Monday, February 26, 2007

When I ran into Matos late last summer and he expressed the uncharacteristically unpoptimistic opinion that things were desperate out there in musicland, the worst he could ever remember, he also mentioned, later in our conversation, that as far as he was concerned right now the best music publication in the English-speaking world was extreme metal mag Decibel. In fact after we'd done eating he practically strong-armed me to my local newsagent to pick up an issue. Actually I didn't need strong-arming, I was thoroughly intrigued because if Matos dug it so much when he's not even a metal fan, well, that's some a recommendation. (And shows how obsessed with rockwriting he is). After reading it I wouldn't necessarily concur it's the best music magazine in the English-speaking world but it's definitely got "vibe", a precious and scarce commodity nowadays: a sense that the writers are having a lot of fun, are sparking off each other, that it is a collective entreprise. Anyway, I see from this rockcritics.com oral history of Decibel that Matos's opinion is far from unusual.

Incidentally it seems that the concept of "hipster metal" is, if not a Decibel coinage, then certainly something they brought to the forefront with this round-table discussion of the phenomenon.

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and while we're talking about magazines:

latest ABCs -- ie. circulation figures -- on the UK music mags

Kerrang! has jumped 12.1% year-on-year, and its new circulation of 85,377 is its HIGHEST EVER.

it is well ahead of NME, which is now at 73,008, following a 4.9% drop year-on-year

Kerrang! has gone up 20 thousand since 2005.

ah, and then this:

MixMag is now at 39,017, a year-on-year slip of 7.6% (and most of that decline in the last six months)

(Jeez, at this rate the Wire could take it in a year or two....)

interesting, interesting... so Kerrang! sells twice what Mixmag does.....

(still i suppose the real question here is what are Terrorizer's figures, eh...)

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and further on the metal-as-new-dance tip:

correspondent Carl Holmes with a bizarre snippet o' data connected to the ambient/metal nexus, viz:

"... I read an interesting interview with Mark Arm where he tied in the birth of grunge totally with E... Basically he was saying that stoners in Seattle used to get lots of cheap and at that time legal E. One of the effects of this that people started to get a lot more into the texture of what they were listening to which in turn led to the musicians on the scene exploring down-tuning and slower tempos. I got a real jolt when I read this as it made total sense to me...."

Well then there's the whole Beltram/Sabbath, mentasm-as-"Iron-Man"-soundsmearblare connection. Only thing that perplexes: wouldn't E have filled all these 80s proto-grungers with so much heart-bursting hyperness they wouldn't have wanted to listen to doomy draggy dirge tempo non-euphoric stuff, surely?

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DJ Martian, who's been tracking the realms of post-metal/avant-metal for some while now, a few weeks back had a link to yet another metal mag, Metal Storm, and their awards for 2006, which included some genre/categories I'd not come across before:

Folk/Pagan/Viking Metal

Melodeath/Gothenburg

Suomi Metal

Well i kinda knew the first one existed (is that where Blut Aus Nord--a very strange sounding outfit recommended by metalhead and Decibel contributor Joe Gross--fit in? I'm really hoping the name isn't some neo-Nazi blood-and-soil Nordic type slogan, as I rather enjoyed the record). But otherwise, elucidation welcomed!

Very like dance music in that respect, metal: the fan/critic taxonomic compulsion, and the schismatic principle that seems to animate the music, resulting in the genres endlessly splitting apart into new fractions, each of which seems--internally--to be utterly homogenous yet obviously roiling with incredibly subtle distinctions of huge urgency to the connoiseur.

mind you one correspondent, a genuine metal afficianodo, claimed there'd actually been no actual major new subgenres of metal formed this decade and that the 21st century had so far been--as far as he was concerned--a rather slack period for metal, at least on the innovation front. which makes the whole "hipster metal"/cool-fiending outsiders taking an interest in the genre syndrome doubly ironic.

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