Category Archives: Stuff

Looking For Some Exposure?

If you’re a struggling metal band looking for some exposure, what better place to get it than at a sham wedding?

Source

The Quality Of The Source Material

Care for it or not, sound quality can make a noticeable difference when it comes to listening to your favourite bands—OK, Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger might be an exception, pretty sure you could listen to that over a train station tannoy & you wouldn’t notice any difference from listening to it with a pair of good headphones. An easy way to see this for yourself is to grab a CD of classical music, and rip it to your computer twice; the first rip should be in a lossless format (try FLAC), the second should be in MP3 at 128kbps. Now try comparing the two with some decent headphones (iPod headphones do not a good headphone make—incidentally, neither do Beats); you should notice that in the MP3 version the song will sound flatter, and you might even hear crackling.

Why? Well, without getting into too much technical detail, FLAC is a ‘lossless’ format of encoding music, whilst MP3 is a ‘lossy’ format; that is, MP3 encoding cuts out a lot of audio data from the source (bits it doesn’t think you’ll really notice in the first place), which also explains why there is a huge size difference between the two files. As FLAC doesn’t cut out any audio information, the FLAC file should take up significantly more space on your hard-drive than the MP3. Audiophiles will tend to favour lossless formats because it gives you CD-quality, unlike MP3 which can only give you a good approximation at best. Personally I compromise at MP3 files ripped at 320kbps, for a stereo setup you’re unlikely to notice any difference (and, contrary to what audiophiles will tell you, double blind tests tend to agree). If you’re interested in finding out a bit more about audio formats and some of the science behind it, you might find the following two articles interesting: HERE and HERE

Listening to a rip which is of obviously degraded quality undermines the experience of listening to music. This is, of course, something of a personal preference. I’m something of a stickler for quality where I can afford to be and it’s not something that’s confined to music. Watching DVDs now borders on unwatchable, because watching films on blu-ray has made watching movies in anything less than HD-quality reminds me of streaming movie trailers back in the dial-up days when sites insisted on using the low-quality QuickTime format. I realise not everyone is like that, but it’s worth noting that the people who are sticklers for media quality tend also to be the ones writing reviews and critiques of that media (at least in my experience).

With that in mind, I find it curious that PR companies send album samplers in low quality rips (i.e. 128/160/192 MP3). When reading a review of an album, it’s not uncommon to read commentary on the production of the album; if you’re listening in stereo, does it sound like all the individual sounds of the instruments are smushed together—as if they’re all competing to come out the same speaker—or does it sound like, for example, the lead guitar is slightly to the left of you, the drums are all around you, and the singer is directly in front of you? Different production techniques can make the same song sound very different; if you can, try comparing the original release of Nine Inch Nail’s Pretty Hate Machine to the 2010 re-mastered version, or the original As The Palaces Burn by Lamb of God, to the recently re-mastered 10th anniversary version. Presumably if you work in PR, you want the person reviewing your band to hear them at their best, to show off just how great the record sounds. So what does it achieve by sending out something less than great to people who are the most likely to find faults? Especially considering that bad reviews can (I realise it’s not set in stone) hamper sales, and it also means that the band receives less attention from the press in the long run. Poor quality audio has the chance to negatively affect a review or misinform both the critic and the reader/potential buyer (is the bass lacking here because the file’s not great, or is it because the production is just bad?), & I don’t see any gain from consciously deciding to do it.

The only reason I can really think of is to discourage piracy. Ignoring the entire debate on whether piracy is or isn’t good for the industry, it skirts the fact that the songs are typically watermarked, which means that any PR material that then gets leaked can be traced back to the person who first got hold of it (thus catching the person responsible and striking him or her off Santa’s nice list). Nor is it the case that people simply don’t upload lower quality rip albums; they get uploaded all the time.

I don’t think it’s an issue of space, and keeping costs low, either; some of the lowest quality ones have been from bigger record labels.

