Heavy Metal is characterized by massive sounds, strong vocals, amplified distortion, guitars, and overall loudness. Metallica certainly fits the description very well. However, loud in itself is the not the end-all-be-all or definition of good music. Hearing loss is also a negative side effect of hearing music too loud. Over the years, Metallica has brought us great music (personal favorite is the song One). More recently, Metallica, along with all others in the genre are more concerned over winning the Heavy-Metal battle of who can play the loudest music. That being the criteria, music stops being music and it just becomes noise. You know this is true when even Heavy-Metal fans complain that the music is too loud.
According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, Metallica’s ninth album, Death Magnetic has been engineered to sound loud. This process raises the average sound level and reduces the dynamic range. Basically, crank up the volume without care to quality of sound. The beauty of songs such as One is the dynamic range of near silence to the build up of vocals, base, and guitars. The sounds become “too loud” once you can no longer distinguish and hear nuances of the different instruments or vocals.
The below illustrations show the difference between Metallica album from 1988 and 2008.