Tuesday, 17 November 2009


We can rant and rave all day about how metal bands need to be brutal and technically adept, but the fact remains that the difference between truly great bands and the merely mediocre is nearly always the ability to write memorable tunes. In that regard, Stormcorporation are already several large paces ahead of most other aspirational British metal bands. The five songs on their debut EP are absolutely bulging with melodies that lodge themselves somewhere in the skull and refuse to be shifted. But it’s the combination of that melodic intelligence with an overall sound that brilliantly straddles the divide between state-of-the-art metallic crunch and old school heroics, with a substantial dose of progressive dexterity thrown in, that makes songs like A Quiet Belief In Angels and Stand Up And Be Counted so thoroughly likeable and impressive. This is unashamedly modern metal that thinks big and wears its ambition as a badge of honour, but with more than enough brains and brawn to dispel cynicism from the metal die-hard contingent. And yes, Stormcorporation are, whisper it, “a female-fronted metal band”, but vocalist G-Storm side-steps the usual stereotypes, oozes genuine, dizzying charisma and sings with disarming power and enthralling authority, particularly on EP highlight Megatronix; a classic metal anthem emboldened with myriad twists, turns and tangential leaps. It’s only on the mid-paced introspection of Serious Damage that this Preston-based quintet sound anything less than remarkable; a sturdy but traditional ballad, it proves that the band have versatility and depth, but lacks the electrifying urgency displayed elsewhere. Nonetheless, this is a debut effort that sounds like the work of a band that already know precisely what they’re doing. And what they’re doing is pretty fucking awesome. Ones to watch in 2010, without a doubt.

Check them out HERE!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

JOHN LAWSON 1932-2009

Being a writer and all-round opinionated bore, words don’t often fail me, but I’m finding it extremely hard to describe how I feel this morning. Last Friday night, my father passed away after what we are, I suppose, obliged to refer to as “a long battle with cancer”. He slipped away in the night, at home and in bed with my mum (just as it should be), and he leaves a yawning chasm behind, not just for me but for my entire family and anyone who ever knew him.

I know almost everyone thinks that their parents are infallible, but my dad really was a wonderful human being. He was a kind, generous, gentle and fiercely intelligent man who never knowingly said or did anything that caused pain or sadness to another living being. Most remarkable of all, he seldom spoke unless he had something to say. God knows, the world could use a few more people like that.

In some respects I didn’t have a huge amount in common with my dad. I didn’t share his religious faith, his political views, his taste in music or his calamitous dress sense, but those things are utterly trivial when you love someone as much I loved him. The important thing is that I always knew that my dad loved me and was proud of me, despite my many faults, and that he knew that I felt the same way towards him. And I admired him immensely. I’m lucky enough to do what I love for a living, and my dad was the same. An insanely talented artist, he designed stained glass windows for a living and leaves behind an astonishing legacy of beautiful creations that, with luck, will survive for many hundreds of years. I can only hope that I will be able to make such a lasting and worthwhile mark on the world. I also hope that I can become a little bit more like my dad along the way.

I miss him terribly and will carry his memory in my heart forever, as will my mum and my two sisters, Rebecca and Helena. We all love you, Dad.

Monday, 12 October 2009


He may be the only drummer of his generation to become less skilful over the last 25 years, but we really should thank Lars Ulrich for kick-starting the debate about peer-to-peer file-sharing and illegal downloading. As easy as it was to take the piss out of a rich man bleating about being denied further piles of cash gleaned from the sale of overpriced CDs, Ulrich did have a point and, to be fair to him, the Napster debacle occurred at a time when the true implications of technology’s impact on the sale and distribution of music were something of an unknown quantity. Cut the Danish buffoon some slack, I say. The debate’s still going on and it’s one that we should continue to observe, not least because the outcome is going to affect those of us that buy music far more than those that make it, regardless of what high profile pop stars might tell you.

