By The Grim Lord and Central Scrutinizer, with guest writer FlightOfIcarus from Metal Trenches
Very seldom would I ever openly criticize another journalistic output, but I believe that I have gotten more of a bellyful from the fine folks at Metal Sucks than should be necessary. This article will more than likely backfire and create more attention from them, there is no doubt that they would try to pervert my words in order to maintain some kind of professional journalistic standpoint – but I think it’s time that someone said something. After all, Metal Sucks is just one part of the global journalistic empire that comprises the Vince Neilstein (Ben Umanov) and Axl Rosenberg (Matt Goldberg) created Blast Beat Network, which I do have a great deal of respect for. I don’t feel that it is entirely professional to tear apart their hard work, and the very fact that they’ve taken something that they loved like heavy metal music and were able to turn it into such a massive media network to run alongside giants like Metal Hammer, Blabbermouth and a few of the indie pages like Invisible Oranges and No Clean Singing is something I won’t dare encroach upon in a harsh manner. That being said, I feel that possibly what may have started out as a nice joke site for metal related topics may have gone a little too far into a sort of trolling mechanism with the only real purpose in gaining more hits, clicks, likes, shares and other types of exposure that would only serve to the benefit of Umanov and Goldberg, their employees and the network as a whole. Make no mistake, these are legitimate journalistic positions and esteemed writers do occupy them. Even if it is a silly troll article, there is the possibility that an established writer is at the helm to make a little extra money. I can’t fault that either.
But what I can fault, are several things which myself and Central Scrutizer have discussed for quite a while. I mean, I do literally understand that the site considers itself a place for opinion and possibly a few joke articles amongst some band promotion; but it is quite obvious that more than a few metalheads are taking some of these pieces seriously. First of all, the place is called “Metal Sucks” which in any sense of the word, should convey it as a sort of comedy website – not to be taken seriously. But my problem is that it has been taken seriously, and they have gone a bit too far with some of their opinions and troll articles. People respond differently to certain stimuli and can turn a bit irate or even violent over some of the silliness posted here. These often make articles less in the realm of a joking manner, and instead seem to pollute the scene and further divide metalheads in this scene. We have to realize that as much as we love heavy metal music, it is not a popular genre as far as the mainstream is concerned. The pop world more or less likes to toy around with it’s imagery and some of it’s artists, but I don’t believe that we will ever see an eighties hair explosion again (nor do we need to). In any case, we need to come together in this music and not pull each other apart due to social issues, racism and elitism. Heavy metal has always been at the socio-political front, but I don’t feel that we should let these things divide ourselves from the music as a whole. This is where Metal Sucks becomes a great divider, and frankly one that we never asked for.
First of all, the site considers itself “a place to bring the metal community together” according to Central Scrutinizer, and also seems to criticize a neologism that they’ve single-handedly coined called “scene bullying.” At the same time, they constantly commit this exact offense with articles generally written to divide the community and create massive arguments. Recently, a ridiculous article was posted called “Why Are Most Metalheads Stuck In The Past?” which is a gross generalization. Being as this article comes from what some still consider to be a reputable page, (and they still publish news articles and band updates sometimes, which makes it even tougher for people to tell the difference) readers will consider it to be something noteworthy and feel that the person writing the article is someone to be taken at their word. Obviously, there are various personas like Emperor Rhombus and Sergeant D. who purposely choose a certain prose by which to write their articles; yet I still gathered from the comments of some of these articles, that these almost blatant troll pieces are taken seriously. What’s more, is that they constantly berate aspects of the metal community and engage in witch hunts – two things that I just can’t turn a blind eye to. Perhaps it’s time for the Blast Beat Network as a whole to start evaluating some of these things as it is going to look very bad on their brand as a whole. Are a bunch of clicks from a frustrated community really going to be worth alienating half of it?
Scrutinizer also stated that he has read a few articles where “black metal band X” was considered to be racist, without any proof other than what was said on some small blog deep within the bowels of the internet. He added that he felt it was an attempt to hop aboard the “virtue signalling express” without even giving it the faintest amount of research. That being said, I am not ignorant. I do realize that NSBM acts do very well exist, but you can’t just cry wolf without any proof or evidence of such a heinous accusation towards fellow musicians that frankly, might have never even been listened to by members of the staff. Though not quite black metal anymore, a fantastic Australian mainstay by the name of Destroyer 666 (a band that we love here for their fantastic craftsmanship, they really put a lot of love into nearly every single work that they’ve produced) was under that same hammer and came completely under fire because of an article posted on the Metal Sucks website. It was a veritable witch hunt with no proof, turning an entire scene against one single act, not to mention creating great unrest in the fanbase who would’ve never heard of such a thing. The site actually had to formally apologize to the band, as these accusations were proven false. My friends, that is where a joke goes too far. They’ve also posted several social justice and political pieces, in addition to celebrity articles tuned to Google’s algorithm (Kardashians, Justin Bieber, Kanye West) which are guaranteed to get them some “rainy day hits” during slow periods. Basically, these guys more or less just post based on whatever kind of hip trend that they can malleate into a metal related article, even if they have to create that trend themselves by using popular socio-political terms and banter. It’s exactly what you would expect from what I would consider to be the bottom of the barrel in heavy metal music coverage. Granted, several sites don’t even seem to know what heavy metal music is anymore, but it’s still good to see regular articles posted that promote bands, albums, vidoes and shows – you know, the kind of stuff that I’m actually curious about as a metalhead. It’s alright to post jokes too, there are quite a few Onion-type pages out there that manage to crack me up a bit. But honestly, people don’t take “Hard Times” seriously, I hope. I mean, I hope. I really, sincerely fucking hope.
