AsbjÃ¸rn Slettemark of the Norwegian music industry magazine Faro Journalen reports that METALLICA's record label, Universal Music Norway, has confirmed that it has received several complaints over the sound quality of the new METALLICA single "The Day That Never Comes", which was released via the iTunes store late last week. "There will be a new version of the song on iTunes in a short while," Eivind Slotsvik, senior product manager at Universal Music Norway, told Faro Journalen.
Slotsvik claims, however, that the "The Day That Never Comes" audio file that was serviced to Norwegian radio and press is not distorted like the track that was being sold via iTunes. "What we know is that there is something wrong with the version sent to iTunes," he said. "The version we have received does not contain similar errors."
Faro Journalen downloaded one of the versions Universal Music released to the press via its digital promotional database. The magazine then sent the file to Lasse Svendsen, editor of Norway's hi-fi magazine Lyd & Bilde (Sound & Vision). Svendsen was shocked by what he heard.
"Oh my God, this is unfortunately a classic example of how bad things get when studio technicians and musicians gets to play with expensive compressors and limiters," he said. "The file is a 313 kbps AAC sound file, which isn't necessarily that bad, but someone has chosen to maximize the volume with a compressor, so much so that the whole sound file just sounds like mud. The cymbals sound like broken glass, the drums like trees cracking, and the guitars â€” which are mixed equally loudly â€” sound like someone shoved a screwdriver into my ears."
Kjartan Overby is responsible for the music archives at the Norwegian national radio station at NRK. "The Day That Never Comes" was one of this week's most played tracks on NRK's youth channel P3, and Overby told Faro Journalen he reacted immediately to the sound level on the song.
"I have never heard anything like this on songs we have added to the archive. It is probably not a technical error. The file was like that when we received it from Universal Music," he said.
Lyd & Bilde editor Svendsen has low expectations for the "Death Magnetic" full-length album, which is scheduled to hit stores worldwide on September 12. "We can only hope that the CD won't sound this bad, but I don't have high hopes that this will happen," he said.
A representative for METALLICA's Mission: Metallica web site â€” the online experience related to the group's forthcoming album, "Death Magnetic" â€” sent out an e-mail message to the site's registered members last week claiming that the sound quality problems on "The Day That Never Comes" were related to "the creation of the track from master," before reassuring fans that "this is not how it will sound on the album." He then added, "We've identified the source of the problem to prevent it in any subsequent singles released in advance of September 12."
Although the band itself has not yet addressed the issue directly, it is believed that the source of the problem lies in the actual mix and not the mastering. With only three weeks left before "Death Magnetic"'s scheduled release, it is highly unlikely that any changes will be made to the album's final mix, a scenario which is almost certain to disappoint may of METALLICA's most loyal fans who have been voicing their displeasure over the new single's production on the band's official message board.