Aug 262014

A detail from “Green” by Philadelphia artist Taisya Kuzmenko

I preface this article, which asks some questions, by telling you that I’m looking for honest answers. I think most of our regular readers are good-hearted people who actually care about this site and therefore may be prone to say things that will make us feel good. Don’t do that. Tell us the truth. If the truth isn’t what we want to hear, don’t worry. I can tell you with near certainty that it won’t change what we do, and we’re thick-skinned enough that it won’t hurt much. The questions are more a matter of curiosity than a gathering of information that would lead to a change in what we do here.


We’re long-winded. Compared to most metal sites our posts tend to go on… and on… and on. Though Andy Synn occasionally brings us reviews in haikus, most of our reviews are long (DGR recently wrote a 600-word piece about one song). Most of the other features are long, too.

For example, I write almost all of the “round-up” posts, which focus on news and new music, and I have a habit of cramming those with a lot of items and a lot of words. Same goes for the MISCELLANY posts (when I get to them) and other regular or semi-regular features I put together here. I could break them up into a string of smaller features and sprinkle them through the day, or many days, as some other sites do. I’m not even sure why I don’t.

Same goes for the song and album premieres — we tend to describe our thoughts and feelings about the music before we come to the music streams. Many other sites don’t do that. They include a few sentences of introduction and then BOOM — there’s the music player.

The posts today that are going to follow this one are typical of what you’ll find here — the jumbo round-up of news and new music that will follow this post, Andy Synn’s 50th edition of The Synn Report (in which he reviews an entire seven-album discography), and Gemma Alexander’s thoughts on Day 2 of Iceland’s recent Eistnaflug festival. None of them will be short and sweet.

So, here’s the serious question:



Do you read what we write? Or do you skip to the music?

It has been a long-standing tradition at this site to include music streams with virtually every post. We make it easy to just listen if you want to. Time is short, there are a ton of competing things with which people can occupy their time, and we understand that not everyone is going to settle in long enough to read every word, or even any of them. And in the end, it’s the music that counts anyway, right?

As I wrote at the outset, this is a matter of (potentially morbid) curiosity. I can’t speak for the other writers, but I’m probably not going to change what I do, regardless of the answers. I write because I enjoy expressing what I feel about music that means something to me — and I write for the bands; I suppose it’s a way of thanking them for what they’ve done. I’m pretty sure they read what we write, regardless of who else does, because that’s human nature. When someone else talks about you or writes about you, you can’t help but want to know what they’re saying.

We also write for you, even if everyone doesn’t read what we write, because we know from our own experience that it can be entertaining to read what someone else writes about music even if you’ve already heard it.



I had a reminder about that recently: As you probably know, I’m a huge fan of Sólstafir, but we didn’t get our advance copy of their new album Ótta until just a couple of days before the entire album went up for streaming. I included news of the album stream in a post, but I wondered out loud whether there was any point in reviewing it when everyone could hear it for themselves. One of our long-time readers left this comment:

“Personally, I find reviews enjoyable to read after the fact because they force me to go back and reexamine my own initial thoughts about that album. Ótta is beautiful, but if you have thoughts about it that range beyond that then I’m certain I’m not the only one who wouldn’t mind hearing them.”

Made me feel good, but it also reminded me that there are reasons to continue writing, even when what we’re writing about has already been heard.


So anyway, please let us know — honestly — whether you read what we write, skim it, or skip over it to get to the music. We can live with the answers, and even if you fervently wish we would change our ways, we probably won’t. But, perhaps paradoxically, we WILL READ your answers.

Yeah, there’s some music here, too. This is a 2014 EP named Dwarfer from Colorado’s Xothist that I heard yesterday.



  73 Responses to “DO YOU READ?”

  1. If I click on a review, I read it.
    That’s not metal/That’s not music posts? I read them.
    Assorted roundups? If I know the band, I skip to the music. If I don’t know the band, I read so I know if I even want to listen.
    I rarely even look at concert reviews because they just make me sad that I wasn’t there.
    Music streams are a dime a dozen. I come here because I enjoy reading what the staff here writes.

