Tales from the Jugular

Today's Hottest Metal Producers

By: Eric Compton
Published: Friday, July 14, 2006
Tales From The Jugular - Today's Hottest Metal Producers

Anyone who has read my reviews understands the importance of good production. For example the only thing seperating today's metalcore bands is simply....PRODUCTION. You can listen to an indy band play stomp riffs and double bass all day long. Bore. Yawn. THEN you can hear a professional band teamed up with a tech-savvy, high-end producer, and get your head severed with a sound shovel. I really hate to paint myself in a corner and say that talent doesn't matter...and believe me it does. However, in today's modern world we have so many bands playing groove riffs on Slayer highs that simply have a vocalist screaming away. No identity and no real purpose other than creating walls of sound to mosh and bang with. That is okay for this particular genre. For me personally the whole thing is very irritating and oversaturated when we have so many quality bands out there with great singers and skillful, identity-stricken playing. I can listen to old Dio, Maiden, Priest any given day of the week, then I will need some modern doses of Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, Beyond Fear, and those Euro sounding modern power groups. Most weeks I need a mid-week shift to death metal or something extreme. That is when I turn to these bands, and when I do, it has to be top-notch, high class octane that fills me with anger adrenaline. For the aggressive genre I don't think I personally need to have a buffet styled menu with sixty or seventy choices. For me personally that is just overkill. But what I do need is the best sounding selections at my disposal, an arsenal if you will of the most polished, well weathered steel that I can pound my daily routine, mood, and surroundings with. For this I do something a little different.....

With my thousands of CDs, cassettes, and vinyl, I actually keep track of producers to supply the proper sound for my mood. If I want something vengeful, urban, and hardcore I look for something by Colin Richardson (Machine Head, Fear Factory, Napalm Death). For those huge, progressive power metal pieces that contain the huge, sing-along chorus parts I look for Charlie Bauerfeind or Piet Sielck (Helloween, Blind Guardian, Rage). For hard rock sensations and that Sunset Strip bad-boy sound I search for anything by Tommy Newton or Herman Frank. For the most dismal of death metal rumblings I search out material by Peter Tagtgren or Dan Swano. For the old school, high polished thrash sound I search for Terry Date. Classic sounds....Martin Birch. Get the general idea? I honestly feel that production has really reached the point of making or breaking a band and I have preached that through 390+ reviews for Maximum Metal thus far.

With that in mind I want to tell you, the ever responsive metal reader, about some new and modern producers that I find completely revolutionary and innovative in their style and technique. I think in today's metal media we don't really read that much about producers anymore. We just seem to think that bands plug into a computer and have at it. It doesn't work that way. Sure, today's computer technology makes it really easy to hash out an album with members working from their home basement. However, to achieve a certain sound or mood, a really good producer is needed. With today's more aggressive and extreme metal market, the only thing seperating Band A from Band B is production and sound. You can take a new Haunted record with today's hottest producer whiz-kid behind the boards and absolutely smash something that was recorded with Tom Morris. The production and technology has just evolved into a huge, processed sound that has a wide range appeal.

Here are my picks for today's best new producers, as well as a few that you may or may not have heard about.

TUE MADSEN - www.antfarm.dk
Intro - Without a doubt my favorite producer working today. I see a reason and a purpose for grabbing everything he is involved with. The artists and albums that he works with is just blistering sonic annihilation. Most of his work is done in Denmark at his Antfarm Studio, but he will travel to various recording studios to work on records.

Sound - I think his is the cleanest sound anyone can achieve through the aggressive style. His emphasis is on the hardcore genre, really tooling out those bands into precise, chaingun machines. I love his work with the drums, really giving attention to detail on double-bass and fills. I think Madsen must have loved Lombardo's drum playing with Slayer. The overall sound on the records is very sterile, almost a dry sound because everything is well fitted together. You won't hear much in the way of a loose vibe (Motorhead, Mercyful Fate), everything is just really tight (much like Machine Head, Fear Factory). Really the only thing I can compare this to would be Andy Sneap's tight fitting sound with Colin Richardson's wall of sound treatment. You won't hear another producer give a stomp riff the same treatment as Madsen. Along with that he does inject some sound effects and maybe a bit of atmosphere in his recordings (Callenish Circle, Disbelief).

Works - Madsen has produced albums by Barcode, Sick Of It All, Cataract, Himsa, Aborted, Ektomorf, Disbelief, and Knucledust just to name a small few. He also does quite a bit of mixing and mastering, sometimes handling those two but not the production part. His mixing/mastering only duties were with Callenish Circle, Gorefest, Hatesphere, and Watch Them Die to name a few. Madsen also played for the band Grope before becoming a full-time producer. You will also find a guest guitar solo here and there on the albums he works on.

