The internet is a polluted place. Human tendency favours complaint over praise and what is more, anonymity offers both shield and distance for safe amplification of negativity. Long after the youth move on from their obsessions and coalesce into inevitable mediocrity, their garbage will live on. Indeed, the whole of the internet is becoming a vast encyclopedic catalog of irretractable over-reaction, thesaurus abuse and mixed metaphors. What interests me is how this figures with regard to metal heads. Metal heads are as opinionated as wine lovers, those who appreciate and debate Shakespeare and muscle car fanatics. Metal head opinions, like the music itself, tend to be extreme and the more marginal the head the more ferocious the voice.
None of this in itself is particularly problematic (as far as status quo goes, however, from other angles entirely, it is a mode of expression by which I cannot abide), but what is becoming apparent to this aging metal head is that the flattening of the literary landscape brought about by myriad discussion boards and their successors, social networking, has resulted in a deconstruction of review as a literary mode and subsequent reconstruction as published opinion. In other words, the whole of the searchable internet is an equal mix of syndicated writers and hobbyists balanced by fans (some of which might fall into the former category) and semi-literate children. Guess which is the majority.
As an isolated metal head, the internet is my main source of information. Add to this that my love of metal is tempered by my love of reading and the result is confusion. There are entire sites, simply massive in their scope, such as Metal Archives which catalog, review and provide a wealth of information on metal from all over the world. A search of the Archive’s band database often yields three or more bands of the same name, signed and unsigned, even from within the same country. However, it is once you navigate into the review section that vexation begins. Essentially hyper-wordy, over descriptive, superlative obese “likes” or “hates”. Reviewers (and the term is used loosely here) seek to “balance” an album’s score out of a hundred by posting overly inflated or almost zero scores. The most recent reviews are at the top of a page and sometimes the number of reviews is overwhelming. That said, after three or more high school level writing assignments any motivation one had at the start to devour and digest this apparent feast of information gives way to that sickening feeling not unlike when you eat too many corn chips.
This little essay comes with a caveat: it is the result of numerous negative and indifferent reviews circling like undead cyborg sharks around Pestilence’s new album Doctrine. If the reviewers were to have their writing assessed according to the criteria they themselves set, perhaps they might be a little more reluctant to dole out the tough love. As much as I would like to do so, fair critique of unpolished and vitriolic writing is outside of the time and interest I have on any given day.
So, when they lose interest, when they relegate metal to a “phase”, or to adolescence, their detritus will live on. What makes this debris more significant than its competitors is that its subject, metal, is marginal. Step into a time machine and search for metal and the results page will look not unlike it does today: quoting and re-quoting, trackbacks and a few fan pages echoing for years… Now if only someone could have written something about it.