This Week in Misplaced Outrage: There’s a Petition for Whitechapel to Re-Record Our Endless War with Tube Amps

I was told a story once, about a band that wanted to record the sound of a guy screaming. I think it was Burnt by the Sun or maybe their guitarists’ previous band Time’s Up. Anyway, the solution they devised was to lock one of their guys in a closet until he panicked, thrashing and yelling that he needed to get out. During the course of the conversation in which this was explained to me, I asked why they didn’t just find someone who could act. I was told that the band wanted it to sound authentic. But often the sound of something crafted rings true more than the genuine article. First there’s the practicalities: are they going to record the guy through a door? That’s going to sound distant, muffled. More importantly, though, what if he doesn’t have a realistic scream? “Of course his scream is realistic,” you might respond, “because it’s not acting, he really wants to get out.” But we have a certain expectation for what these things should sound like, conditioned by lifetimes of film and television. Some people don’t do it right. Sometimes you need an actor to be authentic. The point isn’t whether the person recording the scream is feeling the emotion. Only the person listening to the album matters. Do they feel the intended emotion? Who cares what happened in the studio?

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What does this have to do with Whitechapel? I was sent a link, by reader Luke Burket, to a petition. It’s a request for Whitechapel to re-record the Our Endless War guitar tracks with “raw, real, tube amps.” Well I have good news and bad news for you folks. The good news is that it’s likely that the band wouldn’t even have to re-track the guitar parts. It’s become commonplace for the direct, straight-from-the-guitar tone to be recorded, in case re-amping is necessary in mixing. Since the band tracked using a Kemper Profiling Amp, odds are that the direct-from-guitar audio is still available.

Now here’s the bad news for you: it’s really, really unlikely that the band will indulge in such an undertaking. And not just because a whopping 5 people have signed the petition as of this moment. No, it’s because we can safely assume that the band likes the tones they got. And fans obviously are happy with the record, since it’s the first Whitechapel album to crack the Billboard top 10.

But most importantly, would you have known that the guitar tones were generated by a Kemper Profiling Amp if the “making of” videos didn’t spell it out for you? Honestly? Because I call bullshit on that. This is subjective, but I think the recording is a vast improvement over the band’s last record, drum and guitar tones alike. And if anything the guitar tones are less hyped in the highs and lows than what I’ve come to expect from the realm of polished modern metal. There’s nothing that would convince me that the amps were modeled besides the video evidence. How could anyone be sure that what you’re hearing isn’t just the nature of the mic or the preamp, the mixing job or the mastering?

And most importantly, who gives a flying fuck? If you don’t like the guitar tone, fine. But let’s not forget that bad guitar recordings are equal opportunity, friend to microphones and s/pdif outputs alike.

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Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and mp3.com were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.