Normally, I’m not in the business of reviewing other metal publications. There are more than enough out there to satisfy one’s preferred style of coverage. And, generally, we’re all in this together, right? Whatever opinions I have about my peers, I’ll keep to myself. However, Lamentations of the Flame Princess recently had a promotion: one issue in exchange for one review of the zine.
Admittedly, my first impression of LotFP was negative. Its website had ridiculously long artist interviews that had little to do with their work. A lengthy anti-false metal screed, with which I agreed in some respects, turned me off with its shrill personal attacks.
However, Internet and print media are very different animals. The Internet shreds attention spans. People are on five windows (or tabs) at once, they’re downloading something, they’re goofing off at work. “Short and sweet” seems to work best online. But with print, longer is often better. You want something you can sit down with.
The print version of LotFP spectacularly delivered in this regard. I found myself wanting to miss trains so I could read it more. I read it cover to cover. Good work, Jim Raggi and co.
Having no pictures aside from band logos and its cover art, LotFP is text-driven. The writing won’t win any awards, as it’s rambling, opinionated, and brutally frank. However, it works for a metal zine. Metal is music of passion, and LotFP is like a passionate, sometimes didactic, older brother sharing his knowledge.
This issue of LotFP, “The Shameless,” contains two essays, a ton of reviews, and a long but insightful interview with Twilight Odyssey. Reviews have no ratings or grades, which is ideal, as the text of a review should be enough to convey its sentiment. Three writers do reviews, but their voice is uniform. Their reviews are complete – music, production, artwork, lyrics, place in a larger context.
The zine has quite an anti-record label bias; the cover depicts a metalhead poking a spear at crucified execs of Roadrunner, Century Media, and Spinefarm Records. I agree with the sentiment (the pursuit of money ruins art), but not with the specifics.
Raggi says, “Financially unsound record labels are the only record labels that music listeners can trust.” This statement goes too far. A label’s job is to promote and sell bands’ music. Potentially, it can do businesswise what a band can’t do on its own. One could compare metal albums to food (an attitude LotFP would likely embrace). It’s impractical for an individual, say, avocado farmer to sell directly to every grocery store. It makes sense for the farmer to contract with a middleman like Calavo to handle such negotiations.
Sure, labels water down art and screw over artists. But it takes two to sign a contract. Artists should know what they’re getting into. Usually, they’re giving up royalties in exchange for distribution. Some band weigh these considerations and sign anyway. We each have different thresholds for Faustian bargains.
A financially unsound label can be just as bad as having no label. The money spent on an album is wasted if there’s none left to promote it. A label is not something to trust if it might be gone tomorrow. This issue is really beyond the scope of this review, though.
I don’t support the personal attacks LotFP stoops to deliver. I do support the critical thinking it encourages. It’s informative and thorough, and it piques my interest in the bands it champions. On that level, it succeeds as a zine. Sign me up.