  2. yes, i read the entire post. usually while i’m listening to the music.

  3. Ok as you know been a fan of the site for a while. Got to say that I tried to read the posts because it helps me with the language (as you already know Spanish is my main language in my country). So by reading it helps. At times I have to admit I have just went straight to the music, due to short of time. Still and this is my truth and humble opinion, like how things are in NCS 🙂

  4. To be perfectly frank, it’s pretty rare that I’ll read an entire article from this site. Exceptions being reviews of albums I’m extremely interested in (whether I’ve heard them or not). Yesterday I did read the entire Autumn’s Dawn review, but I skimmed the interview. My time is more limited than most people’s, though, so that might have something to do with it. (Also, you should know that reading white text on a black background gets to be pretty stressful on the eyes, which is why a long time ago I switched to a dark gray background . . . hey, it’s still a metal site, so the color scheme has to be metal, eye strain notwithstanding.)

    Personally my philosophy is that concise is better, and if you can explain your feelings on an album through a few choice metaphors in a couple hundred words I think that’s better than going on for a thousand words in detail. But when I really do care about an album, it’s nice to know that you guys will write a thesis on it for our benefit.

  5. Nope. Never learned how to.

  6. I tend to skip to the music, press play, and read if I like what I hear.

  7. yeah, I read. The longer, the better, as long as it makes sense.
    I fuckin hate short articles for dumb people with ADHD and the attention span of a goldfish. The Internet is spiralling down to the lowest common denominator of intelligence, which is pretty damn fuckin low.

  8. to quote the late, great GURU.

    It’s mostly tha voice, that gets you up
    It’s mostly tha voice, that makes you buck
    A lot of rappers got flavor, and some got skills
    But if your voice ain’t dope then you need to (chill… chill…)

    For me, its mostly about the reading. The end result is the music. But the reading is what makes it a world unto its own. And further, its the adept writer, usually not so formal in technique, that is not only rare, but the progenitor of many good feelings. When you can glean the excitement from the author it adds an extra dimension to the experience as opposed to just finding it some other way.

  9. I quite honestly obsessively read and listen to at least 95% of what’s posted here. Some of this is due to my own neuroticism and obsessive compulsive need to finish things, but it’s mostly due to my love of what gets posted here, both I’m music and eloquent accompanying words. I only hope some of my contributions are up to the bar you guys have already set.

  10. NCS is my favorite blog to READ because of the interesting content and high quality writing. I often scroll down to the first clickable link to music, get the tunes going, then scroll back to the top and read the story. Please keep doing what you’re doing.

    • Ditto, this is my approach most of the time as well – scroll down, stream, and then read. Maybe streams at the top would work if there’s quite a few doing this too?

  11. I read everything that I click on to read, I may not examine every article out of a general disinterest for a band or I just got off work and my mouse is too far from my hand so I choose to remain stationary.

    Plus I am obligated to read everything, because how else can I disagree with Andy if I am not keeping up on his wrong opinion! 😛 (Sarcasm of course)

  12. If it looks or sounds like something I would enjoy, I read the whole post. I try to read everything you have to say about the music before I decide whether I want to listen to it.

  13. I actually read more of the shit then I listen to. I always have music playing and so for me to listen to something, I have to pause whatever I’m listening to (for example, currently playing Czarface, the Insepctah Deck + 7L + Esoteric record), and listen to whatever you linked. So what I usually do it read, or skim if I’m busy, through the text and if it grabs my attention enough that I have to hear it, then I listen. Which is why I like this site more then other metal blogs.

  14. Depends. Like others, if it is a band I know and actively follow, I’ll probably skip to the music and either read the review while listening, or after the fact. I admit there are times I don’t read it at all (if it is a band I am excited to hear new material from FREX). If it is a band I do not know, I’ll read the review to see if it is something I might be interested. I bought Triumphant’s first album based on the review you posted here a while ago FREX.

  15. This was a pretty long post, so I kinda just skimmed it, but I think I got your question.

    Yes, I read. Novels, essays, short stories, assorted poetry, I’m an avid reader always on the look out for the next word assortment to ionize, thanks for asking.