On a personal note, I tend to simply delete material that is on the lower end of the MP3 rip quality once I’ve listened to it once or twice for the purposes of writing something about it. I can’t imagine I’m the only person that does this, either. Why does this matter? Well, if it’s deleted there’s very little chance I, or another music writer, will come back to that album later on. Be it to write about ‘that album I came across weeks/months/years ago, and it’s still excellent, here’s why!’, or to simply keep the band in the mind of people who get inundated with new music nearly every day of the year (whether it’s sent, recommended by others, or simply stumbled upon). There are many albums released each month, it’s very difficult to keep track of them all, and half the time you barely have chance to listen to stuff you’d just like to listen to but don’t have the time to (I can’t listen to X now, I’ve got an article to write about the new Y, and a review for Z I should be getting on with).

This shouldn’t be interpreted as a rant, overt criticism, nor a ‘Y U NO SEND ME LIMITED EDITION CD’S YOU CHEAP BASTARDS?!’ attack (though I am totally open to bribes, wink wink nudge nudge); I’m merely wondering aloud over an issue that doesn’t make much sense to me.

Metal Head Problems

I know, I know, I’m a terrible person, what with all the lack of posts going on at the moment … But, I can change! We swears! We swears on … on, the precious! Yes, we swears on the precious!

… Anyway, found the following new meme (I say ‘new’, it’s probably existed for over a day now, so by meme standards it’s practically from the dial-up era), and it gave me a chuckle. Plus, it’s relevant to this blog to boot! Hooray!

This one was my favourite, but you can find more HERE. Real, actual, readable stuff to follow sometime later today. Probably.

A few About.com Album Reviews & Mumblings

So I’ve started doing the occasional reviews for Heavymetal.About.com. Thus far, I’ve reviewed Plebeian Grandstand’s ‘Lowgazers’, Dire Wolves’ ‘Aegri Somnia’, (both here) and a longer review of Cormorant’s latest, ‘Earth Diver’ (CLICKY).

I’m doing a few more for About this month, and I’ll post links here as soon as they’re live.

‘Earth Diver’ was a really disappointing listen, actually. After reading about how much hype they’ve been getting, and how positive things have already been rolling in about the new album, it was frustrating to listen to it multiple times and keep thinking ‘Am I listening to a different album to everybody else? This is really mediocre’. It’s one of the quirks of writing reviews I suppose. When I write reviews I try to just be honest about what I think, rather than try to guess what the average listener would think of the album. After all, what you like is fundamentally personal; the point of reviewing shouldn’t be to think that the reviewer has a better opinion than the listener.

Except that I totally do.  1395314139224

I listen to a lot of music, across a wide range of genres. I think reviewing an album is a lot like being, say, a sommelier talking about wine; with a wider range of experiences to draw upon the reviewer is better able to trek through what’s interesting, new, or creative. Or even what’s taken something a lot of bands do and done it much better. Sure you might like an album that gets bad reviews, and there’s nothing wrong in that, it just might be that there are many albums out there that do the same thing, or better than that album, which has resulted in that particular album drawing criticism. That’s not the only approach to reviewing, but it’s one I personally find helpful.

Unrelatedly, I realise that I’ve been less than super at posting much content in the past couple of days, which has nothing at all to do with me finding Pokémon Leaf Green in a pile of old things I hadn’t looked through in a while and starting a new game. Nor is it related to my partner getting me hooked on the TV series Avatar (I’m on the last episode of season three!!); incidentally, how did M. Night Shyamalan manage to make the absolute travesty of a film that he did with such excellent source material?

In other news, As I Lay Dying aren’t dead and buried (just like Tim Lambesis’ wife, amirite?! … Guys? … ). According to a relatively boring statement that everyone insists on pouring over like it’s the Pope writing about his sexual fantasies (I have no idea why that was the first thing that came to my mind … but admit it, you’d be curious), As I Lay Plotting is ‘sleeping rather than dead, and there are two separate projects to hold you over whether or not it is awakened again’. Who knows, maybe Tim will end up releasing far too many shitty black metal albums recorded on cassette to varying critical acclaim?