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Old February 9th, 2007, 11:03 AM   #1 (permalink)
circus_brimstone
Jason Jordan
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Indiana
Posts: 5,174
Lamentations of the Flame Princess - The LotFP Quintology Part I: The Shameless

Lamentations of the Flame Princess – The LotFP Quintology Part I: The Shameless
Self-Released – #68 – January 2007



For those unaware of the recent goings-on at Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the latest issue of the long-running zine – entitled The Shameless – was offered free to the first 10 people from each and every country who agreed to write a 100-word review of it. Though I was already a subscriber, I also became one of 10 Americans to receive the free issue, and what follows is my review.

Thematically speaking, The Shameless is the first part in a five-part series that is scheduled to arrive piecemeal throughout 2007. While #68 focuses on unsigned and small label bands, the remainder of The Quintology will center on different topics. To find out more about them specifically, click here.

Usually the first thing I do upon receiving a new LotFP is leaf through it to see how it all looks. More often than not, I like the artwork, layout, and formatting. Raggi and co. have not disappointed this time around, either, as the issue looks professional and is also pleasing to the eye. The text is justified, and despite the small font, is easily readable. Though there are only 26 pages of content, they fit a lot more material on them than you may think possible, without requiring a magnifying glass. The issue itself is mostly free of typos, though I noticed a handful. Otherwise, it’s evident that it was put together well.

Editorials

The first section of The Shameless consists of an editorial by James Edward Raggi IV, which discusses chunks of LotFP’s history, his move to Finland, and the fact that there are plenty of overlooked, unsigned and small label bands out there that deserve attention. The second editorial – “No Place for Disgrace” by Dave Burns – furthers the latter notion by mentioning specific instances when a group that warrants media attention has failed to receive it, or received much less than deserved. Burns, after transitioning to the subject of demos alone, also points out that many publications often relegate demo reviews to specific areas, which results in lower traffic (web) or less available space (print).

“Once we reach the real demo level (many are actually EPs) it gets even worse,” Burns says on page 2. “Demos are not worth much time or space, and reviews are quickly rattled off in a limited amount of column inches.” From there he mentions – in quick succession – the common practices of print outlets such as Terrorizer, Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles, and Metal Maniacs prior to turning his sights to the highly populated web side of music journalism. Burns continues by saying, after admitting the web presents a “different situation,” however, “the bigger and prized webzines often follow in the footsteps of their printed peers.”

It was then that Burns began to reference MetalReview.com – an online publication I’ve been a staff member of since June of 2005. I can’t say I was personally offended, but suffice it to say, I was quite surprised when Burns quoted my MR colleague Dave Fonseca, from his review of Morgue Supplier’s The End of the World, when he wrote, “I review a lot of demos. It’s not out of the goodness of my heart, or for the benefit of struggling unsigned bands across the metal scene, but because demos are short and I am lazy.” Burns, afterward, comments that the review introduction above “is not going to create a stink, but it is just crass and treating demos as if they are not worth examining on their own merits and branding them as something less-than-serious right out of the gate is reprehensible.” But Fonseca says nothing about demo quality, or “merit.” As a matter of fact, what can be inferred from the statement “demos are short and I am lazy” is that there is less material to write about, so it follows that it’s less work than writing a review for a full-length album, though that’s not to say that demos deserve less than full reviews, but more on MR’s length policy later. It’s not as if an occasional “less-than-serious” statement find its way into only demo reviews either. Again, there is no intended discrimination towards small, unsigned bands. And actually, the playing field – regarding coverage – is quite level.

Burns, in other words, selected what he needed to get his point across without taking many, pertinent MR policies into account. First, MetalReview.com accepts “regular CDs w/ full packaging. No CDR copies; artwork is to be included.” This policy includes anything metal and metal-related – demos, too – as long as they are professional releases. Second, aside from Fonseca’s work ethic, Burns failed to note that MR places demo reviews on the homepage right alongside small/medium/large label albums, so all readers see them. Third, a demo review’s length hinges on several factors, which may include but are not limited to the length of the demo itself and the reviewer’s propensity, or lack thereof, for long windedness. Whereas some staff members will take 500, 1000, or more words to describe certain albums, I predominantly use between 300 and 400. At MR, there is no maximum/minimum word count per review; it’s up to the writer who, before publication, should sense that he’s given the band/label a fair review of a normal, reasonable length.

Moreover, various staff members have contacted unsigned bands solely in order to review their self-released albums. Which bands? Apostle of Solitude, Clad in Darkness, Killingsworth, Spiritual Dissection, Wolven Ancestry, and numerous others. In fact, during the course of a year, I’m sure MetalReview.com covers many more independent bands, in addition to label-affiliated ones, than LotFP does. Perhaps Burns meant to focus on Fonseca’s attitude and comments by divorcing them from the MR M.O., but that’s not quite what I inferred. Instead, it reads like Burns didn’t weigh all the evidence that actually points to the contrary, that demo reviews are treated like any other kind of release and are not separated from the pack.

