Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Album Ratings

Because all you need is a Sesame Street system of numbers to tell you whether an album is worth it or not.

So here's the story. Earlier last week, I was approached by one of my good friends, (or at least that's what he thinks) with the intent to converse with me as if he were capable. With a warm and friendly smile, (a deception from his true intent), he asked of me, "So I noticed that you do some album reviews on your blog, but you don't actually give a number rating on them or anything. Why is that?" Needless to say, I was aghast. This bag of the douche variety just looked me in the eye and questioned my workings as the self-proclaimed undisputed true metal master of the internet. Him and I were supposed to go to an upcoming Origin / Hate Eternal show together early next month, but I lost his ticket in the trash can.

Gather around children, and listen carefully, for these are the facts of life. No matter what anybody tells you, or what you read or what you watch, you can't slap a fucking number on art. This is even more so in the case when the art we're taking into consideration is produced in its ultimate form, which we all refer to as heavy metal. You're a damn fool and should be ashamed of yourself for even trying to judge the epic glory or devastating failure of a metal act with something as basic and blunt as a numeral system. You are 4 out of 5 RUBBER HELMETS RETARDED. 

Maybe 2.5 Helmets on your best day.

Let's think about this here. Just for the sake of example, I'll pick out a glorious heavy metal masterpiece that can't be disputed by anyone who knows anything: Savatage - The Hall of the Mountain King. Jesus Christ, I am at half-mast right now just at the thought of it. There should be no qualms with that choice as a truly phenomenal metal album, or else you're reading the wrong blog, listening to the wrong music, and missing your daily recommended oral dosage of lead flying out of a gun. On the other end of the spectrum, we need to think of a completely dismissable album by a group that's barely worth a mention from anyone. How about Children of Bodom - Hate Crew Deathroll? Perfect. So if I was running a typical heavy metal blog, writing typical reviews like a typical bullshitter would, I would give Savatage's album a 5, because that's how the system works, and I can't go any higher. I would then give Soilwork's, I mean Meshuggah's I mean Fear Factory's, I mean Devil Driver's, I mean Children of Bodom's album a fat fucking 1, because that's the lowest ranking a band can possibly receive and I can't do any worse.

So what's the problem here?

The problem is that there are only 4 measly numbers separating the metal mastery of Savatage, and the twinkle toes mall metal of Bodom from one another in this example. Even if you want to start working decimals in there like a fruitcake, it still doesn't come marginally close to expressing how one album is so much more exponentially better than the other one. Even if we were to use a 10 or 100 ranking system, it would still be a piss poor estimate of one album's dominance over the other. It simply cannot be done with numbers, no matter the scale. These two albums are separated by a length of greatness that is immeasurable by anything. The only way you can describe the difference between the two is with an abstract concept of measurement that no number from 1 to infinity could hope to convey in sheer vastness:

You can't measure metal merit in numbers, Brötunheim. It cannot be done, nor should it be attempted. Ever. Nevertheless, people do it every day, all the time, as if it were acceptable, and perhaps even necessary in a variety of different music blogs and magazine publications. My reviews on the other hand, don't have numbered scores, because I actually have a brain; as opposed to a head full of corn and feces. I fully recognize the fact that you can't describe how excellent or poor an album is musically by counting to fucking five. That's an uninspired and lazy as hell way to tell someone what you think of an album, let alone anything at all. If you approached me about what I thought of the new Devin Townsend Project album, Deconstructed I have two options here. I could either break it down and explain to you what I thought of the album to the best of my ability, going into detail regarding its pros and cons while weighing in on whether or not it's worth listening to or owning. That, or I could just say nothing, kneel down and the street, and smash my face against the curb 4 or 5 fucking times. Maybe stop halfway on my last headbutt.

An album can be described with a variety of adjectives, such as "great", "monumental", "progressive", "brutal","obscene", "average", "horrid", "awful", and so on and so on. An album can't be fucking "3":

"Hey mate, what did you think of Iron Maiden's Final Frontier?"
"I don't know dude, it was pretty three. Maybe three point four at best."
"Oh, um, alright... Well what did you think about the progression between tracks, the guitar work or the lyrics? How do you compare it to their other recent albums or earlier material?"

