.Editorial - Picking Winners?
Metal Reviews

Release year: 2014
Reviewed by Goat

A lot of promos get sent to me, a large proportion of them being painfully average, and although I try and listen to at least one song from everything, I review less than one in three. Even when you spend as much time as I do on metal, it's easy to get overwhelmed. All I (and by extension, the rest of the MetalReviews team) can really do is pick, if not at random then certainly on whim, releases to write about, and more times than not this will mean picking releases that I enjoy and have good things to say about. Ok, you say, fair enough. So why bring this up? Well, I was casually reading the (excellent) metal site lastrit.es and came across an interesting article by Craig Hayes. He writes about the growing gap between online metal writing and metal criticism, and point-blank asks us and The Metal Review whether having so many positive reviews provides a realistic representation of the metal scene today, or whether it's so inward-looking and blinkered that actual critical analysis is a distant memory? It's a very fair question, and certainly one I took to heart – looking back over my reviews (skipping over unscored EPs and splits) the last time I gave a release a score less than 70 was January, and you have to go back to November last year to find a score of 50 or less... Oops.

Yet I'd defend myself for this – I haven't thought of myself as giving an even overview of the metal scene in a long time, instead picking albums out that I enjoyed and trying to pass that enjoyment on to a larger audience. I don't at all recognise any suggestion of over-hyping or fraud (definitely not fraud!) in any of my reviews, and have never seen myself as trying to bring a glossy image of metal to a mainstream audience (long-term readers will know I've tried to bring mainsteam music to a metal audience with reviews of Radiohead and others!). It's certainly worth asking me, and us, for our exact mission statement however, and how and why we differ from sites such as Invisible Oranges and NoCleanSinging. Part of me was always content to see the site name as the whole story – metal reviews. Reviews of metal. What more needs saying?

All online metal writers are essentially fans talking sports, amateurs talking about professionals, although we each approach it in our different way. We at Metal Reviews try not to be tabloid-y, and certainly didn't join in on the also-criticised sensationalism about the Ian Watkins trial that Metal Injection and MetalSucks indulged in, for example. We try to be underground-focused but not too elitist; heck, I even said fairly nice things about Deafheaven! And we do try not to bash bands for the sake of it, which was quite an online meme in the metal community a few years back. I remember a previous editorial piece (written six years ago, holy shit) where I pointed out that it's far easier to bash an album than it is to create one, however crap, and that basic humility means recognising that one's amateur writing talents may not always stack up against a band's musical talents. I think a lot of that still holds true. Writing negative reviews may be important if we're going to present an even picture of metaldom to a mainstream daytripper, but as I have a very limited amount of time these days to devote to metal, I want to spend it as wisely as possible. Bringing a great little-known band to a reader's attention is worthwhile for both writer and reader – bringing an otherwise unknown band up and saying 'avoid this' seems an utterly pointless experience for everyone.

I'll certainly bear Craig's points in mind when writing, but I think the problem is a small one at best, and I certainly won't be writing negative reviews for the sake of it. If metal could fill a museum, then as a self-appointed curator I'm sure readers will forgive me putting the best on display for when you want to wander through. I'm not saying that I'll never write negative reviews – bands that I've followed for a long time and written about in detail will always get it in the neck if they drop the ball (hey-yo, Megadeth!) But as was pointed out recently at NoCleanSinging, forcing yourself to write about music you don't enjoy feels like work rather than enjoyment, and I've always hated the moment when metal reviewing becomes more hard slog than relaxed hobby. None of us are pretending that we cover every single metal release, and that (controversy time!) any single review site gives exhaustive enough coverage that you could rely on it solely. And does anyone really pretending that metal is uniformly wonderful, when we all have subgenres that are pet hates, let alone bands? Still, Craig is right that we shouldn't be afraid to tell metal when it goes wrong, and I'm certainly willing to try harder to be a critic as well as a writer. I'd be interested in hearing from readers about this, in the forum or elsewhere, so do get in touch and tell me what you think.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted
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