  16. i scroll through the whole post to see if there is music embedded in the post. if their is, Ill start to play it, then go back to the beginning and read.

  17. I only ever read my own posts, to bask in my sheer awesomeness, because I despise all the other writers who work for this site.

  18. I’ll echo sentiments shared already.

    If it’s an artist I know and care a lot about, I’ll most likely read the piece word for word. If it’s an artist that is new to me, I’ll skim the article to get some idea of the type of music they play, then skip to the stream and hear it for myself. If I like what I hear, I might go back and read the article, I might not. 50/50. What I will do though if see if the band is on Bandcamp or otherwise go about acquiring the music if I can. I’ll probably check their Facebook.

    I’m less likely to read the “round up” or “Seen and Heard” type pieces unless there’s a name in the article that catches my eye, or maybe a preview of album art that connects with me. Otherwise I find those articles scattered (by design, sure) and I just don’t seem to get a whole lot out of them.

    However, I love the more general editorial or opinion pieces about metal in general, or other things that get stuck in your writers’ craws. Those I read for sure.

    Oh, and sometimes I won’t read the article, because I’ve already read about the new music/story etc. a couple other places. I check like 5-6 metal blogs a day, so sometimes primacy gets the credit.

    • I guess one thing I might add, since your question seems bent around the length of your pieces, is that I am this way with every website I read. Even short and punchy single-paragraph write-ups I will read about a sentence of and then skip to the stream if I don’t know the band.

      I think that you all should keep trucking. I appreciate the depths you go when I want it, and when I don’t, there’s really nothing you could have done anyway.

      • I appreciate the candid reply (as I do all the others in this Comment section). Your comment about the round-ups reminds me of another question that’s been percolating in my head for a while — whether we try to throw too much music at people on a daily basis. Some days it’s a lot to take in.

  19. Whether I read or not can be summed up in two words: it depends.

    I always read the “That’s Metal — But It’s Not Music” posts. Their content is usually more for the eyes than the ears.

    The posts that feature a lot of different streams from bands I don’t know, I usually don’t read very thoroughly. I like to know why you recommend most artists/bands, but I usually find that answer, plus some additional information, from just a quick glance at the text. When you write about bands that I already know, however, I’m usually more interested in reading more thoroughly.

    Concert reviews, on the other hand, is something I almost always skip, regardless of the line-up, unless it’s a very special occasion (one-time reunion show or something along those lines).

    Whether I read the interviews is very situational. In general I’m not too interested in interviews, neither as video nor as audio nor as text. For me to be interested in an interview, the artist who is interviewed must be an interesting person, not just a good musician. Additionally, the interview must ask questions I’d like to see/hear answered. Too often, interviewers ask silly questions just to be creative. It also happens that the questions are too general and boring. Any extreme will make me immediately lose interest. Furthermore, if the interview is a written one, it must be written in a sensible way—i.e. not include every grunt, stutter and filler-phrase the artist might use when they speak. A perfect example of how not to write an interview is Decibel Magazine’s interview with Dagon of Inquisition about the whole nazi hullabaloo. Seeing as the latter is not an issue for NCS, it comes down to the former—whether I find the artist to be an interesting person. If not, I’ll skip the entire interview.

    • I also have a very selective approach to interviews. I read all of ours, for obvious reasons, but elsewhere I don’t, and usually for the same reasons you identify. I find that most interview questions really aren’t very interesting, or they’ve been asked before (I hasten to add that I don’t think I’m very good at coming up with interesting questions either, which is why I don’t try to do them myself very often). And often the answers aren’t very interesting either. It’s kind of like interviews of movie stars or professional athletes. Just because they’re very good at performing or very creative doesn’t mean they are articulate or have anything very interesting to say — particularly when the questions are cliched or fail to be probing.

  20. I usually scan the text for some key words or well-known band name references that indicate that there’s a chance that I like this kind of music. If in doubt I start the stream. Then I try to listen without reading. This is an attempt to make up my mind without being too biased. After a couple of minutes (max.) I either start reading the article or stop the music and go on.

