Welcome (back) to the 5th Annual Arsies, the epic fictional showdown of the best metal albums of the previous year.
Here's how it works: over the next six weeks, our thirty-two contestants will face off in daily battle. Listening to two (and only two) of these albums each day, I will decide which of them is superior, using a complicated and highly subjective series of criteria. I'd explain it all right here, but that'd cheapen the whole thing.
This year, we've got two changes that I hope will enhance your vicarious pleasure. First, each day of the contest, you'll have available to you a link to a Spotify playlist of the two contestants. That way, you can judge for yourself if I made the right call (and feel free to comment your agreement or disapproval). Also, you're now able to download the bracket chart as an image, suitable for framing, taunting, or quiet speculation as to what drives an already busy man to get so anal about a year-of list.
In my official function as Screener Of New Metal, I limit myself to new releases available via a streaming music site or app (preferably Spotify), and only releases that are at least 20 minutes long. The streaming requirement knocked out a couple of hopefuls (like Sodom, Shai Hulud, and Vried), but still left me with 137 albums to judge (a 27% increase over last year). And I've listened to a lot of crap (Device, Bret Michaels, or Geoff Tate, anyone?) so that you don't have to. Thank me later.
Speaking of later, here's one other rules change for 2014: while I normally time the Arsies to end the day after the Grammys, this year the Grammys are being held early to make room for the Winter Olympics. Since I don't negotiate with terrorists, the Arsies will ignore any other contests, and will begin in earnest on the first Monday of the New Year.
This year, more than ever, there isn't a weak album in the bracket. It's going to be interesting, and not straightforward. And as always, your comments are welcome.