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Most metal albums are too long...

Most metal albums are too long...
December 03, 2013, 11:40:30 PM
This was a thought that occurred to me over the last few days.  It seems to me that, even in very good metal albums, there are nearly always tracks that are redundant insofar as they are not necessary in order for the album to express its concept.  I could take any number of canonical metal albums, take out half the tracks and end up with a more focused work of art.

It seems that metal still suffers from the popular music syndrome of thinking of an album as a collection of individual songs, enough to fill a CD.  This is in stark contrast the the classical way of organising music where you have a series of contrasting movements, each integral to the structure of the work.  In the Classical period 3-4 movements was the norm and these movements usually had different forms, tempi, keys etc. 

Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is one of the very few albums that touches on this concept, each track is an integral part of the structure of the overall work.

In my mind if you have more than two tracks on an album which essentially follow the same basic structure and concept, then you have redundancy.  People creating metal should stop worrying about trying to write enough music to match preconceived notions of how long an album should be and simply focus their best ideas into stronger tracks that don't repeat too much of what is found on other tracks in the same work.  If this means 10 - 20 min works then so be it.  It should be remembered that in classical music being able to write small-scale works was always considered a pre-requisite for writing larger works, which are often just more drawn out versions of their smaller counterparts.

Re: Most metal albums are too long...
December 04, 2013, 12:49:22 AM
and.....mmm...what is your opinion about Nuclear Assault - Handle with Care?? not enter in the concept...

Re: Most metal albums are too long...
December 04, 2013, 01:39:16 AM
I think albums should be more ‘solid’, not necessarily shorter or longer in duration. Certain parts of songs could be expanded on while others are de-emphasised. There is also, as you say, much to be gained in developing beyond the typical song/album format altogether.

On the other hand, an album like Filosofem or Ildjarn’s Strength and Anger is perhaps overly repetitious and in the end goes nowhere but I just like getting lost in this particular sound. Maybe it has potential. I also love the way Sarcofago sound like they couldn't play the riffs any faster, as though the quicker it was done the better.

Re: Most metal albums are too long...
December 04, 2013, 01:47:55 AM
I've agreed with this for a while.  I tend to like EPs over most of a band's output for this reason.  Decide's first 3 albums are a good standard for most metal albums.  If a metal album is over 30 minutes, their is usually 10 minutes of filler in it.

Re: Most metal albums are too long...
December 04, 2013, 02:02:44 AM
and.....mmm...what is your opinion about Nuclear Assault - Handle with Care?? not enter in the concept...

Haven't heard it...

I think albums should be more ‘solid’, not necessarily shorter or longer in duration. Certain parts of songs could be expanded on while others are de-emphasised. There is also, as you say, much to be gained in developing beyond the typical song/album format altogether.

On the other hand, an album like Filosofem or Ildjarn’s Strength and Anger is perhaps overly repetitious and in the end goes nowhere but I just like getting lost in this particular sound. Maybe it has potential. I also love the way Sarcofago sound like they couldn't play the riffs any faster, as though the quicker it was done the better.

Yes, as I think about it more I think my OP could be revised to say that the approach to creating metal albums needs to completely get rid of the "collection of songs" mentality, which usually involves repeating the same basic idea multiple times, and needs to move towards creating a single medium - large scale work with related parts.

The point you make about enjoying certain albums even though their overall structure is lacking is a significant one.  Since I enjoy the aesthetic and general mood of many metal bands, it's easy to be less critical than I should be.  For example, I have been listening to Gorguts' Obscura over the past few days with a view to creating string quartet arrangements for some of the tracks.  Since all of the songs are excellent in their own right and there is a sense of structure binding the whole album together, I had never really thought to criticize this work, however, if I was being truly objective I would have to say that probably at least 4 of the 12 tracks are not necessary and in fact actually impede the listener from experiencing the work as a unified whole.  This is a good example since in this case there is an attempt being made to create an album as a single work, however this process is still impeded by the compulsion to repeat ideas too much by including multiple tracks that are very similar.

I think it is hard for real metalheads to be as critical as they should be since our appreciation for the genre can easily blind us to its flaws.  Some of my friends with backgrounds in classical music whom I have introduced to metal tend to be much more critical of its compositional weaknesses than I am even though they recognise its superiority to most popular music.

I've agreed with this for a while.  I tend to like EPs over most of a band's output for this reason.  Decide's first 3 albums are a good standard for most metal albums.  If a metal album is over 30 minutes, their is usually 10 minutes of filler in it.

I remember reading about an exchange between Schoenberg and Berg which I think should serve as an example to many.  Berg, upon completing the first movement of his Piano Sonata Op. 1 told Schoenberg (who was his composition teacher) that he had no inspiration for ideas for any more movements.  In reply Schoenberg told him that if he had no further ideas this must mean that the piece was finished, so Berg published the Sonata as a single movement work.  It is obvious that many bands disregard this principle and continue writing for an album long after they are out of ideas due a misplaced notion that it must be of a certain length.

Re: Most metal albums are too long...
December 05, 2013, 09:39:40 AM
I think about this a lot.
Just today I was listening to Massacre's From Beyond and thinking it sounds really cool, but it's really done after the 6th track.  And if it weren't for the interlude "The Chamber of Ages", it would be done by the 4th track.

In this respect I'd say Deicide almost nailed it perfectly on Legion.  I would say the same of Massacra's Final Holocaust. The latter would be perfect 2 or 3 songs down, in my opinion.

I think this is one of the reasons why I am so into Zealotry's The Charnel Expanse.  It is only the last track that seems to be overextended. But most of the album feels necessary.

Re: Most metal albums are too long...
December 06, 2013, 02:33:08 AM
Yes, as I think about it more I think my OP could be revised to say that the approach to creating metal albums needs to completely get rid of the "collection of songs" mentality, which usually involves repeating the same basic idea multiple times, and needs to move towards creating a single medium - large scale work with related parts.

The point you make about enjoying certain albums even though their overall structure is lacking is a significant one.  Since I enjoy the aesthetic and general mood of many metal bands, it's easy to be less critical than I should be.  For example, I have been listening to Gorguts' Obscura over the past few days with a view to creating string quartet arrangements for some of the tracks.  Since all of the songs are excellent in their own right and there is a sense of structure binding the whole album together, I had never really thought to criticize this work, however, if I was being truly objective I would have to say that probably at least 4 of the 12 tracks are not necessary and in fact actually impede the listener from experiencing the work as a unified whole.  This is a good example since in this case there is an attempt being made to create an album as a single work, however this process is still impeded by the compulsion to repeat ideas too much by including multiple tracks that are very similar.

I think it is hard for real metalheads to be as critical as they should be since our appreciation for the genre can easily blind us to its flaws.  Some of my friends with backgrounds in classical music whom I have introduced to metal tend to be much more critical of its compositional weaknesses than I am even though they recognise its superiority to most popular music.

It would be hard for metal to break out of the very inward-looking (or as some might say narrow-minded  :P) view of itself and what it likes as historically this is where it has excelled.

Melody is hidden away in riffs that are not only repetitious and 'texturally' ambiguous (timbre) but are also mostly melodically unconventional. Creating compositionally solid songs is hard on the spur of the moment, and it is often that sense of ‘spur of the moment’ that makes it really magical. The composer is also the performer.

Having said that I don’t think it can’t be done. It’s just that it’s a difficult trade-off and most bands that have attempted it tripped head first into faggotry. Gorguts’ Obscura is probably as close as one could get to a synergy of audial thunder in a refined composition (but then again, Luc is a trained composer). The one thing it kind of does lack however is the black metal sense of album structure. Compare Obscura to Vikingligr Veldi, De Mysteriis, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss or Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism and it still sonds like a collection of songs. 

I think about this a lot.
Just today I was listening to Massacre's From Beyond and thinking it sounds really cool, but it's really done after the 6th track.  And if it weren't for the interlude "The Chamber of Ages", it would be done by the 4th track.

In this respect I'd say Deicide almost nailed it perfectly on Legion.  I would say the same of Massacra's Final Holocaust. The latter would be perfect 2 or 3 songs down, in my opinion.

I think this is one of the reasons why I am so into Zealotry's The Charnel Expanse.  It is only the last track that seems to be overextended. But most of the album feels necessary.

The question is how to expand on something that is short and sweet without losing that vital power. Once again this is where building album over song structure is really put to good use. As was prevalent with the Norwegian bands, a sense of journey communicated over the album was more important than individual songs. Start off with some sort of call to arms, add to it various layers of dissolution and then neatly thread everything back together with a long drawn-out epic final track. I think it all started with Bathory’s Blood, Fire, Death; as it happens, Quorthon was heavily influenced by Wagner at the time.

Re: Most metal albums are too long...
December 10, 2013, 01:44:29 AM
Length is good, discontinuity is not.