    Recently I learned a new word, a portmanteau actually: infobesity.
    I do have a hard time checking out all the new music that is constantly being published. Especially the kind of music we are into often needs a couple of spins to really get into. However, the music I discovered through this site off the trodden paths is definitely a great reward for this “effort”.

    So thanks for the NCS writer’s efforts that is much bigger than mine as a consumer.

    What would be an improvement? Apart from the eye-strain issue (above) it could be helpful to have some “musical style tags” for each song or album at a prominent place (e.g. top or bottom). Agreed, that’s very hard and many musicians do not like to be reduced to some tags. But still, at least for me a rough categorization is helpful and sometimes hard to spot somewhere in the article’s text.
    I try to give an example for this from my private check-out-later list:
    Virgin Snatch – We serve no one: [trash,death,groove,clean,harsh,poland]

    Err, well, thanks for reading this comment that started as a one-liner and turned out epic.

    • “Infobesity” is an excellent word. And as I mentioned in response to another comment above, I do wonder whether we try to throw too much music at people on a daily basis. The tag idea is an interesting one, and could be a useful response to the infobesity problem. But honestly, there are times when I have real trouble coming up with genre pigeonholes for certain bands. Sometimes, I also think that a genre tag might deter people from checking out something them might genuinely like, even if they generally have an aversion to other bands with the same tag. Every now and then, for that reason, I’ll intentionally not even include a genre reference in the write-up itself. 🙂

    • This reminds me of something foolish I did with the formatting of the early Synn Reports… if you go back and look at the original columns, the “Recommended for fans of: ” part was always at the BOTTOM of the piece… which was pretty useless really, as by that time you would have already read (or not read) the column itself and have a pretty good idea what they sounded like.

      So, eventually, when my idiocy became apparent, I switched it to the top, where it works much better to give people a quick “insight” into what they might be expecting.

  21. Old Man Windbreaker reads as much of the articles as One’s mind allows. One does not listen to much of the music, though. So, the writing One gets to read here is more important to One than the music.

    • As for possible improvements, One requests a colour scheme less strenuous on the eyes, and tags indicating articles’ authors.

      • You are absolutely right about the author tags. I should have been doing that all along. I’m not going to spend time going back through our thousands of posts to fix that oversight, but I will start doing it from now on.

  22. It might not be the most helpful of comments but as with most things in life “it depends”. I often read the part that’s “above the fold” to figure out what it’s about. If it catches my interest I’ll read the rest. If it’s about a band or musical style I couldn’t care less about I generally stop reading and move on. From time to time I do realize I’ve found an interesting band, so I go back and see what (if) you’ve written about them only to realize you’ve got ten articles on them which I’ve skipped … sigh

  23. I LOVE what you’re doing, don’t change a thing! I read every word.
    The more the better.

    Consider the alternative: Let’s say you post some music I really like.
    Now, I want to know more about it. Who are these guys? Where is this from? The artwork is cool, who did that? What label are they on? I wonder if they’ve made a video?
    It’s a tremendous resource to get lots of info all in one place. On my own, I really wouldn’t have time to research every band I hear… yeah, I might tell myself, “I’ll look them up when I get home from work” (I won’t). “I’ll track down more of their tracks on bandcamp” (i’ll forget). People who complain about the length of your pieces are really discounting the yeoman’s work you do finding all this good stuff.

    Thanks! Keep up the good work.

  24. Yes I read, and I write as well. And not with the usual semi-literate “I read when I have a menu in front of me” attitude, but I actually do read REAL literature.

    As far as metal website are specifically concerned, however, I agree that the average person is less concerned about whether or not an article/review/whatever is coherent and rational, and more concerned about the nice little rating or video at the end. It’s very hard to motivate myself as a writer when I know that 90% of my audience will skim right through my paragraphs to the end, without taking time to appreciate how much time I put into creating it. I though of removing my rating system entirely, but I don’t want to drive people away. Still, it’s really frustrating to see a meme that took 10 seconds to make get x1000 times more attention than a long and well thought-out interview that took days to prepare, conduct, and edit.

