When someone asks me which is the best metal site in the world, I always answer Metal Archives. If one site really is leaving a mark for this genre of music, it’s this one and it really would be a great loss if it was ever to close because it is the ultimate encyclopedia and an integral tool, at least for me, though I think it is for many others. One day I was searching frantically for a band that released just one record and that even themselves must have forgotten that they had a band, so I got the idea to interview the arch engineer of the Metal Archives and I think the interview is quite interesting.
I welcome you to Metal Invader and get right to the chase. Let’s be honest there is no metalhead or band no matter how big or small that doesn’t go through your site at least once a day to check on what is what and who is who? How this whole idea came to life?
Thank you! Basically, at the time of the site’s inception, it could be difficult to find information about metal bands, especially lesser known ones. The data was spread out all over, and database-style sites were either not metal-focused, or vastly incomplete. So I figured it would be nice to have a central repository of information about all metal bands that people could refer to. I actually initially set out by creating each band page by hand (just hard-coded HTML) but that quickly proved way too much effort and completely unmanageable, and I gave up after only a handful of bands. Then I learned more about web programming, and had the idea to have the current system in which any member of the site can contribute, and that’s what led to the site really taking off and becoming popular.
Did you expect to become this big and have the whole worldwide metal community to visit you and be part of this site?
Not at all! I hoped the site would be useful to many, but its success has been way beyond my imagination, both in popularity and in sheer quantity of data. I had no idea there were that many metal bands in the world, and I’m still shocked to this day that the number of submissions shows no sign of slowing down.
There are a lot of bands that don’t exactly fit into the metal genre but metalheads do listen to them. Hard Rock is for example a genre that metal fans to appreciate and love. Is there going to be any change on that policy to be strictly metal? Do you have any ideas about expanding this idea into something else, even bigger?
There are no plans to significantly change the policy on what we accept. Sure, there are many other genres that are tangentially related and that many metalheads are into. Genres surrounding metal, you could say. Hard rock in one direction, as you’ve mentioned. Hardcore in another. Even dark ambient in some circles. Though fanbases can overlap, we feel that it’s more productive to focus only on metal itself. A narrow focus makes it easier to dig deeper into the genre. Take a site like Discogs, for instance, it has a crazy amount of information about all kinds of music, but MA is a lot more detailed about underground metal. I think the limited scope also fosters a sense of community and ownership from visitors, and encourages them to contribute.
How many of you get to work on this database, because it’s definitely a huge one. How many bands do you count on your site and how many requests do you have per day?
As far as contributors go, there are thousands and thousands of registered users at the very moment, so… lots of people work on the database. 🙂 Not all of those are active, though, of course. About 84000 of them have made at least one contribution, and roughly 2000 have been active in the past month. There are also about 40 moderators who approve bands and reviews, and generally keep the site in order.
As for bands, there are currently 126294 on the site. That feels like a pretty crazy number. When it all began, I didn’t think we would even get 10000. We’ve come a long way, and the site now gets around a million page views per day.
The registered users that contribute I guess are a great help for you? Could you have done it without their help?
They are an enormous help and absolutely essential to the site’s operation and continued success. There is no way we could have gathered even a fraction of the data we have now without our many, many contributors. As I said, at the very beginning, I had tried to fill in all the info with only a small group of collaborators, and that was quickly abandoned. So a big shout out and thank you to all MA contributors, past, present and future!
Has there been any band that got really on your nerves with their requests? Do you ever get threats and if so, share with us a story.
Oh, bands are regularly annoying. 😉 From those who try various shenanigans to try to get their non-metal stuff on the site, to those who are on the site but want to be removed for whatever reason, to those who refuse to understand that the site is a neutral source of information and that they can’t control their band page. I think those who get on my nerves the most are those who try to lie about their past, either to self-aggrandize or because they’re ashamed of past releases. We can rarely take claims from band members at face value for this reason, and it makes our work more difficult.
As for threats, there were some. Legal threats are not uncommon, but they never amount to anything (no, displaying public information about a band is not an infringement of copyright). A few threats of violence by deranged individuals over the years as well, but thankfully that’s rare. A story, hmm… Well, I’d rather focus on the funny parts, so here’s one. This was some years ago, and I’m not entirely clear on the details, but if I recall correctly, this non-metal band was complaining that there was a metal band listed on the site that used the same name as them. “This is our copyrighted name and you can’t do that” type stuff. They seemed very confused, referring to info that was on last.fm as if it was related to MA somehow. Anyway, I explained that who owns the name is irrelevant to us, that we’re only documenting the fact that a band by that name released metal material, but that wasn’t good enough for them, and they said I would hear from their lawyer. And indeed, shortly after, I got an email from a “lawyer” who claimed to be representing the band, some cease-and-desist type thing. Now this “lawyer” was using a Gmail address, his mail had numerous typos (including one in his firm’s name, I think) and was generally the opposite of what you’d expect from a legal professional. It was hilariously obvious that it was just a band member pretended to be a big scary lawyer. I ignored it, and over the next few days, he kept sending increasingly threatening emails, giving us deadlines to remove the band from the site or whatever, then extending the deadline when I kept ignoring him, but with some kind of “this is your last chance!” message. He finally gave up after a while, but that gave us a good laugh.
