Guitar Hero Metallica Sounds Better Than CD Metallica

September 18, 2008

It's being reported (starting with Metallica message boards) that the quality of the Guitar Hero version of the new Metallica album exceeds that of the version on the CD. I can play Guitar Hero (hold your applause).  I can't play a real instrument.  So when people say that Guitar Hero isn't real music, I kind of understand, but mostly I just want them to shut up so I can play more Guitar Hero.  But even this offends me.

Rolling Stone reports on the new CD versus the new Guitar Hero track which were released simultaneously:

What fans didn't know was that the video game version of the album would actually sound better than the CD counterpart. That's what mastering engineer Ian Shepherd discovered when, on a tip from a Metallica forum, he compared the compression rates between the CD and the GHversions. Shepherd discovered that the CD is boosted as much as compressively possible, making it ten decibels louder than the GH version while completely bleaching out the dynamic range. 

Is this the new face of the music industry?  There's an argument to be made that in playing a song on Guitar Hero, you actively engage with the artist's material and, hence, add a new level to the artistic consumption of that song.  I don't make that argument because it is "dumb." However, I'm not sure which argument I should be making.

Obviously, it's a little more complicated (genuine?) to play it on a real guitar, but not everybody can do that. What do the artists think?  Does dumbing down the way their song is consumed better?  Would they rather have a million Guitar Hero-ettes or a hundred people that can pick out their songs on acoustic?  This is yet to be answered by Metallica, but here's what their representation has to say about the album as it stands:

Even Ted Jensen, who is credited with mastering DM in the liner notes, admitted on a message board, “Believe me I’m not proud to be associated with this one, and we can only hope that some good will come from this in some form of backlash against volume above all else.”

Sounds like they want us to record it off Guitar Hero to me.  Then leak that version illegally for the irony.