Angry Metal Guy Speaks: On Ratings, Subjectivity and Diversity

Angry Metal LisaHere at Angry Metal Guy, you probably have noticed some changes lately. It has been coming up most for those who have been reading for a long time and these people have been expressing concerns about certain aspects of this website’s continued expansion and change. So I’m here to give you guys some real talk about exactly what’s up around here, how things are changing and why things are changing in the way that they are changing.

When I started this podunk little Internet blog back in 2009, I didn’t really have any goals for it. Sure, I wanted people to read my stuff, but I was just one guy producing as many reviews as I could (roughly 5 a week, which when I think about it now is totally fucking insane – but I hadn’t started grad school yet so I had a lot of extra time on my hands), and I never really wanted much more than to be able to do that. Being fiercely independent, I really hate working for other people and decided that it was better to be my own boss at a tiny little blog. This worked so well for me that the blog started taking over my life in a way I’d never expected it to. My hard work and dedication started coming back to haunt me.

Engendering trust because of my frankness and bringing in the work ethic and hilarity of Steel Druhm, this website continued pushing forward. But we were pretty much content to publish 5 days a week and keep it cool. Over time, however, my publishing schedule has continued to shrink as my outside life has continued to encroach on what is – after all – my hobby. This blog has turned from a fun thing to do and  way to get new music into a machine that needs to be managed in order to be kept producing 7 (or more) reviews a week. In order to this, I have brought in others to help. Lord Doom, Rusty, Alex, Natalie Zed, Madam X, Fisting that Andrew Guy, Happy Metal Guy and others. This, in my opinion, has been to the profound benefit of Angry Metal Guy as a blog. Being more inclusive – pulling in voices from literally all over the world including Egypt, South Africa, Canada, Singapore and even the wasteland known as New York.

But with a diversity of opinions and tastes have come some side-effect of a wider variety of opinions and tastes. Sure, that may sound all well and good, but in the end it has led to a couple things. First, because individuals choose the reviews they want to do for the most part, it leads to some grade inflation, individuals are more likely to choose records they’re more likely to like and therefore they are more likely to give those things higher grades. I try to get things to be done even-handedly, but sometimes Steel Druhm produces three 4.5/5.0 reviews in a month and if he does, and Lord Doom gives something a 4.0, I give something else a 4.5 and Natalie Zed gives something a 4.0 – we’ve highly recommended a quarter of all the releases we’re covering in a month. This didn’t happen when I was working alone because I forced myself to try to review everything, which means listening to complete crap about 75% of the time, and I used to assign Steel Druhm material which meant I was dropping metalcore in his box and making him cranky.

But another part of the rating problem is that we don’t all necessarily have the same opinion on what a 4.0 means. Over the majority of the reviewing world, it seems to me like 4.0 means = It was OK. A 4.5 means = Yeah, I dug it. A 5.0 means “Yeah, I really dug it.” Which here is should be a 2.5, a 3.0 and a 3.5. That is why last week I “instituted” a new reviewing policy. I will go through it in detail down below. This is just so that everyone is on the same page as to exactly what these numbers mean (h/t to hubcapiv for spawning part of this list).

  • 5.0 – In competition for record of the year, will definitely make my end of the year list and I will be listening to this in 5 years. In competition for top 10 of decade to come. Obviously that’s hard to predict, but this should really just a phenomenal record. For me personally, I try to use Orphaned Land’s The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR or Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son as the bar. If I don’t feel the same kind of elation listening to this album as I did listening to those, it’s probably not a 5.0.
  • 4.5 –  An excellent record, in competition for end of year lists and possibly the record of the year in its genre. I will be listening to this for a long time to come and set a Google alert for this band’s new material.
  • 4.0 – A great album, full of spunk, totally enjoyable with a few minor drawbacks. In competition for the top 15 of the year and will be come back to in the future and will seek out material by this band.
  • 3.5 – A very good album. A major complaint or two, but generally speaking an enjoyable and competent record. Probably not in running for end of the year, but you’ll probably look into other material by the band.
  • 3.0 – A good record, enjoyable but not something that will get me listening to this band’s material in the future. I will probably come back to it now and again this year.
  • 2.5 – OK. Not super convincing, but some good stuff on it – enjoyable even if you won’t be back. Doesn’t fill you with seething rage. This is not a panning of an album, it’s saying that it’s OK and you’re unmoved.
  • 2.0 – Disappointing. NOTE: It is ENTIRELY REASONABLE to give a good record by a great band a 2.0 if you hate their new record even if the fans will say to you “But it’s so much better than everything else that’s being put out right now,” that’s irrelevant: the band’s own material is the standard you are judging it by. These records tend to be tepid, but have a few moments. Still, as a whole you will not return and you might even be thankful that you never have to hear it again.
  • 1.5 – Bad. Fewer nice things to say, mostly bad things to say. Rage building.
  • 1.0 – Makes you want to rant, a total turn off. Chargin’ yah lazer.
  • 0.5 – Major blemishes and all of the above. Fills you with rage.
  • 0.0 – Induces homicidal urges or the band literally cannot play their instruments. That they managed to get their music to you is a feat, because one assumes that anyone releasing an album like this must have some kind of brain damage.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: When in doubt GRADE DOWN. If you’re waffling between a 2.5 and a 3.0, go with a 2.5. It is better to be wrong down than wrong up. Sure, people will complain, disagree, whine, bitch and accuse you of not being objective. But we’ve been proudly subjective for this long. So meh.

This is not going to affect problem 1, it will however affect problem 2. There is now a consistent set of rules that we will try to use to make sure that we are being consistent across the board as to what our scores mean. This means that you can disagree with someone who gives a melodeath or a post-black record a 4.0 – but you know that this person’s opinion is that said record has only a few minor drawbacks, will compete for a stop in their Top 15(ish) and that they think this band is great and will actively seek out new material from them. You can think they’re wrong, but you no longer doubt what they mean.

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