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gasmask_colostomy
Metalhead

Joined: Thu May 27, 2010 5:38 am
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Location: Behind the wall of fire
PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2019 9:15 am 
 

Here's the situation: reviews are sometimes a bit dry to write and to read, because they need to describe the music accurately and pick apart the album or song carefully in order to ensure the reader gets the point. Wordy ones tend to be boring: brief ones tend to lack spirit.

Here's the question: how do you feel about creative reviews that give up some of the generic points of a review in order to approach it in a different way, such as through a metaphor, a story, or a total tangent? Do you have any examples of where these other reviews have worked or not worked?

I don't want to turn this into a debate about MA's reviewing guidelines, so feel free to bring in experiences from outside this website too.

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Tanuki
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Joined: Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:36 pm
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:31 pm 
 

This is from a while back, but Empyreal's review of Dawn of Victory has always stuck with me. It's so well written, and framing it as though it were a thoughtful letter from a concerned friend is all kinds of genius.

So yeah, if it's done correctly, I'm all about it. Trouble is, putting every egg in the creativity basket does run the risk of not having enough musical description. I know I've read a few reviews that were really entertaining, but I had no idea how the music sounded. There was nothing to ground all of the jokes and anecdotes. This is probably more common with famous albums; their popularity engenders an eccentric writing style because there's less at stake.

On the other other hand, I just like reading jokes, even if they don't necessarily describe the music. I like to see writers enjoying what they do and letting themselves have some fun with it. Autothrall's one-liner in Pyracanda's Two Sides of a Coin (about the mechanical jawed girl possibly being the fiancee of Rage's Soundchaser mascot) still makes me grin anytime I think about it.

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Five_Nails
Metalhead

Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2007 1:34 pm
Posts: 531
PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2019 4:30 pm 
 

If anything, balance would be better than just throwing an angle out. Being playful works but there still need to be those points to hit in order to give direction to a review that steeps itself in style. Some reviewers can nail an album and, like Tanuki says, musical description can end up lacking. Some releases can inspire a bit of creativity with how they're presented but the standardization of reviewing can also be because of how standard so many albums are. Reviewing is a reaction, it's not the initial product, even though we as reviewers can see ourselves as making our own product at times. That's arrogance in the notion of reviewing and a pitfall that makes me love that South Park episode where Kyle's dad was a Yelper.

Not everyone reviews the same way and someone like UltraBoris is obviously not going to give the same perspective as a Hells_Unicorn but a release like Lamb of God's 'As the Palaces Burn' documentary (not the album) got me taking a different direction when I picked up reviewing again and those sorts of unusual or special moments in music listening can make reviewing easily stand out or morph to make the release more meaningful. Necrophagist, while I was working through its discography, had me trying to bring a little more personal perspective without getting too up my own ass describing what it was like to see that band live. I started that sort of thing with a Death Rattle review and talked about how I obtained the album and Diamhea told me I was getting too far away from the album itself. Though the Death Rattle review was accepted, I think that idea came out far better in the Necrophagist review later on and Diamhea's note helped me to work the personal into the perspective a bit better. Still that was for a standard album. For a DVD things seem to be better captured through a more narrative driven focus or from a more zealous perspective to hit the emotions that such a different sort of release drives. It's a show at the end of the day and that will inspire some more emotion than a stand alone album will.

A review can get creative and still hit at the generic, or really necessary at times, points needed to round it out but something that goes full-tilt tangent or all one way is always going to be too much.

That 'open letter' format that Tanuki brought up works well because of how it hits the necessary fandom moments while also balancing the analysis from its perspective. From this and many other reviews, it seems that reviews usually end up in a couple of major camps. Some try to personalize while others try to show objectivity and though writing about music is essentially a personal endeavor, there needs to be that backward step taken to try to see things from the critical perspective necessary to not gush or pan incessantly. How many times have you heard an album and changed your opinion after that third listen? It dries out reviews to over-listen, don't get me wrong, but it also takes away some of the honeymoon effect in order to really think out what you're writing about.

Also, dry humor comes across well in reviews. Puns or little hints that can hit a mark in two or three places at once can work. Still, the flow of a review is something that helps it read rather than dry out and just become a slog. I love how Hells_Unicorn flowed through this review for Soundgarden's 'Ultramega OK' (https://www.metal-archives.com/reviews/ ... corn/29518) because it's a way to keep the meat of it moist enough while also overflowing with informational and descriptive flavor.

I get that we're not all going to read the same way and it's difficult to write for an audience that gives you so little feedback. I've been far too dense in my sentences and know exactly why every time I get back to the book series I've been working through, but I enjoy my endless alliterations because it's a thing I've always seen as looking clean and concise. We're all doing this for fun, if we were with Rolling Stone we wouldn't be writing about any of these bands in the first place. Still, I'm proud of this alliteration at the end of a Runespell review back at the end of 2017: "Befitting of the album's title, this blood oath need not be honored as another average Australian aimlessly appreciates the already accomplished and aggravatingly avoids anything atypical." It flavors it enough for me and I know no one reads this shit anyway.

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gasmask_colostomy
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2019 10:49 am 
 

Hmm, seems you guys are more fans of creative touches rather than the whole review being creative. I've got to say that I think humour can really draw out a lot of readers to engage more with the review, though it can't be the whole purpose of writing either.

That examples Tanuki brought of Empyreal's letter is more like what I mean. There's also a "Choose your own adventure" review for a random metalcore album, but I've forgotten who did it. Those kind of things prove much more memorable for me personally.