    That said, I am drawn to certain kinds of content more than others. I tend not to read concert reviews because I was either there already or I know it will just make me feel bad for missing out on it. I also skip articles with bands that are uninteresting to me. New deafheaven? No thanks! New Blood of Kingu? Yes please! But in general, I subscribe to a page because I know I’ll actually read a lot of what they write. If I didn’t find the content interesting, I’d just go about my business.

  25. Do I read? Yes. Reading is my primary source of information. I happen to be able to do it fast, which undoubtedly helps.

    Now that I actually have a day job, it has become necessary to become more selective, so I’ve thrown out the interviews and concert reviews, but anything with music in it is more or less bound to pass my eyes (although I have had to crank up the amount of speed reading). I confess to skipping ahead and listening to the music while I read. Which I do because I like the music you lot usually put up.

    So please, do continue. I have perused other metal blogs but they always feel lacklustre compared to the detail, depth and skill that characterise NCS pieces. ‘t Would be a shame if all that were to be lost.

  26. Complete agree with Lord Farin above “I have perused other metal blogs but they always feel lacklustre compared to the detail, depth and skill that characterise NCS pieces.”

    The depth and knowledge is something that I really appreciate here. Besides, I’d also say that if you enjoy writing indepth, longer pieces, keep doing it – since we’re all basking in the warm goo of your generous efforts for free after all 🙂

    There seems to be a trend in the world these days to think shorter = better. Perhaps I’m biased because I deal with this in my day job as a scientist where I really feel that things have gone too far and writing is being cut too short in the interests of ‘conciseness’ to the point that importance nuance and longer consideration is being left out. Probably has important flow-on effects in science but of course for metal we’re all here because we love it. I’d hate to think that posts would get cropped down just due to a feeling of needing to fit in. But I see your dilemma as a blogger – page views, and even comments, don’t tell you if people actually read the article or how much of it they read. In the end I guess writing is a skill and if you drabble on too much without saying anything worthwhile – just like my comment here – then that’s maybe ‘bad writing’, but when you rattle off interesting, and sometimes hilarious, posts then that’s what keeps me, at least, coming back. (I’m sure I’ve penned a few overly verbose articles here at any rate, so can’t exactly criticize 😉 )

    Do I read every post? No, there was a time when I managed to read most, if not all, but this year in particular I’ve been horrifically busy and not able to keep up. I rarely read concert reviews because I live in shithole NZ and no one ever comes here… “why u no come here awsum bands?!”. Sometimes I read interviews for bands I’m not really into just because the interview is hilarious, but other times if I’m not keen on the band I’ll usually skip them. But for most articles, if it seems like something I’d like (or if it sounds good because I’m simultanously listening to the stream while reading) then I try to read the whole post. If I read a paragraph or so and I’m not that into it, then I usually don’t continue.

    Also streams with articles is a must – on the odd occasion when I sleep around with other blogs and catch filthy diseases, feel horrible and come crawling back, sometimes I read a review elsewhere, and then there’s no stream!! Sure you can google it, but it just seems odd *not* to embed a stream or at least a link if it’s available if when it’s the music you’re talking about.

    Anyway my impression from the above comments is that the anwers are ‘depends if I have time’ and ‘I love the longer articles’, and my reading of NCS is probably a mix of the same two answers.

    • My perception is the same as yours — that the trend in most on-line publications is “shorter is better”, and I assume that’s because of the frenetic pace of life in general and internet life in particular. If the sites that are actually trying to make money do this, there must be something to it, even if it’s really pandering to and reinforcing the surface-skimming consumption of information. Which is part of what made me curious enough to write this post. I didn’t expect everyone to give the same answer, but I’m enjoying seeing the range of approaches. It’s more feedback than we’ve gotten in a long time — because we haven’t asked for feedback in a long time!

  27. I read the posts and I do really like what you guys are doing here….I was a huge fan of Cosmo Lee’s writing on invisible oranges so I applaud any and all articles that delve beyond the surface or approach a topic from a different angle. However, I do agree that less contrast with the text and background will help with eye strain… or you could put this in print? Of course, this is coming from someone who will never own an e-reader.

