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20 Years in the Crypt

by Sargon the Terrible

Today, February 23, 2023, marks the twenty-year anniversary of the appearance of my very first written review on this site. Cauldron Born's . . .And Rome Shall Fall, which was not chosen for any special reason besides that I had it with me. In those dim, dark days I didn't even have Internet access at home, so I wrote reviews in between phone calls at my job in a call center. So I hadn't given it any planning, I just reviewed what CDs I had with me, since in those days it was all CDs.

I had seen Michel's interview on—a site that is long gone. It was also where I discovered a lot of good music: Cauldron Born, Ironsword, Runemagick, among others. Michel had said that he was looking for reviewers, and so I emailed him and for some reason he emailed me back and now here we are. In an amusing anecdote, the first review I sent was sent to the suffix rather than the right email, and so Cheryl herself had to correct me. So I sent the review to the right place and was so embarrassed I wrote Cheryl a silly poem as an apology.

It was a different world. I was just 31, working in call center jobs, married for eight years and just rediscovering the metal underground even as it rediscovered itself. Melodeath and Italian Power Metal were the big things in those days, and Symphonic Metal was just becoming a thing with bands like Nightwish and Sonata Arctica breaking out of obscurity. The scene in the US was terrible, and finding music was a chore. My local record shop had some things that were more widely available—stuff from labels like Relapse, Century Media, and Nuclear Blast. But anything more obscure was hard to get. It was a lot of special ordering from vanished distros like Dark Symphonies and The Miskatonic Foundation, or ones that have changed a lot over the years, like The End Records. (Or Sentinel Steel, who still carry the metal flag high.)

Every payday I would scrape out however much money I thought I could spare and order three or four albums, mostly sight-unseen. There was no YouTube, and file sharing was primitive even if you had Internet access, which I didn't get until maybe a year later. Even then it was downloading off sites like Kazaa, where you grabbed individual songs and things were often mislabeled.

I reviewed everything I could get my hands on, and sometimes I couldn't write a review because I just had nothing I hadn't already done. Looking back that seems laughable—in this age of digital downloads, Mp3 promos, Bandcamp and YouTube—but that's the way it was. Part of me still wants to review everything I have, even when the flood of digital promos has made that literally impossible. I used to review a lot more than I do now, since then I was avoiding working by doing it. Once that was no longer the case, my productivity dropped off, right about the time that the flow of promos became a torrent.

So much has changed, not just in the world but in my life. My association with this site has outlasted five jobs, three houses, and a marriage. Even though Michel and I have never met in person—and probably will not—we have been in email contact on a pretty much daily basis for two decades, and he is now one of my oldest friends. I have met so many people through this place. Reviewers who have come and gone, some friends and some less so. I have met bands, gotten backstage, interviewed musicians I admire and respect and gotten to know some of them.

And music. So much music. I find new music through this place the same way anyone would—by reading a review and thinking "that sounds interesting." I have gotten promos and demos and goodies of all kinds. Nowadays I get a tidal wave of digital promos and you know what? I still find good shit that way. I still like panning for gold in the flood. There are bands I love that I discovered when their album dropped out of my mailbox one day, and I still make discoveries even though the CD aspect of it happens less and less. It was always about the music, and that there is so much more of it now than there was 20 years ago is something that has to be a good thing. This is the underground, and even if it's not like it was, I still love it here.

The aforementioned Metal Gospel interview can be found here:

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