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hells_unicorn
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2019 5:45 pm 
 

gasmask_colostomy wrote:
Hmm, seems you guys are more fans of creative touches rather than the whole review being creative. I've got to say that I think humour can really draw out a lot of readers to engage more with the review, though it can't be the whole purpose of writing either.

That examples Tanuki brought of Empyreal's letter is more like what I mean. There's also a "Choose your own adventure" review for a random metalcore album, but I've forgotten who did it. Those kind of things prove much more memorable for me personally.


There is a balance that I think needs to be struck between creativity and getting the point across that tends to prohibit me from getting overly creative with my overall reviewing format. Usually if I'm going to deviate away from my usual format (which happens more rarely now than it did years back), it's for a review that isn't being written for another site. More often than not I usually add in a random gimmick either at the beginning or the close of my review in order to spice it up a bit, but I rarely do anything that involves emulating the "choose your own adventure" novel approach or any other unconventional literary structure to make a review more memorable. For me it's more about promoting an album that I like, either new or old, and that involves keeping things compact and generally straightforward.
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Acrobat
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2019 11:48 am 
 

A review doesn't have to be 'useful' in a "buyers' guide" sense.
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BastardHead
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2019 6:03 pm 
 

The internet has pretty much made "buyer's guide" reviews completely obsolete since you can just listen to everything for free within seconds anyway, especially now in the age of streaming where you don't even really need to pirate anything unless it's woefully obscure or you don't want to shell out eight bucks for a Spotify account. So yeah, creative reviews are wonderful even if they are self indulgent almost by definition. Complete objectivity is impossible in a review anyway so if you completely avoid personal touches and try to just write completely dry, purely informative stuff you're almost invariably going to be really boring to read. Have fun, explore your voice, try a gimmick every once in a while. As long as it describes the music it's good enough to be posted here, and if it doesn't make the cut on this site just put it elsewhere, reviewing is supposed to be fun, not a chore.
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Subrick
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2019 6:20 pm 
 

Tanuki wrote:
This is from a while back, but Empyreal's review of Dawn of Victory has always stuck with me. It's so well written, and framing it as though it were a thoughtful letter from a concerned friend is all kinds of genius.


I actually did kind of the same thing for a review I did for Plagues of Babylon by Iced Earth years ago. Didn't know Empy did the "Letter to the band" thing first until now, actually.

https://www.metal-archives.com/reviews/ ... ick/237570

Reviews where the writer's personality shines through are my favorite reviews. If it's just "Describe the music", a review can get boring super fast. I try to keep that in mind whenever I write a review, infrequent as they may come. You've gotta be an actually good writer though in order to pull off something like that, otherwise you get stupid nonsense like any random TrooperEd review.
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gasmask_colostomy
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2019 3:19 am 
 

BastardHead wrote:
The internet has pretty much made "buyer's guide" reviews completely obsolete since you can just listen to everything for free within seconds anyway, especially now in the age of streaming where you don't even really need to pirate anything unless it's woefully obscure or you don't want to shell out eight bucks for a Spotify account. So yeah, creative reviews are wonderful even if they are self indulgent almost by definition. Complete objectivity is impossible in a review anyway so if you completely avoid personal touches and try to just write completely dry, purely informative stuff you're almost invariably going to be really boring to read. Have fun, explore your voice, try a gimmick every once in a while. As long as it describes the music it's good enough to be posted here, and if it doesn't make the cut on this site just put it elsewhere, reviewing is supposed to be fun, not a chore.

Yeah, that's a useful distinction. People definitely don't need to be told what albums they should and shouldn't buy. I would always read something subjective and exciting over something that aims for the masses. However, there are good reviews that try to be objective too.

My question is more about the gimmicks and other formats that could get used as reviews. Writing a letter seems sensible (we've had two pretty good examples posted), but there are a whole range of forms that could be used and might be rejected by MA: stream of consciousness feedback, extended metaphor, tangential fiction, minimalist analysis, Socratic dialogue. Hell, there are forms that MA couldn't even support, such as storyboard review, cartoon, video reaction.

Annoying as it is to put one of my own up for example, there's a Sleep review from a while back where I was trying out stuff like extended metaphor in a frame of fiction. Of course, it's miles off a "buyer's guide" review, but I'm asking whether those are still genuinely helpful to other users, rather than being read as an amusing tangent from the music in question. Kind of like, do they still serve the purpose of a review?

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caspian
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 7:38 am 
 

Nothing is shittier than someone claiming they do "objective" reviews. You could say it's shorthand for boring, but boring is a shorter word with less syllables so it's not even that.

Give me cool writing and an enjoyable mess over long, emotionless musical description.

It's kinda a masturbatory exercise doing a review anyway so you might as well have some wild and fun wanking instead of a perfunctory cum 'n' done yknow?
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droneriot
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:23 am 
 

All my reviews are objective. When I say it's shit then it's shit.
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Tanuki
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Joined: Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:36 pm
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2019 10:18 am 
 

caspian wrote:
It's kinda a masturbatory exercise doing a review anyway so you might as well have some wild and fun wanking instead of a perfunctory cum 'n' done yknow?

This guy gets it.

When I write, I always ask myself "Who will read this, and why should they bother?" Unless you write only for your own satisfaction, you have to give readers a valid reason to stick around. They're taking the time to read a long MA review, as opposed to shorter reviews elsewhere or just looking it up on YouTube. Treat them to something. Whether it's a few jokes, or what gasmask is alluding to in this thread, a radically different approach to writing, go for it. You want to write a review where you pretend to be a cartomancer, giving the band a tarot reading and predicting where they'll be in five years? You be you, bro.

