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gasmask_colostomy
Metalhead

Joined: Thu May 27, 2010 5:38 am
Posts: 624
Location: Behind the wall of fire
PostPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2019 12:59 am 
 

In recent months, I've been asked to do more and more review requests, which is probably the result of putting my personal email on the site. Thus far, I haven't been approached to review too many albums, nor review any albums I don't like, so I haven't thought extensively about how I should approach writing requests.

The question therefore is: what kind of personal morals or codes of conduct do you have when reviewing albums requested by bands?

1. Would you write negative requests? I intend only to write reviews for requests that I actually like, since I don't think it's of much personal use to critique and listen to music I dislike, while the band would probably not be too pleased about negative reviews. However, I also try to give my honest opinion on an album and refrain from scoring or commenting too highly. To make sure everyone is happy and that the review is high quality, I tend to send it to the band first and ask for any factual mistakes or relevant feedback.

2. On a related note, I'm interested what kind of compensation artists have offered other reviewers for writing requests. Generally, a band might send an mp3 of the album or a physical copy at best, though others will simply direct you to the Bandcamp page either for streaming or download. Has anyone had any other offers? Is there a minimum level of compensation you expect for writing the review?

3. Finally, for those reviewers who get a lot of requests, I'd like to know how you choose which ones to write and which ones you pass up. Are there any reasons you would flat-out refuse to review a band's work? As I've said, I would prefer not to write negative reviews, while an artist being rude or demanding during communication would turn me off pretty quickly as well.

This thread doesn't have to be limited to those 3 points, they are just the first issues that crossed my mind.

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Twisted_Psychology
Metal freak

Joined: Sat May 16, 2009 8:22 pm
Posts: 4693
Location: United States
PostPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2019 8:21 am 
 

Coming at these thoughts as both a reviewer and a musician:

1. I have no issue with negatively or lukewarmly reviewing a requested album and I'm also not afraid of people doing the same to my own work. I think the real key is making sure that your critiques are constructive and not insulting any of the performers as people. An artist who can't handle a review consisting of anything but fanning adoration shouldn't be soliciting reviewers in the first place.

2. I'm not very picky about compensation. I'm used to getting album promos via files or secret links, but I've also written plenty of reviews based on Spotify/Bandcamp streams. As long as you get the whole thing in full and have enough time to properly digest it, it really shouldn't be an issue.

3. No matter what context I am reviewing an album for, every single review I write comes from the same root question: What do I have to say about this album? When I am reviewing an album, I am looking for what sets a given band apart (or more realistically, doesn't) or where they currently are in the trajectory of their artistic development. If all I can say about an album is "well, this sure exists," then I likely won't have the motivation to review it. There's obviously stylistic preference at play but even stuff I like gets passed up if I don't have anything to say about it.
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SweetLeaf95
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2014 1:19 am
Posts: 774
Location: United States
PostPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2019 8:31 am 
 

1. I'm basically with TS here, although I'll only write a negative one if I have something to say. I won't be like "nah, this aint my thing - 50%."

2. As long as I can hear the album for free somehow, then I need nothing more.

3. See TS's response as well. TBH he mostly hit the nail on the head for all three.

I'll also add that the chances are if they emailed you, they also probably emailed many others, so don't feel bad passing it up. They should never go into it assuming you'll write one. In fact, two weeks ago I got one that I decided to pass up, and on the album's release day I saw reviews posted by like, three other regular MA reviewers.
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gasmask_colostomy
Metalhead

Joined: Thu May 27, 2010 5:38 am
Posts: 624
Location: Behind the wall of fire
PostPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2019 9:57 am 
 

SweetLeaf95 wrote:
I'll also add that the chances are if they emailed you, they also probably emailed many others, so don't feel bad passing it up. They should never go into it assuming you'll write one. In fact, two weeks ago I got one that I decided to pass up, and on the album's release day I saw reviews posted by like, three other regular MA reviewers.

