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Diogenes View Drop Down
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    Posted: 28 May 2012 at 12:39pm
This may turn into more of a survey than a blog, but...

Here at MMA, reviews are strongly encouraged.  There are guidelines, but generally the rules and regulations for reviews are more lenient than those of other websites, and everyone with an opinion is allowed to share it.  This is great for a general audience and it's very user-friendly, but letting everyone do their own thing will inevitably raise questions about one's review process, writing style, and so on.  Basically, it's tough not making comparisons and assumptions when you see a 100-word review and then a 1000-word review of the same album; however, I think it's safe to say we all have our own rhyme and reason for writing the way we do, and I think it would be cool to share some of it, both to get different perspectives and to get to know each other a little better.

So I ask you: what's your reviewing style and process?  What's your logic behind writing reviews the way you do?

Me, I love writing.  I always have and I always will.  It's something that I do when I'm bored, spending hours on end just plugging away at whatever's on my mind, but I don't take it very seriously; I've been a very informal writer since I was a kid (too many comic books, I guess), and at almost every grade level, I've had points taken off on my papers because they weren't written in a "professional" manner.  This is something I found ridiculous and frustrating, and I finally stopped writing on my own for a while because it was no longer fun.  I felt as if my creativity was being squashed.

When I found MMA, I figured I would try my hand at reviewing; I love music and the site didn't seem to have restrictions on how to write, so why not?  I quickly found that it was something I really enjoyed.  I could write about whatever the hell I wanted, however the hell I wanted, and be making a contribution somehow.  I would just keep writing, and writing, and writing, without much of an idea about what exactly should have been written.  The other problem with this was that I would go through long droughts of just not having any inspiration, since how I wrote reviews drew so heavily on whether I was in the mood to ramble or not.  Lately, I've tried to make my reviews more concise; it doesn't come as naturally to me, but it's a hell of a lot easier to read, and I feel that I can be a more productive reviewer (although I'll never be on Jonas or Kim's level when it comes to quantity).  Still, I never want to force myself into writing something I'm not interested in writing, because then it might as well not even be my work. 

I wish I could say that I have a specific review process, but I don't.  It's really something that depends on how many listens it takes me to "get" and album.  Oftentimes I will begin a review, get hung up on how to write something, and then I won't touch it again for a week or so.  That really sucks! 

What about you?  What are your thoughts on reviewing?  Pet peeves, interests, changes in style, etc.  I'd really love to get everyone's take on this.  Post whatever you feel!


Edited by Diogenes - 28 May 2012 at 12:39pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote UMUR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 May 2012 at 1:46pm
I love this ideaClap. Itīs something Iīve thought about doing myself but just never got around to. Now youīve opened the box and Iīm certainly interested in contributing. Just give me a little time to write something down.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote UMUR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 May 2012 at 2:41pm

I found PA by chance in 2007 and started writing reviews almost imidiately. My first reviews were for "...and then there were three (1978)" by Genesis and "Into the Everflow (1992) by Psychotic Waltz. I had never written a review before and actually had no writing experience whatsoever, so basically I just read a lot of reviews and tried to take the good ideas I found and use them in my reviews (not sentences but ideas on how to write). To tell you the truth there are only few of the first couple of hundreds of reviews I wrote that Iīm still proud of today and I try and go back when I have the time and edit/re-write the worst of them.

I started out writing reviews for my favorite albums and artists I knew something about before trying my hand at releases I listened to for the first time. A hard challenge bearing in mind that English is my second language and the words donīt necessarily flow easily when Iīm writing about things I donīt know too much about, but also an important challenge, which has helped me broaden my musical horizon but has also made me a more skilled reviewer.

After writing a couple of hundreds of reviews, I started to get dissatisfied with my writing style and also my at times disrespectful/better knowing attitude. So I said to myself: "What is it You want to read when you read a review?" And I soon came to the conclusion that the below review "skeleton" is basically what I want to read when I read a review and therefore thatīs basically how I write reviews and have done for a couple of years:

1. Introduction to the album:
- What is the placement of the album in the artistīs discography
- What label(s) released the album and when was it released
- anekdotes/history about the album (sometimes very little info and sometimes a lot. Depending on which album Iīm reviewing and how much information is available). I usually do a minimum of research before writing this part of my review. In some cases research can take hours.

2. Description of the music:
- I try to give a general idea of how the music sounds without going too much into details. Too many details/minute by minite descriptions of each track on an album have a tendency to become a boring read, and I try not to lull my readers into a sleep with my reviews. If I can I try to mention highlights or unusual tracks, but again only mentions, not detailed descriptions.