Because let's be real; even if we had perfect command over the english language, no one can really describe the pleasantness or abhorrence of a melody. Eye of the beholder and such. Even if you could, I guarantee it'd be super boring with a lot of dumb words like sforzando. So the answer is, describe the music in eccentric ways, crack jokes, and have some fun.

That said, here's the legendary choose your own adventure review by Zodijackyl.

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gasmask_colostomy
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2019 4:04 am 
 

Tanuki wrote:
caspian wrote:
It's kinda a masturbatory exercise doing a review anyway so you might as well have some wild and fun wanking instead of a perfunctory cum 'n' done yknow?

This guy gets it.

Did you have to make that analogy? My keyboard feels sticky now. But nonetheless, how do I put this into my quote bar? :-P
Tanuki wrote:
Treat them to something. Whether it's a few jokes, or what gasmask is alluding to in this thread, a radically different approach to writing, go for it. You want to write a review where you pretend to be a cartomancer, giving the band a tarot reading and predicting where they'll be in five years? You be you, bro.

So it's masturbatory but I've gotta "treat them to something"? :roll: This is getting a bit too serious about the romance.

But the cartomancy - that's neat. For some proper occult band, some day, you'll see this.
Tanuki wrote:

Thank you! Been craving for this again.

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Tanuki
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2019 6:53 pm 
 

gasmask_colostomy wrote:
Tanuki wrote:
caspian wrote:
It's kinda a masturbatory exercise doing a review anyway so you might as well have some wild and fun wanking instead of a perfunctory cum 'n' done yknow?

This guy gets it.

Did you have to make that analogy? My keyboard feels sticky now. But nonetheless, how do I put this into my quote bar? :-P
Tanuki wrote:
Treat them to something. Whether it's a few jokes, or what gasmask is alluding to in this thread, a radically different approach to writing, go for it. You want to write a review where you pretend to be a cartomancer, giving the band a tarot reading and predicting where they'll be in five years? You be you, bro.

So it's masturbatory but I've gotta "treat them to something"? :roll: This is getting a bit too serious about the romance.

Pah hah hah :lol: Hoo boy, is it getting hot in here or what?

Your Sleep review you mentioned earlier totally passed me by. I have to say, coming from someone who'd usually have no interest in stoner/doom, that review absolutely makes me want to go check it out. The extended metaphor is woven in really nicely, ending paragraph in particular, and it's just an appeal to a reader's imagination that I really appreciate. And whaddya know, it made me really curious to experiment with something I wouldn't ordinarily like.

(Man, there's something about this thread, I swear.)

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Liquid_Braino
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2019 7:55 pm 
 

Tanuki wrote:
caspian wrote:
It's kinda a masturbatory exercise doing a review anyway so you might as well have some wild and fun wanking instead of a perfunctory cum 'n' done yknow?

This guy gets it.

When I write, I always ask myself "Who will read this, and why should they bother?" Unless you write only for your own satisfaction, you have to give readers a valid reason to stick around. They're taking the time to read a long MA review, as opposed to shorter reviews elsewhere or just looking it up on YouTube. Treat them to something. Whether it's a few jokes, or what gasmask is alluding to in this thread, a radically different approach to writing, go for it. You want to write a review where you pretend to be a cartomancer, giving the band a tarot reading and predicting where they'll be in five years? You be you, bro.

Because let's be real; even if we had perfect command over the english language, no one can really describe the pleasantness or abhorrence of a melody. Eye of the beholder and such. Even if you could, I guarantee it'd be super boring with a lot of dumb words like sforzando. So the answer is, describe the music in eccentric ways, crack jokes, and have some fun.

That said, here's the legendary choose your own adventure review by Zodijackyl.


I agree with this completely, but always be aware that as far as full-blown novelty reviews are concerned, they can wind up being more fun to write at the time than to read later on.

My biggest inspiration to write was a guy known as Kozo, who wrote Hong Kong film reviews for a site called Love HK Film.com (now on indefinite hiatus). Back in the early 00's, his reviews were often more entertaining than the films he reviewed, and damn was he hilarious. He was also thorough and extremely knowledgeable, so even if I disagreed with his opinions at times, I could tell early on that not only was he a funny guy, but an absolute authority on the scene. I'll never be as good as him, but it gave me the notion that it's better for a hobby writer like me to go for it and throw in some fucked-up stuff even if some of it falls flat. Otherwise, why should I bother...I could spend more free time listening to more music or study foreign languages instead.

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gasmask_colostomy
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 21, 2019 1:00 am 
 

Tanuki wrote:
Your Sleep review you mentioned earlier totally passed me by. I have to say, coming from someone who'd usually have no interest in stoner/doom, that review absolutely makes me want to go check it out. The extended metaphor is woven in really nicely, ending paragraph in particular, and it's just an appeal to a reader's imagination that I really appreciate. And whaddya know, it made me really curious to experiment with something I wouldn't ordinarily like.

(Man, there's something about this thread, I swear.)

I'm glad if it gives that kind of slant to the music, because there are definitely some albums that are better experienced than dissected as some reviews prefer. Given that everyone else talked about smoking dope with Sleep, then tried to analyse the music, I thought it would be better to merge something trippy into the actual review. There's one for Cathedral's The Ethereal Mirror that I did about the same time, which was from the perspective of one of the characters on the album cover. Certain types of music demand it, and I think stoner/doom is one such.

