For nearly a decade, there’s really been only one decent American heavy metal magazine – Decibel. When Metal Maniacs ceased publication in 2009, along with its entirely lame sister title, Metal Edge, that left only Decibel and Revolver, and Revolver sucked. It seemed a shame to me at the time because Metal Maniacs had a fine lineage and was entirely credible as a genre voice. What was so troubling about this turn of events is that it led to the depressing conclusion that the world’s richest nation could only support one mainstream metal monthly. Now, I’m using the past tense of “to suck,” here in reference to Revolver, and we’ll get to that in a minute, but the point is we’ve had one shitty metal magazine and only one awesome metal magazine for a long time.
I don’t want to short sell some of the smaller print pubs out there like New Noise, because they are fine magazines, for what they are, but what they are is smaller. “Smaller” here means inferior editorial standards and writing, less journalistic capability, and less clout with the industry, which affects access and so forth. It’s also worth noting that the demise of Metal Maniacs coincided with the rise of the online scene. Sites like Invisible Oranges and MetalSucks became the taste-makers and gossip rags in place of real paper and ink. I want to also mention Terrorizer as a generally excellent magazine, but it’s coverage slants European and it’s around $11 on the newsstand since it’s actually shipped from there too.
I’ve so far given Decibel nothing but praise and that’s because I do truly love the magazine. But it’s not perfect. There’s more than a whiff of pretension to a lot of the editorial decisions about what bands to cover and what, thus, to ordain as cool. Plus, they have a persistent, raging hard-on for Converge which I, for the life of me, do not get. So, Decibel’s not perfect, but for me, it’s as close we can reasonably expect.
Last month though, I was scouring the magazine rack at Barnes & Noble and spied something I wasn’t quite sure about. It looked like it said Revolver across the top, but it also did not apparently suck even from five feet away. I picked this mystery object up and was shocked and quite pleased to discover a redesigned Revolver magazine in my hands. And, I have to say, I think they did a damn fine job.
This new Revolver is in a larger format with a matte cover and thick, glossy pages. It’s what I would call “design-centric,” with a heavy emphasis on graphics and illustrations. In fact, this month’s issue included a super-cool piece on Royal Thunder which was nothing but photographs. I took a couple pics of the pics and you see them here. This is a kind of feature Decibel would never do but this is also a band Revolver would never have covered in its previous incarnation. That this is so is extremely smart on Revolver’s part. We don’t need two identical awesome metal magazines, we need two completely different awesome metal magazines.
I also noticed Revolver didn’t include a single record review, another smart choice since Decibel’s pretty much got that game locked down. Revolver seems to be focusing on band profiles. They had a feature article on Code Orange this month, which is a band I’m not sure Decibel will cover, but again, as long they stick with decent bands, it’s good for everyone involved to see variety across these two magazines.
Maybe Revolver’s redesign will push Decibel to new heights. It’s a great magazine, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping them honest. And broadly speaking, I think this is nothing but good news for fans. We get a second, totally rad metal magazine and that can only be good for the scene as long as Revolver can stay on the straight and narrow and keep Avenged Sevenfold or whatever other bullshit they’re playing on the radio off the cover.