Flight Of Icarus over at Metal Trenches feels that there is still hope however, and he finds that ironically, to exist within the comments section. While this area is known on most sites as a breeding ground for the lowest common denominator (and of course it can be), on many of the articles mentioned above, there were simple voices of dissent finding one another as if to say “hey, you’re not alone. I think this is bullshit too.” We often surround ourselves with like-minded people, so it’s easy to forget that there’s an entire world of people out there who think the exact opposite. Just look at the last US election. In the case of MetalSucks, it seems as if some of the writers forget that not all metalheads fall on the Left. In fact, I would guess that 50% or more of metal listeners carry some “conservative” ideologies. This is a good thing. We need to be open to multiple interpretations of ideas if we hope to progress and learn anything, so it is heartening to see people using their own disagreements with these short-sited opinion pieces to form the semblance of a community. However, it would be even better if the body of the articles themselves either offered information left open to one’s own interpretation, or provided point-counterpoint from different sides of the argument. Rather than breeding often false and almost always segregating narratives, this approach encourages acknowledgement of shades of grey that lead to higher level thinking and more long term benefits on both the individual and community level. This may sound like heavy stuff for a music site, but I guarantee that it would lead to some really interesting articles and expose people to a broader spectrum of metal bands.
Rolling back over to me, I truly feel that as a metal journalist, it might be time for Metal Sucks to do some renovating. Personally, I would love to see it rebranded as a place to cover more of the fantastic underground acts in a more corporate setting. If No Clean Singing posts an article on a new act, it may get a good number of hits – but if something as large as Metal Sucks posted an article on a lesser known act, it might recieve quite a few more views. The internet age of music is the future, and IMO there are more great bands out there online than are being signed. It would be nice to see an indie scourer, a page to pick out some of the best out of all these unsigned guys and give them some well-needed exposure. There are so many Bandcamps, Soundclouds and CD Baby accounts out there from acts that are more than worth their salt, but just haven’t gotten the proper amount of exposure to become the next big thing. Even some of the underground heavy-hitters have quit because they just weren’t getting heard.
It’s not just album downloads, it’s also the fact that they just aren’t getting the kind of fanbases that they need to support their art and keep them creating good music. I probably can’t even count the number of amazing talents out there that have just thrown in the towel because there was no one there to give an ear. So many sounds that have gone nowhere, with no real promotion end, leaving a person’s art to decay and rot, never expanding beyond a few EP’s and a short-lived debut. Some artist accounts even lie abandoned, because there just wasn’t anyone to care. Social media can only do so much, and with everyone’s short attention spans these days, it is very difficult to keep one’s mind focused on any one piece of media for a long time. A reader will often say, “Well, why should I care about these guys?” and move onto the next subject. At least with a larger promotion end, (and not a silly little banner ad on websites – something like an interview and/or video/track premiere) there’s a much larger chance of an amazing act being discovered. We can only do so much, and if these sites weren’t so busy posting ridiculous articles about pop culture and social trends; the world might be made a far richer place because of a much wider variety of promoted music. What do you expect these guys to do, crawl on top of their roofs and loudly proclaim, “Come check out our band!” It doesn’t happen that way and many of these sites seem to think that it does. Metal Sucks is indeed the biggest culprit here, which is why I’ve become quite aggravated with them as of late.
I’m not the only one either. I believe when I had asked them where their band promotion pieces were, I only recieved a rushed reply stating the tune of something like “come check out our website, where we have premiered a few new tracks just today!” I apologize, but if you believe so much in those acts, then why aren’t those pages showing up on my social media feeds instead of these lousy opinion pieces? I don’t often come to metal sites for opinion, I come for news and information on my favorite acts, and possibly to discover some new ones. It was Metal Sucks after all that told me about Encenathrakh, which my former colleague immediately purchased for review in the form of a physical copy because he loved the band so much. That was just single person who gave enough of a damn about one of the unknown acts posted to their website, that he actually went out and bought it. If that doesn’t give a good example of why bands need these kinds of pages for promotion and less for half-baked opinion articles; then I really don’t know what does.
Obviously, I don’t want the page to just buzz off somewhere and head into the back-alley to be shot. It is part of the Blast Beat Network and serves some kind of purpose. I don’t know what the creators thoughts are on that now, but I would definitely like to see a bit of an overhaul. At the end of the day, isn’t being in a metal community more about bringing fans of the music together, rather than driving them apart? What happens when we all attend a concert from a band that we love? All of that outside shit just melts away, and we enjoy the fucking music. Because in the end, that’s literally what it’s all about. To be fair, Metal Sucks does devote a lot of time to promotion and has several channels for that. I do understand that some metalheads also get the joke – but racism without proof is no joke to me, nor is scene bullying or just outright creating witch hunts for publicity and clicks. That kind of thing is not cool, not funny and certainly not anything to be proud of. If you are a fan of this scene and think that these things are okay in any fashion, then I would consider you take a good look at your life. The Grim Tower does not promote these kinds of things, regardless of the silly banter in some of the reviews that I write. I just hope that in the future, this professional media channel would consider what I’ve said, as I find this behavior not only detrimental to the metal scene, but dangerous. Some of these articles can put people’s lives at risk – that is the important part here. When someone can be harmed due to banter on the Internet, it is no longer a joke. That I think, really says it all.