I’ve got a bone to pick about Structures‘ debut album Divided By, which was just released this week on Sumerian Records.
First off, I’d like to say that this isn’t to be considered our official review; we’re saving that for later. Typically when we review things, we try to focus on the good and bad parts about an album and try to give things their fair shake — I do take some sort of pride in being able to find nice things to say about Limp Bizkit and Design the Skyline. No, today I’m focusing entirely on a glaring and unignorable flaw to what could have been an otherwise good album that was worth your time:
Divided By sounds absolutely terrible, and could very well be the worst produced album from a widely-distributing label this year.
Let’s face it; there’s a loudness war in modern production that is compressing everything to the point of losing dynamic range. We saw it happen with Metallica‘s otherwise alright Death Magnetic, and this album is in the exact same boat, if not worse. Above, you can see the waveform I pulled from one of the album’s tracks. You see how most of it is a giant block of solid blue? Music is not supposed to look like that. What you get there is a mass of clipping (distortion that occurs when the sound is being amped beyond maximum allowance), and it is just so bad on Divided By that it sounds like it’s coming out of speakers lined with damp cotton balls. It’s trying to be louder than it possibly can be, and as a result, it just sounds awful and it ruins the whole experience.
It doesn’t make any sense to me. How could the band, label, and producer sign off on something that sounds this bad? Mixing was handled by Will Putney, who has done great work for bands like After the Burial and For Today, but totally missed the mark here. In fact, while I was speaking to my friend Anthony from Encircle (who could most definitely do a better job at mixing this thing), he reminded me that For Today’s Breaker album featured the best bass drops ever; they were clear and punchy with little to no distortion. Just give this a listen:
The one from For Today is audible and does the job right. The one from Structures is lost in a mess of low end and just sounds fuzzy. You can see on the waveform where the bass drop is the loudest part on For Today’s example. You can kinda tell where it is by looking at Structures, but just barely, and it doesn’t die down like For Today’s—it maintains loudness. That’s a lost dynamic, and it makes Structures’ album hard to listen to. It’s tiresome to hear a constant barrage of loud low end, and frankly, it just ruins this album for me. Hopefully the band or Sumerian will reissue this thing with production that isn’t this bad, but until then, I just can’t be bothered to listen to it again. Production quality can make or break an album, and unfortunately, it has broken this one. Granted, it probably wasn’t the band’s fault it turned out so badly, but they’re going to be the ones who suffer the consequences.
Check out this song from Divided By and tell us what you think about its sonic quality in the comments section below.