Feb 112012

No, no, no.  This post isn’t about dicks.

Wait!  Where are you going?  Hang on for a minute and let me explain.  This may be interesting even if it’s not about penises, difficult as that may be to believe.

The subject of this post is one I’ve thought about before and discussed with others outside these pages. Here’s what finally prompted me to throw it open for NCS discussion — this Facebook status by Sweden’s Mordbrand, whose killer 2011 EP Necropsychotic we reviewed here and whose November 2011 split with their fellow Swedes in Bombs of Hades we featured here:

“It looks like MORDBRAND’s discography will mostly consist of EP’s and splits at the moment. We’re excited about all suggestions, proposals and offers we have in front of us. But here’s a question to YOU: If a band produces enough material on small releases – is a full-length then necessary? The way we see it: If we record a handful of songs, we can really focus on them and make them turn great. If we record full-lengths, we’ll have less time working on each track. This calls for an interesting discussion!”

Yes, it does call for discussion. As a fan, what would you rather see from the bands you like — shorter but more frequent releases or full-length albums that are more spaced out, e.g., a new one every couple of years? Do you tend to take a band more seriously, particularly a new band, if they release album-length material instead of EPs? Is it the meat or the motion?

And for any musicians out there, what do you see as the pro’s and con’s of the “Mordbrand model” versus delaying releases until you have a full album’s worth of material ready to go? And do you think the factors (or the conclusion) are different for an established band as opposed to people just starting out?

Does a hybrid model make sense, i.e., release a full-length album of new songs every couple of years, but release an EP in the off years (kind of like Gorod and Immolation did last year, to pick the first examples that popped into my head)?

And just to confuse things further, how should “an album” (or “a full-length album”) be defined? For example, I’ve recently noticed monkey poop being thrown from the trees at Veil of Maya for their plan to release “an album” that turns out to be 28 minutes long. Is that an album? Does it matter what they call it as long as the price fits the amount of music it contains?

Okay, ladies and germs, tell us what you think about any or all of these questions. And if you can’t be bothered, that’s okay — I’ll have some music for you in a later post. Actually, I have some music for you immediately. Since Mordbrand was the inspiration for this, it’s only fitting that we stream a Mordbrand song while you attempt to organize your thoughts. This is from their split with Bombs of Hades:

And I might as well include a track from Bombs of Hades, too. This is from that split with Mordbrand — it’s their cover of a Motörhead classic, and it rocks the fuck out:

50 Responses to “DOES LENGTH MATTER?”

  1. Phro Chunks in Your Spaghetti Os says:

    Serious answer: it depends 100% on the band. Some bands create albums which are proper, self-contained works. Insomniums latest or any of the later Tool albums or any band who tends to vary their style significantly for each release are examples of folks who should stick with the album thing, in my opinion. If a band has a relatively consistent style or each release is a hodgepodge, go the EP route.

    Not serious answer: it’s Not the size of your member that counts, it’s how many members come to your bukakke party.

    • Islander says:

      Both points are quite valid. Your first comment brings to mind “concept” albums, where it’s the sum of the parts that’s the real achievement — the impact of listening to the entire journey from beginning to end. However, I think even EPs (or shorter “albums”) can create the same effect, where the separate tracks really function as segments of one long song. For example, Uneven Structure (France) did that with their 21-minute EP “8″.

    • “If each release is hodgepodge” – you mean if there’s no consistency in the style? In that case, yes – the EP releases model might suit them better. :|

      The hybrid release model could work well for quite a few of those bands who seem to suit the LP releases model though. Bands like Boris, A Perfect Circle, Scar Symmetry perhaps?

  2. Phro Chunks in Your Spaghetti Os says:

    Oh, right, I also forgot: penis penis penis penis poop!

  3. Phro Chunks in Your Spaghetti Os says:

    Also, I think this does absolutely nothing to illustrate my point about penises, poops or length. But it will be more fun than me. http://cuteoverload.com/2012/02/10/what-were-you-raised-by-wolves/

  4. Trollfiend says:

    I don’t think length matters as much as girth…er, I mean…what constitutes a “full length” album versus an “EP” matters not a fuck; quality of music is the factor that is most important. So if a band works better with short spurts than long strokes, I say release only EPs until the day you die. Also, I can’t have this discussion without mentioning ‘Tulimyrsky’, because, well. I fuckin’ love Moonsorrow, for one, and it’s a good example of length not mattering, for another.

