Today over on Twitter I got pointed in the direction of Invisible Oranges’ (great name, btw) new post called “Are album reviews obsolete?” Here at Angry Metal Guy our “bread and butter” so-to-speak, is the album review. We do a lot of them. We average about 6 a week, and aim for 7 or more. We also enjoy doing them, but as I have previously touched on, the review is a strange thing in a strange place and, let’s face it, the music industry is screwy in kind of big ways. I thought I’d maybe add some fuel to the author’s fire by adding some more reasons as to why the review is becoming obsolete, in some ways.
First, let me say, that for us the opposite of Invisible Oranges’ starting point is true: reviews are what garner hits here and the blog posts and interviews are really just something that we do on the side when we’ve got something to get off our chests. There are a million “I really wish we’d thought up being MetalSucks first” wannabe blogs out there, we certainly don’t need another one. And while my post “On Objectivity” garnered a lot of hits, and our Best Metal Tracks of All Time lists have pulled in new viewers, really the content trail would lead me to believe that the content to produce is reviews. But reviews have a shelf life, unlike a lot of blog posts. They simply don’t perform well over the long haul.
Reviews, however, seem to be considered pretty widely as bullshit. This, I understand. I have previously written about the fact that the reviewer’s position in the modern system is one of continual ass-kissing. It’s even worse with interviews. Everyone wants you to do interviews with bands. But not only are interviews a waste of time, but you’re pretty much just expected to be sycophantic. And if you are sycophantic you gain. When I recently heaped praise on the new The Black Dahlia Murder record, it was posted on the band’s Facebook, which landed us thousands of views in a matter of hours. On the other hand, my review of the new Amorphis record got very few comparatively. Why is this? Because Amorphis, obviously, didn’t post negative or lukewarm reviews on their website.
What is the lesson of this? Kiss ass. Unless you unleash a righteous ass-whupping and the band or its fans get pissed enough to flock to your website, anything that you say that is not blowing sunshine up the ass of the industry will get you ignored. And there are stories of zines who have been basically pressured by labels and bands when they give them bad reviews. K. Philipson (who runs Global Domination and has a couple bands) actually got harassed by Nightwish after gave them a shitty review for Once. They basically wrote to him and said that he couldn’t write that. He wrote a “make up” review where he gave them 600/10. Another reader told me that he once made some comment in a review and was forced by the writers to apologize for the comment because it had offended the label.
In other words, unless you are willing to suck the industry’s cock, you don’t get access. Unless you are big and important enough, you don’t get access. Unless you are willing to toe the line, you don’t get access and since everyone wants success and access for their endeavors, it all pushes reviews in the direction of being big wet kisses to the industry if you ever want to get a record early or an interview with a band you really like. That the industry is self serving is not surprising, of course. It’s to be expected. But since this is the case, reviews haven’t just become useless for many of the reasons already stated (saturation, downloading, bands over music [though I have issues with this], shitty writers), but also because those shitty writers have no reason to be honest. I have seen a plethora of examples where a person obviously doesn’t like a record, but s/he gives it a 9/10 anyway. I’ve had a multitude of comments from disgruntled fans when I have given a record a 3/5 (which is according to my scale “good”). If a 3/5 is considered a death sentence for a new record… well, that reflects the inflated, bullshit that makes up reviewing. Where’s the credibility?
I strongly encourage Invisible Oranges to stop doing reviews and to send people looking for them our way over here at Angry Metal Guy (being the self-serving asshole that I am). We continue doing them because I enjoy writing and because I do think that some people get value out of them. One of the most frequent comments that I receive is “I’ve found so many great bands through your site!” And that’s the purpose reviews serve. After all these years. While, certainly, most people aren’t going to read every review that comes across their screen due to saturation levels, people will continue discovering new music and loving it because of the work of reviewers who are willing to take the time to review material from smaller, less-well-known bands and labels (as well as doing major releases, of course). And we, as reviewers, owe it to them to be honest. Because even if we’re bordering on obsolete, people are still reading and do still care. And I still think my opinion is really fucking awesome.