Teenage Rampage: Kid Metal Reviewers and Wankery

Crushtor reveals first hand that professional music reviewing should not be an occupation entered into at a young age. (Cameron Crowe can suck it!)

I remember trolling up the internet as a youth, connecting to the internet with a rectangular, flashing, screeching machine known as an external modem patiently waiting as it jacked me into the information superhighway at an astonishing 28.8 kilobits per second. My computer was barely a Pentium and Windows 95 gave me its electronic version of the finger (the ubiquitous blue screen of death) every half hour or so.

Not to sound too dramatic, the internet was an awesome place once because of its relative newness and ability to seek new things that were previously hard to come by. Then multimedia, Napster, Google, Wikipedia, YouTube and its imitators came along and that warm and fuzzy feeling it once brought forth faded into a memory.

Because by the time people had stumbled across the internet because their fathers figured it would be cheaper than maintaining a subscription to nudie mags (both in material cost and sanity, as partners who inevitably found their stashes) I was slightly ahead of the curve. Netscape Navigator 2 came with a mighty tome to teach oneself in the subtle art of HTML, Macromedia Shockwave and Javascript - when I was waiting for about a megabyte of soundclip to download, I'd read it and absorb its teachings.

In around 2002, my Year 10 of high school, the web was still deceptively simple. Wikipedia was dismissed as "hash written by non-experts" and Google was still locked in a race to displace Yahoo! and its competitors. The Web 2.0 sites that we have been accustomed to were about two or three years away and flashiness as an ethos to good web design was quickly discredited.

Naturally as a newly minted metalhead, I read up on everything about the genre. Facts, stories, reviews, interviews, magazines; you name it, I had it. In about that time, when mp3.com was still around as a hub for original content, I came across a little known "Extreme Metal Band" named DragonHeart, which of course about a year later prior to the release of their debut record renamed themselves DragonForce. I was enamored with them from the start. If my parents didn't have total internet-credit card phobia, I would have purchased their first demo CD and cherished it for all time. My favorite metal website at the time, 666metal.com (probably the forerunner to bad-ass sites such as this) contained a bandlist. And to my dismay, my beloved DragonForce was not listed.

I immediately emailed the webmaster about this blatant error, as well as other Australian bands that were missing. The reply came about a day later asking whether I had any knowledge of basic HTML or JavaScript. I said I did. Next thing I knew, I was one of the Bandlist Editors for 666metal.com. In my spare time I would find new bands and add them to the list, updating others when I could. After about 3 or 4 months of bandlist editing, I got a new CD (for the time); Gamma Ray's "No World Order." Because I didn't know any better and I was so in love with Kai Hansen's ridiculous voice, I asked my webmaster if I could write a review, and he obliged. As soon as it hit the front page all of the other writers face-palmed, but I had written my first ever metal CD review. It was more a hagiography than a review for what I think of now as a disc less deserving of laudatory.

Such was the influence of 666metal.com back in the day, I started getting requests for my address from metal bands around the world for their reviews to be included on the site. I of course freely gave it out - who doesn't want free CDs sent to them? (I kind of wish I started stamp collecting: I had mail from Spain, Greece, Holland, Israel...) So flattered by their offers and effort, I initially couldn't write a bad word about them. I probably mislead hundreds of readers - as well as bands themselves - into thinking their material was worth listening to. 90% of the time, it wasn't.

Encouraged by my fellow scribes to review more critically, I began posting spite-filled, almost invective reviews against artists I didn't like. Being a teenager with a head full of big words as well as being full of shit half the time, I wrote stuff like this (in reference to a band named "Iron Mask"):

 


 

"Iron Mask, in summary, is the vehicle for neo-classicalist guitar wizard Dushan Petrossi of Belgium. And their method is half-baked at times - Dushan wows us with his high-voltage face-melting wankfest imitating Yngwie Malmsteen or Timo Tolkki (at times) while his band members frantically try to construct a song around it. That is what this album sounds like - Petrossi masturbates upon his guitar until climactic crecendo while his band members accompany him with an almost fetishistic fervor."

 


 

I thought I was the arbiter of good taste; I mean, with about 1000 site views a day, presumably EVERYONE was reading my reviews, right? If I thought something was good, I expected my friends to take it as gospel. When they didn't, I arrogantly put them down - "What would they know, anyway?" But as there's no accounting for taste, especially in a genre as diverse as metal.

So as a reviewer, I started early, even though I was only getting Bs on my English tests and probably should've been refining my craft in the areas I was lagging in, instead of writing metal reviews that barely anyone was going to read. Nevertheless, it was good experience as a hobby that I now hope to span into a paying career (or at least part of that career.) I suppose if one is to criticize, one must be open to it themselves; as a teenager, one needs the maturity to handle it lest they be discouraged from undertaking it permanently. Its hard as a kid who thinks he knows everything to admit that he doesn't - especially when put in a position to broadcast his "perfect" views.

By all means, if you are an aspirant reviewer; write as much as you can. Take Leticia's Music Journalism 101 course (I wish I had that when I was a kid!) as a starter; its a tutorial that I also find supremely helpful. Get criticism; ask others to proofread and listen to as much music - not just metal - as you can to broaden your perspective. Get albums considered the "greatest of all time" to understand why they are considered as such, as well as "bombs" with consistently bad reviews to see the other side of the coin. Its easy to write, but harder to write critically and consistently to separate the "fan" within you from the "reviewer." Rock on - albeit with a critical ear.