  5. SurgicalBrute says:

    Its not the size that matters its how you use it. I think EPs can be very effective as they tend to force a band to cut some of the fat that may end up in a full length. This can make for a far more effective and coherent release. The only downside is that EPs tend to be a bit harder to get a hold of and dont stay in print as long. The best idea would be to release a series of EPs then after 3 or 4 releases (depending on the length) collect them onto a single compilation CD

    • byrd36 says:

      Torture Division is a great example of a band who release three EPs/demos at a time then combine them for an LP.
      http://www.torturedivision.net/

    • What if bands did EP’s with the intention of collecting them though? Say a band announces a trilogy of EP’s instead a trilogy of LP’s…. And releases the EP trilogy as a compilation like they would with a trilogy of (LP) albums as a box set. (O_o)

      One wonders if such a venture would actually turn out to be cheaper for the band though…

    • SurgicalBrute says:

      If a band really wants to be clever, they can go the Disma route. Release a compilation of your split/eps/demo work, add a couple of new songs, and then call it your first full length.

      • One does not see how Disma have done that… Even though they have re-used songs from their demo, EP and split, they do appear to have recorded them again – just as some (many?) bands record new versions of songs featured on demos for their debut full-length release.

        • SurgicalBrute says:

          How is that any different?..its not new material. If an album is completely remastered is it a new album? When Ozzy re-releases an album with different band members to cut the originals out of royalties, its still considered the same album.

          Some bands reuse some of their songs from demos onto their full lengths, but when 3/4 of your material is just recycled from your previous releases…sorry thats a compilation album with some new tracks added

          • SurgicalBrute says:

            Just to be clear..there are exactly 3 new songs on Towards the Megalith. This wasnt a case of adding a couplke of old songs in to pad the album out. They literally put every song theyd ever released on this album with the exception of one track from “The Manifestation”

            • One did notice that. One didn’t care particularly about the Disma album though.
              But, yes. Re-recording a bunch of songs and putting them out with just a couple of new ones does look lazy. Perhaps rewriting the old songs – starting from scratch in a manner of speaking – in such cases (not just Disma) is warranted.

              • SurgicalBrute says:

                I may sound like Im coming down hard on Disma, but I actually really like them. Ive followed them since their first demo, so when I heard about the full length I was really pumped. It was kind of a disappointment to get a album full of stuff Id heard already

                • Islander says:

                  So I’l give a counterpoint: I hadn’t heard any Disma music until the album, and for a new listener it was great to have it all in one place. In fact, I didn’t know until much later that it was a sort of compilation.

                  • SurgicalBrute says:

                    Dont get me wrong..I like compilations. Hell, I just grabbed the Timeghoul compilation from Dark Descent (well worth grabbing), but when a band says full length I kind of expect it to be all or at least mostly new material

  6. SurgicalBrute says:

    I think theres another point to be made with the Mordbrand model. As a young and relatively unknown band, even in the metal world, it makes sense to pump out shorter albums at a more rapid pace. In theory, by keeping their name out there they can build up some recognition for their band. Stopping for a couple years to create an entire full length is something that can be done much more easily when you have a decent fan base already waiting

    • Nylithia [and Vestascension until last October at least] seem
      to be using a similar idea. They’ve been releasing individual songs from their debut album. Pretty much run-of-the-mill Thrash Metal. But, they’ve at least been popping up on MetalSucks every few months.

    • Islander says:

      That’s probably the best reason I’ve thought of for more frequent, shorter releases. I do think that, at least if the band is any good, it’s a way to build a fan base and to perpetuate interest/excitement in what the band is doing. The possible downside, to which I alluded in the post, is that it may make it more difficult to be seen as legitimate, to be “taken seriously”. Again, the music drives everything, but I think an argument can be made that amassing an entire album’s worth of quality songs before a release will bring more reviews and perhaps cause the band to be seen as a more serious artistic enterprise.

