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The Golden Age of Metal (Reprise) - A Decade In Review

That's right - the title to this post reads "A Decade in Review". When December 30th swings around, it will be ten fucking years since I started writing for Heavy Blog and a little less than that since I started running the blog altogether.

2 months ago

That's right - the title to this post reads "A Decade in Review". When December 30th swings around, it will be ten fucking years since I started writing for Heavy Blog and a little less than that since I started running the blog altogether. Forgive me the cliché, but it really does boggle the mind. I can't tell you what a dream of mine it used to be to work on something and as part of something like Heavy Blog. Is everything perfect? Not at all. There are many things we wanted to do with the blog that we were never able to do. There are many things we still want to do which we can't, because of the realities of life, our priorities, and our workloads. I still think that Heavy Blog could be so much more than what it is. And it might still be but not any time soon, as the horizon holds more and more challenges for the people who make the blog exist.

But even then, the sheer accomplishment that Heavy Blog still exists is nothing short of miraculous. 2024 will be, incidentally, Heavy Blog's fifteenth (!!!) year of existence. Through many iterations, this blog has really done it all (almost) - we created years and years of longform content. We covered endless amounts of metal related news. We started, abandoned, and maintained dozens of columns focusing on diverse parts of the metal scene. We founded Discord servers, a Patreon (or two), and met countless friends. I can't really emphasize that part enough; one of the best parts of running this blog is getting to meet so many amazing people, in bands and outside of them, "in real life" and online. I've been to so many places around the world since then and in nearly all of them, I knew someone in a band or that had written for the blog or just followed us. I was able to meet them, to chat, to share in their perspective of the world and that is an immense and wonderful gift.

But this post is not just about me and my experience, though that's a big part of it and, to be honest, I feel like I've earned that after ten years of work. More so, I want to take this opportunity to revisit one of my first longform articles for the blog: The Golden Age of Metal. I wrote that article in the height of one of the most intoxicating years of my life. My career was finally taking off, my relationship was fresh and strong (it's still strong, stronger than ever, but there's something to that heady feeling of a newly forged relationship that is uniquely thrilling), and I was surrounded by incredible amounts of fantastic music. This was 2015, but the year after it would be one of the most prolifically excellent years for metal. In case you need a reminder, a cursory look at our Album of the Year list from back then should do. That atmosphere is what led me both to write that essay but also to keep going with the blog, knowing that much of this experience of a "Golden Age" (as I allude to in the essay itself) was a result of me being so connected to musical networks. I wanted more of it and boy did I get it; some years were slower than 2015/16 but some, like 2020, exceeded it, and all were experienced through the powerful prism of the networks the blog allowed me to build.

Is all that glitters still gold?

So. Now it has been a decade since I started seriously thinking about and consuming music. And it's been nine or eight years since I started feeling constantly surrounded and overwhelmed by excellent music, translating that feeling into a grand narrative of a Golden Age. The first thing I'd like to do with this essay is re-examine that narrative in two ways. First, does the period when I initially wrote that essay still feel like a Golden Age? And, secondly, do I think/feel that that Golden Age is still ongoing? Is it still a useful category through which to view the period in which we live, at least as far as its musical output is concerned?

The answer to that first question is easier, especially if I let go of the pretense of "objectivity" and accept that much of what moved me to cast the period into the Golden Age narrative was personal perception and emotions. Alongside the intense growth and intoxication I was feeling back then, those were also some pretty challenging years. 2015 saw me go through a huge period of career instability and 2016 began with a flurry of international travel which deeply traumatized me even as it brought me together with some of the people I love most. This makes it much harder for me to look back at that time and fit the Golden Age narrative on to it, especially because so much of the musical intoxication has faded by now.

Don't get me wrong, I still go back and listen to many albums from those years and some of my all time favorite releases were released during it. But it's not quite the same though, is it? Listening to excellent music years after it has released doesn't feel quite the same as trying to get comfortable with that same album whilst being bombarded with five new ones. Which is how I've felt, constantly, in every year since 2015, to be clear; the blog does that to you, with its vast social networks of musical recommendation and sorting. This sort of feeds into the second question I want to ask about whether the Golden Age is still ongoing. In many ways, I feel like the answer is "yes" but it's "yes" to me, because I immerse myself in music so much. Funnily enough, this is also how I closed the original Golden Age essay, with the idea that the Golden Age is real to the extent that you open yourself up to the sheer amount of music that's being made and embrace it.

