Progarchy complains that there is too much hyperbole in the prog world.
So far this year we have seen a dozen of entries in the “album of the year contenders” category and, probably the same again in ‘masterpieces’ and classics. I can’t walk through some of the popular discussion groups without tripping over these pedestals.
Is it really true that the new Haken album is a masterpiece or the latest Magenta release? Both are certain to be excellent and well worth a look, for sure. But masterpieces they are not, nowhere near. By ranking them as this we do a disservice to the very music we love because we elevate it far too much and look subjective and a little obsessive, like musical equivalents of anoraks to the uninterested music world.
A forum moderator I know signs off every one of his live reviews with slightly tongue-in-cheek “That was the best gig I’ve ever been to in my life”. But more seriously, I think Progarchy have a very strong point. Even if I have to plead Guilty as Charged for using the phrase “potential album of the year”.
As any progressive rock fan ought to know, the best albums are often the ones that take time to fully appreciate. Someimes the records that make a strong first impression turn out not to last. They pushed all the right buttons to start with, but in the end they weren’t really doing anything groundbreaking. It can be very sobering as a reviewer to go back and listen to something for which you wrote a gushing five-star review, only to realise it wasn’t really that special after all.
On the other hand, there are those records you can go back to and find you’d forgotten just how good they are. Opeth’s “Damnation” and “Watershed” always do that for me.
Music is a funny thing, and your emotional reactions to it can be very subjective, very personal, and sometimes influenced by factors other than the music itself. This is even more true if you actually know the artist.
But in the small, incestuous world of prog, I don’t believe hyperbole really benefits the bands. I can think of one or two bands who keep falling frustratingly short of the greatness I believe they’re capable of. If reviewers fail to highlight those aspects of their music that need more work, we’re doing them a disservice. Even if some the bands’ more zealous supporters don’t always appreciate it at the time.