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Review Dispute: Brainstorm’s Midnight Ghost

Agree or disagree?

Kevin Ashley

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As part of CMN’s ongoing Music Journalism Program, our music team was asked to pick out a recent album review that they disagreed with. Their task was to explain why they didn’t share the viewpoint of the reviewer. 

This was a difficult one. I agreed with the vast majority of reviews for Brainstorm’s album, although after going through about 20 other reviews, I finally found a review I disagreed with on Midlands Metalheads. It’s a website that hosts multiple music-related radio shows, and posts album reviews and interviews.

To start, I disagreed with Kevin McDonald’s statement “Despite there being some good riffs, solos and vocal lines here and there, there’s rarely anything mind blowing that leaves you desperate to hit replay.” In McDonald’s belief, this implies that all the songs on the album are mediocre. From my experience with power metal,  that there are songs on Midnight Ghost that rise above much of the material I’ve heard from other bands. Kevin McDonald counters this with the statement, “Conversely, there’s nary a descent into the dregs, with Brainstorm seemingly existing in some sort of purgatory between the two.” This quote confers that while the songs on the album don’t quite make it to great territory, they aren’t actually failures. McDonald believes the album does not stir the listener’s emotions. This, in my opinion, is a terminal crime for any band or musician. Multiple songs like “Devil’s Eye,” “Ravenous Minds,” “The Pyre,” and more, stir emotion in me, making me energetic and happy. Furthermore, the chorus of “Ravenous Minds” is quite infectious. For this reason I cannot fully identify with the reviewer’s opinion.

The second point that I disagree with is McDonald’s statement that “Strangely, the playing might be a little too tight and workmanlike at times, making it a little less exciting.”  This is a common complaint when reviewing death metal, especially highly technical bands like Origin or Necrophagist. Many complain that the riffs, drumming, and production are “too sterile” and “lack emotion.” McDonald also tries to balance this point with the statement “but that will be a matter of taste for the listener, as the professionalism and skill with which the band play cannot be faulted.” This, however, I happen to agree with. Brainstorm doesn’t often let me down instrumentally, including on their more disappointing songs like “The Path” from Midnight Ghost.

The third point that I disagree with is McDonald’s statement “Don’t expect to be wowed.” This ties into my first point. Listeners can always find something they like when exploring an album, even if as a whole the album wasn’t quite the best. Even the most devoted “trve kvlt” black metal or free jazz fan doesn’t necessarily have like every single album and song of their preferred genre, it’s just not expected. Therefore, I disagree, though respectfully, with McDonald’s opinion.

As a whole, this review has some points I disagree with. However, Kevin McDonald’s opinions are just as valid as mine, which one should respect in such a personal and subjective world as music.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Kevin is a graduate from Central Washington University, where he was awarded a Bachelors degree in Professional and Creative Writing. He currently lives in Silverdale, Washington, where he explores new food and drink, goes to concerts, and works on personal projects.

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