Uncovering the Hidden Gems
by: Chris Flaaten
When I was thirteen years old, in the beginning of the 1990s, I truly discovered the world of metal. While I had enjoyed some songs here and there before, the sudden invasion of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Pantera into the mainstream in (more or less) their prime literally rocked my world. And I wanted more! I started frequenting stores that sold metal CDs and stores that sold band shirts, picking the brains of the staff on other things to explore. The Internet was not available, the music stores rarely had any listening opportunities, so word of mouth played a major role in discovering new music. Headbanger's Ball on MTV could lead to some gems too, but they pretty much just scratched the surface.

Eventually I also became a subscriber of a Norwegian metal magazine. They had tons of reviews, but none of their main reviewing staff really shared my tastes. Sure, there was a guy into a fair bit of what I was into, but the problem is he gave 5 or 6 out of 6 to anything in the genre that wasn't terrible. And since they focused on quantity rather than quality when it came to reviews, it was hard to really get a good impression from a short review as to what the album truly was like. This was a problem. The local metal record store eventually managed to provide listening opportunities, but you could not really camp there the whole day to go through every album with a good review on the chance you liked it. I needed more information to filter the gems from the rubble.

Finally, in 1997, I got access to the Internet; and with that, webzines. This coincided with some really fantastic years for extreme music, and I finally felt I did not miss a thing! Almost every week there was a great album to discover. I started writing for a webzine too, trying to help others find gems or avoid duds, just like the webzines had helped me. I don't actually remember the name of the first webzine I wrote for, but it was because of one of my reviews there I got a tap on the shoulder from a Chronicles of Chaos staff member who wondered if I would consider joining. I really enjoyed the thorough reviews at CoC, it was reviews like these I had missed before the Internet. After reading one, you could usually picture what an album was like and whether you would like it or not, regardless of who had written it. Exactly what I liked! So, obviously, I signed on.

During my time at CoC, however, music got increasingly easier to check out. First came MP3s, then YouTube, then services like Spotify. You could hear someone mention a band and within fifteen minutes, in your own home, you could have a good impression of how that band sounds. This suddenly made me uncomfortable writing the thorough reviews CoC are known for, because now I felt I spoiled the band's secrets -- secrets that had become low-hanging fruits rather than hidden treasure. I again picked up my subscription to the aforementioned Norwegian magazine, because now a tiny review was all I needed to go on to check something out quickly. I started to use CoC differently as a reader too: rather than reading new reviews in full, I would instead check out new reviews based on their score alone, or check our database for albums I had already listened to and liked, to see if the reviewer mentioned references that could be interesting to check out.

While not becoming a prolific reviewer, I am proud I got the chance to participate, especially with sharing the work of transforming it from an email list to a useful website. Helping in this sure helped me feel less guilty for shirking my reviewing duties! It is sad that it will end, but at the same time I see exactly why. CoC and other webzines had a huge impact on my quest to find amazing music, music that is precious to me still, but these days quality reviews are less critical to such exploration than they used to be. It is a different world, but my world would definitely not have been the same if not for CoC. Cheers!

(article submitted 12/8/2015)

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