There are, of course, several redeemable qualities to both editorials. Both writers are sincere and have the bands’ best interests at heart, while Burns cites specific practices and publications that he feels give unsigned/small units far less coverage than is warranted. I see where he’s coming from, but if certain magazines decided to expand their demo review sections, what would the readership say? Would that sell more magazines or less? As a fan who enjoys reading primarily about bands I’ve heard or at least heard of, I can’t say that it would. Though I also like fresh new finds, I can’t say I’m enticed to devote much of my time to new-band-discovery via magazines, webzines, or forums.

Reviews

The reviews are a different matter altogether, and generally, I prefer this section to the others that appear in Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I love how LotFP incorporates each band’s logo at the top of their respective review, plus practical information such as the album title, number of tracks, and album length appears, too. There is a sense of passion that seeps its way into every review – not necessarily about the band and/or album itself, but heavy metal in general. Still, The Shameless is full of traditional, thrash, and doom reviews, so the issue naturally caters to those crowds, whereas, even with the inclusion of a few death metal and other subgenre reviews, fans of other styles are left out in the cold. I can understand that development considering how small their staff is. Still, in the future, I would like to see more subgenres covered.

My major gripe about certain reviews is that Raggi has a tendency to go off on tangents, even if relevant. He admits, on page 11, that “I’ve been criticized in the past for making reviews ‘too much about me’ instead of about the band.” After an explanation he asks the reader, “You want professional sterility or do you want real feeling?” That’s an either/or fallacy, but aside from that, I want some of both, Mr. Raggi – a happy medium, a compromise. While all the reviews are in-depth, a portion of the reviews of Chaos Theory’s Whispers of Doom (Burns) and Formicide’s Self-Titled (Raggi) feature material that is ultimately filler, and would’ve been better suited for an editorial. They also prove, however, that it’s possible for lengthy reviews to stay on topic (Decadence’s 3rd Stage of Decay; Thesyre’s Exist!). Raggi can be terse, too, without entirely divorcing himself from the review, as seen in the review of Negativa’s Self-Titled and The River’s Drawing Down the Sun.

In the Negativa review, Raggi states, “Gorguts’ Obscura was one of the most daring and challenging heavy metal albums ever, and it was a style that was explored for only that one album. Never, before or since, had I heard anything as violently jarring as that album. It was an assault on the ears, not pleasant to listen to at all. It was amazing. Obscura’s two primary songwriters from that album, Luc Lemay and Steeve Hurdle, now return in Negativa, and Negativa picks up right where Obscura left off.” Nice work. I’d prefer a majority of LotFP’s reviews to be in the same vein.

Interview

The remaining pages of The Shameless are occupied by a Twilight Odyssey interview, courtesy of Dave Burns. Even if you don’t care for TO, the interview is an interesting read – well-researched questions spark informative answers with plenty of entertaining banter in between.

Overall

On the whole – I won’t mince words here – LotFP sometimes comes across as a self-righteous elitist publication whose agendas would often get in my way, provided I decided to adopt them. “Heavy metal is a love that cannot be betrayed, no matter how much cosmetic bonus track and remaster surgery all of my favorite albums eventually seek to have. We need to let heavy metal know that we care about it as it ages so it doesn’t continue to disfigure itself like an aging stripper trying to remain attractive to the youngsters waving their dollar bills,” writes Raggi on page 5 in his review of Battlewitch’s Fyredroyde. So how do we “let heavy metal know that we care about it”? Even if we figure out how, will anything change? Does it matter?

“It gets even worse when fans pretend they are junior members of the industry who are helping promote the bands,” says Raggi in a review of Formicide’s Self-Titled. “Slave labor, right? Fool the consumer into thinking they are a provider. People…it’s this simple: STOP GIVING YOUR MONEY TO BUSINESSMEN. THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU. THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT THE MUSIC. THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU. THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT THE MUSICIANS. THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT YOU.” I don’t care about them either! If a band’s on a label, and I want their music, then I’ll pay for it. I must admit that the fairly recent discussions revolving around Earache’s shady business practices were disconcerting, but there are certain Earache bands (Akercocke, Anata, Cult of Luna, Decapitated, et al) that I still would like to support and still do support by buying their records, even if they don’t receive that much money for my individual purchases. What’s the alternative?

In any event, and to close, The Shameless – just like every other LotFP issue I’ve read – is intriguing. It has pointed me in the direction of a few good bands (Negativa, Verbal Deception, Zircon, etc.). I have no doubt that a boatload of passion goes into all that Raggi, Burns, and Schiffmann write, but I also have to admit that I think some of the ideas mentioned above and therein are impractical, occasionally ludicrous, and/or dripping with pretension. Despite the ostensible anti-label slant that permeates much, if not all, of LotFP, I have to wonder what they’d say about a band like Napalm Death being signed to Century Media. Do the LotFP’s writer’s CD collections stay true to the sentiments they’ve relayed here? I can’t say for sure, but I’m skeptical.

That’s 100 words, I think.

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