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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I was talking to a friend about how I get confused by all of the sub-genres in metal. I can no more describe what “Polish blacked death metal” is than I can tell you what the differences are between “mathcore” and “metalcore.” Furthermore, it does me virtually no good to come to understand the specifics, or to be able to enumerate what bands fall into which sub-genre. The key is that I am not an expert. I do not possess knowledge of the vast universe of little details that separates the cognoscenti from the enthusiasts.

My friend’s insight on the matter was wise, of course. He doesn’t pay attention to those details, either. Instead the system is “I like this” or “I don’t like this.” By extension, answers to questions like “I want to find a band that sounds like Opeth” makes more sense. Recommendations from him like “this band sounds like late nineties Metallica” are vastly more useful to me, a member of the uninitiated. If I was told they were a metalcore/thrash metal band from Florida … well, I’d at least know they played something metal-like.

Wine is very similar for me. I know just enough to be dangerous. I understand the differences between varietals and regions in very broad brush strokes, but I can never remember which part of Australia tastes good for a given year, nor can I remember the characteristic differences between the California Cab and the one from South America. What particular of environmental aspect produces a more metallic note in my reds? Hell if I know. What I really want when I go into a wine store is “give me a wine that tastes like my favorite Rioja, but is something I haven’t had, under $20, and that won’t be a sorry disappointment of a thing.”

Like most metal, the universe of wine is flooded with shit, and thus I turn either to the disreputable shopkeeper (who wants to move product, and is incentivized more to get rid of the shit case that’s been sitting in the window for a year) or the magazine whose reviews are paid for by the winemakers themselves. Sure, there are honest, dedicated, genuine shopkeepers, and there are reputable wine reviewers that actually know what they’re doing. But of course it takes time to find that shop[keeper].

Finding the experts and getting/keeping their attention is difficult. If they don’t share their knowledge for the sheer joy of it, they’re probably expensive, too.