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Top 10 Most Overused Words in Metal Journalism

Writing about metal is a lot like covering sports. Dozens of releases drop week after week like games stack up during a season. Just like sports writers try to find ways to make a touchdown pass sound like a major event, it’s tough to find a novel description for the umpteenth grindcore or black metal album. So the same words and phrases show up again and again.  Trust me, I’ve used them all.

Here are the worst offenders:

1. Brutal

This word should henceforth be banned from any discussion of metal. It’s been so overused that it has ceased to mean anything. The last time this sounded cool was when The Misfits released Legacy of Brutality.

2. (Enter genre) and add a y

Metal writers need ways to say something doesn’t sound like Motörhead.  The answer is employing phrases like doomy, bluesy, proggy, stoner-y, Bathory-y, etc.

3. Epic

Denotes a song that is longer than five minutes. Used most often with bands that dress up like extras on the Jack Black movie Year One.

4. Blackened

Best describes what should be done to a catfish fillet. Instead, usually describes a band that has a passing interest in Emperor.

5. Melodic

You can’t have music without melody. This word is nothing more than window dressing. Even the most primitive metal has melodic elements.

6. Majestic

Used with music that employs any other instruments than guitar, bass, and drums and often employs a female vocalist (see Leaves Eyes, After Forever, Nightwish).

7. Any adjective hinting at bodily harm

Metal specializes in songs about harming others, yourself, or religious icons. This extends to the listener’s ears. Hence, when writing about metal we get pummeling, bruising, scorching, pounding, wrenching, etc. Can also extend to phrases like artery-ripping and soul-decimating. Can a song really remove a body part?

8. Full-length

We can do away with this one. If it’s not a single or an EP, chances are it’s an album.

9. Fucking

Indicates that the writer is very excited.

10. Lots of adverbs

We don’t like to let musicians speak for themselves. Hence, we see things like “‘This is our greatest album’, Winger said triumphantly”. Chances are he considers it a triumph if he says it’s the best record.

This also extends to a general reluctance to use the word says. Very rarely do metal artists say anything. Instead they exclaim, state, declare, note, emphasize, and add. “‘I’m a kick ass guitarist’, Winger proclaimed”.

. . .

Now see how it all works together, using Venom’s At War With Satan as an example.

At War With Satan — Rating: Nine Bloody Axe-Hewn Heads

At War With Satan isn’t as brutal as Welcome To Hell, and it lacks the blackened punk aesthetic of their earlier albums. But the band’s third full-length still berates and pummels the listener with often majestic sweeps and an epic track. The melodic introductory riff appears throughout the lengthy eponymous song, but Venom isn’t afraid to slow down to doomy interludes.   “This may be our finest album”, Cronos says boastfully. “And it shows we aren’t just a joke”, he exclaims. Fucking-a, is he right.  This soul-decimating album will make you shit your drawers.

Your turn. Any other words you’d like to remove from the metal lexicon?

— Justin M. Norton



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