Title: Assessing 318 tracks and 39 albums in 10 days
Posted: May 07, 2009 (08:18 PM)
As a member of independent musician network 'Just Plain Folks', this year I volunteered to help judge the JPF Awards. In terms of entry volume, JPF is probably the largest music competition in the world. Something like 500,000 songs and maybe 40,000 albums compete within their own genres. The competition is so large it is only run every two years. Judging is conducted by JPF members, mostly online.
You can't judge in an area you've entered (which for me is Electronic), and after expressing my areas of interest, I was assigned Death Metal, Experimental, Rock and Metal. The judging software is like an itunes jukebox that can sort and queue entries in many orders, and which lets you 'star' your choices - Fave 10 tracks and 5 albums in a genre, then your second-fave 10 tracks and 5 albums.
Narrowing a list of, say, 120 tracks down to 20 is a Herculean task, especially with the time pressure. I have done the best possible job I could do in the time given, though I feel a bit uncomfortable knowing I could have done a better job with less material or more time. I also had to skip one genre (Metal) for download bandwidth reasons. So I judged:
Experimental: 119 tracks, 12 albums
Rock: 143 tracks, 15 albums
Death metal: 56 tracks, 12 albums
This was round 4, so there's nothing incompetent left you can just throw aside. The main satisfaction comes after you do an initial narrowing of 119 to 30 or so, then listen to the 30 and realise you weren't just stumbling blindly, but actually made choices that were useful to you.
The other satisfaction is finding the odd song you really dig. In most cases I've been able to immediately go buy that song from iTunes.
Posted: May 07, 2009 (08:48 PM)
As someone who listens to a lot of death metal, I'd be interested in hearing what groups you judged and how you rated those, for my personal listening pleasure.
Posted: May 07, 2009 (09:51 PM)
Whew - Death Metal was hard to do. The extremity of it has a funnelling effect when you're trying to compare so much of it at speed. In Rock, I'd respond to things much more quickly, like, dislike, etc. I found that with death metal, at this level of high ability we'd reached in this comp at this point, it was way harder to make decisions.
Here's an alpha list of all death metal bands I listened to in this round. After it comes a few of my faves (which in no way indicates how I voted - disclaimer). And I doubt I'm as au fait with the genre as you Overdrive, but I know a bit:
Angels Beneath Me
Apple Of The Bitch
Blunt Force Trauma
Boys With Xray Eyes
Etched In Red
Falling To Pieces
From This Day
I Declare War
In The Eyes Of a Mistress
Love Story's End
Sky Bleeds Black
Bands I responded to the most were Aurora Black, Blinded Colony, Obsidian, Pariaud, Vermin, Zonaria.
Zonaria have a lot of atmosphere like early Emperor, and Emperor are my own favourites. I tend towards black metal.
Obsidian have a lot of discernible and complicated structures that I like.
Blinded Colony are Swedish and at times probably verge into the kind of high, melodic, over-compressed vocal I associate with what we'd broadly call 'emo'. Still, I went for a lot of this band, so either the songwriting kicks arse or I somehow secretly yearn for emo yelling and never realised. :) But that can't really be it, that kind of vocal makes my skin crawl..
Posted: May 07, 2009 (10:19 PM)
Apple of the Bitch. Wow what a name. Almost as bad as Arsonists Get All the Girls or We Butter the Bread With Butter.
Posted: May 07, 2009 (11:45 PM)
'We Butter the Bread With Butter' sounds good to me :)
Posted: May 08, 2009 (12:08 PM)
Ought to be fun for me to check out that list, as I'm not familiar with and/or haven't heard of most of the bands there.
Two of your faves are among the few I'm familiar with. For me, Zonaria sounds a bit like Hypocrisy (at least from whatever album had Eraser and Slave to the Parasite) and I love Hypocrisy, so that gave them positive points for me. And I agree with you about Blinded Colony. They have that screamo vocal sound, but there's something catchy about them. They're almost like a "guilty pleasure" death band or something like that.
EDIT: Unfortunately, Apple of the Bitch doesn't have available tracks on their lastfm page. I've never been so disappointed in my life......
Posted: May 08, 2009 (07:14 PM)
I've got an AOTB track you can try here:
To get it I had to record streaming mp3 to 16-bit AIF, then re-encode that to an mp3. Let me know when you've dowloaded it so I can free my server space.
Posted: May 08, 2009 (11:13 PM)
I downloaded it Bloomer. As my thanks, I'll give you my "untrained ear" opinion on what I listened to today (which might be more of a "WTF are you thinking" thing than a thanks, but...you know).
24Seven -- I saw they were listed as rapcore on last.fm. The end.
Angels Beneath Me -- I barely made it through 2 minutes of the first song I heard. Just not my style.
Apple Of The Bitch -- I actually liked that song you sent me. Nothing special, but kinda catchy.
Aurora Black -- They have two albums on last.fm. The (I assume) the older one with an undersea theme was blah, but unoffensive. The other one with about 16 tracks was pretty damn good. Kind of a metalcorish-death with some black metal influence. I've found some of my current faves are blackish with other influences (Blut Aus Nord w/black industrial; Coldworld w/black ambient), so I was impressed.
Batoche -- better than I expected. Not great, but not horrible.
Beyond Agony -- I think they were the ones with the rap-metal-death vibe I would I liked a lot more in college when I thought Biohazard was cool.
Blinded Colony -- didn't look up yet since I was familiar with them.
Blunt Force Trauma -- seem to recall not liking them.
Chastisement -- okayish if generic 90s death-sounding band.
Devious -- decent group that probably is one rung on the ladder below my tastes.
I noticed you mentioned black as your preferred genre of extreme metal as compared to death, at least, in your description of Zonaria. What are your favorite groups there? I notice I gravitate more towards those that I'd describe as pop-black like Naglfar or Catamenia, or those that are very out there in their own abstract world like Blut Aus Nord or Sigh. With a certain amount of love for the long-ass songs of Summoning, Moonsorrow and Drudkh.
I pretty much feel like black is the best subgenre of extreme metal because there's a certain amount of creativity there that you really don't see elsewhere. Limbonic Art melds classical music themes with it. Immortal did great with stripped down metal with croaky vocals. I get the idea that Catamenia covering W.A.S.P. wasn't an accident, as they love mixing catchy hooks with hypnotic black metal beats. Nachtmystium's on a Pink Floyd trip and Rotting Christ seems to get more eclectic with every album of theirs I hear. There's a lot of great stuff being put out in this subgenre of music.
Posted: May 09, 2009 (08:08 AM)
Thanks for more observations on these bands. This is an area I always like to learn a little more about.
My favourite black metallers are Emperor, Celtic Frost and Bathory. So I guess that's one longstanding band (Emperor), one extremely longstanding (Celtic, though now disbanded) and one that you might call 'old' (Bathory)
I saw Celtic Frost here in Sydney in 2007, and that's been one of my favourite concerts in life. Their musicianship was outstanding.
I tried Immortal (In the winter darkness, I think?) but it never grabbed me enough for me to persist with them.
I like Emperor the most for their massive complexity and sophistication at the note-for-note level, as well as the overall sound and grandness at times. I like their early really diabolical-sounding stuff a lot as well, and that crosses over into Bathory, whose early stuff also sounds extremely raw. This is one genre where I do think sometimes that technically odd or beleagured production has led to the creation of some kind of palpably creepy atmosphere. Someone called it 'necro'. Someone else called it 'shit production' :)
Anyway, thanks for the black metal leads.