Excuse me, how do I get to Sludge Metal?

Photo by: Rae Allen

And the answer is, Ladies and Gentlemen, to take a plane to the island of Grunge, drive out of town, heading left, and then across the bridge. But remember to take that left. Or you risk taking a looong drive just to get to Nu Metal. And that place is a shit hole. By the way, who are you going there to see? The Melvins? Or their more unknown cousins Acid Bath or Iron Monkey.

Sounds strange? It isn’t. It’s bloody horned-finger-salute brilliant.

‘It’ is the Map of Metal, created by Patrick Galbraith.

The idea behind it is this: how do you visually let people explore all the subgenres of heavy metal and the bands who define them? The answer to the first part of the question is to create a virtual map with roads and geographic proximity mapping how the different subgenres are connected. Then add a descriptions of the genres and the possibility to listen to tracks by simply clicking on their names.

The first part is a lot of work. The second? Well, let’s just say that with a little programming flair, Wikipedia and YouTube are your friends. Your very good friends.

It’s brilliant – partly beacuse it’s a quite simple idea, brilliantly executed. Oh yeah, if you’re at work, it might be an idea to put on your headphone before going there, as the music just starts on its own. Am I telling you this a little too late, now after you’ve left the powerchords explode out over your open office space. Call me an asshole, but I thought that would be the most Heavy Metal way of warning you.

Now the idea of graphically mapping music in an interactive way is not a new one. It has been tried before in a number of ways. A couple are:

Music-map lets you type in names of bands and see what other people who listen to that band also like listening to. It’s based on the data collected through Gnod, which is, according to the team behind it is a ‘experiment in the field of artificial intelligence. Its a self-adapting system, living on this server and ‘talking’ to everyone who comes along. Gnods intention is to learn about the outer world and to learn ‘understanding’ its visitors.’ If it lives up to that, I’ll let you decide.

Then you have Tuneglue, which takes a slightly different approach to Music-map. Here, you type in a name of a band and can then expand your search for new bands from there.

Then there is the Music Genome Project, which is the system behind the popular Pandora internet radio, which used to be great (and free), but is now a bit meh.

So, you have options, but, for me personally, Map of Metal is far and above anything I’ve seen when it comes mixing visualization with an interactivity that breeds understanding. So, check it out, and get to know a bit about Deathgrind or the weird land of Unblack Metal.

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