(edit March 2015)
With the recent headlines concerning Metallica’s 1988 masterpiece …And Justice for All and the assertion by mix engineer Steve Thompson that it was Lars who ordered him to ‘bring down the bass so you can barely hear it in the mix’, I thought it a good opportunity to share with you these reconstructions I did of a few tracks from that album.
I could have sworn that I posted these tracks to my blog when I did the reconstructions two years ago, but apparently I was mistaken about that. Better late than never I guess.
TL:DR version- some video game has Jason’s parts isolated for five Justice songs: the title track, Blackened, The Shortest Straw, One, and Dyer’s Eve. I re-inserted the bass tracks into those songs and mixed/mastered it properly. Other people had attempted to do the same thing, but invariably went totally overboard with the bass parts, pushing them way too loud in the mix. My mixes sound exactly how the album should have sounded, before Lars’ interference.
Two of the five songs were rejected by Soundcloud immediately over copyright concerns, but for some reason three of them didn’t trigger any flags, so those three are below.
Full technical details and exhaustive wordage follows the tracks.
(original text from Spring 2013)
Proper progressive thrash, mixed properly. I’ll tell you the story-
As we all know, …And Justice for All has no bass guitar in the mix. There’s no disputing it. Of course, rumors have swirled over the years as to why this is, the most prominent theory having something to do with the rift between Jason and the rest of the band at the time when they were recording the album, and that the other guys in the band dropped Jason’s part out of the mix and as big FU to him.
Now, I don’t know any better or worse than anybody else, but I don’t buy this at all. I think it was a purely technical decision.
The problem originates in the kick drum, which in the album version, sits way down at 60 to 100 hertz. I don’t know if that’s intentional, but every music producer, every mixing engineer and every mastering and remastering engineer should know that that’s gonna spell trouble, because that’s the range normally reserved for bass. You can sometimes get away with it in electronic music, but for rock music, the kick drum should be centered a little higher, say at 150 hz, which will give the bass guitar a little bit more breathing room down at the bottom end.
I think what happened, was that when they mixed the album, the drum faders go up first (as is standard procedure for just about any audio engineer on the planet), and everything else fills in their own spot in the mix. When it was time for Jason’s faders to go up, all that low end accumulated right at 60-80 Hz, and no doubt it sounded like crap. The only way around it was to drop one of the faders, and we all know who hit the chopping block.
The thing is, there’s not only one way around it. Because it’s really the simplest of procedures to throw an eq on the kick drum and drop the 60-80 Hz and (if needed) boost the upper low end which gives plenty of room for the bass to live beneath it. Why they didn’t just do this I have no idea. The fact that they didn’t sorta gives credence to the whole ‘FU Jason’ theory. But at the same time, bands know that their names will forever be stamped on their releases, and because of that, won’t want to release anything with such monumental imperfections. But perhaps I’m being naive.
But whatever the reason(s), I’ve made an attempt to fix it. I started with Shortest Straw. And it’s funny, because I started working on it on a whim by applying my own synth bass part, which sounds like a weird idea, but actually it sounded pretty damn good. But then (for one reason or another, I really don’t remember) I came across a YouTube of Jason’s isolated bass part for the song, as uploaded by user metfan4l here. I thought ‘how does this person have access to this?’ In doing some research I discovered that some songs from the Justice album were included in some music video game where the individual parts could be isolated and exported, is this correct? Well, I’m not a gamer at all, so this was news to me. I don’t know if that’s where these bass parts originated, but it’s what I ended up using. We all know that YouTube’s sound quality ranges from questionable (even on the high definition uploads) to utter garbage (on just about everything else), but this sounded good enough that, with a little processing, it would sound good enough for my purposes.
So here it is, the fully restored remix/remaster with Jason’s bass part slotted back in place. The result? Instant awesome! Seriously, once you get accustomed to these versions, you’ll never go back to the originals ever again. Coincidentally, the album came out 25 years ago, so I guess you could call this my attempt to commemorate the original’s 25th anniversary, and hopefully to improve upon it.
And now I’m thinking, how have I not run across other people’s attempt to restore these songs? Quite frankly, I’ve not really been interested in Metallica since this album came out 25 years ago, so it’s not like I’m just gonna hear any remixes unless I go looking for them. But when searched around the internet, I only found a couple, and it seems like those who attempted to do it got all hyped up on finally hearing Jason’s part and got all carried away and ended up totally overloading the mix with low end. Am I the first one to make an actual proper mix of these songs? The mix that should have ended up on the album itself? How is it possible that the internet isn’t flooded with And Justice for All remixes? I dunno, but I couldn’t find any.
1. The way I did it is I had the cd mix on one stereo track and Jason’s part on another. When mixing, I was really tempted to try and warm up the cd mix even a little bit, to try and move away from its very clinical, sterile sound. I tried a couple things, but nothing worked to my satisfaction, so in the end I left the cd mix untouched, outside of dropping some of the low end to make room for Jason’s bass as I described above.
2. I’m well aware of all the ‘loudness wars’ controversy that exploded all over the internet surrounding Metallica’s later releases. Even though this version that I’ve uploaded looks totally brick walled, it’s just Soundcloud’s visual representation that makes it look like this. Everything I’ve ever put on Soundcloud ends up looking a lot more blocky than it actually is, and this one is no different. For the band part of my mix, I used an aiff that I pulled straight off my original release cd. I did all he arranging/mixing in Presonus Studio One 2, and the final master in Soundtrack Pro, all on a MacBook Pro.
Comments, critiques, suggestions? Throw ‘em at me.