overground scene

On reviewing albums #2: caught between the dunderhead and the elitist prick

This is the second installment (read the first installment here) in the series of posts that I write to let off steam and make fun of Encyclopaedia Metallum reviewers. I like to think that all different kinds of music have the potential to give pleasure to people, and that whether one enjoys a certain band/artist or not depends on their personal tastes and their desire and capacity to invest time understanding said band/artist. In this blog, I avoid talking about bands I haven’t invested time listening to or trying to understand, or bands that I haven’t found something nice to say about. Even when I acknowledge that a band or an album disappointed me, I make it very clear that it is a subjective opinion rather than a “fact”. One of the things I hate is when album reviewers talk about albums as if they express an “objective fact” or feel that their opinions are representative of audiences’ opinions.

Before I continue, I would like to explain that the reason why I choose to ridicule reviews written by “common fans”, as opposed to more “professional” critics that write for publications such as Metal Hammer, Metal Sucks, All Music, and so on, is not because I think that the latter do not deserve ridicule. If anything all those publications have set the standard in terrible reviewing. And most certainly I do not want to insinuate that because someone’s review has the seal of approval of an official publication it automatically has value. The reason I focus on the reviews of Encyclopaedia Metallum users is simply because I no longer read, and for a long time have not been reading, the reviews of any of the aforementioned publications.

In this post, as opposed to my previous post on reviewing albums, I will not talk about albums that have an overall terrible rating, but rather infuriatingly ridiculous reviews I accidentally came across about albums I consider brilliant. As I demonstrate in the three reviews that follow, through my brief “research” on Encyclopaedia Metallum‘s reviews section, I identify two types of annoying reviewers: the dunderhead, and the elitist prick. Of course, one could always assume that some reviewers are simply trolls, in which case they do their job pretty well!

1. Kataklysm – Temple of knowledge (72% on Encyclopaedia Metallum)

This album is a masterpiece, and my favourite death metal album to have ever come out of Canada. Listening to it makes my skin crawl. Although strictly in a musical sense this album is by no means revolutionary, the execution, lyrical themes, and vocals make it an extraordinary death metal artifact. The intensity and absurdity of the pace of the music and vocal performance elevates this album to a league of its own. The music, although overall simplistic, is quite impressive, most musical sentences are extremely inventive (e.g. beginning of “Fathers from the suns”), and the way the band keeps pushing itself to new extremes is unprecedented. Now, on Encyclopaedia Metallum one person gave it a 10% and another 42%. These two reviews are very much representative of the kinds of people who tend to give bad reviews: one, the complete dunderhead with surprising self-confidence, and, two, the elitist prick who makes us feel thankful (or, at least, hopeful) that his/her influence is limited to Encyclopaedia Metallum and not in more significant social fields (education, government, mass media). In this case the dunderhead gave it a 10%, but commenting on that would be taking a cheap shot. So, I move on to the elitist prick who gave it a 42%. His review is laden with the usual elitist tantrums about pseudo-individualisation that would make Theodor Adorno blush, and “profound” insights on the thought processes of audiences (who apparently listen to music in the exact same way as he does). It is indeed ironic how this person, who clearly holds himself and his tastes in extremely high regard, at the same time without a shadow of a doubt proves himself completely ignorant by assuming that everyone engages with culture in a uniform way. He should do the world a favour and hurl himself off the top of the temple of knowledge on which he thinks he is sitting. My rating: 97%

2. At The Gates – Slaughter of the soul (71% on Encyclopaedia Metallum)

In the case of ATG’s most popular album we can see the usual suspects spewing diarrhea in written form. Six out of 25 reviews give the album a bad rating. I will not dwell on all of them, instead I will focus on the one reviewer who gave it a 0% and clearly has never experienced joy in his life. I pity the fool. I would go out on a limb and argue that this person is either an arts student or cultural studies student who has done a very basic and uncritical reading of the Frankfurt School’s critiques of mass culture, or some poor soul who has made the phrase “you are what you consume” his modus operandi, and thinks that by consuming culture that is socially legitimated as high he will automatically occupy a much-desired high position in society. Once again we have a review of utter elitist drivel about what is high and what is low art, full of token aphorisms of mass-produced culture, McDonaldisation, and so forth. Maybe by the end of his degree he changed his mind, although if this review is representative of his student work then there’s not much promise for the future. His comment on LaRocque’s astonishing solo on “Cold” is pure blasphemy. If he listened to SOTS, an album that is the result of unbelievable effort and talent, the embodiment of years of experience, and which has had an enduring impact on popular music, and the only thing he had to say is that it is worth nothing, then the only thing I have to say about him is the above. My rating: 100%