Let’s cut the crap. If you know how to download music illegally, then the chances are that you have done so on numerous occasions. I know I have and I make absolutely no apologies for it. We now live in a culture of “try before you buy”, and just because there are plenty of unscrupulous folks out there with no intention of ever getting their wallets out to buy a new CD, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we are all amoral scum feasting on the rotting, fly-plagued corpse of artistic endeavour. I am not a thief. I just choose to use the technology available to check new tunes out before I part with my hard-earned cash for the gleaming circular artefact itself. As the wonderful Stephen Fry recently pointed out, those adverts you see at the beginning of DVDs that pompously state that “You wouldn’t steal a handbag!” are disingenuous twaddle. The act of downloading tunes for free is not morally equivalent to mugging someone. In fact, and this is where the anti-share mob fall down every time, file-sharing is basically a victimless crime, if only because of one simple fact: if you take away the ability to get music for free, record sales are not suddenly going to rise. Most people that share music and download illegally are doing so because they can and that’s never going to change, but neither is it evidence that some terrible act of immoral deviance is being committed. Instead, it’s like raiding your mum’s fridge when she’s not looking. Given the opportunity you’ll have the pork pies, cans of Sprite and Frubes away, but if your mum put a padlock on the fridge tomorrow, would you head to the supermarket to buy the stuff instead? Would you bollocks. People belong to one of two groups: those who download music and then make a judgement as to whether they like it enough to buy the real thing and those who wouldn’t pay money for the music anyway. Artists, whether new and aspiring or established and successful, are not losing royalties from either of these two groups. Threatening to criminalise people for taking advantage of technology and getting a sneak preview of music that they would otherwise not hear at all is a ridiculous way to behave. Flogging hooky DVDs and CDs on a market stall and making a profit from someone else’s hard work is stealing. Downloading the new Devildriver album and giving it a test drive before you spend a tenner on the album itself is not.

But maybe I’m viewing this through rose-tinted spectacles of STEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEL, because the metal world is patently different from most other areas of the music industry. Metal fans are loyal to their favourite bands and there is a long-established culture of wanting to support the bands (and complete one’s collection, natch) by making a point of buying the finished album. These days, arguably because of the downloading phenomenon, record labels are wising up and ensuring that fans have a decent additional incentive for buying the CDs by generally including a bonus DVD, extra music and/or aesthetically pleasing packaging. Frankly, after years of overcharging us all for music, it’s the least they can do. You may have enjoyed the irony of record labels complaining about “stealing” when it has been common practise for albums to be serially re-released in a cynical and blatant attempt to squeeze a few more quid out of us and exploit the devotion to their favourite bands that metal fans wear as a badge of honour. The record industry is struggling, but at least metal labels seem aware that this relationship is a two-way thing. And I guarantee that the average metal fan is far more likely to splash the cash on a new album than fans from most other genres. Yes, there will always be a minority of wankers that don’t care enough about music to keep that part of the bargain, but that’s life. People nick stuff. Boo hoo.

Things have changed a lot over the last few years. Bands now make most of their money from touring and selling merchandise. Albums are sold to promote tours, rather than the other way round. And surely that’s a good thing. After all, if rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal are about anything it’s live performance and the establishment and maintenance of a relationship between performer and audience. Also, as much as I respect Lily Allen’s concern for the plight of struggling new artists, thanks to MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and any number of other ingenious internet devices, it has never been easier to promote yourself and enable people to hear your music. Just look at Job For A Cowboy’s startling rise from total obscurity to worldwide renown. All it took was a MySpace page, a lot of word-of-mouth publicity and, whisper it, the widespread sharing of their tunes, from which they received absolutely bugger all in monetary terms…but the long term effects are more than obvious.

If you think that cracking down on people that share files is going to benefit new bands and artists, you’re mental. It will have the opposite effect. Less people will hear the music, not more, and less people will buy the CDs as a result. The horse has already bolted, Elton. We can no more go back in time to the pre-download age than we can return to an era when it was socially acceptable to wear giant comedy glasses. Established stars should be putting pressure on record companies to invest more money in new talent instead of squandering money on banal, manufactured pop bands and the endless recycling of the Elvis, Beatles and Michael twatting Jackson back catalogues, not targeting internet-savvy teenagers as they enter a mind-boggling world of freely-available musical riches that will, in most cases, turn them into devout music fans for the rest of their lives. I don’t think it’s okay to steal music and deny royalties to the people that make it, but I do think that the air is a lot thinner up there on that high horse and it does funny things to the brain. Maybe that’s why Lars Ulrich’s drumming went downhill. Just a thought.