3. Musicianship:
- When I read a review Iīd like to know if weīre talking amaturs or skilled professionals, so I usually mention that in my review too. If there is something out of the ordinary going on Iīll probably mention that too (an extremely skilled drummer, a lead vocalist with a great voice...etc.).

4. Sound production/mix
- I think sound production is an extremely important part of an album and Iīll almost always mention what kind of sound production the listener can expect. This is an area Iīm still working on improving. It doesnīt come natural to me, talking about production techniques. I would be able to explain myself much better in Danish on this particular subject.

5. Conclusion
- What do I think about the album?
- How does it hold up to the other releases in the artistīs discography or to similar artits?
- Rating

Thatīs basically it. Itīs a formula, that Iīve come to appreciate. A formula is especially good to fall back on if you are having difficulties getting the words out. Then itīs nice to have some basics you can talk about and then boom you have a review written. I try and keep my reviews between 200 and 500 words. My own attention often wanders when reading reviews that are more than 500 words long. I simply start skimming them instead of giving them proper attention.

Some reviews take me 10 minutes to write, some take hours, some take countless hours spread over the course of years. Sometimes the muse is there and sometimes itīs not. I have a notepad document I carry with me all the time, where I have drafts for reviews. Sometimes I write a sentence on a review and then go back to writing on an entirely different review. Depends a lot on my mood what kind of music I want to write about. I only write about albums I have very recently listened to though and that goes for albums I know very well too.



Edited by UMUR - 28 May 2012 at 2:42pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Diogenes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 May 2012 at 3:09pm
That's a great write-up, Jonas.  The formulaic "skeleton" idea is probably something I'm going to switch over to sometime in the future, even if I want to write longer reviews.  It is definitely a great way to beat writer's block.

And if this means anything, your English is better than that of half the people I know. Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dtguitarfan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 May 2012 at 3:27pm
That's a great formula, Jonas.  And I wouldn't have guessed English was your second language from the things I've read by you either.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dreadpirateroberts Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 May 2012 at 7:43pm
Well said, Jonas. Your reviews are great indeed.
 
And that "disrespectful/better knowing attitude" is indeed of limited use to a person actually seeking information about an album. 
 
I write reviews based on mood - sometimes I start and it's garbage so I give up for weeks on that album, so I have a dozen half finfished albums. More free time would help so, so much.
 
Often if there's a classic album that has dozens of reviews I attempt a slightly different angle.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Wilytank Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 May 2012 at 7:53pm
I've never had a solid outline for my reviews besides an intro and conclusion.  I've made it a point to talk about as many good or bad things I can identify, which is why I look down upon bare bones reviews for not saying much at all.

One thing I would like to say is that rating albums out of five stars is way too general for my liking.  I much prefer rating things out of 100 like Encyclopaedia Metallum does it.  5/5 does not equal 100/100 in my system.

My system for conversion is as follows

5/5 = 95/100 to 100/100
4.5/5 = 89/100 to 94/100
4/5 = 79/100 to 88/100
3.5/5 = 73/100 to 78/100
3/5 = 60/100 to 72/100
2.5/5 = 50/100 to 59/100
2/5 = 36/100 to 49/100
1.5/5 = 20/100 to 35/100
1/5 = 11/100 to 19/100
0.5/5 = 10/100 and below.

So far, I've only published one 0.5/5 album to EM (Torsofuck's Erotic Diarrhea Fantasy) which I gave a 3%.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote UMUR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 May 2012 at 2:22am
^I think I prefer the bare bones concise reviews, but thatīs subjective and one of the great things about a site like MMA. You have the opportunity to read reviews by many different people, who write in their own style (long ones, detailed ones, not so detailed ones and short ones). Some youīll trust and some you wonīt. Some youīll prefer and some you probably wonīt read that often. I like the fact that the reviews on this site, are written by "regular" folks contra so called "professional" reviewers, who often IMO arenīt better at writing reviews than many of the people here. They are just as subjective in their opinions as everyone else.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dreadpirateroberts Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 May 2012 at 2:49am
^ true, too many of the worst, worst, worst reviews I've ever read have been by professionals - like the turkey who reviewed LZII for Rolling Stone - can't recall his name, but it sucked.

Edited by dreadpirateroberts - 30 May 2012 at 5:37pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Wilytank Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 May 2012 at 12:09pm
One other thing I like about EM is the ability to add a witty review title.  Now I don't go out of my way to think one up and often I just take a part of the lyrics, but titles to reviews definitely add some more personal touch to the review.  Unfortunately, there's people who take the boring approach: [band name] - [album title], and those reviews don't catch my eye as much.  Titles aren't necessary, but they can sure make reviews noticeable.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Time Signature Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 May 2012 at 2:14pm
Originally posted by Wilytank Wilytank wrote:

One other thing I like about EM is the ability to add a witty review title.


