Thursday, August 11, 2016

State Of The Tower Address (8/11/2016)

Before I reopen The Grim Tower, let us talk about my beginnings in music as well as some slightly controversial bits that might make a few people upset. That's not my intention, but sometimes the truth does hurt.

- Beginnings -

In any case, I first began my journey into the world of music around the eighties. I was a kid raised on MTV, back when it was primarily music videos. Every morning, I would get up and play with my toys and the TV would have one artist or another playing music in the background, from all genres. I do remember Michael Jackson and Phil Collins playing an awful lot though. This ran into the nineties, in which the brit-pop fad had moved into America in the form of boy-bands. These weren't necessarily new with Mickey Mouse processed acts like New Kids On The Block and later Britney Spears (both part of the MK Mouse club, by the way) and I'd caught onto that trend as well. I first remember hearing acts like Bon Jovi and Aerosmith back in their prime, which really turned me onto the electric guitar, as well as several chiptune pieces from various video games that also inspired a love for heavy music. I was primarily a console gamer (computers were very expensive in those days) so the SNES version of Doom as well as the Mega Man X series were very big influences into my love for heavy, guitar based music. The same can be said for the Maximum Carnage soundtrack, as well as several other pieces in which guitars were emulated (X-Men Arcade's Revenge, X-Men Mutant Apocalypse, Rock N' Roll Racing, Turtles In Time, F-Zero exc.) as well as electronic/industrial based pieces (X-Kaliber 2097, Phantom 2040 – even though there were some rock style pieces there as well.) It even goes back to stuff like Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania II/III and other games. I was always a fan of that composition and consider the compositions of most video games grossly underrated when compared to non-chiptune music as a whole. That also makes it difficult for me to accept many chiptune acts, as sometimes I just don't hear that same compositional flow as in those early games, making it almost like emulation.

- The Age Of Nu-Metal or, How I Discovered Rock -

With the later nineties came the Nu-Metal movement, which I was first inspired to check out during a short-lived MTV segment called “Return Of The Rock” I can still remember a few bands first being introduced to my ears that I am still a fan of (and are still around unbelivably) today. Two of those bands were Disturbed (which broke into the mainstream with “Stupify”) and Sevendust, who had released “Denial” (from Home which I eventually bought and played the shit out of.) Now at this time, I was really getting into music. Korn was making waves with Issues, Limp Bizkit had Significant Other and Drowning Pool and Deftones hadn't yet had their run. No one knew about the bodies hitting the floor yet, suffice it to say. Slipknot was still in the EP phase. Mudvayne were doing demos. But it wasn't long until these bands also broke onto the scene. Kid Rock was also popular for his heavier work in Devil Without A Cause, a record I still enjoy. The very first two records I ever purchased were edited versions of The History Of Rock (a Kid Rock compilation) and MTV's Return Of The Rock Vol.2 (a various artists compilation) which featured the likes of Soulfly, Spineshank, Dope, Slipknot (with “Spit It Out” actually) and many others. Later I purchased that Disturbed CD (The Sickness, and probably the first week it appeared) which I played nearly non-stop and more than any record I've ever played to date. I remember putting the thing on “shuffle” as I played Doom, Heretic and Hexen on my Win98 PC for hours at a time. At that time, I was also immersed in the first incarnation of Cartoon Network's Toonami and particularly the shonen anime, Dragon Ball Z. Well, with the American movie dubs came a change in the music tracks, which were replaced with tracks from bands like Disturbed, Deftones and Drowning Pool among others. I was already downloading most of the Japanese soundtrack stuff from Napster/WinMX or whatever I had found at the time, and being sixteen with no real job or anything, I didn't have the money to buy records all that often. But I did remember the trailer for the Dragon Ball Z featurette “History Of Trunks” featuring music from Dream Theater. Yes, the Dream Theater. Just from the few clips of “Home” and whatnot that were played in the trailer, I knew that I had to get my hands on that fucking album – any fucking album, and hope that said track would be there. Now I didn't know at the time (and this was just before 9/11) that Dream Theater's Live Scenes From New York live three-disc compilation would be removed for some eerie cover art resembling the tragedy (conspiracy buffs still discuss it) but by the time I got to the record store, there was a different artwork for it and I ended up purchasing it. With three discs, I thought there was a good chance of hearing those pieces, and of course, they were there. Just in a surprisingly potent live-setting. Scenes is arguably one of Dream Theater's best efforts and this disc was a great way to experience much of what was their best material. I had also purchased several records from Mudvayne, Pressure 4-5, Primer 55, Dope, Powerman 5000 (Yes, Tonight The Stars Revolt) as well as Mushroomhead, who surprised the hell out of me with their “Solitaire Unraveling” video and even more with Xx. I'd had Korn records and Papa Roach records that were burned copies, as well as Godsmack and others. It was impossible to buy everything, but I grabbed what I could. I think we had gotten Metallica's “black album” that way as well. Don't fault me, I didn't know anything about Metallica around that time, let alone Slayer. I was still learning.

