(Andy Synn offered the following thoughts about his conception of our mission here, plus recommendations of three new albums.)
Why are we here? That’s the big question which has been playing on my mind for a while now.
Not in the philosophical or religious sense though, more the very concrete, very real question of why are WE, the people who make up NoCleanSinging, actually here? What is our purpose? What are we trying to achieve?
After all, there’s a good argument (one which is frequently made) that the advent of the internet and the proliferation of streaming and download services (both legal, illegal, and everything in between) has made traditional criticism largely obsolete, and that the process of reviewing an album has lost some of its impact and importance.
And, truth be told, there’s something to be said for that position, and acknowledging that is part of what has forced me, over the last few years, to re-evaluate the way I work, the way I write, and the way I see NCS operating.
Ultimately this site is just one voice among many, most of whom spend the majority of their time simply trying to shout louder than the others in an attempt to attract the attention of what can be a rather fickle and easily-distracted audience, who are themselves constantly subjected to a barrage of different sights and sounds and blaring opinions all designed to monopolise their time (and, in certain circumstances, their money).
And even though our strategy (if you can call it that) here at NCS has always been about building the site’s profile slowly and steadily, providing (wherever possible) coverage that other sites might not, and to ensure that the focus remains purely on the music, rather than on our own individual fame or notoriety – all while purposefully choosing not to engage in the clickbait controversy and calculated hyperbole we see other sites employ – we haven’t failed to notice (or appreciate) that our profile has risen quite dramatically over the last several years, to the point where we’re probably now more popular and more well-known than ever, with more bands looking for reviews, more labels hoping to set up premieres and interviews, and more readers coming to the site to (hopefully) discover new bands and new artists which they might not find elsewhere.
It’s this last point in particular, however, which stands out to me as really defining our raison d’etre here at NCS, and which led me to putting this particular column together.
Because the truth is that I see our role now more as curators, than as critics, collecting together a variety of hand-picked examples from the ever-increasing array of artists and albums all vying for your hard-earned money, and providing guidance, opinion, and analysis, all designed to inform, instruct, and help you find the music which you’re looking for.
This doesn’t mean, however, that there’s no criticism – in the traditional sense – involved. I can’t speak for everyone who writes here, but I am always careful to provide constructive criticism wherever I deem it to be valid and useful, even if our general modus operandi is to accentuate the positive, rather than the negative.
It just means that I no longer view our work here as existing within the rigidly authoritarian role of the “traditional” critic. We’re here to help, to advise, and to occasionally badger you into giving a certain artist or album another chance, but we’re not here to try and dictate what you listen to. We’re simply here to give you some options, some recommendations, and some useful information, which will hopefully allow you to make the right choice for yourself.
Obviously, for some people this will be, and has been, a deal-breaker, as it simply isn’t what they want from the site. But in a world where it’s possible to find a 10/10 review of practically any album you can think of using Google, and where the dizzying variety of new releases constantly being thrown out into the world to fend for themselves makes picking out the true gems harder and harder, it feels like it’s an important role all the same.
So, in that spirit, here are three albums, all of which are available to listen to right now, which I’ve decided are well worth your attention:
First up is Entropy Mantra, the brand new album by New York quartet Anicon, which sees the band following up their brilliant debut with seven more tracks of blisteringly aggressive, boldly progressive, Black Metal art.
Secondly, in something of a departure from our regularly-scheduled programming, we have Beyond the Pale, the long-awaited third album by Icelandic Post Rock/Post-Hardcore band We Made God, whose blend of ethereal melody and (post) metallic muscle should be of particular interest to fans of Sólstafir and latter-day Deftones at their most eloquently emotive.
Last, but by no means least (well, depending on your tastes) we have this slab of bludgeoning Deathcore devastation courtesy of Michigan misanthropes Bog Wraith, whose mix of blackened riffology, neck-wrecking rhythms, and straight-up Death Metal brutality could very well tickle your fancy even if you’re the sort of person who usually runs straight in the opposite direction at even the slightest whiff of ‘core.
Speaking for myself, I always thought we were here for the fame and the adulation. And of course to increase the use of Latin and French phrases in metal writing.
I would counter by saying I find critique even more necessary than ever when it comes to music. There is so much music out there. So much to digest and consume. I only visit a few trusted sites, and only 2 with any daily regularity (this one and angrymetalguy). I place a lot of of trust in the reviews from these sites. I feel as though this site serves as simply a guide for me and my tastes. I still listen to a lot on my own independent of recommendations from either, but very frequently, a positive opinion from one of these sites coaxes me to check something out in the first place that I may have normally missed. Your “place in this world,” at least to me, is one of great importance. It helps promote lesser known bands, keep heavy metal alive and thriving, and also helps put money in the pockets of many artists (since I still buy music and refuse to confirm to streaming only).
Same here…I’ve spent more than I care to admit on physical media that I’ve found through this site. Trying to make my way to buying digital content because I know some quality bands put out in that format only but it’s been a tough bridge to cross for me.
I still have a tough time conforming to digital. It’s cheaper and I get more albums that way, but I feel like I just don’t enjoy digital as much as physical. I never got into vinyl, either. I still buy cds. I buy most of my albums from band camp, which comes with the instant digital download, but I still don’t feel like I truly “get” an album until I see that cd in my mail box and get to look through the booklet.
With a family, a pretty demanding job, and a number of other hobbies, I find my free time is more and more precious so I have less and less time to listen to music and read blogs. So having a couple of sources (primarily NCS and AMG) I can rely upon is a huge help for me.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is: thanks.
Really, just…thanks for avoiding the tabloid-esque nature of waaay too many sites I run across lately. I just wanna know if the music is good and/or if it’s within my tastes. You guys do a good job at such things and staying in my bookmarks, as my tolerance has all but disappeared.
Dude! Good point. I am sure you are referring to MetalSucks and maybe metal Injection to a lesser extent. I used to love those two sites, went there for all my metal, but even as a liberal when it comes to politics, the liberalism and overt bashing of bands by those sites because they don’t agree with their politics is quite irritating. Just their shameless bashing of bands and styles of music in general have really turned me away from them. They can’t even keep insults or politics out of one single review. So, to add to this comment, thanks for keeping it about the music.
Yes, Metal Sucks is unbearable, and furthermore, keeping an eye on even smaller sites that attempt to garner the same kinds of clicks and forced morbid curiosities is not much better. And, consequently, the sites that attempt to be lighter in tone that I run across just come off as a farther leaning wannabe opposite, while being just another side of the same coin – what with trying to seem edgy by forced humor against parts of the very scene we’re trying to keep up with. (I won’t be dropping names, because as an agoraphobic hermit, I do a lot of scouring in attempt to pass my time and weed out the weak, so the list of those that fall within these shitty trends is sadly very big, and/or have associated individuals I’d rather not publicly bash.)
Your site is fantastic. I’ve found so many new and cool bands that I would have only maybe stumbled upon – but here, it’s presented in a curated, reviewed format. Incredibly helpful.
NCS is a great site. I check it for updates almost daily.