(Rev. Will returns to NCS with another installment in his Keyboard Warriors series. Today’s subjects are the creator of the Angry Metal Guy blog and his collaborator Steel Druhm.)
I. ANGRY METAL GUY IS THY WORD. THY WORD IS ANGRY METAL GUY.
II. THOU SHALT NOT BE HIPPIE IN THE PRESENCE OF ANGRY METAL GUY.
IV. HONOR THY DIGNITY AND INTEGRITY.
V. THOU SHALT NOT KISS ASS.
VI. THOU SHALT NOT ADVERTISE.
VII. THOU SHALT NOT SOLICIT MATERIAL TO REVIEW, MATERIAL TO REVIEW SOLICIT THOU.
VIII. THOU SHALT INTERVIEW ONLY IF SUBJECT GIVES THEE A MUSICAL BONER.
IX. THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBOUR’S WORLDWIDE SONG PREMIERE.
X. THOU SHALT NOT PARTAKE IN CELEBRITY GOSSIP.
XI. EMBRACE THY ELITIST SIDE AND HATH CYNICAL WORLDVIEW.
XII. MASTER THY HOLY PATH OF KEYBOARD WARRIOR.
Rev. Will: First things first: Who/what hacked AMG earlier this year?
Angry Metal Guy: Eh, it was a bot. Apparently our host got hacked and it got in that way. It wasn’t anything that someone did to hurt my feelings or anything. I assume that those people are out there, too, given how I’ve treated some bands in the past. But yeah, the Internet is a place of chaos. Much of what happens cannot be anticipated.
Steel Druhm: I can’t speak for AMG, but I’m pretty sure it was Occupy AMG, Opus Dei or the PMRC (they didn’t die, they just went underground).
Rev. Will: The option to donate to AMG’s beer fund is gone from the blog! WHY?!
Angry Metal Guy: It was a plugin that hasn’t been updated, so after the hack it couldn’t be re-installed. I should probably replace it with something of my own design. You are always free to send me beer money—just drop me an e-mail and I’ll tell you how to arrange the bills, where the suitcase should be dropped and when the deal is done, you’ll get your dog back.
Steel Druhm: Well, it wasn’t really bringing in a lot of coins and what little did come in was insufficient for our actual beer needs.
Rev. Will: Are you the genius behind the iconic AMG mascot, Angry Metal Lisa?
Angry Metal Guy: Nope. The Internets is the genius. I have no idea who did it, but I laughed really hard when I saw it and couldn’t avoid using it. It just kind of became my go-to when I needed a “default image” that had to fit with the AMG “brand”.
Rev. Will: AMG has a policy of only reviewing albums that are sent to you guys. Is it because you are tired of the delusional creed of “doing your part for the metal community” without receiving anything in return?
Angry Metal Guy: Yeah, well, I started writing for Unchain the Underground back in the day (NSFW kiddies with the Google) and that was actually the founder’s policy (his name was Al Kikuras, a true New Yorker). The idea is that when you write reviews for labels you’re doing them a favor. A good or bad review from me determines whether or not people are willing to take a chance on buying a record. If you ever read comments on the blog, there’s all sorts of them that are basically saying “Yeah, I wasn’t sure about this record, but now I’m definitely buying it!” I’ve received e-mails from people telling me that they bought a disc and one dude who, as a rule, buys every “Record o’ the Month.” I don’t think it’s unreasonable, then, for labels to give us promo and to give it to us in a timely fashion.
Record label policy has become ridiculous—sending me promos 3 days in advance, as though somehow I’m going to get a timely review out. I understand that they’re all paranoid about leaks: but most of the leaks are happening before we get reviews. Meshuggah leaked before I got it, as did Accept. But I guess that’s a different topic altogether.
In any case, yeah: for AMG to be successful, labels have to be on-board. No free rides.
Rev. Will: Just how angry is Angry Metal Guy?
Angry Metal Guy: Actually, I’d say that I’m fairly mellow.