- The Media Used To Care About Metal and Hard Rock -

There was however, a channel that played a lot of extreme music and I would listen to a lot of the death stuff (very rarely did they play black metal, it was still scarce in these times) even though there was one track in particular that grabbed my attention after about the eighth or ninth time listening to it. I thought it was kind of funny the first time I heard it, but after hearing “Her Ghost In The Fog” enough times, I knew that I was going to be a Cradle fan. It wasn't until later, when I'd borrowed a couple of discs from a guy that I was trying to get a band started with that I had learned about the best efforts from both Cradle and Opeth. Blackwater Park had been pretty tough to find though, but the CD shop kept every record from Cradle in stock except for Midian which I still do not have a proper copy of today. I had purchased several of their albums as well as a compilation (Lovecraft and Witchearts) which I still have today. The last disc of theirs I bought was Damnation and A Day, even though I was a fiend for Nymphetamine's Goth/thrash style. In these days, when you were broke (and by this time I'd moved into the deep south) and expensive mailorder was the best case scenario for foreign albums, downloading was the way to go. I'd had plenty of burned copies from foreign bands, acts that I am so happy to promote to the public today and to support in a proper manner. My friend and I would constantly introduce each other to new bands, and as there wasn't really a huge rock or metal scene in the middle of bumfuck Arkansas, we were pretty much it. I did find out about Tool and Slipknot via burned albums in high school, even though I found a disc-only copy of the debut at a pawn shop along with a disc-only (the guy was selling them for a dollar a piece and if they worked, you were lucky) copy of Pantera's Reinventing The Steel (first Pantera I ever heard – I was introduced to them via a rare performance I found online of “Walk” that Disturbed covered live) as well as The Deftones Adrenaline and some pink disc with an H on it that happened to have a track from Death and Bolt Thrower on it, among others. This was cutting my fucking teeth, folks. I was also getting into the Fuse show Uranium which I found a great resource for metal acts, and it was a also a great way for smaller acts (Opeth was once a small act, you know) to get out inot the mainstream. It also featured classic videos as well as premieres. MTV2 had brought the Headbanger's Ball back (around the time that Hatebreed had become mainstream with “I Will Be Heard” and Iced Earth were getting known for what was one of their least appreciated albums The Glorious Burden) which of course brought to my attention acts like Killswitch Engage, Lamb Of God and numerous others. Even the Murderdolls were playing, as well as Ackercocke. Yes, Ackercoke was featured on there. This show was a fucking goldmine. Soilwork made their first appearance as well as Dark Tranquillity and Type O Negative, Moonspell – you name it. I think Tiamat and Paradise Lost as well, I'm not sure. Cannibal Corpse, Dying Fetus – they played a lot of great bands there, when Fuse seemed to cater to the rock and metal crowd. Emo was in the mainstream (or the beginnings of emo) but Fuse kept the metal flowing. For a while at least. Now they cater to the hip hop crowd, which is where I'll begin talking about the more controversial subjects. But not just yet.

