I've been a metal-music addict since my early teens. But in the last few years I've listened to more and more Rap/Trap and so on. And I've bought myself some really really expensive headphones to enjoy music and to pick up small details in the songs I listen to.

And lately sometimes I tried listening to a metal song and I can't help but notice that everything sounds so incredibly muddy. Everything is centering around the mid, not particular highs nor real bass.

After a while of listening to it I just attune to it but immediately after listening to rap where there is often really low 808's or high notes which make a sound very enjoyable to listen and diverse, I only find muddy mid-centered guitars when switching back to metal (generally speaking of course).

Why is this? Is this just bad recording, or (bad) practice/style?

Some bad examples would be:

"Der Tote Trakt" or "Brücke aus Glas" from "Agrypnie".....This just sounds so empty, lacking any highs and lows.

"Feuer" from "Die Apokalyptischen Reiter".... It somehow seems as if the mids swallow the lyrics

Some good examples would be:

"I Believe" from "Ghost"... on the other hand has everything. Highs, lows, clearness. Sounds like a damn good mix to me.

"Toxicity" from "System of a Down" ... No swalloweed lyrics, relatively clear instrumentals.

"Valentine Kid" from "Triple One" ... Rap song, and this is what i mostly listen to now, and this is so totally different to most metal. You have the deep basses, the high synths or hats and mostly free mids so that nothing obstructs or swallows the lyrics. Imho this is how it should be.

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    Saying all metal sounds muddy is a blanket statement. It depends on the quality of production. Metallica's Black album has amazing production, and is not muddy. Everything Dream Theater makes is crisp. – Jason P Sallinger Mar 21 '18 at 13:22
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    Ghost isn't metal, by the way. It's today's version of Blue Oyster Cult...with clown suits. – Jason P Sallinger Apr 3 '18 at 20:26

I think there are two factors that are responsible for the phenomenon you describe:

  1. Lack of financial means. Neither of the metal bands you mentioned as bad examples are even close to the mainstream and are hence financially ill-equipped. They don't make much money with their music and - justifiably - don't expect massive sales; therefore the amount of money they - or their label - are willing to invest in a top-notch production is quite limited.

  2. A matter of style. Both Agrypnie and Die Apokalyptischen Reiter exist on the fringes of Black Metal, which - historically speaking - is quite prone to a somewhat fuzzy sound in an attempt to evoke an archaic atmosphere, conjuring images of times long gone by; Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger and Burzum's Filosofem come to mind.

  • "Lack of financial means" can occur for any kind of music... not for metal music only. – Bebs Aug 29 '19 at 8:55
  • @Bebs This may very well be correct - yet, it doesn't exclude "lack of financial means" from being a contributor to this particular sound. – glahn Aug 30 '19 at 9:07
  • +1. I listen to Xasthur because of, not in spite of, its terrible recording quality. The attempt to convey "harshness" is sometimes done to such a degree that it filters out many potential listeners who are only comfortable with the increasingly overproduced sounds of commercial music. – JacobIRR Aug 16 '20 at 15:37

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