That kind of role playing really puts me in the mood. To understand that kind of music, I mean.

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UltraBoris
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 22, 2019 3:06 am 
 

> Not everyone reviews the same way and someone like UltraBoris is obviously not going to give the same perspective as a Hells_Unicorn

who the fuck is UltraBoris?
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CHAIRTHROWER
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PostPosted: Tue May 28, 2019 5:44 pm 
 

Considering the last post was about a month ago, I feel sort of random, albeit relevant, here so may I as well toss my five cents in.

I admire reviewers like Hell's Unicorn, Gunther the Undying, The Storm I Ride and Twisted Psychology for steadily eschewing the ole (self-indulgent) "I" pronoun, something I find very hard to do, as well as their ability to provide a contextual analysis and overall description as the album as a whole, often before even mentioning any one (or more) song(s) in particular...then you've the jocular tricksters such as Gutterscream - he's in a class of his own mind! - Gasmask_Colostomy (who cordially fits in the first category as well), Tanuki and Trooper_Ed, and, of course, yours truly/ruefully (why do I love that word so much?! Well, I feel rueful just employing it I guess!), who, yeah, goes overboard at times, much to some's consternation, as with my Duel_Witchbanger, or Primitai reviews.

A balance is important, all told, I feel the review should come from the gut, with a reasonably lobbed shoehorn(ing in) here and there, but I agree those can be a two-edged sword, if not groan-worthy when abused. Metantoine mentioned to me once how sly, personal anecdotes relating to the album add color and depth to the writing, so I guess what I'm trying to say is, the review should be, as far I'm concerned, a melange of what said release actually sounds like musically with how it makes you feel, from a fan's standpoint.

Then again, I don't think any of the above-mentioned should change their styles one wit, as they respectively hit the bulls-eye most, if not all, of the time.
I do feel though, an album should be listened to at least three-four times minimum before a concerted analysis is given, as autothrall once pointed out.
Stream of consciousness reviews work for stuff like Buckethead or Sloth, but at the end of the day and night, one needs to fully imbibe said material in order for
the review to "write itself", or something along similar philosophically yawped lines.

Virgin review challenges can be tricky, as rushed, or crammed write-ups sometimes eschew the possibility of fully nailing the piece's scope, and although I was only one (1) away from tying my Diamhea (RIP) VRC challenge record of 16 last week (two from breaking it with 17), felt it was better I hold back and not force feed them in simply for numbers' sake.

Does that make sense to y'all?

Oh, and also, there's nothing wrong in my book with super long-ass sentences or crazy, mondo-big words so long as the punctuation, flow, legibility and relevance are respected!

For myself, I loath repeating words in a single write-up, like I just did with "relevant" - the room's encroached upon (baby) elephunt! [smiley, cross-eyed emojj here!]

P.S. (a big one!):

I've been considering creating an Allen Ginsberg type "ode" in regards to writing up Sab's Paranoid...(the album and titular track of which, upon hearing at the age of six or seven, planted the subconscious metal-digging seed set to bloom in later years). Something which goes a bit like his funky, and oh-so-arcane twist towards element 94 of the periodic table:

https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/plutonian-ode/

Should I, or would that be a tad bromidic and trite, if not pompous with a capital "P"?! (Or worse, way too much of a personal challenge?)

I'm eager for feedback...duly!

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gasmask_colostomy
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PostPosted: Wed May 29, 2019 12:53 am 
 

CHAIRTHROWER wrote:
Considering the last post was about a month ago, I feel sort of random, albeit relevant, here so may I as well toss my five cents in.

That was a cool summary actually, and a new point about writers who use the first person and ones who disappear behind their own words. I enjoy writing more with personal input but understand that some of it comes off as tangential, which is why most of the reviews submitted to other websites/magazines (and cross-posted here) omit 'I'. If someone does the first-person thing well, I'll usually feel more drawn to their words than a drier but more balanced write-up.

CHAIRTHROWER wrote:
P.S. (a big one!):

I've been considering creating an Allen Ginsberg type "ode" in regards to writing up Sab's Paranoid...(the album and titular track of which, upon hearing at the age of six or seven, planted the subconscious metal-digging seed set to bloom in later years). Something which goes a bit like his funky, and oh-so-arcane twist towards element 94 of the periodic table:

I'm eager for feedback...duly!

Is this going to span the whole review? I think it would work as an ode, but you'd also have to get the criticisms in there somewhere, because you can't just write a "kidding" Sabbath review and expect everyone to be chill. Ginsberg's style is actually open enough to put most of what you need in, since he doesn't restrict himself topically or lexically. I'd say you should take a risk, but edit before you publish.

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CHAIRTHROWER
Methed-burnt rogue babelfish

Joined: Sun Dec 20, 2015 7:10 pm
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PostPosted: Wed May 29, 2019 9:14 am 
 

Thrilled about the quick, snazzy reply!

Well, a compromise could be reached where "I" is employed as a door-opener for the 1st, intro paragraph (and perhaps, cursorily in the final, concluding one), with strict musical elaboration in between?

In regards to said Paranoid-ian ode, yeah, good advice, the self-editing goes without saying, and of course, I'd have to find fault with the album somewhere...any suggestions?!
Oh, and, yes, it'd have to span the whole review, for more of a jarring, free-wheeling impact!

(Right now, this early, I'm hard pressed to ferret any out...aside for perhaps "Rodent Nicoise"! Haha...)