Steel Druhm: He’s generally a mellow, relaxed guy. That is, unless I get him going on political topics or the talents of Tim “Ripper” Owens. Then, he gets plentily feisty.
Rev. Will: Which record did each of you most angrily ripped apart to date?
Angry Metal Guy: It’s gotta be Amaranthe. I feel almost a bit guilty about that review. I really fucking lambasted that band. There was also Shadows’ Grey that I just made endless fun of. But I think the first one I really nailed was Ravage. They had one record on Metal Blade and it blew. The vocalist was just fucking horrendous and the music wasn’t really that great either.
Steel Druhm: I think my most negative review went to the little known German act, Fimbulthier. I gave it a 1.0 and bashed it without mercy. If I had seen the bands photos while writing the review, that 1.0 would’ve dropped to a 0.5 in an instant. Morbid Angel wasn’t too far behind. What a tragic shame.
Rev. Will: How did you guys meet?
Angry Metal Guy: In a strange twist of fate: Steel Druhm e-mailed me when I said that I needed reviewers. Then he wrote some reviews and they didn’t suck. Turns out he’s just as dedicated to the site as I am despite me being the guy who founded the thing. It’s nice, ‘cause he’s a good writer and while he’s busy, he’s not a grad student, which means that his time isn’t structured into STRESS 24 HOURS A DAY!!! like mine is.
Steel Druhm: I’ve never actually had the pleasure of “meeting” AMG. He lives in Sweden and I live at an undisclosed location somewhere in the United States. Back in 2010, AMG posted a casting call for writers, I auditioned and I’ve been his unpaid semi-disgruntled minion ever since. If I ever do meet him in person, he’s gonna be buying me a lot of beers. My kind of writing talent doesn’t come cheap.
Rev. Will: Why is Angry Metal Guy “Metal” while Steel Druhm is “Steel”?
Angry Metal Guy: It’s irrelevant as to whether or not I’m made of metal. It’s ANGRY that’s important.
Steel Druhm: Well, “Steel” went well with my last name and allowed me to be puny [Rev. Will’s intrusion: Omg, did you guys just see what Steel Druhm did?], which I enjoy greatly. It also sounds particularly badass and I’ve been toying with trademarking it and selling merch. Pat pending!
Rev. Will: Where’s the “Alloy” guy then?
Angry Metal Guy: This question is beneath contempt.
Steel Druhm: I actually looked around for some kind of appropriately “steel-y” avatar, but nothing caught my interest. I ended up going with the next best thing. Naturally, that’s a guy in a gorilla suit and Viking helmet, drinking a beer.
Rev. Will: What are the big clichés in metal guitar playing techniques that you guys will slam with the force of a dive bombing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car?
Angry Metal Guy: I’m a little sick of sweep picking. It can be done really well and everything, but ever since the deathcore kids learned how to do it, it’s become a bit cliché. I like it in the more neo-classical context, and not in the “OMG!1! I SPENT 140 HOURS PRACTICING THIS SWEEP1!1!!” context. So if it’s got a musical purpose: fine. But I guess that’s a bigger problem of deathcore, isn’t it? Nothing has any purpose. It’s all just one big excuse for a breakdown.
Steel Druhm: My pet peeve is the mindless chugga-lug-lug so common in metalcore and deathcore these days. Some albums are so full of that crap—it smacks of lazy song writing and a total absence of ideas. I suppose those whammy bar dives can be pretty derivative too. King and Hanneman pretty much did all the whammy diving there was to do. Everything since has been beating a dead horseman.
Rev. Will: Do you agree with the view that the blast-beat is overhyped and overused in extreme metal music?
Angry Metal Guy: No. I think that blast beats are awesome and can be used effectively. Sometimes I feel like they get a bit overdone, but it’s not actually the blast that’s the problem—instead, it’s the intensity.
