You’ll notice a couple of changes – minor cosmetic ones, really, as they shouldn’t affect your experience other than to make some things clearer (or possibly make other things muddier). One of those changes is that we’ve retitled the “Heavy/Melodic Metal” category as “Heavy/Traditional Metal”. When you get right down to it, that “melodic” half was an afterthought that wasn’t really doing much work; most metal is “melodic” to some degree or another (we even have categories specifically set aside for “melodic” black metal and “melodic” death metal), and how many bands out there would you describe as simply “melodic metal”? As veteran appraisers of press kits and promo blurbs, we can tell you that most people use the phrase “melodic metal” to mean “boring, derivative metalcore”, and that’s not really what we meant when we said that there ought to be a “Heavy/Melodic Metal” category. What we meant was “we need somewhere to put Amorphis that we don’t have to think about too hard”. So why “Traditional” instead? Well, truthfully “Heavy Metal” functions well enough on its own as a description of the particular substyles we feature in that category, so we considered just truncating the name, but we decided that clarity would be better served by having another adjective in tow just so people know we’re talking about a subgenre and not all heavy metal. If a band or label or someone who wasn’t a regular Metal Storm user saw that an album was nominated for “Best Heavy Metal Album of 20XX”, they’d probably assume that we’d nominated it for Album of the Year or Best #1 Overall Thing or something like that, right? And what we mean is not that, but “in league with [bands that sound specifically like] Satan”. Now, the idea of “traditional metal” is kind of silly, since already from Black Sabbath’s day there are all kinds of varieties and offshoots being realized that differ wildly from each other – most of the time, bands that claim to play “traditional metal” are actually just mashing up NWOBHM, ’80s arena rock, and a few drams of thrash. But the term is used a lot, and the important thing is that we expect that everyone will know what we mean by it. “Heavy/Traditional Metal” it is.
Additionally, the “Thrash Metal” category has become “Thrash/Speed”. No, not “Speed/Thrash”, which is easier to say and more pleasing to the ears, but “Thrash/Speed”, which avoids messing with our familiar alphabetical order. And thrash is more important anyway, as we know. But the two go together logically, so now we don’t have to agonize over whether to put speed metal albums in Thrash, Heavy, or Power depending on the slight differences in chemical balance.
Another difference we must note, with a little less enthusiasm, is the absence of the Drama of the Year category for the third year running. As with the rest of Metal Storm during our ongoing bug hunt, it is our intent that this time around the denial of service represent active reconfiguration as opposed to mysterious disappearance – but let us explain.
The Drama of the Year category has been one of the most popular elements of the Metal Storm Awards ever since their inception. Back in those days, forum denizens around the metalsphere were devouring popcorn to the escalating telenovela that was Spatovarius, the laughably un-kvlt courtroom drama of Gorgoroth, the epic battle of Metal Storm vs. Wikipedia – news stories that enjoyed a lot of currency in the still-youthful days of heavy metal’s internet fandom and, we decided, had value in their capacity to shock, entertain, or cause controversy. Everyone loves a good soap opera, so the category became a fixture. Starting with the 2015 Awards, I (ScreamingSteelUS) personally assumed administration of the Drama and took a measure of pride in making the category as flashing and amusing as I could, writing lengthy editorials for each entry, coming up with goofy puns to use in the headlines, and getting (un)creative with the images placed alongside. It was a rewarding project for me, as I found it an engaging writing prompt and folks seemed to enjoy the humorous appraisals.
For the 2020 edition of the MSAs, we took a year off from this award, reasoning that everybody already knew what the “drama” of that year was (and boy was this reasoning correct). Our intent was to return with a normal category for the 2021 edition last year, but that long absence stoked a reevaluation of the nature and function of Drama of the Year. As we contemplated a grandiose return last January, we found in front of us a long list of terrible incidents that happened or came to light in 2021: physical abuse, sexual violence, emotional torture, child pornography, depression, burnout, bitter personal enmity, and even deadly insurrection. I collected these headlines, wondering what to feature, until the other members of staff began to articulate that none of that was appropriate material to compete with the tale of Suicidal Tendencies getting banned from Instagram because their name isn’t very nice. These were the most talked-about news stories of the year, yes, and certainly “dramatic” all of them, but the more we debated the entries, the less amusement we found in the prospect of affixing jokey titles to them and asking our readers to rank them according to sensational value.
And then it became clear that at some point in my reign I’d lost my grip on what exactly “drama” entailed. In addition to persistent volleys of ludicrous intrigue from Wintersun’s hot tub quest, Batushka’s steady mitosis, and Crematory’s demands for richer fans, I’d started filtering in stories about rape allegations, domestic violence, child abuse – stories that attracted the type of discussion and coverage that seemed indicative of a good Drama candidate, but, as I failed to see, also revolved around serious topics that deserved a more respectful venue than a carnival of parody. Although I usually took care to word my accounts carefully so as to avoid impressions of judgment or levity when handling sensitive subjects, the very practice of making an “award” out of this undercuts even the most respectful treatment in prose. We agreed – somewhat belatedly – that asking people to vote for their favorite stories of human suffering was an irresponsible and potentially harmful way of dealing with those events; we couldn’t continue to award a title like this that made sport of painful personal trials. No one (mostly) deserves to have the worst moments of their lives voted on like some kind of sick game show. That is why the 2021 Metal Storm Awards featured no Drama of the Year category – not even an empty canvas with an explanatory note as in the 2020 edition, but nothing whatsoever.
For this year’s edition, we initially decided to experiment with a new format, something more along the lines of a “year in review”-style article that would hit upon the positives and negatives of 2022 in a way that didn’t subject them to the indignity of competition and enjoyed a little more freedom to discuss rather than summarize. I kicked around a draft for a few weeks before ultimately realizing that it just wasn’t coming together – there were so many tragic and disgusting stories, for starters. The whole thing was feeling terribly unbalanced and was, in the end, not especially fun; not that those topics don’t deserve to be talked about, but we figure that people come to the Metal Storm Awards for a respite from the outside world that weighs us down day after day. On top of that, the thing was becoming so unwieldy and uninteresting even to myself that I became convinced nobody would ever bother to read the whole thing, let alone find anything of value in it. So I once again jettisoned our plans for a Drama-type category and opted to have nothing in its place.
Where does that leave us now? Well, Drama of the Year has a long history on Metal Storm, and even though it has become clear that we need to take a very hard look at how we approach it, we’re loathe to abandon it altogether. I’ve had a difficult time determining how to approach it all this time, but our hope, and let’s say our goal, is to bring it back in 2024 for the 2023 Awards with a batch of stories that are just silly. Stupid, fun, ridiculous stories like Uada melting in the sun and Sepultura getting called devil-worshipers by the Lebanese government. That’s how this category started out, and that’s how it really should have been all this time.
To those readers who found the Drama of the Year category crude and injurious, I apologize for choosing to make light of the abuses, addictions, and breakdowns that have too often occurred in the scope of our community. It is incongruous with the example that Metal Storm wants to set and with what I myself want to be. In the spirit of self-improvement that Metal Storm has embraced in its guiding philosophy as well as its virtual presentation these last couple of years, it is my hope that we can make the MSAs a better experience for everyone. For now, in the absence of Drama of the Year, I hope that you will continue to submit your Metal Storm-related disappointments as write-in votes for the Biggest Letdown category.
That’s the official explanation for the lack of Drama of the Year this year (and last year as well). If you’re still reading this, then by now the Awards are almost over, so you’d better hurry up and cast your votes before it turns into March. Here’s to a more respectable MSA season in 2023.