What is the policy about bands that have only digital material, because I think the criteria is to have at least one physical copy. Is this going to change in an era that more and more bands make digital copies to save money, especially new ones?
We do accept digital-only bands now. It’s true that wasn’t always the case, but that policy changed a few years ago since, as you mention, this is becoming more and more common. We used to have additional requirements for digital releases, but this has recently also been changed to be more in-line with the rules on physical releases.
Are you a fan yourself of metal music? And if so, what subgenres are you into, also a top five of bands and albums would be nice to have from you.
Of course I’m a fan. I wouldn’t do all this work if I wasn’t. 😉 I would say my favorite subgenres are traditional heavy metal and doom metal, though I do listen to most subgenres at least a little. I’m really not good at picking favorites, hah. I guess some of my top bands would be Skyclad, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Overkill… so yeah, mostly big classic bands, but they’re classics for a reason. 😉
Let’s go now into something funny. Who comes up with these April’s Fools jokes? It has become some sort of a tradition to wait from you a good one every year.
Ah, basically the moderators pitch some ideas, and team picks the one they feel is the best, often at the last minute. I’m generally not that involved in that process beyond nixing ideas that require too much programming effort, but admittedly it’s fun to see people’s reactions every year.
There are a lot of NS bands especially in the black metal genre and I’d like to know where do you stand politically? Do you think that music shouldn’t get involved into politics?
Everything is political in some way. Art is often a reflection of the human condition, and there’s no sense in trying to divorce politics from it. People are free to judge the values that an artist represents as they see fit, and to listen or not based on that. Personally, I’m generally aligned with the left-wing liberal side of things, so I’m definitely not fond of all the NS shit in metal. But the site is an encyclopedia, and it is our job to catalog every metal band, whether we enjoy them or not (much like a general encyclopedia would still have entries about Hitler and Nazism, for instance). I think this can also inform people on what to avoid, if they are so inclined.
There is talk among visitors about which albums have the most reviews, or which album is the highest rated by most of the reviews on it. Can you tell us which bands have the highest traffic and ratings at the website?
Highest rated is very hard to quantify. It would depend on number of reviews (after all, a band with a single 100% review has an average of 100%, but that’s not really meaningful), number of albums and how many have reviews, and possibly even other factors like popularity and genre. For instance, I ran a query for average ratings among bands that have more than 20 reviews, and the top 3 are: Morbid Saint, Demilich, and Evoken. Now, the first two are mainly known for a single album that has a vast number of positive reviews. Does that make them the highest rated? I don’t know. Some might think it’s more impressive to have a high number of well-rated releases, even if the average isn’t quite as high. Evoken does have multiple full-lengths with high ratings, but they also operate in a rather niche genre that I would say is more likely to be reviewed by big fans. Would it be more impressive for a band playing a more accessible genre to have a near-as-high rating? As you can see, it’s not so easy to determine. For the curious, though, here are a few more bands with a high average: Forefather, Psychotic Waltz, Esoteric, Satan, Human Serpent, Lykathea Aflame.
As for highest traffic, there’s much simpler! Here’s the top 10 most visited band pages of the past six months:
- Behemoth – 206,678 views
- Mayhem – 145,594 views
- Marduk – 137,080 views
- Cannibal Corpse – 133,881 views
- Iron Maiden – 129,418 views
- Darkthrone – 125,052 views
- Deicide – 119,999 views
- Sodom – 119,421 views
- Judas Priest – 115,761 views
- Batushka – 111,684 views
Have you ever had some serious issues leading you to consideration of maybe shutting Metal Archives down?
In short, no. 🙂 We’ve had issues in the past, mainly hosting trouble, but nothing that has made us want to call it quits. I think so many people find the site useful and rely on it, it would be a great loss if it were to disappear.
The website is an archive worthy of the name and has helped many metalheads get knowledge on the genre. The tape trading era is gone, the Metal Archives era is here. Where do you think your website will be in a couple of decades from now?
Two decades! That’s very difficult to imagine. It’s not even 20-years-old at this point. Maybe you’ll get the data beamed directly into your brain in the future. 😉 Honestly, I don’t know, but hopefully the site will still be around. For the much closer future, we’re currently working on a redesign of the site that will be compatible with mobile devices (yes, we’re aware it looks like shit on a phone), so that should please many people, at least.
That is all from me. The epilogue is yours!
Thank you for the support. I hope your readers find the site useful, and the interview interesting.