I believe that music needs dynamics to be interesting. It’s the reason I don’t like a lot of funeral doom any more than I like balls-to-the-walls black metal or br00tal death metal: these genres have no dynamics. Things are only extreme in relation to each other, which means that when the record starts and there’s an insane wall of noise coming out of your stereo, that (compared with the silence) is extreme. But if it’s just like that for 50 minutes, then the intensity just tapers off and it becomes boring. The opposite can be true in really severely doomy bands, where the heaviness drags and drags and drags and never switching it up just puts me to Angry Metal Sleep.
Steel Druhm: No, I think it’s a musical device like any other and has its place. I think some bands flagrantly overuse it though. When that happens, it makes it much less effective. It all goes back to the King Diamond rule of music. When the King used his falsetto sparingly, it was so much more effective and intense. Once he adopted it fulltime, it lost its power. Same goes for every musical device. Use it wisely!
Rev. Will: Suppose we are all living in a fictional era in which the Internet has not yet come into existence, and all that’s spreading the word of metal are the good ol’ practices of black-and-white paper fanzines and underground tape trading. How will you all make AMG happen then?
Angry Metal Guy: Fuck it. I’m *way* too busy for self-publishing.
Steel Druhm: I was a teenager in the pre-interwebs, paper zine era and had a few friends that were dedicated to the whole “zine scene”. It was a ton of work for no real reward. They couldn’t give those damn things away. I’m far too lazy and narcissistic to work that hard, knowing my words won’t reach anyone. Geez, I get pissed when one of my reviews doesn’t get several thousand reads. I’m quite an attention whore.
Rev. Will: Conversely, say we are all living in a super-futuristic era in which the Internet has progressed to such an advanced stage that it is no longer made up of a giant network of interconnected physical computers, but a giant network of interconnected human minds instead. Hence, whenever you guys “write” a review, all you all have to do is think about it and every AMG reader will be able to read about it instantly. What do both of you think of such a way of communicating with AMG readers?
Angry Metal Guy: I believe that my stream of consciousness would be so intense, it would destroy the Internet.
Steel Druhm: I wouldn’t trust the AMG fan base with my real email address, let alone my thoughts! They’re like a pack of wild dogs on crack!
Rev. Will: While the Internet has made spreading the word about metal more entertaining and easier than ever before, what do you guys think are some of the not-so-good consequences that have also arisen from it?
Angry Metal Guy: When was the last time you ever bought a record based on its cover? I bought so much music based on references that I read in magazines or references to other bands, but I also bought a lot of albums by just looking at the cover and going “Wow, that looks super cool.” Now, this is hit or miss, but if you think about it, that’s an art that has just disappeared with time. Now people just pirate the shit. Sometimes, I get the feeling our readers hear most of the albums before we do.
Steel Druhm: That’s an interesting question and I’ve never really thought about that. Honestly, I can’t think of a major downside. The Internet has allowed even the most underground band to find an audience and get their music out there. That’s so much better than the pre-Internet days, when a band in Ukraine wasn’t going to get any worldwide attention unless they kidnapped the Pope. [Rev. Will’s intrusion: Or fused heavy metal with Ukrainian pop music perhaps. See Japan’s BABYMETAL.]
Rev. Will: I noticed that many metal websites and blogs have founders who are IT experts with day jobs like website developer and/or graphic designer. Not just bloggers and website founders, many metal musicians (especially those one-man black metal projects) often have IT-related jobs that they depend on to pay most of their bills too. Do you think that the IT industry is a secret breeding ground for the metal hordes?
Angry Metal Guy: Nope. I’m a sociologist. I’m way more interested in culture, music and politics than IT stuff any day. It’s a job I think I could do and enjoy, but I’ve spent most of my adult life avoiding taking a job with computers.
Steel Druhm: Oh, I have some very strong opinions about the IT guild, but since some loved ones are in IT, I’ll refrain from detailed analysis. Let me just say, I’m shocked it’s not the Rhapsody of Fire, Rhapsody of Luca, Dungeons & Dragons metal fans that gravitate to IT like lemmings.
