Remembering My Time With Chronicles of Chaos
by: Mark Dolson
Well, where do I start? As one of the "newer" staff writers for Chronicles of Chaos, it's a little difficult for me to write a reflective piece given my rather short time with the 'zine -- just six years next month. What I can say, though, is that I can't believe it has been twenty years since CoC started on the Internet. While I personally didn't get Internet service until April of 1997, I remember frequently visiting CoC when I first discovered it in the late '90s -- the days when written reviews actually meant something, since YouTube was years and years away from being developed.

Rather than launch into a retrospective centering on the decline of written reviews and their replacement by readily available album leaks and innocent-enough full-album uploads by fans, I think I'll focus more on what CoC has meant for me during my tenure with them. In 2009, our daughter was born -- in May, to be exact. Shortly after, I felt a really strange sort of creative yearning inside me; a feeling of longing. Not a feeling of regret, but of wanting to do more; of wanting to commit to something that I loved since I was a kid -- and that's heavy metal. Since I never learned how to play an instrument, I felt that at 33 I was far too old to start learning how to play guitar (even though I owned one at the time and still do).

I was in graduate school at the time completing a Ph.D. in anthropology, so time was short. I spent a few weeks lying in bed at night thinking to myself, "wow, I have loved metal for so long, yet I want to give back somehow... but the question is how? I can't join a band at this point in my life, so what is there to do in terms of creative expression that will some how transcend myself and my computer screen?" After speaking with my wife on several occasions about this very problem, it hit me: "Aha! I can write metal reviews! I should be knowledgeable enough after all these years, and I enjoy writing, so why not. It's not like forming my own doom/death band, but hey, it's something!" "O.K.", my wife said. "Do it if you've got the time!"

So, after spending a few weeks "shopping around" for net 'zines, I realized that CoC had something the other 'zines and sites lacked: they were established; their writers were highly knowledgeable and serious about their writing and their love of metal; and, most importantly, their reviews were, in many cases, not bounded by any sort of limits on length! Norway's Scream Magazine and Canada's Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles, as well as many other Internet-based 'zines, all featured really short reviews -- mostly just one puny paragraph a la Terrorizer's or Sound of Death's print-based reviews. Each time I read reviews from the aforesaid sources, I was always left with wanting more. "Couldn't they have just written a bit more about the production, like drum sound or guitar tone?" "Couldn't they have described the artwork a bit more; or maybe how the riffs made the reviewer feel instead of just saying something like 'yeah, this song sounds just like this band or that band'?"

Since I was familiar with CoC's more insightful and discerning style, I thought I would be in very good company as a staff writer. After my successful audition, I was so excited to finally be able to give back in whatever way I could to the metal community. My approach as a writer for CoC was to be as comprehensive and poetic as possible about describing the music -- I tried to be almost anthropological about my listening experience of whatever album I was engaging with. What I always strove for while writing my reviews was honesty and integrity, and I think I was successful on that front. For many of my reviews (the ones that weren't too formulaic), I tried to be as creative as possible -- maybe too creative in some cases. I remember sending some of my reviews to certain bands and never receiving any reply! Sadly, those were the most, how can I say, "untraditional" reviews -- but oh well. All I can say at this point is that I am very thankful to both Gino Filicetti and Pedro Azevedo for allowing me to join the ranks CoC!

Making a contribution, even if it's something as seemingly minimal as writing a one-page review, made a huge difference for me. Not only was it a cathartic experience, but it allowed me to try and give back my thoughts and feelings to the metal worlds on important and not-so-important albums. As well, CoC was also a great venue to "meet" (though cyber-space) some of the other talented staff writers -- some of whom I hope I won't lose touch with. It's in writing these words that I get rather sad to see CoC stop after all these years. In some ways I can't believe it (how can the art of writing reviews be dying?), yet in others I can, what with the ubiquity of leaked albums and full-album uploads to YouTube -- it almost renders reviews redundant in the truest sense of the word.

However, before I get too upset here, I must be extremely grateful for my time with CoC, and think positively of their contribution as a whole as one of the most established extreme metal webzines out there. Since I'm terrible at good-byes, I think I'll end with a quote from the very famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens [in this case, metal- heads] can change the world [that's a little dramatic in this case, so I'll sub in "Internet"]. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has".

True, true. And there you have it: I really do believe CoC has changed the metal world (on the Internet anyways) for the better with a more comprehensive and intelligent approach to metal reviews and news. So long for now...

(article submitted 12/8/2015)

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