Friday, 7 August 2009



Last weekend I went to a rather splendid gig. No, I didn’t spend any time standing in a field watching Machine Head wipe the floor with Fatty Durst and his mates. Neither did I shed a tear while the horribly overrated Trent Reznor forgot to play his greatest hits. And, sadly, I didn’t get to see Linkin Park doing whatever it is that they do that people seem to like so much. Seriously, what the fuck is all that about?

Anyway, no, I didn’t go to Sonisphere. Instead, I went to see Annotations Of An Autopsy headline a show upstairs at The Garage in Highbury, North London. Contrary to popular belief, it’s the kind of thing that a dwindling band of us music journalist types genuinely like to do every now and then, often in preference to hanging around backstage at some dreadful corporate event, missing all the bands and wanking each other off in a frenzy of self-congratulation and mutual hatred. Yeah, I actually like going to “little” gigs. And this was, despite the increasing stature of the headliners, a pretty low-key affair, attended by considerably less than 100 people and, thanks to Sonisphere and appalling weather, generating barely a blip on the rock ‘n’ roll calendar. Nonetheless, I dragged my lardy carcass up to the Big Smoke because, and this is the main reason I’m writing this, this gig was a particularly brilliant example of how the British death metal scene is currently in an insanely rude state of health. Aside from Annotations Of An Autopsy, the bill also featured Trigger The Bloodshed, Viatrophy, Dyscarnate and the charmingly-named Fleshrot. Every single one of these bands is bringing something fresh and new – with varying degrees of originality, but that’s beside the point – to a scene that has, for many years, preferred to revel in its own obscurity and lack of ambition. But unless you’re a total dimbo, you can not fail to have noticed that the last few years have seen a massive explosion in interest in death metal and its attendant subgenres – from grindcore to, dare I say it without sniggering, deathcore – and, in the States at least, this kind of music has never been anywhere near as popular.

Now at this point I’m sure that two or three of you – the spottier ones that have had less physical contact with members of the opposite sex, I imagine – will be spitting your cornflakes across the room in abject horror at the suggestion that bands like Annotations Of An Autopsy and Trigger The Bloodshed can be in any way regarded as a credible part of the UK death metal scene. Well, tough shit. They are part of it and, at this moment in time, they’re doing a lot more to propagate its reputation here and around the world than any number of dogged underground stalwarts bands. Not that there’s anything wrong with the underground scene in this country, of course. There are literally hundreds of great extreme metal bands in the UK and there is a very close-knit and self-contained community of death metal die-hards that are quite content to exist away from mainstream eyes and the interference of bigger labels. That’s totally cool and I have utmost respect for anyone who would prefer their death metal to be unsullied by notions of success or popularity (and I’m not being sarcastic, believe it or not). But what I find completely objectionable and worthy of nothing but contempt and scorn is the kind of attitudes that you can easily unearth on any extreme or death metal online forum, particularly when the subject of the “new breed” of death metal bands is raised. To give you an example, there is a rather brilliant death metal band called Ingested. They’ve just released their debut album, Surpassing The Boundaries Of Human Suffering, through Siege Of Amida Records. It’s fantastic. Ridiculously brutal and deeply unpleasant on every level. But some of the moronic drivel I’ve seen written about the band, purely because they’re signed to a label that people might have actually heard of and because their album sounds like it was recorded in a studio, rather than piece together using bits of shit and twigs in someone’s shed, is enough to make me clobber the cat with the nearest shoe. Doubtless the same sneering, elitist claptrap emerges whenever a band like Annotations Of An Autopsy or The Boy Will Drown or Ignominious Incarceration (all excellent bands, by the way) dare to make music that aims for and reaches a slightly bigger audience than one you could fit in your stinking front room – and isn’t it time you tidied up and hoovered the carpet, you filthy hippie? – and then have the audacity to refer to it as death metal. Oh, what utter bastards! How dare they dilute the purity of our sacred scene! That’s not death metal! It’s got breakdowns and they’ve got short hair and their fans wear girls’ jeans and they’ve got a MySpace site and MUMMY I’VE WET THE BED AGAIN!!!!!