      Established bands are expected to produce albums, but for them, releasing EPs seems to have a similar “marketing” objective — maintaining fan interest in between full-length releases. Sometimes, it also seems to be a vehicle for releasing music that might not be a fit for an album, maybe because it’s stylistically different.

      And of course we can’t ignore the fact that musicians are creative people, many of whom never stop writing songs. It can be a long wait to get new material out into the public scene if you defer a release until you have an album’s worth of material and then go through the often lengthy process of recording, mixing, and mastering the whole thing.

      • SurgicalBrute says:

        I think there is a point where a band has to commit to a full length..it seems to come around the 4th or 5th release. After that I think youre right, it starts to look like the project isnt moving forward anymore and people will lose interest. The other problem I see, more specifically to Mordbrand, is that theres a window right now for this type of band. Mordbrand is good, and I like them, but theyre not really doing anything amazing to stand out in this genre. If they wait too long to get a full length out they may find no one cares anymore.

        Established bands usually use EP’s more like a teaser. I think its done more as a way to build up anticipation for the full length. When someone like Asphyx does a split like they did last year, you knew the announcement for a new full length wasnt too far behind

  7. On to the topic of album length:
    While the band/artist is free to label an album/release as and EP/(LP) album/split/double album/single/etc., one takes note to label album folders on one’s hard drive with [Mini] for folders containing audio of length upto 25 minutes and [Maxi] for folders containing audio of greater length but less than 80 minutes. In the case that there are multiple discs, one splits the files of the album into appropriately named and labeled folders.

    In one’s own mind [Mini] = EP album and [Maxi] = LP album. This has resulted in quite a bit of cognitive dissonance; eg, both of Wormrot‘s albums are EP’s but CZAR‘s EP Old Haunts is a LP. :|

  8. .jh says:

    The way I see it, if you treat the process like a zero sum game you’re doing it wrong. Write songs that you are happy with and release them, I reject the notion that an album has to be worse than an EP because you chose to spend less time on it, if you need more time spend the time to write and record good songs.

    • “I reject the notion that an album has to be worse than an EP because you chose to spend less time on it”
      Um…

      • Trollfiend says:

        I think he’s referring to Mordbrand’s comment above where they say “If we record full-lengths, we’ll have less time working on each track.” I think most of us here assume that an album with fewer songs on it will take less time to record than an album with more; this comment makes it seem like you only have a fixed time in which to record your album and therefore the fewer songs you make, the more time you will have for each individual song.

        • Islander says:

          I’m in over my head here on this next comment, but one thing we haven’t mentioned is the effect of recording under a label contract. I suppose there are contracts that require a band to record an album (or albums) on a schedule, and to fulfill the contract, a band may not devote the time (or have the time) needed to create an album’s worth of quality music.

          • Phro Chunks in Your Spaghetti Os says:

            If bands can more easily self finance and self release albums as EPs, I would think that would be the best deal for them. But everything I know about recording music is locked in a magic jar deep beneath the surface of the sea…

        • .jh says:

          Thank you, that is exactly what I meant, but I was slightly rushed when I wrote the comment.

  9. Gaia says:

    Down are an interesting and topical example, as they are now in the process of releasing 4 EPs over the next year and a half, each with its own style apparently. Which is great because now I don’t have to wait five years for a new LP again.

    And whether the model of releasing music in various formats (EPs, Splits, Singles perhaps and even submitting tracks for tribute compilations could be considered to get really pedantic) depends entirely on type of band and type of music they play. In my mind the more ‘underground’ a band is the more beneficial EPs and Splits are as they gather attention regularly and quickly, and thinking monetarily they’re probably cheaper to make and in proportion to cost possibly more profitable. Of course that’s theoretical profit. Also fans of the underground tend to be the ‘fanatics’ and more willing to part with their money for product.

    Then collecting these EPs and Splits into a compilation garners attention of those that aren’t the fanatics and the fanatics for that extra unreleased song at the end they always include. Black Pyramid’s Stormbringer release last year did incredibly well for raising the band’s profile and that was just a compilation of songs from previous splits.

    • Islander says:

      Man, I am clearly behind the times: I didn’t know about that Down project. Very exciting news.

      And now I have to check out Black Pyramid. Didn’t know about that one either. So much metal, so little time . . .

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