So why would Napalm Death want to re-release a record that was LESS loud than on its first outing?
It's a relatively complicated subject, but we should welcome the band's entry into the loudness war.
Since the explosion in popularity of mp3s, iPods, low bitrate streaming sites and high-speed torrents, the quality of sound reproduction found even on high-profile music releases has been declining. In the race to the bottom that is the loudness war, artists and mixing engineers have applied the dubious 'skill' of increasing loudness to albums and singles by acts from Lady GaGa to Metallica.
most listeners aren't zoning out in front of a pair of high-end Genelecs
The practice is a simple reaction to the fact that in 2012, music is often consumed in non-ideal circumstances – via cheap earbuds, on car stereos, through laptop speakers. To compensate the fact that most listeners aren't zoning out in front of a pair of high-end Genelecs, the studio response has been to pile more and more energy into sound files – which result in extra loudness when transferred to the listener – to counteract the feebleness of mp3 devices.
Which should be a good thing, on the face of it. Unfortunately, with the increase in energy, comes a lack of definition. Whilst GaGa's beats may boom, they boom at the expense of soundwave profile. Where a natural soundwave is a crinkled mess of peaks and troughs, an over-loud waveform is a flattened tabletop, ascending steeply to the maximum energy an mp3 (or CD) can hold at any given time, and dropping just as sharply down at the other side. In practical terms, it's the equivalent of trying to guess whether the gun fired from beside your ear was a 2.2 or a 9mil. It's simply too loud to tell.
Which is why sound nerds get so excited about dynamic range – the difference in decibels between the quietest and loudest parts of the soundwave. A remastered, re-released version of SCUM will have no less power and energy, but much more definition and detail. We welcome it.
SCUM, the classic 1987 debut album from grindcore pioneers NAPALM DEATH, is due to be re-released on limited edition redux CD and coloured vinyl LP on March 5th.
To celebrate 25 years since the release of the most influential grindcore album ever made, SCUM has been remastered especially for this release from the original tapes with Full Dynamic Range (FDR), allowing the music's nuances to shine through and giving the whole album a more ferocious and dynamic sound than ever before, and enabling the listener to immerse in the full audio chaos like never before.
NAPALM DEATH drummer MICK HARRIS states: "It sounds wicked – that record still holds up today and I'm proud I was part of it."
This full dynamic range release is a reaction to the loudness war which has affected the music scene since the '90s, with artists and labels striving to producer ever-louder CDs. Earache firmly believes the playback volume should be in the hands of the listener, not the producer – that's what the volume control is for!
The limited edition SCUM CD comes housed in a digipak sleeve and includes the previously unreleased rough mix of the entire album as a bonus, complete with original ad libs and intros from the studio and an alternate version of the title track. The collector's LP version is available in the following quantities and colours:
100 – Lime Green
200 – Lilac
300 – Magenta
800 – Black & White