I’ll level with you. Purists bore the piss out of me. Listen to what you like and shut the fuck up. No one’s interested in whether you think a new band are “true” death metal or myopic and unmotivated enough to languish forever in a non-scene populated by autistic bell-ends that only ever talk amongst themselves. That wasn’t good enough for Morbid Angel or Obituary or Suffocation or Malevolent Creation or Carcass or Pestilence or any of the great death metal bands from the genre’s first and second waves. It’s not a proud achievement to aim at. It’s a deliberate choice and one you make knowing full well that its purpose is to create division and to limit the number of people that can enjoy what you do. Fair enough. It’s a bit weird, but it’s your choice. But unless you have a mental age of 11, there’s no reason why anyone should have to do anything they don’t want to do in music. The whole point of the fucking thing is to enable people to express themselves however they see fit. If you think that Annotations Of An Autopsy are a deathcore band – whatever the toasted shitnut that means - then good for you, but your opinion is no more valid than anyone else’s merely because you’ve appointed yourself guardian of some mythical code of ethics. I’ve been listening to death metal since the mid ‘80s and although I cherish the old school stuff with the same love and devotion that I regard Maiden and Megadeth records, I’m still perfectly happy to see death metal evolve and change and morph into something else, something new, and maybe even something that I don’t particularly like or understand. God knows, there are some shitty bands around at the moment, but there are also a lot of fucking fantastic ones too, just as that show in Highbury demonstrated. If you play extreme metal and you put your heart and soul into it, you can no more “sell out” than I could put on a frock and do a convincing impression of Kate Moss. Even if I sucked my gut in.

The moral of the story is this: don’t be a whiny bitch. There should be room for everyone: underground and overground, long-haired and Toni & Guy-approved, grizzled purist and clueless newcomer, old school and new school…just don’t waste your time, and the time of other more fragrant, sexually active people, trying to undermine the efforts of other hard-working and passionate musicians by filling online forums and comments pages with mindless vitriol and unqualified remarks about how death metal is being spoiled by kids with daft haircuts. Purism and elitism and that whole we-were-here-first-and-we-know-best attitude are, at best, idiotic and laughable. When the next Annotations Of An Autopsy album comes out, I’ll be first in the queue, because they’re a kick-arse death metal band with great songs. If you don’t like them, or any other new school band for that matter, don’t listen to them. No one’s forcing you. And if you don’t agree with me, so what? What kind of fucked-up world must we live in if we can’t disagree about things without resorting to childish insults? You fucking poser. Fuck you and good night.

Thursday, 16 July 2009


I don’t know…what a strange day! You try to have a laugh and entertain a few people, maybe provoke a little good-natured debate and generate a bit of excitement about some new music…and what happens? A lot of drooling idiots totally miss the point and start kicking off. I probably shouldn’t have bothered to read the comments on my blog (although the vast majority of them were pretty encouraging and clearly written by people with functioning brains) and I definitely shouldn’t have clicked on the links people sent me to various threads on forums, apparently inspired by reactions to my Megadeth Vs Metallica piece…but, you know, my ego gets in the way and it’s hard not to have sneaky peak and then, as if by magic, I find myself confronted with vast amounts of dim-witted crap written by morons who (a) didn’t understand anything that I’d written, (b) didn’t recognise that it was supposed to be FUNNY…I’m not know for my subtlety, so that really threw me…and (c) seemed to think that I was trying to bully people into agreeing with me, rather than expressing a subjective opinion for no other reason than because I can and because, I hope, I can do it in a mildly amusing manner. Personally, I thought it was pretty entertaining stuff, and whether you prefer Megadeth to Metallica or vice versa, it was a bit of a giggle and vaguely thought-provoking and, perhaps, a teensy bit controversial. But ultimately it was absolutely blindingly obvious that I wasn’t expecting anyone to take it remotely seriously. I do prefer Megadeth to Metallica (marginally, as it happens), so that bit was sincere, but the rest of it? It was a comically extravagant rant, designed to elicit chuckles. Nothing more. If I’d written a piece about how Metallica are better than Megadeth, no one would have cared. That’s the orthodox view, the status quo. There’s no laughs to be had there. If I’d actually slagged Metallica off, I could understand people calling me a twat. And I am a twat, so it’s not like I’m not expecting it. But I didn’t. I love Metallica. I’m listening to them right now, in fact. Ride The Lightning. I know all the words and everything.