Future - Looks like word is spreading fast! Madsen has already begun work on the new Haunted album as well as the new effort from Poisonblack.

JACOB HANSEN - www.jacobhansen.com
Intro - Jacob Hansen is the younger brother of famed producer Tommy Hansen (can't find any proof of this but I believe they are brothers). Tommy Hansen has been producing for the last 25 years and now Jacob Hansen has really stormed on the scene in the last few years. Originally he was a guitar player for the Danish band Invocator, who split in 1995. He works out of the famous Jailhouse Studios in Denmark.

Sound - Hansen's sound is really unique because he "molds" to the band so well. I believe out of the producers here he is probably the most well-rounded and diverse. He has experience working within the genres of power, progressive, hardcore, and death metal. For the most part his production is slightly "loose" and really doesn't sound over processed. The sound has tons of bottom end to it with the drums sounding a bit muffled for more wallop. His cymbal sound isn't quite as high as I would like but he really spends a lot of attention on the cleanest guitar sound (probably because he is a player himself). I would say his sound is more akin to a doomy/stoner sound with tons of bottom heaviness and a high guitar front end. He is probably one of the few producers that I can't immediately tag from hearing a record.

Works - This guy has an amazing amount of seasoning. He has worked recently with Mercenary, Pyramaze, Volbeat, Yrrkoon, Hatesphere, Ancient, Illdisposed, and Raunchy among others. He also does a fair amount of mixing and mastering for bands.

Future - He has a ton of projects that he is working on right now. I'm really looking forward to his work on the new Mercenary record "The Hours That Remain", as well as the new Volbeat.

Info - Everybody knows the famous producer Peter Tagtgren, who has made quite a name for himself producing aggressive, extreme acts in his Abyss Studios in Sweden. Along with being a producer, Tagtgren also is involved with death metal pioneers Hypocrisy as well as the industrial metal outfit Pain. About six years ago word began to spread that Peter had a brother, Tommy, that was assisting him in the studio. Soon Tommy Tagtgren started producing on his own, with most of his work done in Abyss Studios.

Sound - I have never been a huge fan of Peter Tagtgren's sound early on. His brand of raw guitars and over the top drum sound threw me a bit. After hearing him go through about 100 albums and bands, I think his style sort of matured into a more well-rounded ear. Tommy Tagtgren is much the same way, but I prefer his smoother, more calculated and subdued sound much more. I know that is shocking but I honestly think that Tommy gets more of that clean sound out of the studio and the bands he works for. Among his sound is huge, chugging guitars that aren't just a wall of distortion. However, he does manage to incorporate some "power metal" sounds out of the guitars, a more clean approach and delivery. The drum sound isn't over the top either, really more of a muffled sound that leaves plenty of room for double-bass high end and some crystal clear cymbal work. His vocal treatment really allows for perfect balance between voice and music.

Works - Tommy Tagtgren has worked with the likes of Dispatched, Dark Funeral, Deceiver, The Forsaken, Nightfall, and Ragnarok.

Future - Things are looking good for Tommy even through rumors and quotes from his brother that Abyss Studios will be closing up. This year he completed work on the new Thyrfing and the debut from Deceiver.

Intro - These two brothers may be the future of death metal. Their sound is probably the most cutting edge of the aggressive breed of producers. Hailing from Poland and getting most of their engineering skills from New York, the two Weislaawscy brothers have made quite a name for themselves producing tight records for Vader. They seem to operate efficiently from Hertz studios.

Sound - This one is really hard to put into words. I will say that Vader's "Art Of War" EP is the perfect introduction to the duo. They put heavy emphasis on the drum tracks, really filling in with high end "clicking" of the double-bass and a massive fill sound from the skins. The guitars are really like a wall of sound, with raw feeling put into it while still sounding state-of-the-art and mechanical. Their sound is very uniform, and I would say very surgical in its tight formation and precise sound. In the heavy metal world, these brothers are like the George Lucas of the industry.

Works - They made waves while working with Vader. The band has also taken on efforts from Decapitated, Dies Irae and Trauma.

Future - I don't know if the word has really spread far enough for these guys yet. They just finished up incredible jobs this year for Decapitated's "Organic Hallucinations", Vader's "Art Of War" EP, as well as mixing and mastering Hate's "Anaclasis" album.

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