If you’ve ever listened to Metallica’s 1989 album …And Justice For All, you probably would’ve heard a few bangers. In between tracks such as ‘Harvester Of Sorrow’, and ‘One’, there’s an issue that has divided fans of the band for years – the sound. The record is famous for having incredibly thin-sounding drums, quiet bass, and a very poor mix. But according to the record’s producer, the blame for this lies squarely on Metallica themselves.
As Noisey reports, the album’s producer, Flemming Rasmussen, recently sat down with the creators of Metallics podcast Alphabetallica. During the podcast, he speaks of how he helped to produce “the three good Metallica albums”, but aimed to distance himself from any of the criticism that the famous record has received for its lack of bass.
“What happened was [Steve Thompson and Mike Barbiero, the record’s mixing engineers] did a mix that they thought sounded really, really good, which had lots of bass in it. And the bass tracks on …And Justice For All are absolutely fantastic. (…) But, [the rest of the band] heard the mix and they went, ‘Alright, take the bass down, change this this this and this, and then take the bass down.’ So you can barely hear it. And then once they’ve done that they said, ‘Take it another 3dB down.’ Why they did that, I have no idea. It could be that they were still grieving about Cliff. I have no idea. But imagine my surprise when I heard the album.”
As Noisey also points out, this follows with what sound mixer Steve Thompson said in an interview with Ultimate Guitar a few years back. “We had to get the drum sound up the way [drummer Lard Ulrich] had it,” Thompson explained. “I wasn’t a fan of it. So now he goes, ‘See the bass guitar?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, great part, man. He killed it.’ He said, ‘I want you to bring down the bass where you can barely, audibly hear it in the mix.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding. Right?’ He said, ‘No. Bring it down.’ I bring it down to that level and he says, ‘Now drop it down another 5 dB.’ I turned around and looked at Hetfield and said, ‘He’s serious?’ It just blew me away.”
According to Thompson, he never really spoke to Las Ulrich until the two met at Metallica’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony back in 2009. “They flew us out and I’m sitting with Lars,” said Thompson. “[Lars] goes, ‘Hey, what happened to the bass in … Justice?’ He actually asked me that. I wanted to cold cock him right there. It was a shame because I’m the one getting the shit for the lack of bass.”
While Rasmussen didn’t savage the record in the same way that Nirvana’s sound engineer recently spoke about In Utero, it sounds like he’s not exactly a happy camper. Here’s hoping that we’ll one day see some remastered editions released that rightfully restore that wayward bass.
Check out …And Justice For All‘s producer, Flemming Rasmussen, talking to the Alphabetallica podcast below.