Vinyl Vlog 006

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Endorsements and condemnations of different recorded music formats get made regularly, but what is the difference between an LP and a CD, really? Barring a few obvious exceptions (like the differences in the mastering, production and equalization that NOFX put into the CD and LP versions of Heavy Peting Zoo and Eating Lamb in 1996), the differences between the sound on a CD and that on a long-player record couldn't really be that dramatic – could they? Well, yes and no; as the vinyl release of Cancer Bats' Dead Set On Living illustrates, a series of subtle differences can add up to one completely different listening experience – if only because the limitations of one format can be found pretty easily if you know what you're looking for.

Now, before we really get into this dialogue, take a listen to two versions of the same song, “RATS” as it can be found on both the CD and LP versions of Dead Set On Living:

Cancer Bats – "RATS" – Dead Set On Living (CD version)
Cancer Bats – "RATS" – Dead Set On Living (LP version)

Can you hear the difference? [Editor's note: Good headphones or stereo speakers – not computer speakers – are ideal for this experiment.]

Even ears who don't necessarily recognize the difference will be able to feel a fantastic rush of adrenaline overtake them as Scott Middleton's guitar fades/slides into an epic and ominous drone to open “RATS,” and they'll suddenly feel their lips curl a savage, passive aggressive smirk when bassist Jaye Scharzer erupts in with some awesome, dark and aggressive badness about three bars in. That's when it's real, but the Bats are only beginning to build their beast there; singer Liam Cormier screams into the fray not long after with an extra special chip on his shoulder (check out the “There's an extra special place in hell for people like you! There's a special place in hell for all the shit you've done!” lines from the song's chorus) and, between those three points (as well as the phenomenal anchoring point supplied by drummer Mike Peters), the Cancer Bats have their base set for this record; “RATS” is as much metal as it is hardcore (and there are elements of pop – you'd swear you can hear a Beastie Boys influence in the excited, snotty spit in Cormier's vocals) because the Bats strike a chord which will appeal to the camps that punks and metalheads call home, but it's also open enough that the band has the space to develop it and make it their own as well. That chord continues to reverberate through the galloping rhythm and bombastic guitars of “Bricks And Mortar,” the hellacious tempo of “Road Sick” and the glammy metal guitar assault of “Breathe Armageddon.” On each of those tracks, there's no question that the band is the master of each; the fantastically elastic and brutal guitar work of Scott Middleton is jaw-dropping here – listeners will feel their eyes widen every time it sound as though the guitarist's attack will rip his instrument clean out of the mix and fly down their throats. It is the definition of an intense experience.

That intensity bleeds over onto the B-side of Dead Set On Living, but it's easy to pick out the subtle differences in approach on the second side. On side two, the Cancer Bats' metal edge gleams through more clearly, and gives a harder, more bellicose impression of the band. While it is still possible to pick out the punk elements in the band's sound in songs like “Drunk Physics” and “Bastards!,” there is an undeniably malicious vein of metallic fury which runs through them and stands as the driving force of each. These songs are all darker than anything on the A-side of Dead Set On Living, and really end up making it seem like there is an ongoing progression through the music that gets darker and dark until the album fades to black at the close of Side B.

So,” you ask, “what's the difference between the vinyl and the CD release of Dead Set On Living then? Couldn't such a progression be presented just as easily on a CD as an LP?” Yes readers, it likely could; but what makes it easier to notice that progression on vinyl is the fact that the vinyl is far less overwhelming than the CD is. On the CD, each song seems to have been dramatically compressed so that each song is as thick and dense as a brick, and totally overwhelming as a result. The vinyl simply does not play the same way. On vinyl, it's possible to hear that each instrument has its own space and they're not simply stacked on top of each other; the wall of sound is not as thick, which means different parts of each song are able to have more punch as they play through rather than simply assaulting listeners and overwhelming them as they're very capable of doing on CD. That makes the music more tangible, in a way; while the music is good in both cases, listeners are able to really inhabit the songs on the vinyl pressing of  Dead Set On Living. On the vinyl pressing, listeners have the opportunity to revel in the grit, filth and fury with the band.


Further Reading:
Ground Control Magazine – Dead Set On Living[CD review]  
Ground Control Magazine – “All Guts Wins Glory – The Cancer Bats Stand Tall” – [Feature Article]


The Dead Set On Living LP is available now as a Canadian Import. Buy it here on Amazon .

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