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Is the quality of metal really declining? Or are we getting harsher?

Posts: 11   Visited by: 71 users
17.03.2020 - 00:22

I've been lurking for a while, but haven't posted much yet (as I'm sure will be fairly clear to anyone that manages to look a whole 2 inches to the left of this post to see my minuscule post count)!

Anyways, so the topic in hand is the top album ratings over the past couple of decades. Now, of course as more and more metal exists its harder to do truly original and interesting things, but to me the community's refusal to rate albums as highly as before seems a bit much. To provide some basic numbers:

For the 2010's, there are 0 (yes, literally none at all) albums above a 9.00 rating, and only 6 at 8.75 or above.
For the 2000's, there are 4 above a 9.00 rating, and a whopping 64 at 8.75 or above.
For the 1990's, there are 9 above a 9.00 rating, and 67 at 8.75 or above.

Now I know people hold a lot of nostalgia towards some of the classics of the genre, but it's not like the 90's and 2000's are seen as the 'time to be into metal,' so what's going on? Are people getting pickier, is music getting worse, or is it just a quirk of a 10 point rating system that people will slowly gravitate away from giving things a 10 rating over time? Or maybe these albums will all start climbing upwards over the next decade as more members discover them, and new members who got into metal thanks to 2010's albums arrive here?

I'm just curious what people's views are on the matter, as someone who started getting into metal at the tail end of the 2000's, and has listened to so many truly brilliant albums that have come out in the past 10 years.
17.03.2020 - 03:06
The ratings are flawed because there are too many people that do not understand (or don't want to comply with) the rating system. So they give out 1s and 10s just to bring down/up an album they hate/love. Now, the more ratings you have, the less problematic this tendency becomes. For example, Ride The Lightning has a rating of 9.2 (in more than 3400 votes) which the majority would argue that it is sort of accurate if you take into account songwriting quality, musicianship, innovation and how influential it was. Yet, 11 people who are clearly deaf think the album is "pure shit", but it does not affect the rating at all. And really, it's not that they are clearly deaf, it is probably that there is another album in the top-200 of all time that they want to bring up. Similarly, loads of 10s have been given to the same album just because it's Ride The Lightning, even if they have never listened to it more than twice in their lives.

When we get to more recent times, the ratings are fewer, which means that 1s play a more important role in the average rating. And it is also difficult (although not impossible) to predict how important an album is going to be in the history of metal but we do tend to be nostalgic and view the past through a more lenient lens. This is why Nuclear Assault's albums of the '80s are so highly rated when clearly no one viewed them as something that special in the '80s. Good, but definitely not excellent. This is also why people don't necessarily see Turbo as really bad today, even though it clearly was and everyone thought so at the time, just like they don't necessarily see Those Once Loyal, Monotheist, Communion or From Mars To Sirius as total masterpieces that deserve 9 and above, when they clearly do. But they may see them as such in 20 years. Just like they may see Litourgiya as such in 30 years. I don't know, I hope both Metal Storm and you and I will be around to check it out.

If you ask me, I think there are brilliant albums coming out every year. Not all of them reinvent the wheel but some of them actually do. Rengeteg does, for example, and Terminal Redux doesn't, but they are both albums that I am convinced they will be considered as classics in the distant future for different reasons (and may have an average rating of over 9 like they deserve). Since you started getting into metal during the last decade or so, it is very normal that you haven't listened to everything and some things coming out today have been in fact done before but you may not be aware of them because you didn't have the chance to listen to them. Nothing wrong with that. Take, for example, Godthrymm's album Reflections. It's bloody excellent. For a new doom fan who has never heard of Paradise Lost or Solstice before (if that were actually possible), this should sound godlike.

To finish this very long post, in my opinion most albums sit between 5-7 (normal distribution) and this has always been the case. The majority of ratings here are inflated I think and if you want to have some more info on this, check out this great and funny article by BitterCOld.

I hope you have the patience to read all this. Sorry, when I began writing I didn't intend for it to be this long
And post more often!
24.03.2020 - 00:29
Meat and Potatos
I feel a lot of people know about 10 or 20 bands and, of course, they are the classics because they're the most well known. Since people don't exactly are fond of the idea of admitting their taste is not ultimate they start feeling bad about the fact that the album of the 70s they just discovered yesterday isn't worthy a 10 instead of its current 9,8, therefore they vote it a 10 to raise it up. They also downvote everything else.
Now for the people who actually follow the genre, these ones vote more responsibly, possibly meaning they don't give 10s away very easily. That mostly explains the rating disparity

That being said, I believe a phenomenom is that due to internet people are getting far more picky. I remember when I didn't have internet that any death album tape/cd that crossed my hands would be much appreciated. I'd listen to it dozens of times and learn to like it because... There was nothing else. Nowadays if I find something even a bit to the bland side I drop it right away. It wouldn't be easy to find 9~10 worthy material that way. So in a sense one could say that above all people are also getting pickier
Rose is red, violet is blue. Flag is win, Baba is you.
25.03.2020 - 03:26
At best deranged
Nah, I don't necessarily think that the quality has dropped. I think both Nik and Karlabos made some excellent points.