That's a good point actually, and one which will probably sustain a reviewer beyond the "oh my gosh, someone paid attention to my writing!" stage. I've had a couple of similar experiences, but nothing quite as extreme as the circumstance you mention. Out of curiosity, what album was that for?

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BastardHead
Worse than the PMRC

Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2005 7:53 pm
Posts: 9205
Location: St. Charles, Illinois
PostPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2019 12:23 pm 
 

1) The reason I refused promos/requests for nearly a decade almost specifically because I was always worried about blowback if I gave a negative review. The reason my blog spiked in productivity this year and started seeing like ten reviews a month or more is because I decided to not worry about it anymore and would trash anything that I thought sucked. I don't like the implied thing about promos where you're expected to actually... ya know, promote. I'm a critic, not an ad agency. If you're willing to put your art out there you need to be prepared that some people are going to think it sucks shit. I've also learned over the years of being around in the reviewing community here that being a promo guy who just hands out good scores all the time is fucking boring and completely worthless to readers because the only inclination of your tastes is that you like everything. We don't know what you're choosing not to review.

2) When I was 18, I gave a positive review for a band over at Metal Crypt and they sent me an email asking for my address so they could, in their words, "send you all our shit!!! \m/" I didn't see the email until like three months after the fact so I chickened out on getting back to them. That's pretty much it though apart from the few random physical promos I'd get in the mail during that time, but I'd imagine it's much less common nowadays since Bandcamp is a thing now. I don't ask for anything, I didn't get into this expecting to ever get paid or get free goodies. It's a hobby, not a job.

3) I pass up things that don't interest me, simple as that. I also accept way more promos than I write reviews for, which may be seen unethical but even though this is a hobby, I do take it seriously, and I don't want to shit out a half hearted one-paragraph "eh it's alright I guess" if I don't have anything to say (and if I don't have anything to say, I probably don't think it's all that great in the first place so it's not like they're missing out on good publicity or anything). The Draining the Dregs feature on my blog has helped mitigate that moral concern of mine a bit but overall I just see it as the nature of the game. You don't always have time, you don't always have inspiration, and you don't always have interest. I've also ended up not reviewing something because a basic info-google popped up some rape accusations against the main dude, but that only happened once.
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SweetLeaf95
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2014 1:19 am
Posts: 774
Location: United States
PostPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2019 1:20 pm 
 

gasmask_colostomy wrote:
Out of curiosity, what album was that for?


I'll be damned, it was actually this :lol: https://www.metal-archives.com/albums/C ... age/774708

Tankist was another one from years ago. right around when they emailed me, like, four other reviewers published one too.
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RapeTheDead
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 10:48 pm
Posts: 788
Location: Canada
PostPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2019 1:52 pm 
 

I've had a handful of review requests over the years, sometimes from a promo zine-type thing, sometimes from a label owner, sometimes a band member personally. It hasn't happened super often, but I actually kinda enjoy doing it when it does (I even did a little mini-series just going through a few of the promos I got).

1.) Absolutely. As a musician myself, I'd much rather hear why someone thinks my work sucks as opposed to hearing half-assed lip service that tells me what I already know/want to hear (see: 90% of promo reviews for metalsucks and other big webzines). Even a mediocre or middling review can give lots of great feedback (or none at all depending on how you deliver it). Be blunt. Obviously I wouldn't just take some upstart local band's sloppy demo and shit on it with the same standards that I have for a new album by one of my favorite bands, context is important, but as long as you understand that I think you can be as negative as you feel is necessary to describe your thoughts when listening to the music.

2.) I got a physical CD sent to me by the label owner for my review once, (Grey Heaven Fall's Black Wisdom). It looks like the other m-a reviewers got a CD from him too. Not sure why he was willing to give away that many for free, but hey, I don't mind, free addition to my collection (and it's a pretty sweet album to boot). I only got that after I wrote the review, though; I wouldn't be a fan of a physical promo before the review because then you've gifted me something and there may be a pretense that I need to write a more positive review as a result of the gift. I do this for my own enjoyment and don't write for anyone else, so I'm not expecting any compensation; as long as I get a free download from somewhere (which is usually all they give you), I'm good. Digital art and booklet is a nice touch, but not a hard and fast requirement.