Of course, I don’t actually care if a bunch of dribbling mongos think I’m an idiot for preferring one band to another. Neither do I care that some people have no sense of humour and are thus incapable of spotting a joke when it’s blasted into their eyeballs from point blank range. But I do find it rather depressing that so many imbeciles are permitted to use the internet. Shouldn’t there be a rule against that? Couldn’t there be some sort of intelligence/humour test that people have to take before they’re allowed broadband? Couldn’t all the hopelessly humourless twattery that makes me want to go on a remorseless and deranged killing spree just be automatically deleted by some super-sophisticated robot? Because, really, I seldom meet people that stupid in real life. I don’t see why I should have to put up with them on here. It rather spoils things, don’t you think?

So you disagree with me. So what? I’m not your dad. Stop having a strop and chill out. This is heavy metal. We’re all friends here. Except you. You smell of piss.

Anyway, the good thing is that most people seemed to dig it. And they discussed it on Norwegian radio! Mental. What a crazy world we live in. Dio bless you all. Night night!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


Yeah, that’s right. You heard. Megadeth are better than Metallica. Always have been, always will be. It’s not a matter of opinion. It’s a fact. A big, shiny, copper-plated fact that I’m about to shove right up the arse of your consciousness, while shrieking the chorus from Train Of Consequences through my nose. I might even dye my hair ginger to emphasise the point. Yeah, that’s right. Megadeth are better than Metallica. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Just read it and shut up, you idiot.


Let’s do this using the powers of maths. Ignoring live albums and compilations (which I’ll get back to later on), Metallica have released a grand total of nine studio albums. The first four are, I think we can all agree, absolutely fucking awesome. Anyone who wants to argue the toss about that little nugget of truth can quietly leave the room with the sound of shame and hatred ringing in their ears of cloth. Die. We don’t need you. It gets a little bit trickier when we reach Metallica, the Black Album, but since it’s mainly really good and has Enter Sandman on it, I’ll happily ignore the fact that it was overproduced and nowhere near as good as the first four albums and accept that it’s a classic. So far, so awesome. What’s next? Load. Fucking rubbish. Reload. Also fucking rubbish. There are a handful of good songs in there somewhere, of course, but overall we’re talking a pair of crippled turkeys with cancerous beaks. So that leaves us with St. Anger. I gave it a good review at the time. I’m genuinely sorry about that. I got a bit carried away and was only allowed to hear it twice before I wrote the review. I’d like to retrospectively withdraw a K. Thanks. St. Anger is probably not as bad as people make out…yeah, like suddenly you’re all fucking experts on snare drum sounds, for fuck’s sake….but it’s obviously not that brilliant either. Finally, there’s Death Magnetic. Ooh, you could have surfed to Hawaii on the wave of relief that appeared when people heard it for the first time, couldn’t you? And yes, it’s very obviously the best thing they’ve done since (at the very least) the self-titled album, but is it a classic? Is it balls. A few really good tracks and a lot of clumsy waffle. That instrumental thing goes on for about a week and even though I’ve heard it 25 times, I still couldn’t whistle a single riff from it. It’s hardly Seek And Destroy, is it? Exactly. So no, Death Magnetic is not a classic. Shush now. So, that’s a grand total of FIVE classic albums for Metallica. Jolly well done. That’s five more than Limp Bizkit, for a start.

