Here we are again, my friends. Spring is in full-effect (already summer, for those of us who live nearer to the Equator) and the amounts of music are escalating to their mid-year fever pitch. Won’t you think of the poor music journalists in your life, drowning under the weight of excellent music? Oh cruel fate! In all seriousness though, it’s an exciting time of the year; it always feels fresh to me, in keeping with the spring theme, and that usually brings me to explore further than I normally would. I’ve been listening to a lot of music that’s out of my comfort zone and that got me thinking about the nature of music itself and how we process it. Eden, thinking a meta-thought? Wow, you must be so shocked.

The other catalyst for these ruminations (which we’ll get to in a second) is that I’ve been doing a lot of market research in preparation for buying my first set of truly high-end headphones. While I definitely have some good sets already (I use the Sennheiser PXC-550II for on the go listening, the Sennheiser RS-185 for at home listening and the SteelSeries Arctis Pro for gaming also yes, I have a lot of headphones) I’ve never really owned something that could truly be called “audiophile”. Yuck, I hate that term; I promise I’m not going to turn into one of those guys (or, wait, am I already one of them? Oh god, the call is coming from inside the house). Anyway, while conducting this research I came across a really interesting opinion that was shared by several reviewers and several of my friends: there’s nothing quite as post-modern as audio.

Allow me to explain: one of the more well known strains of post-modernism is called “perspectivism”. This way of thought existed well before post-modernism and can be categorized into the field of epistemology, or the philosophy of how we know things. What are facts? How do we collect them? How do we know when something is true? Perspectivism says that it’s all a matter of, you guessed it, perspective. Our current position in regards to the subject matter at hand, our histories, our approaches to the world, all affect the ways in which we come to gain knowledge. Some perspectivists were not post-modernists and, indeed, predated them but the idea (or group of ideas, if we’re being accurate) made it pretty far into the bones of the philosophy. After all, what is more at the core of post-modernism than that truth is constructed? Constructed primarily by power but also by the different subjects of power and their relationships with each other.

Where did I encounter these ideas when I researched headphones, you might ask? Well, I read several articles by reviewers and manufacturers which went so far as to say that objective audio doesn’t exist and I agreed with them. Music today (but also sort of always) is a very mediated sort of art: first, there’s the production of what you’re listening, the quality of the file, how it’s being played, etc. Then, there’s whatever is playing that file back to you; the difference between headphones and speakers is a good example. It doesn’t change the sound, it also changes the mood and your reception of the music. There’s also the room that music is being played in, its dimensions, the materials involved. Then, there are your ears and their very physical reality; how much have you hurt your eardrums (wear plugs, PLEASE)? What tones can you still hear? But then there’s also your brain; how does it interpret the signals that your ear transmits? And then, of course, there’s the “heart”. What mood are you in? What are you feeling? Where does the music meet you?

All of which comes together to a very prespectivist sort of reality. There really is no such thing as objective sound. Chasing after it is also ridiculous, outside of the studio setting where you’re simply trying to get as close to how the instrument sounded on recording as possible (although that also gets interpreted differently by different people, of course). You can always go bigger and better, buying up and up and getting into the insane costs that audio equipment can quickly spiral towards. But why? What objective signal are you chasing? It doesn’t really exist; fidelity only takes you so far because you can’t tune your brain or your ears (yes, yes, Mr. Musk, I’ll add “yet”). I’m of course not saying not to to invest in gear, especially if you’re a pro. I did, after all, buy some fancy headphones (I got the Focal Clear MG and I’m counting the seconds until they get here).

What I’m saying is that there’s a point where we need to embrace the particulates of music, the perspectives involved in listening to it, and that’s what brings me back to spring. There’s something so amazing about listening to music while the world wakes to life around you, something that encourages you (or, at least, me) to savor the momentary experience, the momentary sound that I’m hearing. After all, seeing as how the human psyche is so fluid, you could say that it’s the first and last time I’ll get this particular listening experiment. So, let’s embrace that idea and dive into lots and lots and lots of new music and have some fun together. We love you, yeah? That’s the underpinning message of all of those intros.

Thanks for reading. May 2021, here we go.

Eden Kupermintz

Columns

Editors’ Picks

Genre agnostic spotlights from the blog’s editorial staff, highlighting key releases from last month.

Death’s Door

All the death metal that’s fit to print from last month’s offerings. Riffs, licks, and gutturals.

The Prog-nosis

Odd time signatures lie ahead! Too many notes stalk these waves! Loud synths on everything! It’s progressive metal time, baby.

Doomsday

When you absolutely must have your music go low and slow, Doomsday is here for you. Get ready for fuzz.

Flash of the Blade

Music that is both fast, pissed off, and goes hard. Oh, and swearing. Lots of it.

Kvlt Kolvmn

The grimmest, coldest, most abrasive column there is. Only the most premium of perma-frost, from the heart of darkness itself.

Post Rock Post

Where the horizon is always just beyond the next hill and your heart can roam free. Delay pedals, crescendos, and dreams.

Wave//Breaker

Throw on your trench-coat, put on your favorite pair of sunglasses, and get ready to jack-in to the future in all its neon splendor.

Heavy Buys

A rundown of recent staff purchases, featuring Deftones, Mastodon, Pupil Slicer, Show Me A Dinosaur, Veil of Maya, and Protest the Hero!

Mosh Lit

Welcome to Mosh Lit, our new monthly column on storytelling in the world of metal. 

Rotten to the Core

Sure, you’re hardcore but are you this hardcore? The column with all the breakdowns, riffs, and gang vocals you’ll need.

Unmetal Monthly

Head on through to turn down the distortion.

Features

Playlist Swap 

Jon and Josh trade grids and judge each other’s playlists.

*prognotes // Dvne’s Etemen Ænka

Welcome back to *prognotes, where we analyze our favorite concept albums! This month, we tackle Dvne’s Etemen Ænka

A Gift to Artwork // May 2021

This time around, we have a rapid round-up of covers from Cara Neir, Keys of Othanc, Wax People, delving and more.

The Anatomy Of // Noctambulist

Noctambulist’s music is at times dense, atmospheric, ferocious, and contemplative. We reached out to the band to get a breakdown of the influences that coalesce to create their specific take on death metal.

Reviews

Wreche – All my dreams came true

All my dreams come true over and over again moves the listener from the heights of expression that black metal can offer to the dregs of the human experience that it can explore.

Yautja – The Lurch

The end result of all of this is an album that’s heavy like only Yautja can make something heavy. It’s wild without being scattered, ruthless without overstaying its welcome, impactful without wearing you out.

While She Sleeps – Sleeps Society

Sleeps Society doesn’t represent a stylistic leap like While She Sleeps’ first three albums, nor is it an experimental sidestep like So What? was. Instead, it is the sound of a band who have nailed down their sound and are operating at full capacity. If there wasn’t a trademark While She Sleeps sound before, then there certainly is now.

Pictures of Wild Life – Terrene

Terrene’s best moments are when Pictures of Wild Life is cutting loose, writing the sorts of songs only Pictures of Wild Life would.

Perspectives

Ask Metal Anything

Monthly questions from the blog’s Facebook group about…anything!

The Void Screameth

We’ve all got our pet issues, big and small, and sometimes you gotta just write it all out and digitally scream into the black void of the Internet. This is that, just written much better.

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