We all know that Metal = Beer (John McEntee’s quote, not mine*), but have you ever thought how similar these two worlds actually are?
Most good beers give their best when fresh and unoxidized, and more importantly, give their best when just bottled and should be drunk within a few weeks. Like all those bands that lose their polish and energy after a demo, or a few albums. When beer has reached proper fermentation it is bottled, when a group has reached compositional maturity it starts writing its own pieces. The majority of the most interesting groups peaked within 5 years of their formation, just as most beers peaked within the first few weeks. Some, very rare ones, such as certain Belgian beers, withstand the passage of time even improving, but eventually they all come to a meager end. Some groups, even rarer, need a moment of refinement and after an album or two discover their true identity, somewhat like certain beers that need to mature a few years to reach the roundness of their flavors and fragrances. Like the beers, most groups could just follow the production specification with barley malt (or other grains) before getting into some bullshit with honey, flavorings, and herbs that in most cases don’t work. As with bands, most beers that try too hard suck dick. Making a beer with modern, experimental methods often serves only as an exercise in style especially if you don’t know their past just like groups that experiment the fuck out without having a solid identity yet. As one for beer that no one feels like criticizing, the concept also applies to top groups that are very clever and very trendy but underneath prove once again that the king is naked. As with beers, some groups that manage to find their own identity then overdo it, get caught up in an omnipotence complex and screw it up. Then there are the sours, which rediscover flavors forgotten for decades, but you have to be very good to make them critically and have a lot of taste as well as technique, but which then when the chemistry is right discover a niche of true admirers. Just like some groups. Just as with beers there are the periods when one or the other is in fashion, and they all try to do the same thing but few manage to make something that works without too much pretension, just as with musical genres, perhaps fishing randomly from the past.
Ultimately though, as with beers, everyone will appreciate whatever the fuck they like at home because a beer, like a record, is a moment of relaxation and evasion.
I wonder what on earth is happening to the package delivery system in the last few years. I’ve been shipping records for a good 30 years now, and never have I had so many problems with deliveries arriving in pieces, kicked and crushed violently. Until the early 2000s even, I used to ship LPs in pizza boxes and even with just a ribbon of bubble wrap the records always arrived in decent condition. In recent years, despite using professional mailers with open cardboard flaps that are supposed to protect the corners, the latest shipments outside Europe have arrived in unthinkable conditions. And the longer the route, the worse the condition of the disks. Currently, I have had to double the mailers, sandwich them with some padding, and tape the edges with cardboard shims to protect the corners. A bit of the problem, maybe, could be directed to the insane collecting pathologies of the Mint fanatics, after all nowadays music is no longer listened to on physical media, we labels sell merchandise or luxury items as they can be called. There is no question, though, that there has been an intensification of courier delivery issues because it is not possible to see such an amount of split, damp, and torn packages. Not that I want to create a community, but have you also experienced this continued deterioration of postal and courier service in recent years?
Paradoxical as it may seem, I had never seen the evolution, particularly the recent evolution, of the world of music publishing, of which this fanzine is a miserable part, from an external point of view.
Living it from the inside, I have always had an immobile and obtuse vision, willing to change only by virtue of personal choices and in relation to the evolution of technologies, but never from a social point of view. Of course, the first online articles date back to the end of the 90s and belong in a way to a pioneering era when even the big publications had practically not yet approached network technologies. That sea of shit of professional magazines was still clinging pitifully to paper, limiting itself to a paltry online presence as was usual in web 1.0, with the difference that no one, at least in Italy, and I mean this seriously, no one who wrote on any newsstand magazine, had even minimal competence in the world of underground extreme metal.
The first journalists capable of delving beyond the usual 3-4 major labels and doing a bit of research (we’re talking about a time when archives were the preserve of a few) appeared with the webzines of the early 00s. You only have to pick up any magazine from the 90s to see that the people writing about it didn’t understand shit. Yet there was something going on in the underground and there were some very nice and well written fanzines in Italy. There was a period at the turn of the 2000s when many American fanzines had become freebies, free copies given away with packages in collaboration with certain labels that could afford it.
It was at that time that this fanzine began an alternation of formats from print to online, an alternation that still persists today.
Although Nuclear Abominations has been online since about 1999, as I said before, I’ve always stubbornly limited myself to reviewing what labels and bands decided to send me, to avoid actively searching for new stuff, as I used to do in the 90s when I spent my evenings writing letters, duplicating tapes and flipping through mountains of flyers. It’s more comfortable to lazily wait for something new to come along to hear, after all. And my justification was that at least, I had to force myself to listen to genres and records that, by my own volition I would never have put on my turntable.
With little side effects, though.
One of them was listening to hours of crap records or completely useless stuff, just for the sake of ethics. The least I could do to repay the trust of a band or label that had spent money to send me something was to listen to the worst shit at least a couple of times, even if that also guaranteed that I could butcher a record as I did with some regularity. I’m sorry but the least you get if you send me a promo of crap music is an abrasive review. Secondly, there was also the problem that I’d end up wasting hours reviewing bands from the same big labels and missing out on the more interesting stuff that was circulating directly between bands without a contract. Add to that the shop break between 2002 and 2004 that took away all interest in the genre and all in all the last 20 years has been a disastrous series of false starts.
But then, in reality, I felt like writing from time to time and so every now and then I tried again, but I progressively saw the world changing at every false start, finally adapting to the new technologies, the physical promos gradually disappearing and a huge mass of interesting bands coming out every day. There was also the factor that, after 2005, certain sounds that today are called OSDM were rediscovered (that those who follow me since day one know well that I have always preferred here compared to all the rest), without counting the real Black Metal, the putrid and very violent one of Conqueror and Black Witchery, finally got an upper hand thanks to labels like Nuclear War Now.