Rev. Will: You guys spend countless hours writing reviews for AMG every week. What keeps the passion going and how long more do y’all foresee yourselves doing this?
Angry Metal Guy: Passion is the only thing keeping me going, given how busy I am with other stuff. I have no idea how long I can hold out. I got really burned out last summer and just really hated life but could never quit. I spent the whole summer listening to Meat Loaf (“Objects in the Rear View Mirror”, aww yeah), Camel and Classical music.
Now, it’s just about balancing listening and reviewing with the fact that I have to write and read so much. I used to listen to stuff while doing other things, but that’s a much more difficult proposition when engaging theoretical texts.
Steel Druhm: With me, it’s the love of the music and sharing my high-falutin opinions and seeing the reaction. AMG has grown into an interesting little community, and it’s always a blast to dissect an album and get some back-and-forth with the regulars. Whether they agree or disagree is irrelevant—it’s just fun to examine the music together. As long as it’s still fun, I’m going to be doing this. Plus, it keeps me off the streets.
Rev. Will: As fully grown adults now, do both of you feel that much of the teenage rebelliousness that fueled your hunger for metal music many years ago is gone now? What is the main reason why each of you is still devouring so much metal then?
Angry Metal Guy: To be honest with you, I listened to punk and hardcore stuff during my teenage rebellion phases. Metal has always been a part of my life since I was 6 or 7, but I only came back to it when I was 18 or so and have been neck-deep in it since then. I don’t have the same kind of emotional, angry connection to the music that a lot of listeners do, which is one of the reasons why I think I tend to intellectualize music (like writing reviews); and want more progressive and entertaining music, not music that speaks to my raw hatred for mankind. ‘Cause, frankly, I don’t have a lot of raw hatred for mankind.
I’m destroying my image here… [Rev. Will’s intrusion: I’ve already prepared your cyber-coffin. You’re more than welcome to hop in any way!]
Steel Druhm: My teenage rebelliousness slowly transitioned into a smoldering disrespect for authority. While I don’t feel the urge to go on rampages of mischief and vandalism anymore, I still enjoy stirring the pot and causing some uproar. Thankfully, AMG gave me the forum to do just that.
Rev. Will: Will listening to metal and only metal alone cause one to become elitist and hostile towards mainstream music?
Angry Metal Guy: Ah, that’s a question of causality. I think that people who are elitist and hostile towards mainstream music gravitate towards scenes in general. If you already like more complex and interesting music, you probably hate pop anyway and then metal [Edit: As in, the scene] is the place for you. If you become more elitist… I suppose I have become more elitist. So yeah, sure.
Steel Druhm: First off, I’ll admit I’m not the most open-minded guy when it comes to different styles of music. 90% of what I listen to is metal or hard rock. Still, it’s always good to try new things and branch out. Other forms of music have things to offer too. That said, most mainstream “radio-ready” music really does suck moosecock. [Rev. Will’s intrusion: Hey Phro, what’s the market rate for a pound of moosecock these days? They sound tasty. Sluuuurrrp!]
Rev. Will: Let’s talk about some statistics. Just how many unique visitors does AMG get per month? Does the number amaze you guys in retrospect whenever you all look back to the humble beginnings of the blog back in 2004 [Edit: AMG posted a bunch of old reviews and backdated them to 2004; AMG really only started in 2009]?
Steel Druhm: I’ll defer to AMG on this, since he’s the resident stats-monster.
Angry Metal Guy: Actually, the beginning of our blog was back in 2009. And yes, we get a lot of visitors. But I don’t like discussing our unique daily visitor totals because I’m an asshole.
The growth has been astounding. Last year we really took off and started getting tens of thousands of views every day and it was super gratifying. We were constantly breaking our own records and I know that Steel Druhm had a bit of an unhealthy obsession with it. I care a bit less, because I’m not sure that it matters how big we get given how labels treat blogs. Unless we’re Decibel tomorrow, we’ll still have all the same issues.
