THE DEATH OF THE ALBUM INTRO TRACK
I can’t be the only one who feels like album intro tracks are dumb in 2011. I’m no full-album hater — intro tracks were cool once upon a time when you had little choice but to sit through them, and when listening to music was an activity in and of itself (on your couch in front of your speakers with a friend and a doobie) — it’s just that they seem silly in the context of how music is consumed in modern times. This is especially true for unknown bands who send us albums for review, but even for well-established acts who’ve earned their right to be a little self-indulgent. Am I the only one who just hits “skip” right away so I don’t have to sit through a minute and a half of keyboard swells and bells that are supposed to evoke a feeling of anticipation for something epic? Apparently not; new Invisible Oranges scribe Doug Moore (also the vocalist of MS-approved NYC metallers Pyrrhon) wrote a little bit on the ridiculousness of intro tracks in the modern era in a greater piece about the advantages of digital music.
Metalheads are often first-class nerds. We enjoy sprawling, complex pieces of art. That’s probably why the album format is such a collective hobbyhorse for us.
Unfortunately, nerdy people are often self-indulgent people. It’s a rare metal album that doesn’t involve at least some unnecessary baggage. Witness intro tracks. Almost nobody likes them, but countless bands use them. Worlds Beyond the Veil by Mithras is one of the better death metal albums of the past decade. But it starts with a six-minute intro. In the vinyl days, I would’ve been stuck with that lame intro every time I wanted to listen to the album. Now I can skip it or delete it. Easy peasy.
A lot of musicians would argue that in doing so, I’m failing to experience their art as intended. Perhaps, but I’m not convinced that the most complete version of something is automatically the best. Moby Dick does not lose its literary value if you skip the boring chapters about the whaling industry. The theatrical version of Apocalypse Now is better than the director’s cut. And Worlds Beyond the Veil is better without the intro track.
Well put, Doug. I’m still a fan of listening to albums as a whole, I never make mixes, and I rarely even skip any tracks at all. But intro tracks are just a different story; bo-ring. I think bands who do this even know it themselves; why would they separate the intro track from the first proper song instead of making them into one long track if they didn’t expect people to skip it? Intro tracks are almost as bad as “hidden” tracks, which should’ve died a long, painful death with the CD format but persist to this day, as if we’re somehow going to be surprised when ten minutes of silence follows the album’s last song but the MP3 progress slider isn’t at the end yet.
Do you skip intro tracks? Do you even listen to full albums? Tell us below, and feel free to get stangry as usual.