3.) I tend to avoid the ones that give me a spammy/promo zine vibe. I will probably give more attention to the request if I can tell it was written just for me; maybe that's just me needing to feed my ego, but hey, you wanna get in with me you gotta play my game. Sometimes I'd turn down a review just because I felt like I didn't have a lot of interesting things to say about it. I'm starting to branch out into my own local scene more recently, which means I know a lot of guys in bands, and I wouldn't want to review an album if I have a personal relationship with one of the artists because I'd just be way too biased. I already kinda did it with one local band (Saudade), but to be fair at the time I didn't know them super well and was still distant enough from the band I felt I could be objective.

...so basically just Twisted_Psychology's post, but with more words and self-congratulating behavior. sick.

PS: Worth noting that I only briefly dabbled in writing for a blog and a vast majority of my reviews are here and nowhere else, too. I actually remember the Aesthetics of Devastation guy specifically asking if I could post the review to metal-archives (I wrote for another blog at the time as well). I honestly think M-A reviews are a much more important part of the scene that we realize. I remember when I was at Maryland Deathfest waiting for a band to come on, and the guy in front of me was on his phone, reading all the album reviews of the band we were about to see. I've seen people reference it before buying albums at record stores. We are the tastemakers, fellas.
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gasmask_colostomy
Metalhead

Joined: Thu May 27, 2010 5:38 am
Posts: 624
Location: Behind the wall of fire
PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2019 12:38 am 
 

SweetLeaf95 wrote:
gasmask_colostomy wrote:
Out of curiosity, what album was that for?


I'll be damned, it was actually this :lol: https://www.metal-archives.com/albums/C ... age/774708

Tankist was another one from years ago. right around when they emailed me, like, four other reviewers published one too.

Lol he got you too. It was actually a pretty interesting release, but I guess me and Andrei already praised it quite highly, so you’re right for not going overboard. I’m much less likely to respond to a request if others have already reviewed it.

How do you feel about showing the review to the artist before posting? When I do that, I tend to send it without the score, because I’m not going to discuss that.

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Twisted_Psychology
Metal freak

Joined: Sat May 16, 2009 8:22 pm
Posts: 4693
Location: United States
PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2019 7:50 am 
 

I'll sometimes ask ahead if I need to clarify certain information, but I'd rather not show my full reviews in advance. I'll let them know that I wrote it and have a hint at my opinion if it's favorable, but I'd rather it be a surprise. They'll (hopefully) be getting traffic either way.
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SweetLeaf95
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2014 1:19 am
Posts: 774
Location: United States
PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2019 9:23 am 
 

gasmask_colostomy wrote:
How do you feel about showing the review to the artist before posting? When I do that, I tend to send it without the score, because I’m not going to discuss that.


I never do that, to be honest. My thoughts get published, then they see it. Out of the 300+ reviews I've written, I've made like 3 factual errors, and always fixed when caught.
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gasmask_colostomy
Metalhead

Joined: Thu May 27, 2010 5:38 am
Posts: 624
Location: Behind the wall of fire
PostPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2019 2:19 am 
 

Just published a mildly critical write-up for Zergoth without first showing it to the band, and their singer seemed delighted. He said the issues I pinpointed were in the back of their minds too, and he offered to mail CDs as well. Maybe some constructive criticism is more useful than frothing praise.

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Twisted_Psychology
Metal freak

Joined: Sat May 16, 2009 8:22 pm
Posts: 4693
Location: United States
PostPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2019 7:57 am 
 

Glad that they were receptive. From my experience, most bands worth their salt will have considered such criticism ahead of time or at least be open to the idea. On the musician end, I've definitely had the "you know, I never thought of that" moment when reading a review and it is really great for broadening your perspective.
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My solo acoustic project (Dark Folk/Blues): http://christophersteve.bandcamp.com/
Lavaborne (Heavy/Power/Doom): https://lavaborne.bandcamp.com

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