- The Grim Tower Of Observation (Later Shortened) -

When this all started, I had been downloading a ton of records. You see, my FYE closed down completely, I couldn't drive an automobile (still can't) and Bandcamp wasn't a thing, obviously. Plus, there were a lot of places where one could find albums online. This was about a decade ago, so things have changed – but back in those days, you could find a lot of records. The whole review thing first started out as a bit of a gamble. I was just going to talk a little about certain records, and I did it on a now defunct forum that was managed by the frontman of Arkansan death metallers, Vore. Page actually allowed me to post several reviews for albums, even though a few guys got upset that I was downloading the stuff to review it. I can't blame them there actually, but it was the only resource I had, as I wasn't making very much to even keep afloat. Plus, it was just so easy to find. In any case, this went on for about a couple of months until the forum itself was going dead due to the advent of Web 2.0 and social media. All of my work would have to be moved – and it did move. Right here. When I started posted material here (as well as submissions – local acts would send me their albums) I started working with a small PR label by the name of Clawhammer. These guys now deal with a variety of acts now, but they had a few when I first started with them. They would send me digital records to review and I reviewed every one of them, including the stuff I had downloaded prior. I did that for a while, then of course, a couple of other publicists joined.

- From Hails To New Noise -

Jumping into New Noise Magazine was a fluke – an unexpected one, but a great opportunity nevertheless. Before they were New Noise, they were Hails and Horns, and I think maybe it was a sponsored ad on my FB feed or something, but I asked about reviewing some records and provided them access to my blog where they could see that I could put my money where my mouth was. They told me to do some sample reviews, which I did – and their editor seemed happy with it. This wasn't Tony though, it was another guy. I think he unfriended me because of some misogynistic comment I posted years ago. In any case, when Hails fell through, Tony and Lisa picked up the pieces and started New Noise. I'm not going to go into the details regarding how the magazine formed, but it's definitely the kind of thing that revolves around a major gamble, as well as some hard work. It shows that hard work pays off, as New Noise are now an extremely popular magazine for alternative culture today. There are now over sixty writers helming the magazine and website, which is professionally managed by the editor who saw something in my work years ago. That brings us to the domain website.

- The Grim Tower Dot Com -

The Grim Tower's domain website started around 2014 back when new editor/webmaster Tony decided that I could actually be making something for my work with all of these labels (many had jumped on) over here at the blog. He actually developed the website and taught me a bit of Wordpress so that I could update it. I had previously been doing everything at work, which was kind of funny, since the latter updates were also during work hours – I'm so glad they wiped that fucking server when the store closed down.) But as you might recall, Tony had gotten so busy with a myriad of things that he had to step down after handling work for us (the team had grown a little to add Eugene, Bleak Bill, Spynal and Central Scrutinizer) and I needed to find another admin. Eugene suggested Taina, a woman I knew little about at the time, but she helped out very much and was extremely dedicated at the time. She had sort of mental issue however, which would sap all of her energy unexpectedly and cause lapses of absence that I could never have expected. She worked very hard, and as you'll see from our archives, many of the interviews and reviews featured streams and music videos. She knew what she was doing and enjoyed the work. But it became too much for her, understandably. It was a lot to expect, to have to do all of this work and not get paid for it. To date, none of us have received any money from our work at the site and we could barely even make enough in views to keep the lights on at all, which is why many things were being cut (as I couldn't even do interviews anymore) and I couldn't really handle all of the site responsibilities by myself. Tony approached me in an email to ask me if I could handle the fees for the site, but I soon knew that there was no way I could do so with me approaching unemployment (I was just laid off from a job to which I worked four years prior) and a cost of about sixty dollars or more a year. On another note, Wordpress wasn't necessarily my favorite engine to work with and my old cell hadn't much strength to manage it. Yes, I could definitely handle it on this new cell (which cost about a hundred dollars less than the old one) but I would like to handle things here. Google AdSense was also being a bitch, as it wanted to remove ads for an album cover or two that it found threatening or obscene. The whole thing was just basically falling apart, and I had a feeling that I was going to be back here eventually.

- Fall Of The Domain -

I started posting reviews here just to see what the turnout would be, and I'm very glad that all of you have supported me. There's not a dime flowing into my pocket for any of those views, just as there wasn't the day I started this blog. So seeing your comments and hits really excites me and lets me know that people do care about my opinions on these albums. I also need to go ahead and address our break/hiatus, so let me talk about that. The store I was working in was about to close, so I needed to prepare for that and didn't have the time to work on these reviews. That's actually kind of a half-truth though. During the beginning of the liquidation, business was very slow. But I was stressed out, losing my mind and trying to figure out basically what to do as far as this work goes. I needed a damn break. Just from everything. Business really didn't start to pick up until the final days of liquidation, but it was around that time that I had spent several hours backing up The Grim Tower domain. That little button to the right of you represents several weeks of non-stop work uploading pages into a server that I hope will be up for many years to come. The Grim Tower domain itself will close either on or about, August 17th 2016. Thanks for all your support there.

- Downloading, Bandcamp and Doujin -

Now before we get back into the swing of things with many submissions (Malignant, Clawhammer, AFM and Minotauro, I'll be getting to you guys shortly!) let me focus on something that I feel is a real elephant in the room. As I mentioned that I used to download a lot of music, I'm sure if you're wondering if I still do. Well, because I receive so many musical submissions per week, I don't really feel the need to do so. But not everything is properly carried and every once in a blue moon there might be a record or two I grab to see if they're worth promoting. But what has changed, is the format. A major site I have used for a while changed their server to something very tedious and downright painful to use. You can pay for better service, but I don't feel the need to pay some server to download something, when I could just purchase the music itself. But the site seems to encourage people to actually BUY the music, as it will include links to Bandcamp/ Amazon/iTunes exc. There are quite a few records I've bought on Bandcamp and I still consider it the ULTIMATE DIGITAL MUSIC SERVICE FOR FANS OF UNDERGROUND MUSIC, PERIOD. Bandcamp to me, is where many of the actual musicians can be found – those who play from the heart, those who play because they enjoy it. Not for the image or the money, but for music's sake. We offer our records free there, and so do many other artists. Not everyone does and that's cool, but I like the fact that some artists will allow people to name their own prices for albums. I still get a little upset though when I would see a few albums leak onto that site that I had just recently gotten from a label not but a few hours ago, meaning that some people are leaking these damn things and no doubt there's money being made in it somewhere. Honestly doesn't surprise me, but it is terribly unfortunate. In all honesty, I've used this site as more of a Bandcamp digest to see who's released what and have bypassed their download links more than once to actually buy the fucking discs when I found out what it was. I guess if there's one kind of music I can say I've gotten most, it wouldn't even be something most people would expect. It's J-rock stuff. The doujin game and doujin rock metal scene has never caught on well with the west, expectedly so. Aside from BabyMetal's caricature (okay, so not the newest album) of the genre, there are so many great Japanese acts that release two or three or four albums every year that most people don't even know exist. Most of this stuff finds itself uploaded right to YouTube, which is kind of expected for the niche doujin scene. Of all the promos I've received, I only got one of these that actually focused in that scene – Vamps. You saw how that one got quickly posted. I would love to work with more Japanese labels, but the truth is that the Japanese still consider themselves very xenophobic to the west. It's very hard to get some of their work translated and brought over here simply because of the Japanese mindset. There are several games and visual novels that we will never see, simply because the Japanese market doesn't consider them right for American audiences. Yet with such a different cultural basis as the Japanese exercise in their lewd material, I don't think some content will ever be brought here. Ever. I'm surprised we ever got Rapelay translated, which is still banned in several countries. But in any case, I am not the downloading fiend for music that I used to be, because there's simply no need for it with the majority of labels that I work with, and I love having the opportunity to promote these albums.

- The Real Amount of Work Entailed and The Sacrifice -

Most people don't actually realize what my job entails, either. I have always downloaded every promotional record I've received, and I have always listened to every single one of them. You might not even begin to imagine how grueling this is – how many bands I've cringed at, but it's just part of the job. I've even heard about writers who only listen to maybe two or three songs and then write the review. What? Are you fucking kidding me? What if you miss out on great material towards the end? So many great closing moments on albums and you're done after the first or second fucking song? Hang it up, you're only in this for the money. I have always listened to the entire album once, then I'll flip through it before a review, then play it during the review – just in case I miss something. Naturally, some records are easy to write about, others require much more detail. The whole process takes a few hours and when I was taking up my weekends off work to do this, I was spending six to eight hours or more doing it. I think I spent about three hours writing a review last night for a forty-five minute record. Why? Because I had so much to say about it. The sacrifice for this is that I don't get to spend my days doing whatever you like, like most of you on your days off. I spend them in a closed room doing this work exclusively, one album after another. I break to either eat or to use the bathroom and that is about it. I would even regret it when some friends would come over, because I would have to quit my work. Even though the lives of other people in our lives are not determined and one should value time with others far more than work, I think about the awesome privilege that I have here a bit more and that I should be promoting these whenever possible. Do I enjoy the work? Yes, but it also is work and it takes time to do properly. I don't just want to write down any old thing, and that takes a bit of structuring. I have to keep in mind why these labels are sending me albums, and that's because they value my opinion. Whether it is a good review or a scathing one, it is always honest. Do I think that sometimes I was a little too harsh or lenient with some albums? Of course, but that is also part of the process. I have always considered these observations, which is why I don't want people to see a scathing negative review or one full of praise as the end-all, be-all for a record. These are just my opinions after hearing the discs in their entirety. When you commit to that, it sometimes takes a little more time to get into it than two or three fucking songs would. Additionally I'd like to add that I've downloaded a dictionary app as well as a thesaurus app, because I also tire of “noteworthy” and “memorable” among the other staples I've used for years. Great words, I'd consider them three or four dollar words myself; but I feel that I've been overusing them. Also, I have used a few words in the wrong context in past reviews, as I've noticed.

- Don't Copy That Floppy -

There's one last controvery I want to establish here, and this might make people a bit angry and of course, you will have your own opinions. I am tired of musicians throwing a fit over downloading records because they feel that they are going to be the next KISS, Metallica, Beatles, Stones, Pink Floyd, exc. I've noticed a lot of bitching from various musicians because people downloaded their records from some site and they've lost money. These aren't the big guys, it is smaller acts. Now you'll say to me, “Why do you think that these guys will never get big?” I never said that. To me, real fans buy physical products because they love the albums and want to own them. I've done that with some major heavy-hitters which I just had to have in my collection. But to me, data is just data. Even the data I've bought which is secured to servers is not infallible. If anything happens to the website server or even my hard drive, all of that data is GONE. Period. End Of Story. This has happened before, it could happen again. When a bunch of hackers decide to have a little bit of fun in the name of “sticking it to the man” we all get the brunt end of that stick. Might not even be the man they're sticking it to, they could just be trying to get all of our credit card data because the US is still considered a first-world country to many people, even though it's democracy is slowly crumbling and many live in poverty. Not third world poverty unless you are living on the streets, but poverty nonetheless. In any case, this is why we've only ever charged for physicals. I think we made about eighty dollars minus Bandcamp fees for our last record, and no telling on this one. Eighty dollars as in eighty dollars total. I think we split it between the two of us 40/40. Keep in mind, that album leaked as well as the last one and the one we released last year. We still made a little bit of money. But in all honesty, it was never about the money. It was about the music. We made a piece of art to share with others, and hoped that they would enjoy it enough as they have. I don't know about you, but I never wanted to be the next Metallica or Swallow The Sun or whatever. If we ever get signed to a label, then so be it. I'm still not going to bitch and throw a fit if I'm not making money with the albums. I'm there to make music, not money.

- Why I Do Feel That Rock Is Dead In The Mainstream Sense -

I will say that perhaps in other countries, they do have their big name acts. I don't think it's too off-kilter to say that Sepultura is the Brazillian Metallica, or that Sarcofago was more like their further underground Slayer. Countries like Sweden have the melodic death and Swe-death movement, Greece considers Rotting Christ a huge rock band and India has been populating with dozens of great metal acts that have the potential to be heavy hitters. The thing is, the days of that great metal age are indeed over. I do not stutter when I say that there will never be an eighties metal or rock scene like the kind we experienced several decades ago. The long hair, spikes and bullet belts are all niche. The eighties pop-inspired house of hair acts like Motley Crue and Poison were the biggest that anyone has ever seen metal become in the mainstream. Call it “hair rock” all you like, this is the biggest we've ever seen the genre go into the corporate world of pop music. Those days are gone, as rock stars in general are a thing of the past. Many of the greats are now dead or getting up there in age, as we experience what I would consider to be a Hip-Hop Star, instead. I've kept up with TMZ for many years now and it's almost startling to see how much these rappers are mirroring what rock stars USED to do. Hanging out at strip clubs, driving fancy cars, consuming massive amounts of liquor and starting fights (beefs) with other musicians in order to get attention. This is all old news, it is literally the rock-star playbook and probably amounts to the same degree of drug usage and antics that were present in numerous memoirs, which probably inspired these people to do the same. Despite all of the feminism and social justice movements that are going on, these guys still perpetuate that lifestyle and exist as rebels in the same way that rockers did. I've actually seen some women post on their dating profiles that they aren't looking for a “thuggish” type person. Well, I don't feel that I would want such a hoodlum either in my life, since thugs were originally considered miscreants in society and people watched out for them. Mafias used thugs quite a bit, which is probably where the term derived from in modern usage. From one cycle to another, that is how media trends operate.

- Please Buy Albums When You Can -

Suffice all of this to say that I very much believe that the mainstream scene of rock is dead, and metal itself will continue to remain underground. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't support a band if you like their album, but many of you are struggling to keep food on the table and pay your bills at that. Not everyone has the kind of money they would like to afford all of these albums. I always have bought what I can if it really mattered a bit to me, and I'm even going back to buy some of those records I only had as burned copies, just so that I can have the physical albums in my collection. Of course, even that has become difficult. You might remember that I reviewed In Mourning's earlier album Colossus a while back, and that currently their new one is our top record. Well, I tried to go back and buy a copy of Colossus recently because out of all their music, I still feel that nothing tops the opener. Nothing. I've listened to that song countless times and I just had to have a copy of that in my collection. I jumped on Amazon to see if I could order a physical copy of it while I was still working. Apparently only the European import copy of the record was available. If this record was ever released in the US, it was a scarce number at that. FYE closed down long ago and Hastings was next on the chopping block, M.F. Metal also closed down (sad to see it go) so Amazon was really my only outlet. Problem was, the record was being sold for twenty-nine euros with shipping and handling, so you're looking at fifty dollars in order to buy a copy of the album I liked for mainly one amazing song. That's an awful lot to pay for a disc I don't plan to actually open. I'm not the only one who feels this way about importing either and some musicians have even admitted to downloading special edition tracks because of import costs. It's just too high and people don't want to pay it. A friend and I have even likened this to the Wii U's “amiibo” product, which allows unlocked content only by having the device, which is essentially a “collectible” Chinese toy that you have to purchase for more than what it takes to make. These extra tracks were made to encourage people to buy special editions of the albums, but they really only encourage piracy because very few people want to buy the same album two or three times just for two extra songs, some of which are downright B-Sides not worth the money you pay for them. Nuclear Blast in particular, have been extremely bad about this and to this day, I still believe that they chopped off the best two tracks on Cradle Of Filth's Manticore so that they could make more money. I also noticed it happening on several other albums, even though other big labels like Century Media don't seem to do the same. I often get very upset at labels for even offering these extra bonus tracks, because it never feels like you've heard the entire album unless you've listened to every single released recording from that session. Some of my personal favorite songs from Disturbed were B-Sides in this fashion.

So I'm tired of hearing about musicians that consider themselves the best thing in the world, and can't see that many people just don't have the money (especially in the third world, where a majority of downloads happen) for their albums. Some people don't even have clean water, let alone clean clothes. Some people don't even have music to listen to at all, or any lesiure time. If there's a God up there, he's a right asshole to deviate the peoples of this planet in such a way. “You get several things because you were born in a first world, but you have basically nothing and must survive in your third world war torn country.” I always said that if something happened and I came into an awful lot of money, I would go back and buy all the records I ever liked and put them all in a display room. I've seen a few people post pictures of theirs online, some of them looking like veritable record stores, but not all of us have enough money to do that. Many people might say, “Oh, you'd never do this if you had that kind of money” but I'm serious. It must be the asbergers, but when I make the sort of designation, I do it. I'd probably spend a hundred-thousand or more the first week buying physical discs only. But I can't really say if I'll ever have that kind of money, and frankly the money-making system is so corrupt in itself that I'm not sure if I'd ever want to have all that much. If I ever did, I'd probably just live comfortably like Stephen King in a small home in his hometown. I don't believe in exuding wealth, or showing off nice cars and houses and such. I don't even mind giving things away that I don't particularly care for or have grown bored with, with others who might enjoy them a bit more. I don't care to slave myself for currency, especially since doing so has destroyed my back and I'm looking at disability. I only want to share my writings with the world. If you think I deserve something for it in return, I appreciate it. I support several in the comics industry as well as the few indie games that go on sale. I've even bought several records through Groupees bundles, some of which I reviewed right here. Please check out Groupees if you have a lot of material and want to get noticed. So what I'm saying here is that you should really buy a record if you like it. Absolutely love it. Or you should find a way to promote that band, spend a lot of time doing it and allow others to experience the act for themselves in greater numbers. I hope that many of my reviews and interviews have done just that.

- No, Bands and Labels Have NEVER Paid Me To Sugarcoat or Praise Their Records -

Someone actually thought that a band paid me to say that their album was great, but that isn't what happened at all. I've never gotten any money from any act period. I make an extremely paltry sum for what I do at New Noise and it is more or less “thanks money” more than anything else. If I told you how much it was per review, you'd probably look at me like I was an idiot. But it's never been about the money, it's about the promotion. I like the fact that I've spent a lot of my time promoting great musical acts and would continue to do so in the future. This being said, if you can't afford an album, do what you feel that you must, but I don't condone this kind of behavior at all and certainly don't get a sense of pride from it. Opinions differ between bands on album downloading, some find it to be great abhorrence, while others find it to be great promotion. Some bands just don't give a shit either way. If in doubt, always ask the artist. Seriously. If you get your head bitten off, they're not okay with it. If the guy says, “yeah, sure” then it's up to you. As I said, many artists offer their work at a “Name Your Own Price” so you don't have to worry about paying for every single album you get. It helps, but not everyone is greedy here. When I buy stuff, it is either in sales or bundles. I've reached the age where I understand the value of media. If you see something at the store, ask yourself - “Do I think that is worth the asking price? Should I wait for a sale? Will I be able to afford food or pay bills if I buy this item?” I've put several things back, and I've been more than pleased with returning a few items because I needed the money more. I've also bought many things that I absolutely did NOT like and feel that I wasted my money on completely.

- Uh.... Ask The Artist? Really? -

For those of you still scratching your heads about the “ask the artist” thing. Well, you have to keep in mind who the artist is. Don't go onto Metallica's page and say “I think your album is going to suck, so I'm going to download it.” Even though I see that shit all the time in comments. “This record was good, I downloaded it.” “This record suck, I download it and it was crap.” “I torrented this a long time ago.” “Love this record, going to buy it soon.” “Got that one from TPB, arrrr, mateys :)!” These are just examples from various sites around the web, and of course if you go into any comments thread regarding album downloads, there will be the biggest fight in history between people on both sides of the argument, defending either point. It's almost like a debate on the existence of God or the afterlife. Media piracy is a very controversial topic in our society today. Some people take great offense to either side. If the Trans-Pacific Partnership passes and the lobbyists have their way (read: this is a multinational trade agreement) you might not be able to do it at all anymore at all. Hell, Bandcamp might not even allow people to “Name Their Own Price” and force bands to get stronger copyrights to their music. Spotify might get taken down, albums might have permanent DRM, and even DRM-Free material that you buy may soon be required to have it. I'm sure that other countries of the world are pissed about all this, and you have our corporatocracy to blame mostly. Yet with the looks of another world war on the horizon, (some say China, others Russia and I'd rather have neither) I'd sooner think it better that we just enjoy all the things we have (like our time on this planet for one thing) before the world starts resembling something akin to Fallout 4. Yes, I know that there are a few of you that want to live in that world too. But it's not as interesting as it may seem... (I probably wouldn't survive in that world.)

- Commencement -

Without further ado, let's open the place back up! (Lowers drawbridge, a horde of goblins charges in, couple of men fall to their deaths. Raises drawbridge again. Opens window instead.)

Next week, we'll start covering a myriad of records again (Mon-Thurs three to four a day) with interviews to begin again in September. We're still email only, so keep that in mind. I will try to post a new interview every week, but we will primarily focus on reviews. I'm trying to bring things back to the way they were when we began, but with maybe a little bit larger of a following this time. My email address linked to the contact form is an older one, but that account is now accessible from my app and I can receive materials that way. At least I know that if you send something there, it was a submission. I don't feel that any other writers need to come join me here, and I will be splitting my work between Tometal and several others. My New Noise work will still of course; continue, and you'll see that over at New Noise exclusively. I apologize for this being so long, but I had quite a bit to talk about and to get off my chest before I begin this new and great excursion. I thank you for reading all of this, and I hope that you'll enjoy the future of my work here, in that old dwelling in which it first began.

- The Grim Lord

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