There's indeed the fact that the internet has made it easier to listen to a ton of albums in a short amount of time (I mean, I listened to more than 200 albums last year... without the easy access I would have probably only listened to 1/10th of that).

I think it's great, it makes it (in theory) easier as a band to reach people that like the type of music you make. I say in theory, because there are so many bands out there that the challenge now is to get noticed in the sea of albums that are available to the public.

This effect also results in people listening to more albums. Which can result in them seeing more and more similarities in those records. As an example:

- If I let's say, listened to 20 albums (without the internet) instead of 200+ then it's way more unlikely that I would hear more and more similarities between all those albums.

And I think that's partially the reason why there are sometimes slightly lower scores given to newer albums. Basically because it has become harder to stand out. I've seen that happen to myself as well. I used to love power metal... and then I started seeing all the tropes. And sometimes I like a record with all those tropes in it (like Beast in Black's From Hell With Love from last year). However, I also realize that I find myself getting bored of those power metal trope albums more often than I used to. And at that point it's often the ones that add a spin to it (or add another subgenre to it) that get my attention more often. Bands like Paladin are a great example of that.

Add on top of that, the fact that it has become a lot easier to self-publish a record. And this part of the industry is in my eyes usually one of bigger extremes. On one hand this results in really interesting records (sometimes made by one person), on the other hand... there are also those that shouldn't have been recording their stuff in the first place...

Then there are indeed the people that only know 10-20 bands. And honestly that's fine in and of itself (that was the case with me as well many years ago). However, it's like Karlabos said, often also the case that there are people on this site, that can't seem to fathom the fact that there's a lot of great stuff out there and tht it's possible you've missed some great stuff throughout the years. For me that's actually the exciting part, for others that seems to annoy them for some reason. You know these kind of people have probably the same syndrome that my father has with paintings... Every time we go to a museum, he just straight up goes to the paintings of the big names... nothing wrong with that. But then when you say you like the style and look of a painting there that isn't of a big name. He always says: "Hmm... that's not a well known painter". And my answer always is: "Who cares? I like this." You and I didn't know this painter, that doesn't mean it's a bad painting...

But I digress. Nik is also right about the fact that newer albums have less votes. And as a result the extremes are indeed going to have a bigger impact on the average scores. And there are of course like he said some people that overreact with their voting. Dishing out 1s and 10s and there apparently isn't (or barely isn't) anything inbetween. And why I generally don't care about a score (I'll decide myself whether I like an album or not) it sometimes does sting a little bit to see a small band (which maybe gets 20 - 30 votes in total) on this site get bombarded with a 1/10 because it's currently sitting higher in the "top of the year list" than an album that the voter likes. With bigger bands and more votes this problem, isn't as annoying imo.

Combine that with a dose of nostalgia that certain people have towards the 80s (especially) and you'll see things like: "It's not as good as what they made in the 80s". It even happens to specific bands. Iron Maiden is my favourite band. I got to know them in 2008. So I've never experienced their albums coming out in the 80s. I also listened to all their albums in a non-chronological order. And sure my favourite record of them was made in the 80s, but I don't have those rose tinted glasses on. I think their output in the 80s is stellar but that doesn't mean it's perfect or that you can't have criticism on those records. And a lot of the 2000s stuff is often on par for me.

Nik said it perfectly:
Written by nikarg on 17.03.2020 at 03:06

If you ask me, I think there are brilliant albums coming out every year. Not all of them reinvent the wheel but some of them actually do.

Not every album does something extremely groundbreaking. And that's not necessary either. It's nice when it happens but being different doesn't necessarily make it good. It definitely can be, and I hope (and think) that these records will come out every year.

Written by nikarg on 17.03.2020 at 03:06

I hope you have the patience to read all this. Sorry, when I began writing I didn't intend for it to be this long

Ehm... I think I'm even worse in this case... oops.
25.03.2020 - 05:24

I think it is easier to give an old album a 10 too. Some albums you really like when they come out, but then they don't stand the test of time, are they really a 10 then? Probably not, and so people like me will be apprehensive to give newer releases 10, or even a 9.

What else can be said about this, is probably mostly said by the three posters above me.
25.03.2020 - 09:12
Cynic Metalhead
Nasha Vich Paisa
I don't know why folks dragged this topic to the ratings system. I thought we have already gone through in lengths discussing MS ratings( fyr - Nik quoting COld's article).

This is about Is the quality of metal really declining? Or are we getting harsher?

We can just generally discuss about quality of records without interfering into rating systems. For me, the quality of metal is still dominant in new records and certainly haven't diminished since 80s.

Are we getting harsher?

Lot has been said above by Nik and tominator, except for the fact that many folks still emphasis on records by giving repeated listens than switching over to other albums just because they have options on internet.
31.03.2020 - 11:57

Thanks for the thoughtful replies guys!

