While the score doesn't bug me, I am fully aware of the existence of different opinions, there are a couple of things that bug me about that review and reviews in general.
"I don’t listen to Between the Buried and Me all that often. If you don’t either, there’s probably a reason for that, and it’s probably not that BTBAM are so far underground that you just haven’t noticed them. If you do listen to that hugely talented (and, frankly, exhausting) band frequently, then you already know where Citadel is going, and you might not need another helping of jewel-encrusted sorcerer-elephant metal (I’m getting that term trademarked, bitches, and my wallet gonna bulge ‘cause nobody else was paying enough attention to get there first)."
There's my first problem right there. If you've listened to both bands you'll know that they aren't quite that interchangeable. While both have a style of their own, those styles have quite a few deviations from each other that aren't quite that easy to dismiss. While BTBAM play a sort of progressive blend of deathcore and prog-rock with genre-hopping as kind of a trademark element without going full Mr. Bungle (not a criticism, love both bands) Ne Obliviscaris play progressive black metal with violin and melodic tendencies. Yes, both bands have progressive elements but that's kinda like saying "Well...both are different so they must be alike." or trying to set up your two homosexual friends despite them being of different genders. I remember them being compared to Unexpect which is just setting people up for disappointment as the only things they have in common is the violin and a slight black metal influence. Again, no genre-hopping in NeO and much more of a classical influence than an avant-garde one.
"Of course, this is coming from a guy who will shell out for any bleak, gutter-scraping semi-melodic funeral doom that happens to drip from some post-Soviet amps, so what the fuck do I know?"
At least he acknowledges the fact that this is not his kind of music but honestly, what's his reason for reviewing it then? Is this just a clickbaiting trick because negative criticism tends to bring more attention? Or is it an honest attempt to widen his circle? Possibly both but I do appreciate that he acknowledges this and also that he tried to appeal to possible fans in the beginning with a BTBAM reference but sadly that was a little misguided in my opinion.
" I hate scoring an album like Citadel. Any numerical rating pasted onto it is immediately, inevitably wrong."
"Sometimes, we reviewers should be able to get away with a summative description and a Recommended If You Like tag."
Should be able to get away with? No, we should all, as music lovers and journalists, INSIST on killing off the numerical value system. It does nothing but lower the value of the written word and the music itself. What's the difference between an album that gets an 8 and an 8.5? What if one is a funeral doom album and the other one is a mathcore album? Who reviewed it?
It's unfortunately easy to look past these facts when you can simply see a score that somehow tells you whether or not you should care. The last time I talked about reviews I mentioned that the only way to find out if an album was for you based on a review was studying the reviewer (does (s)he like what you like?) or finding a really good reviewer who actually makes note of things that are likely to please or annoy others even if his/her own reaction is the opposite. The latter is a category I strive to be in but I realize that it can be a struggle. Especially when you go outside your comfort zone and aren't familiar with the genre. But as music journalists is it not our duty to know what we're writing about? Don't we owe it to future generations and ourselves to leave behind a legacy of music journalism that makes a difference to the fans rather than the industry?
Another thing, which is a bigger concern for the future than the previous fact, although highly related, is the fact of what numerical scores have done to the video game industry. Just one example of many is the treatment of Obsidian by Bethesda:
In short: They were promised a bonus if their Metacritic score was 85 or above. (Metacritic is an aggregate review site for those of you not familiar, similar to Rotten Tomatoes) Their paycheck hinged on what the opinions of a handful of people thought. Not sales, not customer feedback but critic scores. Their Metacritic score was 84 so they lost the bonus. This is already going on with sales numbers in music but, if it isn't already happening, I can imagine the score system kicking in any day now.
It's probably pretty obvious by now that the Metal Sucks review is by no means the main attraction or the reason for the article, it's simply a catalyst. I saw that reference to the numeric system and I couldn't help but grab my chance. It's a cancer on media journalism, whether it's movies, books, video games or music. We experience many works of art from each category and often have problems limiting our choices for year-end lists. How are we possibly supposed to be able to accurately sum up all our emotions through an album that took us on a ride for 40 minutes, a two hour film, a 60 hour RPG or an 800 page book in a numeric value out of ten? And if we can, what does that say about the album?
If a 10 a perfect score? Is a 6 still worth your time? I realize a lot of sites and magazines have specific guidelines but still it's an offense to the time we as writers put in to actually describe our feelings towards this work of art, not to mention the artists' time it took to create it.
I have kept from numerical scores so far and I will keep this my policy at least until a paycheck comes along, forcing me to sell out. Numeric values are a thing that's way too logical to force onto something as emotional as music. Even as a fairly logical person I'd say I'm more of a Spock than a full blown Vulcan so until we find the Vulcan homeworld we are doomed to be emotional beings and write long, convoluted similes about albums like musical Hemingways writing about the Old Man and The Ocean (Collective) with the passion of Ahab hunting Mastodon's Leviathan in true Melville-ian fashion.
See, wasn't that long, convoluted simile a lot better than a numeric value?
Probably not...I'd give it about a 3/10 myself.
Would not read again.
Anyway, hopefully some of this causes people to think about reviews and the nature of them. Keep an open mind, if an album gets a 4/10 check why it's being criticized. Is it for being "impure" by adding clean vocals to technical death metal? Are you tired of generic death metal? Then that may be the change you need. Perhaps a bit random of an example but you (hopefully) catch my drift.
Lastly, I'd like to mention that I don't hate Metal Sucks' review of Ne Obliviscaris or anything, while I disagree with its outcome the latter half of it goes into much more detail so if you'd like to read more you can do so here:
The chance to point out the flaws of the current inner workings of reviews was just too good not to take. Hope you enjoyed reading another one of my long editorials/rants.