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gasmask_colostomy
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PostPosted: Wed May 29, 2019 9:58 am 
 

CHAIRTHROWER wrote:
In regards to said Paranoid-ian ode, yeah, good advice, the self-editing goes without saying, and of course, I'd have to find fault with the album somewhere...any suggestions?!
Oh, and, yes, it'd have to span the whole review, for more of a jarring, free-wheeling impact!

(Right now, this early, I'm hard pressed to ferret any out...aside for perhaps "Rodent Nicoise"! Haha...)

Well I didn’t mean criticize it exactly, but critique it for sure. Odes obviously work better for stuff you’re really into, but I know some people aren’t keen on ‘Planet Caravan’ or ‘Electric Funeral’. I myself find ‘War Pigs’ a bit bare and empty, though I suppose that’s also what makes it striking. You could give it 100% if you wanted, but you’d still have to do some analysis during the ode.

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CHAIRTHROWER
Methed-burnt rogue babelfish

Joined: Sun Dec 20, 2015 7:10 pm
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PostPosted: Wed May 29, 2019 11:10 am 
 

You mention how "odes work better for stuff you're really into", which begs the eyebrow(s) raising query, are there actually ode-styled write-ups on this here "sagacious" (let's hope Bastardhead's not lurking about) site - if so, I'd love to glean 'em, you know, get a feel for it and all...

War Pigs, to my ears, is a (n early) 70s blues rock classic (alongside stuff by Led Zep, Hendrix or Cream) so I see the point you made there in its jingoistic regards, and as for Planet Caravan, feel it imbues a leisurely, languid (and placid) balance to an otherwise rough n' ready release. (I mean, if P to the A covered it, it has to metal somewhere in its lyrical morose-ness and colorful, far-flung flavor, yes?). Personally, I think Electric Funeral is a freaking gem, and possibly my fav track of the album - the jolting as F midpoint duly gets the not-so-vestal claret pumpin'! - alongside "Paranoid" proper and "Les Fees Portent Des Bottes"!

If anything, such an ode to an all-time trailblazing classic is a potential summer project to work on at some time - for now, anyhow, Amulet, and Duel, beckon!

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ThePaleKing
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PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2019 2:37 am 
 

Nice thread, guys. You're really keen on getting into the reasons why a more creative review might/might not work. You'll see I'm new MA, so please don't read this post as insincere or antagonistic, I just tend to go real deep real quick in most of my conversations. That's why this really stood out:

Quote:
Because let's be real; even if we had perfect command over the english language, no one can really describe the pleasantness or abhorrence of a melody. Eye of the beholder and such. Even if you could, I guarantee it'd be super boring with a lot of dumb words like sforzando. So the answer is, describe the music in eccentric ways, crack jokes, and have some fun.


I'm gonna take Tanuki's challenge and risk being super boring by throwing two words out at you - philosophy and aesthetics. The philosophical arguments for why music is so effective and affecting is because it expresses something, some kind of emotion, eg: sadness or anger. This is what it's best at. Writing on the other hand is about representation, it is supposed to have some kind of descriptive power and show up some aspect of reality. This is why writing about music fucking sucks. You have to represent something that is often purely expressive and try to do justice to that expression. You really can describe the pleasantness or abhorrence of a melody but you can't get close to how that melody brings those feelings about in your ears, your brain, your body.

Creative reviews have to be useful, but they've become useful for different things in different ways. No record companies are paying smaller blogs to do reviews, like in the olden days when money and promotion and publicity ruled the seas. So reviews aren't useful for selling albums. No artists are really that interested in reading criticism of their work, unless they believe their music can be made better by that criticism. So reviews aren't useful for people who make music. No reviewers are out there describing the technical aspects of the music, using words like sforzando, because metal comes from rock and rock comes from drugs and fucking and when you're into drugs and fucking (or headbanging or stage-diving or being helped up out of a pool of your own blood at the bottom of the pit) you don't want to hear about paradiddles or counterpoint or any of that shit. So reviews aren't useful for teaching you anything about music.

If a review can't properly represent what the music it is describing is expressive of, and if a review can't sell a record, help an artist, or teach you anything about music, then why write a review at all? The answer has to be entertainment, surely. For the writer and for the reader. Of course, sometimes someone trying to entertain sucks. Sometimes trying to entertain yourself really, really fucking sucks. But, if you're having a really good time entertaining yourself by writing a review that's a great story or has some new style and says something about the music, you have to say that its a successful review. The choose your own adventure review is a great one: it's totally self-indulgent, intriguing, talks about the music and is really useful because of its huge entertainment value.

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gasmask_colostomy
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PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2019 10:36 am 
 

CHAIRTHROWER wrote:
"sagacious" (let's hope Bastardhead's not lurking about)

War Pigs, to my ears, is a (n early) 70s blues rock classic (alongside stuff by Led Zep, Hendrix or Cream) so I see the point you made there in its jingoistic regards...
Personally, I think Electric Funeral is a freaking gem, and possibly my fav track of the album...

If anything, such an ode to an all-time trailblazing classic is a potential summer project to work on at some time...

I bet he's already seen it!

I didn't mean it's hollow lyrically (never really got the "jingoistic" side, in any case), but that a lot of the music space is a vacuum, which irritates me personally. I like my music to be dense and encompassing and that's a particular song where instruments keep dropping out. It sounds iconic, I suppose, but also it's not my thing. 'Electric Funeral', however, is just the opposite, and it's my absolute darling of Paranoid, being the doomiest, the coolest, and one of Ozzy's better vocals.