    • Well, a print or even e-reader offering is something I’ve never considered. But it probably won’t happen — we’ve barely got enough time in the day to kept this site going. If it were a full-time endeavor, maybe it would be worth trying to branch out into other formats, or (gasp) try things like twitter. But as I wrote earlier, I do think it’s worth an experiment about the color scheme. As soon as I find the time to monkey with the theme codes…

  28. It depends on what’s there, and also the style of music, most of the time when I see Death Metal, or Metalcore, I just skip over it, as most of everything in that genre bores me, there are a few exceptions to that such as Pyre and Diskord (both interesting bands that I’ve found through here).

    I would also like the bandcamp steams, there’s more of a chance to listen to something if it has one. As for full article reading, I’ve got so little time with 2 kids that it’s only in the evenings that I’ve got an hour or 2, so while I would like to read everything, I tend to skim and get the general idea.

    How about having a short round up for a review ie a “Bottom Line” type of paragraph at the end, that I would read and then decide if I would read the whole review then (if I’ve also got time)

  29. I read it all and am very appreciative of what is written. Easily the best metal blog in the business.

  30. I read some interviews and almost always read the opinion type posts. For the reviews and round ups I generally skim for key words to ensure I won’t get assaulted by stuff I dislike, then stream it. If I like what I hear I go back and read the review after I listen. It helps keep my expectations my own.

  31. Also, I think I’m in the minority on this, but I actually really like the show reviews. Same rules apply though. I have to care about the artist to care about the article. With show reviews, this is even more important.

  32. It really varies and I don’t really know why. Some posts strike my interest and some don’t. I know I’ve enjoyed longer posts from every regular contributor so it’s not like I really prefer one writer to another or anything of that sort.

    I’m definitely more likely to read a complete article if I’m familiar with and like the particular artist, or if I have heard a lot about them and want to become more familiar with them. You guys cover a whole lot of music I’m not familiar with and I’ll often read those articles, too, that’s a big draw for me to NCS but I have to be more in the right mood in order to devote more time to those.

    Really the articles are the most important part of NCS, in my opinion. Like you said, there are plenty of sites that have quick introductions to a band or a song and then just embedded streams. And I don’t care about most of those sites. NCS differentiates itself for the better through the quality of the writing and the opinions and knowledge of its writers.

  33. Also, someone else’s comment about just reminding me. I generally read all the editorial style articles. I really enjoy those for the most part.

  34. If I have time, I read; if I’m pressed, I just listen to the music, then go back and read later.

  35. I typically read the first few lines and scan the rest. I feel shame in just typing that. But I do appreciate the effort that goes into your long-winded articles. =)

  36. I am definitely prone to skimming, but mostly due to time constraints on my part. But I always read the album/track/show reviews, art editorials, new stuff, whatever you guys are thinking, if I can Your blog is amazing BECAUSE it is so exhaustive. I see the passion. I feel the love of this ever-broadening genre. Do not change a thing.

  37. When there’s a stream, I typically listen to it and if the first impression isn’t terrible, I read the attached text. When there isn’t one, I read the article if it’s interesting to me (they mostly are). Obviously sometimes I don’t dedicate too much time to reading everything and thus skim through it. Trying to find some realistic approximation, I think I’ve read over 50-60% of what was spewed out here since I’d started visiting daily. Although I have like 12 entries bookmarked right now, because I couldn’t find time to check them out yet. Anyway, it’s great as it is, keep up the good work!

  38. The longer articles are one of my favorite things about your site. I usually play the streams while I read the articles, and it would be cool if the text lasted as long as some of the songs. It is awesome that the NCS writers put so much energy and effort into presenting the music here, and you can almost always know how a track sounds based on the descriptions. If only we were so lucky to have other great sites to cover different genres…

  39. I read as much of it as I can!! Keep writing!!

  40. Well, that depends on what time it is. Clearly, if it’s early in the morning, I’m almost 100% certain that I can’t read at all. A lot of times, in these cases, I’ll listen to the music attached to a post, gather my thoughts, and come back later once I’ve had enough caffeine to pry my eyes open and then make a comment about it, if I have anything to say. However, I do try to read the post in it’s entirety if time allows.

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