Rev. Will: Record labels have come up with a few different ways to curb the problem of early leakage of albums over the years. Labels like Nuclear Blast require promo receivers to log into an account on the label’s website before they can download; Metal Blade, Century Media and many others set a limit to the number of downloads of a particular promo on Haulix; Universal Music Group sets a limit to the number of downloads on their own portal for downloading promos; and until recently, Agonia Records only allowed online streaming of their promos instead of offering downloads. Do you all think that such measures will really help to curb early leakage of advanced album promos?
Angry Metal Guy: No. The only way to not leak a record is to surprise everyone with its release. But if you ask the labels, it’s by flogging bloggers. Because it’s obviously the fucking bloggers that do it, despite the fact that Nuclear Blast’s 4-days-ahead-of-time promo policy means that the records leak before I ever get a copy of it. To me, that would imply that it’s not about the bloggers at all, but those guys [Edit: As in the record labels] won’t fucking listen. Spinefarm gets the least leaks and they use a system called MPE Play [Rev. Will’s intrusion: Which is also why they get the least number of early reviews]. You can’t export those tracks, but you can listen to them on your phone and you can stream them on your computer. And that seems to work. Some labels are good, but other labels are just fucking stupid about it and I get really mad that I get shit after it’s leaked.
Steel Druhm: It seems albums leak all the time, despite the best efforts to prevent it. All it takes is one copy to get out there and it’s up on some creepy torrent site for all to grab. It’s basically a losing battle for the music companies, but I can’t fault them for trying. At least they stopped using those promos with the random high-pitched siren noises. Those gave me seizures and a hunger for human flesh.
Rev. Will: What do you think about the idea of metal blogs starting their own festivals (e.g. MetalSucks)?
Angry Metal Guy: Cool for them. I wish I had the funding base for that kind of stuff. But then again, I wouldn’t want to do the same kind of promotional activity for labels that MetalSucks does.
Steel Druhm: Hey, if they can pull it off, I have nothing but admiration for them. It seems like one would need to be doing this full-time in order to pull off that kind of stunt successfully. Sadly, we can’t do AMG full-time because we have jobs and such to deal with. If the stars aligned and we worked on AMG full-time, we’d be bigger than Hello Kitty™ in no time at all.
Rev. Will: Do y’all intend to bring AMG to that kind of level someday?
Angry Metal Guy: I’d like to, but I’m not sure if it’s going to happen. I have a standard of writing and production that I like to keep upheld, so it’s very difficult to find writers who are willing to do that.
Also, we have avoided getting into the Metal News and Commentary game as much as I’d intended originally. This is partially because everyone does it and it’s partially ‘cause I don’t have time for that shit. I love metal music, not metal cult of personality. The only time I take notice of metal musicians is when they’re being Mike Portnoy or Dave Mustaine or Steven Adler and they can’t keep their fucking mouths shut. Most of the time, I could give a shit less. And while I would love to do the cool things that a big blog gets to do: debut tracks, get early access, have guest bloggers etc., I’m simply unwilling to kiss corporate ass and publish people’s press releases and shit; and call that a worthwhile investment of my time. I’m not trying to talk smack about anyone here, it’s just a general observation.
This whole game is about access in a way that I think is kinda sick. You’ve basically gotta be willing to blow sunshine up the labels’ ass in order to get access, because they don’t want you to review: they want you to promote. So, by staying disconnected from that system to a certain extent (which has its downsides), it allows me to feel a lot more free to just write whatever I want.
Steel Druhm: Man, this is a shoestring type of operation we’re running here. I can barely get my reviews in on time without typos. Running some type of AMG-fest would be beyond me. Maybe we could start with hats and shirts and work toward a decent keg party.
