What about the Producer?
Everyone always talks about the difference in the “sound” of a band from album to album. Things like “I can’t believe they would change their sound” or “Something sounds different, but I can’t put my finger on it” are the most common phrases I hear when a popular band with a recognizable sound puts out their second full length album or an album on a new label. This is commonly referred to as a “sophomore slump” (second major album) or “selling out” (move to a new label). Bands like Thursday, From Autumn to Ashes and Brand New get nailed by original fans for this change in “sound.” What a majority of fans don’t realize is that the change they are hearing is not (for the most part) a change in the band, but a change in the producer of the album. I had never realized this until I picked up He Is Legend’s Suck Out the Poison last week and heard the result of a new producer.
He Is Legend’s 2004 release I Am Hollywood was a huge success for the new hardcore band from North Carolina, so when their second full-length was announced, fans of the band got quite excited. We all expected an expansion of the last album, yet when it got popped into stereos across the country, fans heard something odd that seemed very out of place for HIL: the vocals were mixed higher than the instrumentals. This came as a huge surprise for HIL fans because the distinctive sound that had been established was one of an almost even mixing between instrumentals and vocals. The mixing in I Am Hollywood gave the band a very raw feel that attracted a lot of fans, particularly music snobs such as me. A lot of this came from the fact that the band mixed the album. This allowed them to make themselves sound the way they sound everyday. Suck Out the Poison was mixed by Steve Evetts instead of the band and his production is apparent in the sound.
This statement is in no way a shot at Evetts. Personally, while I find Suck Out the Poison less impressive than I Am Hollywood, HIL’s latest effort is in no way a bad album. The album has a few very good songs but it doesn’t pop out of the myriad of crap that is flowing out of the music industry like I Am Hollywood did. Basically, try paying attention to the producer. They may have more of an effect on your favorite bands’ sound than you would expect.