Alright, so I'll admit nobody just gives an album a number and calls it a day. Before rating the album numerically, they always have to write something about it first, to prove that they actually listened to it enough to form a real opinion, (if you can call any opinion Revolver Mag has "real"). At times, it's not much more than a paragraph, with it's own neat little block somewhere on a magazine page in a grid among many others. Other times, it's practically a novel's worth of pages. The journalist will break down the album track for track, and what was great about the music and what wasn't so great. Which is how it should be, and it's how I do things. Fine. But then of course, they can't seem to help themselves, and they undermine everything they just spent a good amount of their personal time explaining to you, by summing up the album's experience with a number, or a couple stars, or few horns, or pentagrams, or whatever other retarded hard rock imagery they can dig up in their clip art galleries and line up side by side at the end of their article. No I don't have the band Helmet in a clip art gallery.

An album rating can only express a musical work to you in five ways: "This sucked", "this really sucked", "this was mediocre", "this was good" or "this was really good". Chances are that some folks will take the quick, simple explanation the rating system provides, if it means they can save themselves the precious 11 minutes or so they would have wasted reading your review to do something more important, like masturbating or playing Starcraft. The human population is saturated with almost no one except the stupid and lazy. I see it everyday. If people actually know that you use a rating system to review albums, I guarantee you that more often than not, they will forgo all the paragraphs of explanation you painstakingly prepared regarding the album, scroll to the bottom of the page/flip to the end of the article, and take a look at your rating system to help form their shallow opinion.

"Hey, did you see that Blabbermouth gave the new Autopsy album a 9.5?"
"Yeah, why?"
"Oh that's right, I forgot you were a crack baby." 
"It's called fetal alcohol syndrome, you asshole!"

If you take album ratings seriously, this is probably what you looked like at birth.
The numbered rating system is also an impossibly broken one, and you might think it gets better and more in depth as the number mark increases, but it actually gets a whole lot worse. If we surpass the 1-5, and take it to the 1-10 level, then we have this whole new expectation where we won't consider anything worth our time if it gets a score under an 8 or a 7. What is supposed to be considered "average" (5) is now considered "terrible". If I were to review on a 10 scale, I would consider a "5" as perfectly decent, because my expectation of a perfect 10 album is just so much higher than the next person's. It's not like we're teachers grading homework here. Just because a 5/10 (50%) would be a considered a failing grade on a book report, doesn't necessarily mean that's how it should be when we're rating metal albums. Heavy metal is the polar opposite of homework, assholes. When people rate albums on a scale from 1-10, what they are essentially asking themselves is whether this album deserves a "passing grade" or not. Looking at it that way, the end result is a lot of albums with any positive marks in their reviews, are receiving 7's, 8's, 9's, and 10's, when they are are in actuality, light years away from what should be considered the perfect album. Autopsy's latest was indeed a phenomenal album, but for Blabbermouth to place it a half of a digit away from being what is essentially an album that's godly in its divine perfection, seems like quite a stretch to me. This reminds me to condemn the use of decimals in album ratings as well. (Same for "half-stars" and the like.) Commit you little bitch. Was the album a 6 or was the album a 7? You can't have it both ways.

The "grading" of albums obviously remains an issue when we consider a 1-100 scale, but an opposite problem also applies. Where as a 1-10 scale teeters everything that's just good too close to the perfect mark, a 1-100 scale will refuse to accept that anything is perfect. I know that you and I can think of several PERFECT metal records off the top of our heads. We listen to them all the time. However, when there is so much room for an album to be graded, even the best albums of all time will receive marks like 94, 96, or 89. The perfect 5 or 10 albums suddenly find themselves looking not so perfect after all. We should also consider how it would effect the scoring of a piss poor album. Anywhere else I would give Needled 24/7 a 1, considering that 0 wasn't a possibility. However, with a 100 scale, I have a lot of room to give Children of Bodom a little more leeway. I would honor them with a 2 or perhaps even a 7 if I was feeling respectful. Bad albums don't deserve such careful consideration. 

