A Discussion on Length

When you sit down to review an album there are many things that need to be thought about.  The most obvious being whether it is any good or not.  However, something that often gets overlooked is how long or how short an album is.  Unless an album is ridiculously short or ridiculously long it is very rarely a point that is raised and usually for good reason.  However, there is something to the idea that if an album gets it’s length wrong, it can skewer the whole thing.

This particular thought was inspired by the recent Miss May I album, Rise of the Lion, a great slab of metalcore that suggests they are a band who could have a good future in this game.  All of this was well and good, but something that stood out to me was the fact that with ten tracks and a total running time of 35 minutes, one of this albums main strengths was that it at no point comes close to overstaying it’s welcome.  With a genre of music like metalcore, which often does rely on the same few tricks, this is what changes Rise of The Lion from a good album to a memorable one.  With no over the top pantomime, but instead just 35 minutes of chugging riffs and big choruses, it’s ability to never once bore you makes sure that you come out of it wanting more.

Now that’s not to say that every album should clock in at under 40 minutes.  It’s to say that an album just needs to be aware where it stands.  If Dream Theater write an hour long epic you are not going to complain, because when you turn it on the odds are you will find yourself lost within the music and never once question it’s length.  With a genre like metalcore, and the genre it sprung off from hardcore, that isn’t really an option.  It’s not music that relies on sweeping guitars and grandiose statements, but instead on fast, sharp tracks that make you want to go mental, but never overstay their welcome.  An example of a band getting this wrong from earlier in the year can be seen in Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang,they released an album that came in at over fifty minutes and despite my initial enjoyment of the gimmick, quickly became stale.

I would never sit here and claim that length is the most important thing, (hehe etc) but it’s an often criminally under looked issue.  If albums like Reign in Blood were any longer, would they have had the effect that they had?  Would they have had the brutal unrelenting feeling that they do if it was twice the length>  Probably not.  Now if your a metalcore band with an hour and a half of fantastic songs, should you ditch half of them because of that?  Of course not, for every 35 minutes of Reign in Blood there is another hour and 20 minutes of The Wall and both of them rank in my top albums of all time, however they are also incredibly different types of music and sometimes it’s worth remembering that there are things in life that should be enjoyed in short doses and there are things in life you need to absorb.

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