You'll want to lovingly labour over it for a while, I think. You might be able to listen to a song at a time and write up some ode-ish thoughts on each, then do a prologue and an epilogue. Finally, choose some choice bits from each part to make it a proper review and publish the full works as a book if there's high demand!

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CHAIRTHROWER
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PostPosted: Thu May 30, 2019 12:03 pm 
 

Firstly, jolly good show, ThePaleKing, as your explanation duly resonated with me, and pretty much sums why myself, personally, dig writing reviews, or about music in general.
It's about having a great time, whether in writing your own or reading someone else. I think it's Stephen King, he of the long-winded and oft-times-way-too-descriptive and tangential horror yarns (the odd time, yawns) who stated people write to please themselves first and foremost; in doing so, the reader will pick up on that vibe and feel a sort of contented (or rueful, or sardonic) kin ship with what they've just read.

Also, I forget who, but a real sag-, I mean sapient observer once noted that writing about music is akin to dancing to architecture, or something also similarly arcane and/or bromidic lines...

Looking forward to gleaning more of your input, as well as write-ups and general feedback, for this knicker-boxing site.

gas, I s'pose by "jingoistic", I meant Ozzy waxes frown-fully on said war mongering war lords...

Thank you for the Paranoid ode input and I shall surely give it a shot one day; when, I can't say for sure, but I wholly consider the potentiality of it now!

(yeah, "Electric Funeral" is one for (c)ages!)

Chairs, freres!

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gasmask_colostomy
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PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2019 12:57 am 
 

Quote:
If a review can't properly represent what the music it is describing is expressive of, and if a review can't sell a record, help an artist, or teach you anything about music, then why write a review at all? The answer has to be entertainment, surely. For the writer and for the reader. Of course, sometimes someone trying to entertain sucks. Sometimes trying to entertain yourself really, really fucking sucks. But, if you're having a really good time entertaining yourself by writing a review that's a great story or has some new style and says something about the music, you have to say that its a successful review. The choose your own adventure review is a great one: it's totally self-indulgent, intriguing, talks about the music and is really useful because of its huge entertainment value.

First of all, I totally missed your post and only saw it when Chair commented on it. Sorry about that.

You make a good point about what Tanuki said: the medium of music is not a great match for the medium of writing. As such, everything we’re doing on this site is a kind of ekphrasis (art that’s about other art). That’s why writing a review in wooden, passionless terms tends to inspire no interest in the music it describes.

However, I think that’s the point of the creative reviews we’re discussing. If the music makes you feel giddy and free, why not write a choose your own adventure review? That’s how the listener feels and it’s more or less how the reader of the review feels too. That mirroring can be very useful for summing up the expression of the music: you can’t literally read what the music feels like (because that’s often complex and neutered by over-technicality), but you can feel what the music feels like.

As a balance, reviews need to inform and tell as well as create experiences, partly because that’s the established format - to analyze the music - and partly because we would all write a lot more sucky, contentious reviews if we were trying to express feelings each time. The two extremes - completely representational and completely expressionistic - shouldn’t be touched in a review, though different kinds of music (meaning songs, albums, styles) demand different techniques.

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ThePaleKing
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PostPosted: Fri May 31, 2019 2:54 am 
 

Hey, no need to apologise gasmask. Thanks for the friendly response and thanks for reminding everyone of the point of ekphrasis - it's a really important one to keep in your mind for any kind of review/comment about art/music.

I wonder if this creativity is something new that we're seeing. Obviously, the internet doesn't have as many editors - you can just start up a blog and post whatever was inspiring you that day. I guess the MA guys have taken that on board and allow for the creative reviews that are sent in, as well as some of the functional/uninspired/wooden ones.

I also wonder if there should be a few more limits like back in the olden days. You could still write something decent and readable if you're sticking to, say, a strict three part review of Bio, Instruments/Sounds, Judgment on Execution of Project. It can be pretty easy to fuck up a review and bore the shit out whoever is reading by just not being very good at listening to/writing on/knowing what the fuck you're talking about. And it can be pretty easy to tell when someone doesn't have what it takes to do that.

Can we say more about this though??? :

Quote:
you can’t literally read what the music feels like (because that’s often complex and neutered by over-technicality), but you can feel what the music feels like.


I think you could write something that is interesting and describes the technical aspects. The example of the flatted fifth is a good one - a lot of people understand it and know why it works for creating tension and dread. You could write about these technical aspects to help strengthen your case and I think we do it a lot without necessarily giving the technical term. Think of how interesting it'd be for the reader (not to mention how much smarter you'd look) if you wrote "I loved the part of the song where it changed from this to this" and could actually explain what was going on in that change. But, like I said, metal comes from rock comes from drugs and fucking. . .

Also, I don't quite get what you mean about feeling the music through the words. If you mean feel as in "gives a sense" of the music, then yeah, I'm on board with that. But I don't feel actual grief or actual sadness when I hear music that is aimed at that those emotions. Or maybe I do. I don't know. It's a bit of conundrum. Maybe we can work it all out on this forum and break new ground - ha! I'm not confused when I say that I don't know - I think it's a genuinely puzzling situation that no one has a good answer for.

And maybe that's where some creativity could come in and actually be useful. You could write a tangential review about how you were listening to some Depressive Black Metal and it actually sent you spiraling down and writing about it the experience of listening to that album actually helped you. Or maybe you just have to write a creative review because you're angry and sick and tired of someone's long response to an album that says pretty much nothing. You've got to write the band a letter or something. . . anything! I think we should take your advice gasmask, and see what happens when we post something that looks like

Quote:
stream of consciousness feedback, extended metaphor, tangential fiction, minimalist analysis, Socratic dialogue.


