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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You Still Read Magazines?

I have a lot of friends who aren't music geeks like me and they are always asking "How do you find new music?". I usually tell them that I find new music by reading music related websites, getting recommendations from my other music geek friends, going to shows, listening to free samplers when I find them (physical and online) and picking up the occasional music rag. I gave up on the Spin's and Rolling Stone's of the world as reliable sources a long, long time ago, but I certainly don't think the print medium is obsolete as a tool for discovering new music. The choices have thinned dramatically as magazines cease publication due to the ailing economy and advertising budgets moving away from print and to online, but, as is always the case, quality products will survive because content is king (right?). Case in point, Decibel Magazine.

Music magazines had been a big part of my discovering new music in my teenage and collegiate years, but a lot of titles I liked had disappeared, sunk in editorial quality or I had simply outgrown them. In terms of metal magazines: I hadn't been a big fan of Metal Maniacs layout for years (although I am happy that they are relaunching their website after the death of the print version). I did have a subscription to Revolver for a while, but let it run out as I found myself reading less and less of every issue because I was not digging the large majority of the bands they were covering. [The wisdom of this decision was solidified about two weeks ago when I was in a Border's in the Seattle airport and saw that Revolver's latest issue had Suicide Silence on the cover. To be fair, I've never actually listened to a full Suicide Silence album, but they just scream "shitty Hot Topic metal-core" with their image and the few tracks I've heard. But hey, if they act as a gateway drug of sorts to get younger kids into more extreme metal, then god bless.] U.K. mags like Terrorizer, Metal Hammer, Kerrang, etc. are great, but those newsstand copies are expensive over here in the U.S.

Enter Decibel.

Last Christmas, I had a layover in DC's Union Station on my journey home and popped in a bookstore to grab some reading material for the train ride. As I scoured through the music section in the magazine rack, I came across the title to the left. I'm not the world's hugest Cannibal Corpse fan (I certainly don't dislike them though), but the fact that a magazine had their singer on the cover certainly piqued my interest. This particular issue was Decibel's year end issue which included two lists: "The Top 40 Albums of 2008" and "The Most Anticipated Releases of 2009". Being a lover of or at least mildly interested in most music related lists, I decided to pick up the magazine and see what it was all about. While some of the writing was a bit over the top (eg. unnecessary use of SAT words, overuse of adjectives, etc., etc.....if you've ever read a metal magazine, then you know what I'm talking about. That being said, metal music is generally over the top, so no real surprise that the editorial about it is the same), I still found it to be an enjoyable read and led me to eventually pick up albums from Bloodbath, Genghis Tron, Nachtmystium, Withered, Cynic and Bison b.c. among others.

In February of the following year, I flew to Atlanta for the Scion Fest (which had too many awesome bands playing to deal with listing here) and on the plane ride down my buddy pulled out a copy of Decibel and loaned it to me to read on the flight. This issue had the almighty Napalm Death on the cover and much to my pleasure featured yet another list inside, this time for "The Top 30 Grindcore Albums Ever!". Once again, I found it to be a great read and decided that it was time to get a subscription as this magazine was just what I needed to aid in my never ending search for new metal bands to check out.

When I got home from Atlanta, (I should say, "When I FINALLY got home from Atlanta" as we were stuck there for a few extra days due to a snowstorm. Seriously, who the hell expects to get snowed in while visiting Atlanta? Stupid global warming!), I went to my local B&N looking to pick up the Decibel issue with Napalm on the cover, but found that they had already moved on to their latest issue which featured the amazing Brutal Truth on the cover. Certainly not a disappointment, but I had wanted the previous issue for the Grindcore list that had been compiled. Oh well. So, I got home, went online and ordered myself a subscription. Not much longer after that I received an email from their customer service rep, Mark Evans, who thanked me for subscribing and let me know that the latest issue with Brutal Truth on the cover would arrive in my mailbox shortly. I wrote him back and explained that I had actually just purchased that issue and was wondering if it would be possible for him to send me the Napalm Death issue instead. His response was "Sure, man, I'll start you with that issue instead. I'm mailing it out today. Thanks again for your support!" You gotta love it. Two big thumbs up to Decibel for their customer service!

Anyway, I am very much enjoying my monthly issues of Decibel and still finding a wealth of new bands to listen to inside each issue. The magazine is dedicated to quality coverage of the extreme metal scene including album, DVD and concert reviews, in-depth interviews, profiles on up and coming bands and the monthly Decibel Hall of Fame feature which is "{Decibel's} series exploring landmark albums in the the badass pantheon of extreme metal" and has inductees ranging from Rollins Band's "The End Of Silence" and Quicksand's "Slip" to Metallica's "...And Justice For All" and Anthrax's "Among The Living" to Emperor's "In The Nightside Eclipse" and Autopsy's "Mental Funeral". Check them out online or if you are like me and enjoy holding an actual magazine in your hand from time to time, then get a subscription.

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