Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Back and Looking Forward

The coming of the new year marks, as always, a convenient time to look back and take stock. That is doubly true of this blog, since I started it in early January. Thus the end of each year in general is also the end of another full year of my online ranting and raving. As such, I'd like to take a moment to reflect, and I'd like to talk about where I think (or hope) this blog is going over the next year.

I haven't been in this game as long as a lot of other people, nor have I had a tremendous impact. In the grand scheme of the metal world, or even in the smaller scheme of the online metal community, my role is a minor one. I'm just a guy who, for the past several years, has shared my opinions in a quiet corner of the internet. To my good fortune, a few people have stopped by to listen to what I have to say. In a nutshell, that's it. I've watched this blog evolve over 4 years and 600 posts, I've used it as a dumping ground for my musings, a soap box for my rants, a platform to share the music I love, and a point of contact with like-minded people. But through all of that, this has never really been anything bigger or grander than a guy sharing his opinions with a few people who have decided to listen.

Quite frankly, I'm glad for that. For a while, mostly in 2012, I started to pick up some traction in the metal blogosphere. I was writing guest reviews on a few other sites, I was voraciously consuming new content to digest and review. My view count was up, promo material was streaming in,  and I felt like I could grow this thing into a real, substantial voice in the online metal world. That wore on me, though. I was becoming jaded and cynical toward the music I had once loved, callously dismissing much of it without a second thought. I know this all sounds terribly melodramatic, and perhaps it is, but nevertheless I found it weighing on me. So I took a step back. 2013 saw me retreat from reviewing much new material, as I took a long breather to regain my perspective, and I spent most of my pared-down blogging time on other topics. Outside of the metal blog world, my real life was going through a lot of transitions as well, so it was just a good time in general to step back and reallocate my time.

As 2014 rolled around, I'd begun to recover from the burnout, and my life had settled into enough of a routine to let me start thinking about getting back to writing more reviews. I wanted to take a more balanced approach, though, which I think I've maintained reasonably well. My posting rate didn't rocket back up, instead I averaged about 1 post every 4 days, usually coming in spurts when I felt into it. I increasingly moved away from long-form, overly analytical reviews, instead preferring to post collections of short, concise opinions. And I started to incorporate more of the other music I love, particularly blues, while still recognizing that most of my audience is here for the metal content.

So now that 2015 is coming up, what do I see ahead for the 5th year of Beards Etc?

In large part, I'd like to continue the trends I set for myself over this past year. Moving forward, I expect to write a lot more short reviews. I have all but eliminated articles about albums I disliked, and that will be increasingly true moving forward since I just don't have the the energy or the desire to waste my time on bad music. I'd also like to continue on with some of the regular features I tried to get started over the last year. In particular, I want to revive the "Tuesday is Blues Day" entries, though I can already guarantee that they won't be posted every week. In general, I just want this blog to be a relaxed, casual place to share good music and occasionally talk about other things that interest me. Hopefully, a few people will still want to stick around and listen.

Well, that's it from me for now. I hope you all have a happy New Year, see you in 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top 25 Metal Albums of 2014

Here we are at the end of the year, and I am finally prepared to present my picks for the top metal albums of the year. I didn't get to all the material I'd have liked to this year, but I fully listened through somewhere around 100 new albums, in addition to sampling from another 100 or so that just didn't hold my attention long enough to keep me around for their full duration.

After some fiddling with my list of prospects, I found that 25 felt like an appropriate cutoff for my list. It's few enough to still have some meaning, since I had to cut dozens of records I liked, but it's big enough that I got to cover pretty much everything that I felt needed to be on a year-end list. There were a few particular albums by old favorites or exciting newcomers that I really wanted to include but simply couldn't fit, and that's how you know that everything I picked ahead of them had to work to earn its place on the list.

As always, these are just my opinions, yadda yadda disclaimer and so on and so forth. So now, without forther ado, here are my picks for the Top 25 Metal Albums of 2014:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Pre-List List

I hope you are all having a pleasant Christmas season. Personally, I have been enjoying the company of family at my parents' home in Ohio. Those of you who read this blog regularly will have noticed that my output has fallen off toward the end of this year. Don't worry, though, I have been keeping up with at least some new material recently and I haven't forgotten about best-of-the-year-list season. There are a couple new albums I want time to digest before I publish my own list, but I have a somewhat firm draft in place already. I probably won't post it until after Christmas, but by the end of the year I will present my list of the top 25 metal albums of 2014.


I initially listed 3 "almost metal" albums here that I really liked but didn't think were metal enough to qualify for the list. Then I started compiling my actual list and realized that a couple other names I didn't want to exclude were just as tenuously "metal" as were those names I'd put here on the excluded list. After some thought, I decided not to split hairs and to just let them all be eligible for my top 25 list.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Remembering Dimebag

Ten years ago today, "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, along with three other innocent people, was gunned down on stage in Columbus, Ohio. It was one of the most tragic and senseless events in metal history.

Whether you are a fan of Pantera or not, Dimebag was one of the most influential metal guitarists who ever lived. Personal anecdotal accounts of his life and behaviors, especially with regard to his interactions with fans, indicate that he was a genuinely good human being who understood that he was in a position to affect people's lives. Sadly I never had the opportunity to watch him perform live, but I've enjoyed his work for many years. So here's looking at you, Dime. Rest in peace.