I'm not about to come out here and tell you guys that I'm the best music critic ever. I'm extremely far from that. I suck grandma's pee bag at writing music reviews, which is why I do them very rarely, and take a month and a half to do good on any promises I make to review an album. Then again, I could make promises to fist fight the current lineup of Morbid Angel by myself and win on this page if I wanted to, and then not do shit. What are you going to do about it? Keep asking me when it's going to happen? Listen, I'll do it when Morbid Angel starts taking musical cues from Static X. Until then, leave it alone.
You can bet I'm going after David first.
So what I am suggesting is that the people who are good at writing music reviews, (not me) do keep doing what they're doing, but stop wasting their educated musical opinion on this watered-down ridiculous numbers game bullshit. You're undermining yourself as a music listener, a critic, as well as a writer, and you're especially undermining the hard work or the not-so-hard work of the musicians in question. Good or bad, an album deserves to have an in-depth opinion written about it, and that in-depth opinion deserves to be read. People should walk away from your review with nothing in mind except the words you shared about the album. Not some number you pulled out of your ass.

If you have any more questions or comments regarding how I do things, feel free to consult with your local body of water and drown yourself.

I give this article I just wrote a 5/5, a 10/10 and a 97/100.
- Brenocide \,,/  

Edit: You might not think that Meshuggah, Soilwork, Fear Factory, Devil Driver or Children of Bodom sound a lot a like, but all shitty music sounds the same to me.


  1. I give albums a score to kind of go along with the theme of That Devil Music. Brenocide is 8 out of 10 Sins as a metal elitist for example. I actually don't take the numbering thing seriously and sometimes even forget to put it in there. Because I don't get paid to do this shit. Honestly it is a pain in the ass because there are some albums that I sit there and go...what rating DO I give this?
    Where I actually have a problem (and I keep meaning to do an article on this)is these out of the woodwork sites liberally giving out perfect scores to everything just so they can have their page splattered on the bands website or Facebook page. Even though if you read the article they actually had some points where they were obviously dissatisfied. But it's awesome and perfect bro!No...if there were issues then deduct points.

  2. I know what you mean by posting number ratings for albums. I sometimes write reviews on a couple of sites here and there, and the thing I hate more than anything is when people say, "This album suck.." or "This album rules..." followed by a 1 or a 5. When I ask them why, they can't explain why. A justification and a thorough explanation/description of your standing is what people need to be enticed to listen to a record. Not everyone is going to love it, not everyone is going to hate it. It is an opinion, but fucking explain your opinion! Anyway, good job, man. Keep it up, enjoy the site!

  3. I gave Morbid Angel's last album a roadkilled skunk out of a rhino's ass pie.

  4. So.... when are you going to take on Morbid Angel?

  5. Some people say a picture tells a thousand words. I'm pretty sure you expressed a million and I'm too drunk to even read what you wrote.

  6. AnAnonymovsVser6/30/2011 1:37 AM

    So, I heard you were going to take on Morbid Angel...

  7. The Swedish Metalhead6/30/2011 5:23 AM

    Enough with this shit, just give us your In Flames review. Although the post is entirely true.

  8. Zombie Unicorn6/30/2011 5:45 AM

    So when can we expect the In Flame review?

  9. so, I heard we can expect an in flames review?

  10. What's so wrong with Children of Bodom?

  11. According to Metal Archive, only the first four Manowar albums are worth listening to. Need more proof rating suck?

  12. I give this article 5/5! Running a music review site myself, I struggle with the whole rating thing myself. I chose to include it for the lazy fuckers that can't read though.

  13. I'll give you whiners your In Flames review without even listening: it sucks even worse than everything they ever produced ever times ten. I give it three stars.

  14. ^ Like anyone was going to buy it anyway. Except those who review it.

    Great article once again

  15. kingcarcas13497/02/2011 5:57 AM

    Same thing with games, also nobody uses a scale properly any piece of shit can get a 7 and rarely do they go lower than that. Then you get a few wtf games that get a 10 like tony hawk pro skater and the internet turns into a shitstorm and no other game gets a 10 again.........until GTA4 i think.

  16. This sums up everything, I think:


All readers that post under the name "Anonymous" and are too frail and weak to represent themselves properly with a title, shall be deemed false metal poseurs for the remainder of their pitiful existence.