Once upon a time in a rainy city there lived the editor of a little website about heavy metal who received entirely too many promotional emails full of music. So many bands sent him their music that he didn’t know what to do with it all.

Usually, he wouldn't listen to any music if the email sounded ‘funny.’ He did not like funny metal bands, he did not like funny television shows (except Archer and Seinfeld) and he especially did not like funny television shows about metal bands. He had seen GWAR twice and didn’t really enjoy himself. [What kind of metalhead are you?! --Asst. Ed.] He didn’t understand why people loved Bill Murray. Hell, his idea of funny was writing an album review like a fractured fairytale.

Then one day, he received an email from the frog prince Toaderus Crusticus, who was really just some guy from California that recorded a little album called Nefarious Occurrence by himself.

“Look at me! Look at me!” wrote Crusticus, in what the editor does not intend for any reader to take as a direct quote. “I have a band called Crusty Old Toad and won’t you listen to my music through Bandcamp?”

Now, if this were a real fairy tale, the editor from the rainy city would have rebuked old Crusticus’s advances numerous times before consenting to listen to the music. But that’s not what happened.

For whatever reason the editor from the rainy city was feeling like not his usual self and clicked on the Bandcamp link. He did not like what he saw!

“What is this?” cried the editor when he saw the cover of the first Crusty Old Toad album, Nefarious Occurrence. “Your album cover is just a man wearing a cheap halloween mask standing in front of two identical and poorly photoshopped candles! And your purple font is hideous! I feel as though you’re making fun of me in some way for even bothering to click on your email! But what the hell, let’s give your album a listen.”

The editor clicked the little triangle icon, and was delighted at what he heard. What began as some pretty decent black and roll unfolded into catchy melodies. Forty-three seconds into the first song, “Sorcerer’s Path,” his foot began to tap on the roller mat under his office desk. He was reminded of Tribulation, a band that his friends and readers all enjoyed. And so, he kept listening. He listened to one song, and then another, until pretty soon he listened to the whole record through (not that it was hard, the damn thing’s short).

“Maybe I should tell somebody,” thought the editor. “Maybe I should call Hells Headbangers and tell them to get on this while it’s an unknown thing, I mean his Facebook followers are still in the double digits.”

Then he looked at the lyrics, and was distraught by what he saw. “A song about his girlfriend getting mad at him for watching porn? And another one about wanting to be an ice skater?” he said into the gaping and unforgiving and unpopulated echo chamber that is the audience for his internal monologue. “These aren't things I want in music!”

He closed his laptop and went about his day.

And then he found himself telling his friends about his email with the frog prince. “You won’t believe this silly thing I found!” he said over drinks the next night. “Oh, but the music is actually quite good. It sounds sharp and modern, beholden to black metal and with ghoulish vocals, but always balancing those elements with really catchy riffs. Oftentimes the songs really open up into ornate art rock sections and then dive back into Midnight-ish territory. It has heart and swagger. Sure it’s so reminiscent of that last Tribulation album that it’s a little off-putting, but that was a good record. So what if it’s in jest, the song ‘Daydream in Hell’ addresses the same working man’s blues that I myself combat with this website, and that’s worth something. And the song ‘Ashes to Fly’ actually cuts through a lot of the ponderous black metal bullshit to express some genuine fucking pathos!”

A couple weeks passed, and the editor was still listening to Nefarious Occurrence at the office. He wondered what would happen if the frog prince went on to do a few splits with Shitfucker or Barbatos. Then he wondered what would happen if the frog prince just re-released the album with a different name, cover and lyrics. After all, practically nobody had listened to the record. Maybe the frog price could just be a regular prince one day, with an indie label, limited run cassettes and very eye-catching tee shirts.

And then he said to himself “Screw that. It’s a great listen and if nobody’s going to give it a kiss, warts and all, then I guess I will.”

So he wrote a little review of Nefarious Occurrence and maybe someone tossed the frog prince a couple bucks to get a better mask. Or not. Either way, the lesson of the story is: never judge an album by its awful-on-purpose photoshopped cover because you might wind up listening to it for a week straight in spite of yourself.

—Joseph Schafer



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