In 20 years the world has changed radically.
Today there are no more promos, or rather there are thousands of electronic promos to browse, select, and first of all decide what to waste your time on, time which is increasingly limited. What seems to be a limitation, however, leads to a new vision of the profession of fanzinaro: even if now I have no guidelines to follow, I can only talk about the stuff I like because I no longer have moral duties towards anyone.
While it’s true that the music world is infested by woke, dry losers who are afraid of words, who are wary of reading a review of a record that might destabilize them, apart from the general weakness of these shits, the world is now proposing a very, very free perspective. Probably nobody follows blogs anymore, but it’s time to go back to the early days when you could select your own playlist. Incidentally, I have never earned a penny from this publication, but nowadays I am completely not willing to compromise. So I welcome the era of electronic promos, videos on social platforms. There might still be something to say, after all.
I recently (in 2014 when I wrote this draft) read two blog posts by two very different guys who are both complaining about the general lack of professionalism around today. You know how it goes, complaining is always a win-win strategy, you will always find somebody that is going to agree with you. I’ll skip on the fact that some other counter-complainers love so much to ask first instance complainers to propose real solutions to the perceived problem. Me, I personally enjoy the freedom to complain destructively without necessarily having to propose a solution. I might not like one thing, but that doesn’t mean I am an expert on the topic nor that I believe I should be one to show my disappointment.
That brings me to one of the main mysteries of this huge mashup that we could call “scene” – and with the term “scene” I am not referring just to the Isten-defined “scene” of band pictures first and “music-comes-second” attitude. I am referring to the whole world of people that, in some way or another, have ever had something to do with extreme Metal, Punk, Grindcore and so on (I have my own theory on how total 1-click availability to most human production spoiled what once was a fairly elitist environment but I might add that this imagery of a golden age is mostly inflated by so-called veterans, believe me, most of our days in the ’90s were just hours upon hours of plain boredom).
I am referring to the fact that apparently there seems to be a hierarchy in this sort of monstrosity called “scene”. There are presumed experts and veterans that believe they can talk and silence people just by the mere fact that they bought “Reek Of Putrefaction” in a store when they were teenagers. And then there are people that instead “can’t talk” because they’re like 14 today, and open their own blogs or Youtube channels and just give their own personal opinion of the stuff being released 20 or more years ago. Obviously, sometimes (well, OFTEN) I cringe when I hear some of these guys talking about stuff they definitely have no clue about, but I personally have no problem with non-experts expressing their opinions.
On the contrary, this is all music fan “journalism” in 2022 is supposed to bring to the table.
If someone is born in 1999 and has a passion for this music in my book he deserves to talk about it even more than 45-year-old guys that pretend to be veterans of the Black Metal scene because they were listening to Emperor and all that (shitty) stuff at the time of the infamous stabbings and church burnings. I know SEVERAL of these, and personally, I feel absolutely no respect for their attitude (not to mention, they are probably – not to say basically always – not experts in the field as they pretend to be, but that’s another matter).
Just to clarify my thoughts a little better I’d like to get back to the very core of this problem: what the hell is a “veteran” or an “expert” of grindcore, or death metal or black metal, or what have you? What makes you one?
For some reason, I reckon I could be called an, albeit minor, “expert” on the field of Death/Black Metal or a particular kind of grindcore that I very rarely recognize today (my concept of what grindcore is supposed to sound like is probably lost today since the boundaries that defined it back then do not exist anymore). Probably not on a planetary level, but I cut my niche in that list a long time ago, at least in my country. I have several thousand records, did my homework during the tapetrading days, and when the stunt still had meaning I could describe and talk about thousands of bands, quote whole segments of interviews, and so on.
Do you know what I did to deserve this? Nothing.
It was only by a complete coincidence that I managed to see records like “In The Sign Of Evil”, “Under The Sign Of The Black Mark”, “Pleasure To Kill”, and so on when they were released in the shops and mailorders. Having an older brother that brings in records lent by other friends is the way most of the guys my age managed to be introduced to metal and punk. Not only there was obviously no Internet around, not only glossy mags were still talking only about Black Sabbath and other big bands, but the greatest problem was that even back then, people cared relatively about extreme music.
I grabbed the records, stared at them, and went through the thanklists, but when my curiosity brought me to talk about these bands with people who were supposed to be “real” punks and metalheads, I recognized that none of them cared about this passion as much as I did. That was until 1994, but I’ll talk about that year in the future. Those kids were the equivalent of today’s Youtube kids that talk about Hellhammer, with the main difference being that these kids actually listened to Hellhammer. Only when I realized that my curiosity could not be sated by the people around me I had to grab a pen and managed to enter the world of xeroxed zines and tape traders. But that’s another story.
So what is this post about? It’s about recognizing that there is no hierarchy and no “respect due” to the so-called veterans that just had the luck of being born at the right time.
Having said all that, that period at the turn of the 1990s (before and after about three to four years) was really something to remember, not so much for the quality of the music being produced as for the fact that we were all very young and everything was forming. I’ve read a few books and accounts from those years and I’ve noticed that it’s never quite clear enough that we didn’t have any money, that it was difficult to get around, and that scams were around every corner. But even less clear is the fact that there were very, very few of us in those days. There was punk to talk about punk with, and that metalhead who, apart from a handful of classic records, would occasionally put on something heavy, but until 92-93 basically in Italy nobody knew shit about extreme metal and we were all sailing by sight. The next time some fat, balding guy talks about his tapetrading days, look him in the eye because 95% of the time he’s bullshitting you.