3. Atheist – Jupiter (72% on Encyclopaedia Metallum)

Atheist’s Jupiter was my favourite album of 2010, alongside Imperial State Electric’s, Desultory’s and Blind Guardian’s albums of that year. Again here I will focus on the prodigy who gave this album a 0%. The person who wrote the review in question informs his readers from the outset that Atheist is “one of [his] first death metal bands”, in a pathetic attempt to invest his opinion with credibility. I wouldn’t be surprised if he started listening to death metal a month before he typed this review, and, truthful to his claim, at the beginning of that month he listened to Atheist. He goes on and on about how terrible the production is and how this is the major flaw of this album; jeeesus faux-king christ, some albums happen to be badly produced, or one might dislike the production; it happens all the time, get over it and listen to the faux-king album. What about Piece of time (1989) where the kick-drum almost completely drowns out the snare drum in all the fast songs?! After that he gets obsessed with the technicality of the album. I don’t believe I have read “tech” so many times in my life in one piece of writing. Of course, every single word he writes is completely subjective. He simply does not like the album, end of story. Along the way he references a bunch of contemporary bands (The faceless, Suicide silence, Mudvayne) which he implies are shit, but at the same time possesses suspicious reserves of knowledge about them as he compares specific bits of Jupiter to those bands. It’s almost as if he listens to those shitty bands. Almost as if he likes them. Interesting… Anyway, through his review he also plugs a website he is writing for, although this review is hardly an advertisement. This album is brilliant and from the day it came out ’till this very day I worship it (as much as I worship the first and second Atheist albums). If I have one problem with this album is that it is so brilliant that when it ends I’m sad. My rating: 96%

elitism in extreme metal/ Poison – Into the Abyss (1986 demo)

The fight between old scholl death metal and new school death metal is silly. What people fail to understand is that what each one of us thinks as being original is contingent on each one’s personal history. For me, death metal reigned until 1995! Someone who started listening to death metal in 1991, they will most certainly say to me that “…after 1991 death metal became commercial, it died…”. And then another person that grew up with Celtic Frost and early Sarcofago, Sepultura and Carcass will come to argue that death metal died in 1987! Then there will be an even older person who will say that all of these bands ripped off Hellhammer and Bathory, and an older person that they ripped off Venom and Motorhead and eventually a granma will say that all of these bands are fake because they ripped of the Beatles. Do you see the silliness?

The reason why I started this post is because of the arrogance of some people in the extreme metal scene. I’ve been listening to a 1986 demo of a german death/thrash band named Poison. I got this cd years ago from a greek fascist zine  (The Forest) praising old black/death metal. These people were obviously arguing that the “true” scene was back in the late 80s, and that everything after that was a shameful commercialisation. The apparent problem, and silliness, about these people is that their lives are so shallow and meaningless, that the identity they built through belonging to an underground scene constitutes the dominant element of their worthless personalities. Therefore, by watching the scene around which this identity was built becoming mainstream and poser hurts them deeply.

The real problem of course lies in the fact that these people based their identity in people/musicians who were either fascists themselves, or silly kids who eventually could not live up to the standards of these fanaticals. These early black/death musicians that these people praise, belong in one of the above mentioned categories. The fascist ones probably killed one another in these early days or ended up in prison. Good riddance! The rest of these early musicians, who were just kids having fun, of course they would not live up to their expectations because they wanted to be rock stars in the first place. They would not give a rat’s ass about some “real fans” and their beliefs about what they were expected to be! Another thing about these assholes writing this fascist zine. Their fascism stems from the fact that they think that they are more intelligent than most people. So they thought that they belonged to an elite that could “understand” the music. It certainly hurt when they realised that they do not belong to any fucking elite. That the music they thought only they could appreciate, was actually a treat to the ears of millions of other people around the world. THAT IS WHY IT BECAME MAINSTREAM!

Anyway, these assholes did a good thing in their miserable lives, ie to give out all these cool cds, such as the Nihilist demos, the Unleashed demos, the Therion demos, “December Moon” by Morbid, and of course this awesome Poison demo! About that. According to the liner notes, this amazing german band was formed in 1982 and disbanded in 1987. If early death metal bands from Sweden had heard this band then shame on them! Because they should have given them credit for inspiration. This demo is fast and brutal, much more than the extreme german thrash scene (Sodom and Kreator). I can also hear resemblances with Razor from Canada. Certainly it has some ideas that were certainly novel, like the very brutal vocals, and soon to be followed by the then-emerging death metal scene. The “Sphinx” kicks off with the lyric ‘into the abyss I fall’ and brings into mind the Carnage album released several years after. The same goes for the slow part around the second minute… Long songs with complex arrangmements, tempo changes and an evil heavy atmosphere. Of course, those elitist wankers in the zine would never acknowledge that in the song “Yog Sothoth”, one of the riffs resembles the main riff off “Sirens” by Savatage! We should not forget the Lovecraftian references, the song Yog Sothoth, ubiguitous in the non-existent at that time swedish scene. In retrospect, “Morbid Visions” by Sepultura was released in 1986… I would not say that Poison push the envelope any further, although the hyperbrutal vocals and heavy slower parts like in the begining and ending of “Sphinx” are killer!

Bellow you can find the links to downoald this amazing demo. Unfortunately, I just got the software and cannot use it correctly yet, so there’s a different link for each of the 4 songs. Anyway, enjoy!

POISON – Into the Abyss (1986 Demo)

1. Alive (undead)

2. Yog Sothoth

3. Slaves (of the crucifix)

4. Sphinx