank.

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  7. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by A Gruesome Discovery View Post
    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.
    Last edited by Enname; 01-06-2017 at 10:16 PM.
    Quid ignorantia sit multi ignorant.

  8. #17

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    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.

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  10. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by A Gruesome Discovery View Post
    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.

  11. #19

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    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.

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  13. #20
    Man Who Fell From Earth A Gruesome Discovery's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zimscum View Post
    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... :)
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