I agree on this one.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dreadpirateroberts Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 May 2012 at 5:38pm
Originally posted by dreadpirateroberts dreadpirateroberts wrote:

^ true, too many of the worst, worst, worst reviews I've ever read have been by professionals - like the turkey who reviewed LZII for Rolling Stone - can't recall his name, but it sucked.
 
Just realised I missed the name of the publication before - apologies
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Diogenes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 May 2012 at 7:07pm
Originally posted by UMUR UMUR wrote:

^I think I prefer the bare bones concise reviews, but thatīs subjective and one of the great things about a site like MMA. You have the opportunity to read reviews by many different people, who write in their own style (long ones, detailed ones, not so detailed ones and short ones). Some youīll trust and some you wonīt. Some youīll prefer and some you probably wonīt read that often. I like the fact that the reviews on this site, are written by "regular" folks contra so called "professional" reviewers, who often IMO arenīt better at writing reviews than many of the people here. They are just as subjective in their opinions as everyone else.


That's kind of why I started this thread, so we can get to know each other a little better as reviewers.  Lots of great stuff here so far, keep it coming!

We do have a lot of members on this site who also write for more "professional" websites, I think.  That's a word you have to take with a grain of salt; I can't tell you how many times I've been frustrated with "professional" sports analysts who think that they're all that just because they're on TV, while there are college students making far better analyses on message boards.  Especially with something like music, where mostly everything is subjective, you kinda have to fend for yourself when reading people's opinions...but that's far better than those opinions not being shared at all because the site won't allow it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote adg211288 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 May 2012 at 1:03am
I write for my own website first and foremost. How 'professional' you want to call that is up for debate, since we're entirely non-profit. Though being part of a community that helps you find new music is rewarding in its own right. Call us(me) semi-professional if you will, after all I do receive promos from some labels.

I have a semi-set in stone style of reviewing which I sometimes intentionally break depending on how the words flow. I seem to have sub-consciously picked up a trait from Jonas with starting review like "Album is that whatever number album from so and so band" etc. It's a good way to get going, as I often find the hardest line to write is the first one. The rest of my reviews typically cover the same stuff in varying length. It's all about how the words flow. Some albums I find need more said on them than others, especially if the album has both positive and negative aspects to cover. Take my recent Augury reviews. I prefer Concealed, yet I wrote a fair bit more for Fragmentary Evidence. 

My familiarity with a band can also affect my reviews. Sometimes if its my first encounter with an established band I will says that the review is from the perspective a newcomer. If I'm familiar with the band though they may get graded based on what expectations I had from them as much as from their genre. I also have varying standards from different sub-genres since with metal as diverse as it is if I looked for the same positives in every sub there'd be some subs always getting lower or higher reviews. As such I tend to be more critical on some, such as symphonic metal, where I'm really not interested these days if all you can do is be a poor intimation of what Nightwish or Epica is already doing better.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote UMUR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 May 2012 at 1:57am
Originally posted by dreadpirateroberts dreadpirateroberts wrote:

Originally posted by dreadpirateroberts dreadpirateroberts wrote:

^ true, too many of the worst, worst, worst reviews I've ever read have been by professionals - like the turkey who reviewed LZII for Rolling Stone - can't recall his name, but it sucked.
 
Just realised I missed the name of the publication before - apologies
 
Tongueyeah I did find your comment lacking something.


Edited by UMUR - 31 May 2012 at 1:59am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dreadpirateroberts Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 May 2012 at 7:26am
Hahaha! I'm on fire of late - all over the shop, I need a decent night's sleep for once!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Diogenes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 May 2012 at 12:13pm
Originally posted by adg211288 adg211288 wrote:

I write for my own website first and foremost. How 'professional' you want to call that is up for debate, since we're entirely non-profit. Though being part of a community that helps you find new music is rewarding in its own right. Call us(me) semi-professional if you will, after all I do receive promos from some labels.

I have a semi-set in stone style of reviewing which I sometimes intentionally break depending on how the words flow. I seem to have sub-consciously picked up a trait from Jonas with starting review like "Album is that whatever number album from so and so band" etc. It's a good way to get going, as I often find the hardest line to write is the first one. The rest of my reviews typically cover the same stuff in varying length. It's all about how the words flow. Some albums I find need more said on them than others, especially if the album has both positive and negative aspects to cover. Take my recent Augury reviews. I prefer Concealed, yet I wrote a fair bit more for Fragmentary Evidence. 

