Many of us are familiar with the endangered “physical media” known as CDs, cassette tapes, and vinyl records. Something all physical media bought at retail has in common is that it is contained. This containment is called packaging, and is ubiquitous.
Standalone, loose physical media were not reviewed because they’re simply too rare, and usually in bad condition. A snapped tape ribbon or a scratched CD or record usually spell disaster. If you’ve ever had to spend 5 minutes untangling the tape ribbon from the spinny things inside the tape deck, and even worse, trying to put 2 snapped tape-ends back together with a little bit of clear tape, you’ll know this pain. Vinyl scratches cause skipping, which in the worst cases make a record unplayable. They also get pops and hisses from dust falling into the grooves, or faulty needle and tone arm setups. Scratched CDs usually show up with unplayable songs or disk errors. Imagine a CD you paid $15 for, being unplayable! It sucks.
So, to avoid those problems, these media come with packaging. Vinyl records have gatefold sleeves if you’re lucky, plain printed cardboard for plebs. They also have a tissue paper sleeve that goes around the record itself (which fits inside the cardboard outer shell), maybe to keep it in good shape while it sits inside. CD’s have deluxe paper booklets, but sometimes just paper inserts. Tapes have paper “J Cards”, sometimes with multiple fold-outs, for more deluxe tapes. They still all have packaging.
The thing is, the packaging doesn’t seem to discriminate between genres. The polycarbonate plastic from CD and tape cases sounds the same, no matter if it’s a rock, or metal, or pop, or even rap release. That can be really misleading. You’d think that metal plastic would sound thicker (heavier), or rap plastic would be more resonant, for it’s beats. Some metal bands have been cool enough to use metal packaging (Immortal comes to mind). So at least they’ve made an attempt to make their genre stand out. The polycarbonate tends to fracture if stepped on or dropped, and might warp or melt if you leave it on the car dashboard on a hot summer day. Still, it does it’s job of protecting the media inside nicely! Cardboard sounds, and burns, the same, no matter what genre. The main issue is the genre confusion: you have to be really careful about what you’re buying when it comes to physical media, so you don’t accidentally buy a rock box with a metal CD inside. It could be harmful to mix the genres like that, depending of course on the items you mix.
Your loyal reviewer even went so far as to test this hypothesis! Metal CDs were placed inside a cardboard-and-mailing-tape box which came in the mail, which had originally contained rock and punk CDs. The “rock box” outer packaging in this case deserves special mention, because it had so many extra features: black crepe tissue paper inside, mailing tape and labels outside. Not many outer boxes are that deluxe – sometimes all you get from the mail is a bubble wrap Jiffy #7 envelope! Those are great for stress relief after their secure-the-mail purpose is fulfilled, though. The CDs were mixed only for a minute, mind you! (Homeless rock and punk CDs are very sad, and the metal CDs have had a home for over ten years in another box.) This genre collusion caused no harm, as expected. They all sounded great on playback, even though they’d spent some time hanging out in eachother’s houses. You’d think the rock would have corrupted the metal, but no. Everything was okay. The notes stayed pure. Nobody turned into a satanist or grew hair on their palms.
Here’s a playlist of what was tested, for those of you who want to try and replicate the results. You just have to buy the CDs or vinyl and then try it out! (In your testing, you might have to skip the Goatwhore though, because this was in weird “Memorex” genre-neutral packaging with even weirder handwriting; apparently it’s a CDR advance from the band. That’s a perk of having been a reviewer for nineteen years.) Happy hunting.
The Waxwings – Shadows Of… (pop/rock)
Nick Oliveri’s Uncontrollable – Leave Me Alone (rock / punk)
Moistboyz – IV (rock / garage rock)
Goatwhore – The Eclipse of Ages into Black (blackened death metal)
Pessimist – Cult of the Initiated (blackened death metal)
Dying Fetus – Stop At Nothing (brutal death metal)
Packaging is highly recommended for those of you who choose to venture into the wonderful world of physical media. It keeps everything organized, and relatively safe from damage. For purity’s sake, just be careful to not mix genres accidentally.
Editor’s note: This was the 2016 edition of April Fool’s Day prankage!