The A to Z of Metal Journalism
Recently, British indie press entity The Stool Pigeon released an alphabetical list of overused terms and ideas present in music journalism (take a gander). And while many of us at Invisible Oranges nodded and face-palmed at some of the terms and phrases we were particularly guilty of using to death (‘angular riffing’ made more than one of us stare at our shoes in shame), I found that this list was sorely lacking in phrases I specifically drive into the ground like railroad spikes. Upon further consideration, I realized that metal journalism, like the music form it covers, is its own beast with its own rules, and therefore warrants its own list.
So, for all you young aspiring metal journalists (turn back, dear fucking God TURN BACK), I provide you with a twenty-six part list of tried-and-true terms and concepts to make your drab review into a fire-breathing heroin-drinking skull-shitting hellbeast that will no doubt earn you up to seventy-five whole dollars. Enjoy this, Scab Casserole’s own Metal Journalism Alphabet.
A is for Ax: When you’ve said guitar too much, and you want to make a musician sound like some sort of medieval warrior, call it an ax. Variations include ax-man, ax-worship, and grinding that ax for a long time. Special tip: don’t include the ‘e,’ like for a proper tree-chopping axe. Why? It’s a mystery.
B is for Bone-Crushing: If something is especially hard-hitting or has a thick, riffy sound, it crushes bones. Whether the bones are ground afterwards, or which of the 206 bones in a human skeleton are crushed, does not matter, so long as bones are crushed, preferably by large, powerful breakdowns.
C is for Chainsaw Guitars: If you want to describe a guitar as having lots of treble and an insane amount of distortion, they are best compared to chainsaws, which are obviously the most metal power tool due to their use in the butchering of cinematic teenagers. Not to be confused with chainsaws used like guitars, such as that on Jackyl’s “The Lumberjack.”
D is for Doom: A versatile term that can refer to music’s slow pace, depressive subject matter, or looming evil within a song. Also a genre with a wide range; if using to describe the genre, make sure to do it in such a way that comments-section posters can question indefinitely. For instance, Grand Magus is a doom band. Discuss.
E is for Entrenched: Describes a band deeply invested in a very specific style and metal tradition, and helps continue the comparison of playing heavy metal to dying at war. For example, Cannibal Corpse are entrenched in brutal death metal—they’ll play nothing else, until they perish in a bloody heap.
F is for Furious, Fierce, and Fearsome: These three adjectives that mean basically the same thing—the music is energetic and everyone sounds incredible angry. But though similar and alliterative, your editor will probably overlook the use of at least two, if not all three, in a review.
G is for Guttural: Describing extreme metal vocals as “hoarse shouting” or “Cookie Monster language” or “extended throat clearing” just doesn’t sound glottal enough. Use ‘guttural,’ Generally helpful in distinguishing all non-clear vocals from clear vocals.
H is for Hipster: Make sure to bestow this title on anyone who does not meet your criteria for trueness, or has gotten into metal for reasons you don’t deem worthy (see ‘W’). Also a designated subgenre of progressive metal that includes everyone from Liturgy to Kylesa to Abigail Williams, for some reason.
I is for Infectious: Metal is never ‘catchy.’ ‘Catchy’ is a word for shitty pop tunes trying to ‘catch’ the cattle-like prey of mainstream music listeners. If a part of a metal song gets stuck in your head, it is because it has infected you, like a terminal disease.
J is for Jaunty: A literary term best used to describe upbeat songs with major keys and a galloping tone. Rarely a positive word, though when it is it denotes incredible music ability. Usually joined by other words such as ‘jaunty rhythm’ or ‘jauntiness.’.’
K is for Kvlt: Though somewhat amorphous in its meaning, ‘kvlt’ refers to anything with intense overtones of unexplainable darkness, and a sense of obscurity in an album’s creation (see ‘P’) and distribution. A warning: if you spell the word properly, like the subversive religious group, you are not kvlt.
L is for Legendary: When a metal musician is especially talented or well-known, they are the stuff of legend, like King Arthur or werewolves. Therefore, they must be described as such, as though their picture were found inside of a weathered codex unearthed in the basement a desecrated church. It should be noted that any death metal album made before 1995 is legendary.
The alphabetical guide to metal journalism continues with M….