My familiarity with a band can also affect my reviews. Sometimes if its my first encounter with an established band I will says that the review is from the perspective a newcomer. If I'm familiar with the band though they may get graded based on what expectations I had from them as much as from their genre. I also have varying standards from different sub-genres since with metal as diverse as it is if I looked for the same positives in every sub there'd be some subs always getting lower or higher reviews. As such I tend to be more critical on some, such as symphonic metal, where I'm really not interested these days if all you can do is be a poor intimation of what Nightwish or Epica is already doing better.


Take this for what it's worth, but you're the one guy on this site I would model my reviews after, if possible.  Your writing is very professional but still has a looot of detail, which is where I want to end up with my reviews eventually.  And per the bolded, I think that's why it's beneficial to try to review as many subgenres as possible; to learn more about them and expand your horizons, sure, but also so you don't have to write "Modern Thrash band X plays metal that is heavily influenced by bands such as Exodus and Slayer" hundreds of times.  Being someone who strives to write something unique for each review, I don't think I'd be able to stomach that.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Time Signature Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jun 2012 at 4:01am
Originally posted by UMUR UMUR wrote:

^I think I prefer the bare bones concise reviews, but thatīs subjective and one of the great things about a site like MMA. You have the opportunity to read reviews by many different people, who write in their own style (long ones, detailed ones, not so detailed ones and short ones). Some youīll trust and some you wonīt. Some youīll prefer and some you probably wonīt read that often.


Yeah, I prefer shorter reviews, too. I generally do not read review that are very long - except if it is a release that I am really interested in or if the review is very well written, humorous or innovative (I think this has to do with my day job which requires that I do a lot of reading, meaning that I am generally reading-saturated in my spare time - and the same thing goes for writing).

I prefer writing short reviews for the same reason (also, I am generally very busy IRL, so I rarely have time to write elaborate and lengthy reviews). That being said, I do enjoy experimenting with different review styles, such as the fanboy rant or the metaphor-riddled review or the vocative review or the would-be academic review, and I plan to do some nonsensical reviews for some avant-garde metal releases (I think they'd be very fitting).

I find negative reviews more challenging to write because I really don't want to be a dick and just bash the release, plus I always try to find at least some positive aspects of such releases (or at least aspects which other listeners might find positive). I do enjoy reading negative reviews because they can be very entertaining - like Wilytank's brilliant dialogue review of Black Veil Brides' "Set the World on Fire". One thing I refrain from is attacking the musicians personally - ad hominem reviews have no value whatsoever in my book, because they say nothing about the music itself and they just make the reviewer come across as a dickhead.

And, in general, I like the variety of reviews we get here on the MMA. That's also one of the things that I really appreciate about this site.

Quote I like the fact that the reviews on this site, are written by "regular" folks contra so called "professional" reviewers, who often IMO arenīt better at writing reviews than many of the people here. They are just as subjective in their opinions as everyone else.


I agree... which is why I found that whole situation, when a rabid Sun caged fan went on a massive rant because Stephen wrote a negative review of their latest album, quite interesting. I remember that the guy ended up concluding that the MMA was not a worthy site because we're not professional reviewers (somewhere on Facebook where the whole "conflict" originated). It should be mentioned that Paul from Sun Caged took a much more constructive and diplomatic approach to the whole situation and the distinction between professional and amateur reviewers.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote adg211288 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jun 2012 at 5:04am
Originally posted by Diogenes Diogenes wrote:

 Take this for what it's worth, but you're the one guy on this site I would model my reviews after, if possible.  Your writing is very professional but still has a looot of detail, which is where I want to end up with my reviews eventually.  And per the bolded, I think that's why it's beneficial to try to review as many subgenres as possible; to learn more about them and expand your horizons, sure, but also so you don't have to write "Modern Thrash band X plays metal that is heavily influenced by bands such as Exodus and Slayer" hundreds of times.  Being someone who strives to write something unique for each review, I don't think I'd be able to stomach that.

Thanks mate, means a lot. Smile

It's ironic, but I actually have EM to thank for my standard of reviewing. Say what you like about their policies on what is metal and what isn't, but they do know how to get the best out of reviewers. 

I'm going to be honest but I find most very short reviews, as in single paragraph ones, next to useless, especially the ones printed in the UK's Metal Hammer magazine. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote UMUR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Jun 2012 at 5:33am
Iīve read very short reviews, that were very useful and long ones that were a complete waste of time (and space). It all depends on the reviewer and his/her writing style.
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