And that's still true; if you let it in, there is some absolutely phenomenal music being made out there today and enough of it that it will completely flood you if you so wish. But as time goes by, I ask myself about the efficacy of privileging such a narrative. Put more simply, what does highlighting the idea of a Golden Age even give us? Is the distinction an interesting one, a framework through which to better understand the lived experience of listening to and writing about music today? In some ways, yes; there is still use in that idea of the floodgate, of the intoxication that many of us feel when they dive deep into the stream of music. But in other ways, more ways I think, the Golden Age feels like an empty category. There's not much to do with it; it sits there as a nice idea that makes us feel good in light of the otherwise pretty dreary cultural narratives, those of decline and repetition, that dominate the general discourse today.

But it doesn't do much else. In fact, it's a bit worse than that - it also has a flattening effect. The narrative of the Golden Age hides more interesting questions I think, like which type of music is having a Golden Age, why this type of music is undergoing such an explosion, how long do these cycles last and why, and more and more. And, to be honest with you, answering these questions and describing them is perhaps the next challenge of my writing career. It's not a secret that I haven't written a longform piece in a very long time. Partly that's because, to be very honest, I've run out of abstract, grand things to say; I've done my analyses and I still agree with most of them but there comes a time where you no longer have original thoughts that justify 10,000+ word articles or sprawling reviews. But partly that is also because I haven't really felt satisfied with the sort of thought process or diagrams that these essays produce. The more I write, the more I feel they are inadequate in describing the things I want to describe - the fragments, pieces, oddities, and "uniquenesses" of the massive amounts of music that's out there.

After the After

So, what next? To be honest with you, I really don't know. Sitting here, ten years after starting to write for the blog, I find myself wanting more. The blog is great, the columns are great, premieres are great. But I feel like there is something more out there, some newer form of writing or of other media that is waiting for me to make the leap, just like I made the leap when I first messaged the blog's Facebook, and seize it. I honestly don't know what it is though but I do know that it's not going back to longforms or to lists or to all of the old stuff that the blog is so used to doing. It doesn't mean the end of the current form of the blog (or, at least, I don't think it does) but it requires some sort of radical change.

By now, you probably suspect that I wasn't entirely honest about the previous point; I do have some ideas about what might come next. I'd like to use the rest of this post to try and maybe lay some of them out, both for the advantage of structure that doing so affords me but also to see if any of them resonate with any of you, reading this. This is a big part of what comes next - I really want to make it more fragmented, more networked, more rhizomatic. I have often said that the true fuel of the blog is its community, its readers, you, and I meant it every single time I did. I feel like a tiny percent of that fuel is being tapped right now and each one of these coming forms, whatever they might end up actually being, has to include you and rework the relationship between Heavy Blog and its readers. So, before we get to the actual sketches of ideas, maybe join us on Discord? And message me? If you have ideas of forms, of ways of being, of avenues that Heavy Blog might take in the future? Or if you simply have a sick album to recommend or just want to say "hello". We're here.

OK, weird half sketches for ideas of a future Heavy Blog here we go!

Local perspectives

Remember back in 2014 when we sent William (our one-time Australian contributor and photographer) to tour with After the Burial? We really did, you can still read it right here, and it remains one of the best things we've ever done on the blog. Ever since we did it, I wanted to do it again; to send someone, to embed them with a band on your, or to dive deeper into a local scene. Local scenes, sometimes called "micro-scenes" by pretentious assholes like myself, are one of the most fascinating phenomenon out there; how do they come to be? How do ideas and aesthetics circulates in member bands? Where do they stop? Who stays on the outskirts? And more really fascinating questions.

What if the blog moved away from columns, or kept but moved focus away from them, to choose one such scene each month, or quarter, or half-year, and dove really deep into it? What if we found a local each time to report from that scene? Like, what if I went out and found someone in the Denver scene (I already have two) to spend six months writing a piece a week about the scene, its bands? Going to live shows, taking pictures, sketching the Denver scene? And what if we were to do it for lesser know local scenes, like Indianapolis and its post-rock scene, Seattle's hardcore circuit, or Chicago's post and progressive metal scene?

