Album/Show Review Guide

By: Kris Kotlarik

Writing album reviews is something I have always taken great pleasure in. Trying to talk about most albums is much more difficult to express in an articulate way than it is for me to write it out, although there are a few that I will talk your head off about.

This site is completely independent of any label and/or band influence. As long as I own the album in question, have access to a legal stream of said album, or am otherwise given the album as a promo, it is eligible for me to review. Since I am fully independent, I am more likely to review an album that I will most likely enjoy or am otherwise tempted to give a listen, which explains how my scores tend to be skewed towards the 3.5 or 4.0 range.

I am one of those nerds who prefers FLAC over any other format. I don’t even care that it takes up at least three times the space as a high-quality mp3 file; it’s totally worth it. You can have your vinyl; I’ll take FLAC any day. The first thing I will do when I purchase an album is encode it to FLAC using EAC. I usually won’t even listen to it until this happens. With that said, I get the need for labels and bands to send their promos in mp3 (to prevent assholes from leaking high-quality versions of it and whatnot), and I take that into account when reviewing label-provided albums, so long as the bit rate isn’t excessively low (at that point, it’s going to sound terrible no matter how good the music actually is).

Reviews have the following band categories:
Local Waters: Bands from the state of Ohio (in the case of the founder), or from the state/country of the writer.
National Uprising: American bands/artists
Global Conquest: International bands/artists
All-Time Favorites: Albums from any point in time that rank among my personal favorites in my collecion.

Along with the following album subcategories:
Recent Releases: An album released within four months from the date of the review.
Library Randomizer: An album picked at random from the writer’s existing music library.
Diving For Treasure: An album that has never been listened to by the writer until the review, often from a band they did not know of before getting the album.
Off The Grid: Non-metal releases.

The way I rate the albums I review revolves around top-to-bottom listenability. A highly rated album is almost guaranteed to never contain lulls or filler tracks. If there are “filler” tracks, they serve a purpose. This criteria often covers musicianship, lyrical content and production, in that order. Other factors I consider include perceived originality and replay value.

This is done using a 5-point scale. Some sample ratings:

5.0: An album that should be widely appreciated by fans of almost every genre. Entertaining from beginning to end on every listen. Extremely innovative and/or diverse. There are only a handful of albums that I will ever give this rating to.
Example: Devin Townsend – Ocean Machine

4.5: A fantastic album with negligible “slip-ups” that prevent it from reaching the all-time greats. Will still easily fall into my top 50 albums of all time and is a mortal lock to be in my top three albums of any given year.
Examples: Anathema – Weather Systems; The Gathering – Mandylion; Arcturus – The Sham Mirrors

4.0: A good album that could have been even better if a few songs were taken out or made shorter/longer. Guaranteed to make the top 30 of any year-end list I may end up writing.
Examples: Testament – The Gathering; Vader – Revelations; Rotting Christ – Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy

3.5: Missing a few components that would have otherwise given it a 4.0 or 4.5. Still a solid listen from top to bottom, but won’t be revisited as often.
Examples: Stolen Babies – There Be Squabbles Ahead; Melechesh – Emissaries; Blind Guardian – Tales From The Twilight World

3.0: This rating has often been frequented by albums that have approximately three or four amazing songs (or approximately one-quarter of the album in length), but the rest of the album doesn’t stand out nearly as much.
Examples: Krisiun – The Great Execution; Napalm Death – Utilitarian; Strapping Young Lad – Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing

2.5: An album that I have no strong feelings for one way or the other. Any positive comment is often outweighed by a negative one. This is the kind of album that would probably be relegated to the NIT if there was an album tournament, or something to the effect of the Little Caesar’s Bowl in the College Football multiverse. Someone else would then say “That team got snubbed! They should have gotten in over this team!” And I wouldn’t argue with you about it at all.
Examples: Turisas – Turisas2013; Ministry – Relapse; Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth

2.0: There’s going to be a couple songs that will make me say “If the rest of the album was like this, I would’ve loved every second of it.” Otherwise, nothing special.
Examples: Alcest – Shelter; Ihsahn – Das Seelenbrechen; Nevermore – Enemies Of Reality

1.5: Bits and pieces of this album are good and will get some play in the right setting; the rest of the album is rather uninteresting.
Examples: The second disk of Casualties of Cool; Sabaton – Heroes; Meshuggah – Koloss

1.0: Bits and pieces of this album are decent and I guess I would tolerate it if I was in the car or something; the rest of the album is nearly unlistenable.
Examples: Steel Panther – Feel the Steel; Jorn – Lonely are the Brave; Anvil – This is Thirteen

0.5: Very few redeeming qualities. Will never play again and hopefully won’t have to talk about it again.
Examples: Sonata Arctica – Stones Grow Her Name; Adrenaline Mob – Men of Honor; HIM – Razorblade Romance

0: Truly awful. Will roast this album/band to shreds:
Examples: Emmure, Five Finger Death Punch, Miss May I, Staind, etc.

And then there’s the albums I won’t even review because it’s not anything I would ever enjoy listening to in any setting and would therefore give it, at the very best, a 0.5 if I were to actually review it.
Examples: Pitbull, Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, Lil Jon, etc.

In simpler terms:
5.0: Flawless, and that’s not an exaggeration (only two albums have earned this distinction).
4.5: Excellent
4.0: Great
3.5: Pretty good
3.0: Good
2.5: Could go either way
2.0: Subpar
1.5: Bad
1.0: Terrible
0.5: Fetid
0: Human garbage

Bear in mind that some of these bands whose albums I rated lowly on this page are some of my favorite bands. Please don’t pick a fight with me over why I gave something such a low rating on this post. It isn’t meant to be taken seriously; just as a baseline for my own tastes and is almost completely arbitrary.

Now, for those who wish to review albums with Over The Seize, I don’t care what your criteria is for your reviews, but I do expect it to be similarly selective. You should only have a handful of albums that you truly consider masterpieces, and only a handful of bands/albums that you consider to be truly awful. I also ask that you send an “about me and my review ratings” so that I can post it as one of the pages here. Thanks for reading. I will take some requests on occasion so feel free to pitch some review ideas. Furthermore, you must understand that your albums must be legally obtained.


But wait, there’s more! We’re taking a similar format for live shows that we happen to catch. Criteria includes setlist, sound quality, lighting, and, arguably most importantly, the band’s performance. Here are the rating guidelines for that:

5.0: Flawless or close to it.
4.5: Excellent, but with some ticky-tack issues.
4.0: Great, but did that song really have to make it onto the setlist?
3.5: Pretty good. The sound guy probably had the drums and/or bass turned up way too high, though.
3.0: Good, but could have been better for a number of reasons.
2.5: Crystal ball hazy; ask again later.
2.0: Disappointing, as if the band was stricken with swine flu.
1.5: There’s this crazy concept called “stage presence.” Try it sometime.
1.0: Who taught these guys how to play live; Madonna?
0.5: Not only did this band totally suck; some drunk idiot spilled beer all over me.
0: They could have had the guys from the Fast & Furious franchise playing and I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.

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