I'll practice with a minimalist analysis: "This record was shit. One star." Hey, that felt pretty good. Out of interest, how short are some of the shortest MA reviews? And do they say enough about the record in their short space to warrant being a review?

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Cat III
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2019 4:05 am 
 

Roger Ebert was really good at this. His review of Milk Money was written as a dialogue between two executives pitching the movie. Wet Hot American Summer got turned into a parody of an Allan Sherman song. Hudsucker Proxy prompted a debate between a devil and angel on his shoulders, while he savaged A Cinderella Story in the form of a letter to a fourteen-year-old who swore off the opinions of critics. I also remember one of the reviewers for EGM magazine wrote a review for some military game in character as a drill sergeant. It was possibly the only review justified to be written in all caps.

Such reviews are entertaining while still working as reviews, but they're occasional excursions. It's hard to imagine someone writing this way all, or even most, of the time and doing it well. It's also not something to force. Unless you're really talented or struck with a bout of inspiration, it's best to stick to plain Jane reviews. Then again, it wouldn't hurt to try writing an unorthodox review on occasion, even if you don't publish it.
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gasmask_colostomy
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:02 am 
 

ThePaleKing wrote:
You could still write something decent and readable if you're sticking to, say, a strict three part review of Bio, Instruments/Sounds, Judgment on Execution of Project.

Yeah, that's what I'd call the ground rules for a review, the "core content". I'd quibble you on stuff like including bio (let's call it "context" maybe) and definitely avoid mechanically listing individual instruments, but the review needs these concrete elements to be an understandable review to other people. The key is getting this humdrum stuff into a creative review, without compromising either the very nature of a review or the additional worth of the creative elements. Hence why the minimalist review you wrote below wouldn't work at all. I think that's reductive, not minimalist.

ThePaleKing wrote:
gasmask_colostomy wrote:
you can’t literally read what the music feels like (because that’s often complex and neutered by over-technicality), but you can feel what the music feels like.


The example of the flatted fifth is a good one - a lot of people understand it and know why it works for creating tension and dread. You could write about these technical aspects to help strengthen your case and I think we do it a lot without necessarily giving the technical term.

Also, I don't quite get what you mean about feeling the music through the words. If you mean feel as in "gives a sense" of the music, then yeah, I'm on board with that. But I don't feel actual grief or actual sadness when I hear music that is aimed at that those emotions. Or maybe I do. I don't know.

Yes, I meant that it "gives a sense" of the music. This is why music is more difficult to write about than the movie reviews Cat posted above, since they mainly describe the plot of the movie, which you can readily imagine, and then suggest whether it's good or bad, because you can't anticipate the performance from the description. With music, the performance quite often affects the content to make it good or bad and the "whatness" of the music isn't quite as important as its "howness". Judging only "whatness" results in statements like, "This is nu metal, so it's bad," whereas "howness" would be something like, "The riffing lacks momentum because the drums sound like they're kicking the guitarist in the nuts."

Sometimes, the technical turn gives you the ability to say why something works without speaking too abstractly, but I find it often just formalizes the analysis of the music and doesn't aid a depthier analysis. Again, too much "whatness" and not enough "howness".

ThePaleKing wrote:
I'll practice with a minimalist analysis: "This record was shit. One star." Hey, that felt pretty good. Out of interest, how short are some of the shortest MA reviews? And do they say enough about the record in their short space to warrant being a review?

Because of the MA review standards, you won't find many shorter than these, even if they both are for singles (second one is mine because I couldn't find more):
https://www.metal-archives.com/reviews/Lethal_Sh%C3%B6ck/Mean_Machine/577464/televiper11/212296
https://www.metal-archives.com/reviews/Chainbreaker/Enslave_Your_Masters/592733/gasmask_colostomy/210275

When I say minimalist, I mean it in the way that these two do things. Not cut out that "core content" mentioned above, just cut down on everything else. To some extent, deconstructing the sentences and opting for broad-ranging descriptors. For instance, if I was made to rewrite the Chainbreaker review as a truly minimalist exercise, I'd go for:

Dirty dose of street speed. Will fuck you up for five minutes; will end with blackened puke in your mouth. Might want more. Might crave Motorhead instead.

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CHAIRTHROWER
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 01, 2019 11:03 pm 
 

That Lethal Shock one has to be shortest I've seen here, although Metantoine, he of the killer, wise-end doom reviews, may have topped it, I'm not sure, as far as low-werd content is concerned...

Haha...Jizz soaked mud pie...leisurely round of cum cookie, any one?

Off-putting and overly suggestive ribaldry aside, I was thinking of a brand new MA reviewers statistic which annotates what % of all of one's writings are for "virgin" albums...(I think my own ration would be pretty plump)...what do say, O gas-masked, as well as regally Pale, ones?

(Not to toot my own blow tickler, but I outdid myself with that Spiker review...talk about a zoological menagerie of beasts, mythical and/or otherwise!)

Chairs, confreres! (as I rock the frigg out to Duel's utterly out-of-sight - as well as finaglin', knockabout contender for album of the year - Valleys of (small, wizened) Shadows...)

p.s. What, pray tell, do we necessarily mean, or espouse (louse!), whence hemming and (Lord) Haw-Hawing about so-called "create your own adventure" 'views? What would you qualify as mine own, vapidly seeking mind-reelers? Just that? Haha...

