I guess the following affirmation will not be a newsflash to anyone reading this, but most music sucks. What makes bad music? A number of things which are numerous and complex, but which can be distilled for the sake of simplicity into the following list:
– Poor playing/technique
– Wrong choice in production values
– Musical instruments of low quality
– Bad composition
– Lack of ideas
– The wrong motivation, or no motivation at all, for having a band and composing music.
The first three factors influence what can be called the “body” of music, or the shell, the sound itself, while the following three are part of the “soul”, the inner side of it which is the most important thing to consider as it greatly influences the “body” as well.
For metal, the soul’s importance is so high that it can influence the body to adopt traits that are considered wrong in other styles of music, i.e. black metal bands like Bathory and Burzum recording masterpieces with poor quality instruments and crap production, which worked for them only because those factors re-enforce its particular soul, or what the musician wanted to express.
To know the difference between good metal and bad metal is to find a way to understand the soul of the music you’re listening to. Anybody can understand the body as it’s the most evident thing when listening to a song: fast tempo, distorted guitars, heavy pounding drums, guttural vocals, lo-fi production, aggressive riffing, etc. To get into the soul is a more complicated process. Here’s what you can do:
– Listen quietly, focusing all of your attention into the music, like the way you would read a book.
– With a clear mind, you will identify patterns within the music. Music composition is all about assembling patterns in order to express a certain emotion or idea, or a mix of them.
– How does that mix of patterns make you feel? If you feel nothing, it is empty music and you should discard it.
The process in which you understand the soul of a given piece is hard to understand at first, but with persistence it can lead to great results, improving your life by listening only to the best. If several hessians apply this same principle, metal culture is strenghtened as well, and a strong culture generates only greatness as is less tolerant of mediocre or soulless material.