Rev. Will: I have always thought of the metal music industry as a food chain starting with the rockstar/cult figure at the top, followed by record labels, then the press, the gig organizers, and then the merch retailers and metal stores all over the world. Do you agree with this view that the metal community is simply not as anti-establishment and homey as many prominent figures in the industry like to frequently make it out to be?
Angry Metal Guy: We call it a “music industry” for a reason.
Steel Druhm: To me, metal has always been an underground, cult style of music. Even the bigs like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden are underground to an extent. The form the business takes doesn’t really change that simple fact. For every person you meet who likes metal, there are 100 whom think its total shit or cursed by the devil. I grew up a metal fan and at age 43, I really don’t see things much differently. I think it’s still a subversive form of entertainment, forever on the outskirts of what the “establishment” is all about; and that works just fine for me.
Rev. Will: How does AMG react to bands and musicians who take bad reviews badly?
Angry Metal Guy: I sympathize. As a creator of art, you want people to like your stuff and you express yourself in your work. I totally get that the guys and girl from Amaranthe probably felt offended by my review. I understand that when I say something mean about a record, the creator is probably reading it and reacting to it. But, that’s the biz. When people cultivate opinion-makers, there is a double-edged nature to it. For all the copies of the new Borknagar or Sigh records that we helped sell, there are plenty of records that we panned. Fortunately the industry has their bases covered and they have a powerful tool (that I’ve already mentioned) to keep a lot of reviewers in line: access. That’s why you’ll see reviews where people *obviously* hated the record, but they still gave it an 8/10 anyway.
Steel Druhm: I’ve been pretty lucky in that no band overreacted to my flagrant album-bashing. I wouldn’t blame them though; they slave away to create music and then kill themselves to record it just right, only to have some no talent hack like me tell them what they did wrong. I mean, who the fuck do I think I am anyway? I sicken me!
Rev. Will: As opinionated as AMG is, do both of you actually try to sympathize with bands and musicians reading bad reviews of their own work from their points of view?
Angry Metal Guy: Of course. But I don’t edit to save them face. If a record sucks, it sucks. Sometimes if something is *really* bad, I will even skip it because it’s painful for me to listen to and I’m only going to hurt their feelings.
What’s more interesting, though, is fan reactions. If you read my review of Blind Guardian’s last record, for example, you’ll see that Power Metal fans are little bitches. I gave it a 2.5/5.0 at the time (though it grew on me since) and their fanbase flipped a collective titty.
On the other hand, The Acacia Strain fans all just threatened to kick my ass. ‘Cause they’re SUPER FUCKING TOUGH. I will now never go to an Acacia Strain show, ‘cause I’m convinced they’ll know and they’ll kick my ass! I had already planned to avoid them because I think that band is *super* boring. Urgh.
Steel Druhm: Well, I’m kind of an insensitive dick. At least that’s what all my friends tell me. But still, I’ll admit to feeling a pang of guilt for slagging certain albums, but only when it’s a band I’d liked in the past. With new bands or bands I have no history with, I feel nothing! [Rev. Will’s intrusion: Like a boss.]
Rev. Will: AND THIS IS THE END OF THE INTERVIEW. DO YOU GUYS NEED ANY BEER??? I’VE GOT SOME AMERICAN BEER.
Angry Metal Guy: Contrary to popular belief, microbrewed American beer is very good. But I suppose that you’ve got Budweiser ‘cause you’re a dick.
Steel Druhm: Don’t you have any good Euro-beer? Eh, I’ll take your American beer, unless it’s Coors Light. I have standards and principles.
Rev. Will: WHAT? Y’ALL PREFER VODKA?
Angry Metal Guy: Only Bison Grass Vodka.
Steel Druhm: Vodka works too. Top shelf, bottom shelf, continental shelf, I’m good with it.
Rev. Will: HOW ABOUT ROOT BEER?
Angry Metal Guy: That works, too. Whatever, man. I like beverages. That’s humanizing, isn’t it?
Steel Druhm: This interview is over!
All hail the: