Saturday, June 23, 2007

Music search technique

For many moons, my main strategy for finding new music has been to go prowling through the internets, looking for groups with interesting names and reading the reviews on the Metal Archives. Back in the day, I turned to such inconsistent sources as Satan Stole My Teddybear and shoutcast streams. The reviews on SSMT by John Chedsey are evocative, often humorous, and generally reflect good taste, but the other reviewers are not of equal quality. Moreover, the small number of non-professional reviewers on SSMT limits their ability to cover the full breadth of the relatively obscure black and doom metal scenes. I owe a karmic debt to the internet radio station on which I first heard Opeth, catapulting me headlong into the world of dark metal, but the streams that do play the heavier incarnations of metal are generally broader in their scope than my musical interests, and skew towards orthodox bands rather than progressive fair. The Metal Archives, for all the inconsistency in the literary quality of its user-generated content, is stunningly complete and generally accurate.

Investigating bands based upon their names is surprisingly effective. Consider the following list of black metal bands with names beginning with 'forest,' taken from The Metal Archives:
Forest (Cze) - Black Metal
Forest (Pol) - Black Metal
Forest (Rus) - Black Metal
Forest Nocturne - Melodic Black Metal
Forest of Castles - Black Metal
Forest of Demons - Black Metal
Forest of Doom - Black Metal
Forest of Evil - Black Metal
Forest of Fog - Black Metal
Forest of Impaled - Black/Death Metal
Forest of Souls - Black Doom Metal
Forest of Triglav - Black Metal
Forest of Witchery - Black Metal

Of course, a band like Forest of Shadows does not make this list, because the Metal Archives classifies it as doom metal rather than black metal, nor does it include bands whose names include but do not begin with 'forest.' And don't forget the 50 black metal bands whose names begin with 'funeral.' These names are more formulaic than whatever bubble-gum pop hit is currently contaminating the airwaves. As a testament to the predictability of metal band appellations, you can algorithmically generate the names of your next dozen musical enterprises at the Metal Band Name Generator.

Recently, though, I've stumbled on a much more efficient technique for finding new music. I call this strategy Southern Lord. Consider what I hope we can agree are the three best drone doom bands in existence (in alphabetical order): Boris, Earth, and Sunn O))). Further consider the quality black metal groups Wolves in the Throne Room, Xasthur, and Nortt. All are presently or have in the past been distributed by Southern Lord. My present project is thus to go through the entire Southern Lord roster and sample the wares. The giant record labels may have outlived their usefulness, but there is still a need to winnow the wheat from the chaff of the ever more prolific world music scene, and Southern Lord seems to be doing a pretty good job.

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