What if we reached out to readers from these areas and empowered us to help bring their voices to the community at large? What if you could get snippets of perspectives from disparate voices, all filtered through the Heavy Blog lens, shepherded by our writers into publication? We'd also do our own perspectives as outsiders, covering releases and bands and shows and beer and merch and coffee and venues from those areas?

How fucking cool would that be? Absolute nightmare to run, probably, and difficult to maintain, to keep going, but so fucking cool.

Artist collaborations

Here's something we've been kicking around the blog's Slack for a while now - we know a lot of artists and we also know labels, producers, cover artists, and more. Why don't we just put our hands together, sprinkle in some money, and create artist collaborations? We wouldn't want to be a label, because there are all sorts of legal and copyright pains around that and, besides, we don't want to turn a profit from this; we just want to create more art. What's more, we want to create more art from artists that wouldn't otherwise collaborate or whose projects wouldn't otherwise see the light of day.

Being fully transparent, there's already one project on the way that we helped happen; hopefully it releases sometime soon because it rules. I can't say much more yet but suffice it to say, it's a killer collaboration release from some of the best names in underground doom from the UK scene. But I really, really want to create more projects like it! Where to start? How often to do it? How much does it cost? All these questions are dwarfed by the question: who decides? There are so many artists out there making great music who need money to make it a reality, so who decides who gets what? After all, the blog's money comes to us from our Patreon supporters. Is it right that I'm the one who decides? Some say yes but it doesn't sit quite right with me.

On the other hand, forming some sort of body which votes is a ton of work because, again being honest, it ends up as one more thing that I have to run and manage and, believe me, I have enough of that. So how do we do it? Maybe a poll that gets sent out to readers or Patreon supporters with candidates? Applications like to a grant? Who knows! But what I do know is that the blog's money going towards new music being created and released is probably the best use of it possible and I want to make it happen at scale.

Networked curation

From creating music to writing about music or, rather, "curating" it, which is just a fancy word for "collecting". The number one best thing about the blog are all of the networks of music discovery and collection that it has opened me up to. I can literally just go to the blog's Discord, my Twitter or FB accounts, and type "hey, does anyone have any great melodic hardcore from Australia?" (or some other equally specific request) and I'll be met with a deluge of recommendations. But then those recommendations get filtered through the lens of what catches my ear which is what I end up writing about on the blog and recommending to other people.

But what if we could make those networks accessible to everyone, so that the recommendations I get are basically sent to everyone who...I don't know, subscribes to a newsletter or listens to a podcast or reads a column. I have no idea what actual form something like this might take, it's probably the least fleshed out of the ideas in this post. But I do know that, when I look back on threads from years ago, I find dozens of albums I was recommended which I didn't write about and that makes me very sad. I want to figure out some way to maintain the format (i.e. me, or some other "original actor") who requests a type of music and then a wide network of people who respond to that recommendation. Did I just describe a forum? Maybe! Maybe this is a Heavy Blog Recommendation Forum. I have no idea! If you do, let's chat!

Communal construction

Lastly, it's clear that at the heart of all of the above proposed...structures or futures, there beats a strong community centered around the blog. Happily, we already have that community but I want to make sure that we continue to maintain it and grew it. What does that look like? Do we just keep doing what we're doing now and look towards organic growth of the Discord server? Or does that server need to go one step further, with activities, meet-ups, streams, and more? And how do we do that? Should we do it, as a staff, or should this also be something we open up for the community to assist with? Again, more questions than answers but this is a great point to, once again, remind you that none of this happens without you, the reader!

So, remember: We're here. I'm also here, at eden[at]heavyblogisheavy[dot]com. Reach out! Come join us! As you can see above, I don't know much but I know that, even after a decade, I still have passion for the blog and I still want to see this thing work and grow. I don't know into what but I know that I want it to grow into something; I want to sit here in ten years and write my "Two Decades in Review". I want the blog to prosper even more than it has, and that's a lot since this thing shouldn't even exist let alone do as well as it has. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that it's time to take things, not to the next level, but sideways, into something new, something more open, something that involves what I love the most about this blog - you.

See you there.

Eden Kupermintz

Published 2 months ago