Sorry for the delay in my own, I wanted to give it a few days and then things have unsurprisingly got a little weird lately - anyways, back to the topic:

The explanation about 1s and 10s having a lower impact as an album receives more votes over time is certainly an interesting one, hadn't thought about that. Also thanks to nikarg for the link to the vote abuse article

The ego points seem likely to be disappointing but true - that said I would imagine a site like this to not be *too* heavily affected by people like that, as it's not like this place is heavily plugged in metal magazines and such!

For me I'd say the biggest factor is just the sheer volume of music as many of you mentioned - it's just a shame this means that some truly brilliant albums don't get noticed by people who would really enjoy them

Another factor for me has to be the rating system itself. I'm sure this has been discussed to death on here, but half points would definitely be useful imo. Whether it's too late to implement them now due to their effect on existing albums' ratings etc is a separate (and fair) point, but I definitely feel pushed to vote one way or another on an album because of other people's ratings (due to not being able to vote down the middle) e.g. if something is better than an 8 to me, but not quite a 9, and I see it has an 8.3 rating by the community, then I feel it would be unfair to vote 8 and bring it down, especially when I agree with the community that it should be about 8.3 or 8.4 - but voting 9 seems like a shitty thing to do as well, as I'm artificially inflating it's rating that way.

Of course mathematically there's arguments that this often roughly balances out, but it definitely bugs me, especially when I want to vote something as a 9.5 e.g. Ride The Lightning!
09.07.2020 - 16:49

As a metalhead since my 15/16s (im now 32) i think that spending half of my life listening to metal almost everyday, its way more difficult nowadays to be impressed by an album than it was ten years ago or 15 years ago when I was in the discovery phase.

Even Katatonia's new album Im almost sure I would have loved it when I was 16, nowadays I found it to be bland, really bland (also their previous one). I dont find anything bad about them, it just doesnt click. I think in the last 5 years, there are few bands that I discovered that went to my absolute favorite bands, I think maybe only The Ocean and Cult of Luna, because I was oblivious to Post Metal, and so it was like rediscovering metal, but even giving out a 9/10 nowadays its not very easy (the only one I gave this year was for Master Boot Record, which I had never heard before).
09.07.2020 - 21:44

I agree that it's a lot easier to be impressed by the first few albums you listen to (and often, because of how we discover genres, those first albums will either be classics like Metallica/Maiden or big modern bands), than it is a decade later down the line; that does mean that if you're discovering the classic albums during your easily impressionable phase, you're more likely to throw a high rating on it than a new album you find later on (I'd imagine my ratings were more generous in 2010 than they are now in 2020).

It's also the fact that classic albums get this 'untouchable' reputation that makes people eager to bump up the ratings, whereas an album that's only a couple of years old hasn't had the time to achieve such an infallible status (in terms of albums from the past decade that have really achieved that kind of widespread acclaim, you've got Exercises of Futility, perhaps Axioma Ethica Odini and The Satanist, and that's about it). Throw in the fact that with so many options and so many opinions it's harder to get a consensus. Plus the fact that it's a lot easier to stand out when you're in the first wave of a nascent genre than decades later. There's so many reasons why lists like these are weighted towards records from the 80s and 90s over 2010s. Still, if I consider my daily listening, it's probably far more weighted to post-2000 music than pre-2000 music, and a lot of that pre-2000 listening will be 90s, so the stuff coming out these days is still perfectly satisfying to me.
07.02.2021 - 08:23

2020 had a ton of outstanding albums. But the 'nostalgia' bug is hard to kick. Consider an album you look to as a classic, be it Paranoid or Number of the Beast or Sign of the Black Mark or...whatever. How do you give an album the same ranking as one of those classics that you've been listening to since you started listening to metal?

Some folks find it hard, and the 'nostalgia-boost' allows the older album to be bumped a bit higher, even if a newer album is just as good.
Plus, as nikarg mentioned, the amount of rating abuse is pretty laughable. I noticed that as I would check weekly the ratings and I'd see someone post a bunch of 1s to the albums in the top 10 and then a 10 to "their fave". Just silliness, and over time, that type of stupidity gets watered down as more people vote
10.02.2021 - 16:37
always right
Written by sgtrobo on 07.02.2021 at 08:23

2020 had a ton of outstanding albums. But the 'nostalgia' bug is hard to kick. Consider an album you look to as a classic, be it Paranoid or Number of the Beast or Sign of the Black Mark or...whatever. How do you give an album the same ranking as one of those classics that you've been listening to since you started listening to metal?

I did, in fact I lowered my ratings for a lot of albums I had nostalgia for already. But it DEFINITELY is getting really rare that there's this one album that sweeps me off my feet and I adore it. The last one I had like this was in 2015. Records I really love tend to be smaller projects with cool ideas these days, not the big monumental or chart topping ones. I definitely think metal has hit somewhat of a wall in terms of innovation and also it's becoming more and more underground. But even if the release date is an issue, you can always go back and find gems. I listened to a bunch of early finnish dm recently and man was that enjoyable.
You are the hammer, I am the nail
building a house in the fire on the hill