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gasmask_colostomy
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 11:10 pm 
 

CHAIRTHROWER wrote:
I was thinking of a brand new MA reviewers statistic which annotates what % of all of one's writings are for "virgin" albums...(I think my own ration would be pretty plump)...what do say, O gas-masked, as well as regally Pale, ones?

p.s. What, pray tell, do we necessarily mean, or espouse (louse!), whence hemming and (Lord) Haw-Hawing about so-called "create your own adventure" 'views? What would you qualify as mine own, vapidly seeking mind-reelers? Just that? Haha...

That would be an interesting statistic to view, although also a bit awkward to maintain, since the album might be a virgin when you review it, but someone else might come along and review it after. Which ones would you include - only the "single review" albums or also ones that have now been reviewed twice or more?

This is the famed Choose Your Own Adventure review

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CHAIRTHROWER
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2019 11:39 am 
 

Ah, good point, sag(e) one!

It could be a duel, I mean, dual-pronged stat, with amenable fluctuations...something of the sort, maybe?

I think it'd be cool, all told.

As for the ole (cryptic) CYOA review, I can't say I've gone beyond the wry multiple choice (sardonic) query, normally in A), B), C), etc. format. Eh!

(just currently wigging out, like a good, obedient soldier, to Quartz's shockingly chill as well as hot rockin' Fear No Evil comeback (Grim Reaper reigned in its scythe upon gleeful listen).)

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Petrus_Steele
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2019 11:09 pm 
 

Since I've been lacking quite often in my reviews by becoming more subjective and using the same words over and over, originality is important.

First and foremost, stay objective to the review. It's not bad if you add some of your own personal taste, but I'd say stay objective to the review in terms of the music and product. That being said, the wording. Try not to use the same words often.

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gasmask_colostomy
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 29, 2019 12:02 am 
 

Petrus_Steele wrote:
Since I've been lacking quite often in my reviews by becoming more subjective and using the same words over and over, originality is important.

First and foremost, stay objective to the review. It's not bad if you add some of your own personal taste, but I'd say stay objective to the review in terms of the music and product. That being said, the wording. Try not to use the same words often.

Some of us talked about this in a previous review challenge. When you're writing a lot of reviews in a short period of time, repetitive writing and word choice really becomes obvious to the writer. To get out of that mindset, it's best to shake up the order of everything in the review, including the overall structure, order of points (background, music, songs), and even your sentences. It might get you thinking differently without changing your objectivity and other stuff.

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RapeTheDead
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 12:35 pm 
 

Most of the time the creative reviews work okay here, or at least we never see the ones that don't. The moderators know what constitutes adequate musical description and basically the challenge of writing a longform or unusual review is being able to write a coherent piece that is still ostensibly describing the quality of the album.

I did it a couple of times back in the day - my Bongripper review is probably the most egregious example. To be honest, I wasn't really writing it with the intention of someone else reading and enjoying it, I mostly just wanted to do it to challenge myself and try something different.

Agree with BH in that using reviews as a "buyer's guide" is useless at this point. Most of the time, the only reviews that interest me are the unorthodox ones or the ones that give me some detail about the album or band that I wasn't previously familiar with. An example is this review, which isn't creative or unusual in the way I think this thread is getting at, but nonetheless gives a unique context and depth to the album. It links to a youtube video and sure enough, I went and checked the video out and it enhanced the experience of Condemned for me overall. His unique experiences with the album and how he got into it were what made me want to read further.

Basically, the point I'm trying to make is this: if you're going to review an album, review it as if I've already heard the album. That should make it creative and engaging enough on its own, because 90% of the time people are just giving me the information I would look up if I had never heard a band before. Any extra creativity or weird approaches you wanna use are just gravy after that.
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gasmask_colostomy
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 7:33 pm 
 

RapeTheDead wrote:
Basically, the point I'm trying to make is this: if you're going to review an album, review it as if I've already heard the album. That should make it creative and engaging enough on its own, because 90% of the time people are just giving me the information I would look up if I had never heard a band before. Any extra creativity or weird approaches you wanna use are just gravy after that.

I can get behind this statement. Most, if not all, of the reviews I choose to read are of bands I’m familiar with or albums I’ve heard before. Usually I’m looking for insight beyond mere surface features and technical descriptions. The review that you linked to isn’t a classic example of an excellent review, but it has an appeal and a method in getting the listener to feel what it’s like to listen to Confessor for the first time. That’s a big point in its favour.

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RapeTheDead
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 3:51 pm 
 

gasmask_colostomy wrote:
I can get behind this statement. Most, if not all, of the reviews I choose to read are of bands I’m familiar with or albums I’ve heard before. Usually I’m looking for insight beyond mere surface features and technical descriptions. The review that you linked to isn’t a classic example of an excellent review, but it has an appeal and a method in getting the listener to feel what it’s like to listen to Confessor for the first time. That’s a big point in its favour.


Yeah it's not the first thing that people think of when "outstanding review" is mentioned, but I use it because it's a perfect example of how a review should work. The insight and the way he compares his experiences years after the fact to the first time he heard it really highlight the uniqueness of the album, as well as its good qualities. Even if I didn't like Confessor, reading that review would make me give the album another shot.

As long as a review gives me that feeling, doesn't matter if they get there with 10 words or 1000, with purely musical description or not, creative approach or boring approach. Basically "know the audience for your work and write to it" - in this case, that would be internet metal nerds. A tad more important than creativity in itself, I think.
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