Okay, so let’s have a little look at the Megadeth back catalogue. Again, they got off to a pretty heroic start. Killing Is My Business, Peace Sells, So Far So Good, Rust In Peace…every single one, a stone-cold classic. In fact, Killing Is My Business is easily the best of the debuts made by thrash metal’s Big Four. I love Kill ‘Em All more than I love most of my family, but it’s a lot less groundbreaking and only really hinted at what Metallica were capable of. The same goes for Fistful Of Metal and Show No Mercy. Killing Is My Business, on the other hand, ripped my pre-teen face off and used it as chamois leather on Mustaine’s offal-splattered muscle car (I may have imagined that last bit). After Rust In Peace, of course, Megadeth made Countdown To Extinction. I realise that there will be lots of people who think that Countdown was “too commercial” and “not thrash” and “lots of other stuff that only morons ever mention”. All these people are fools and should be killed. Meanwhile, Countdown To Extinction is a masterpiece. Agreed? Good. So, moving on to slightly more contentious records, what about Youthanasia? I didn’t like it that much at the time, but now I love it. Even so, it’s not quite on a par with the first five Megadeth records, so because I’m being fair (and because I know what happens at the end) I’ll discount it as a true classic. Cryptic Writings? Well, I really like it…perhaps a bit more than I should…and it has got Trust on it…but…but…no, you’re right. Not a classic. Risk? Fuck off. The World Needs A Hero? When did you last listen to it? The case rests. The System Has Failed? A false dawn, if you ask me. It sounded like a super-gnarly Megadeth album and had some amazing riffs and solos on it, but ultimately the songs just weren’t there. So that leaves United Abominations. I gave it 9/10 in Metal Hammer and I stand by that score. It’s a superb record; the perfect blend of Countdown-style shiny crunch and Youthanasia-style songy-songsville behaviour. It even has some proper, balls-out thrash bits, and Mustaine’s voice has never sounded better. So there you have it…even before I tell you that Endgame is the best Megadeth album since (at the very least) Countdown To Extinction, we’ve already reached the not-entirely-surprising conclusion that Megadeth have released SIX classic studio albums. That’s a win, bitches. A big, fat ginger win.

And don’t get me started on S&M and Garage Inc. Yeah, lots of fun for all the family, but they were a rich band’s indulgences during a fallow creative period. Great for the can’t-see-past-the-logo obsessive fans, but not all that amazing in the cold light of day. A day, incidentally, that has already revealed that Megadeth made more classic albums. Did you miss that bit? Never mind. Take it as read.


Dave Mustaine is a better guitarist than either James Hetfield or Kirk Hammett. He can do everything that either of them can do, but better. Can you imagine Kirk Hammett playing the main riff from Tornado Of Souls? He’d break his fingers and choke on his drugs. And don’t think for a minute that I’m only considering Mustaine’s skills in this watertight argument of mine. Oh no. Looking back through the history of Megadeth, it’s pretty obvious that every last significant member of the band has been a stone-cold face-ripper with chops the size of Brazil. Chris Poland? Shredmaster. Marty Friedman? Shredmaster plus. Nick Menza? Jimmy DeGrasso? The Drover brothers? Monstrous talents, each and every one. Of course, I’m not saying that Metallica are crappy musicians. Hetfield is one of the best rhythm guitar players ever. Obviously. Kirk is probably a bit underrated, all told. Cliff Burton…well, anyone with balls big enough to criticise Cliff Burton in front of me had better be wearing a goddamn gumshield. Rob Trujillo is an amazing bass player too. I even liked the thwackety-thwackety stuff he did in Suicidal Tendencies and Infectious Grooves. But pound for pound? Megadeth’s records are tighter, more precise and more technical on every level. Even at their peak, the current line-up of Metallica would not be physically capable of playing Holy Wars…The Punishment Due and making it sound as good as it does on Rust In Peace. Not a chance. And you know it’s true. And if you don’t, write your own blog. Pillock.


Regardless of what people might say when they’re lost in the moment, pissed up on booze and seconds away from windmilling like crazed bitches from Hell City, lyrics are important. What a band says may not be quite as important as how they sound when they say it, or how many totally awesome widdly guitar solos they have in each song, but the impact of great lyrics is not to be underestimated. Both Metallica and Megadeth scored pretty highly early on. Despite their often clumsy and primitive way with words, both bands started off their careers singing about the things that mattered to them and, as time went on, they matured and evolved, becoming pretty damn good lyricists (and I’m thinking primarily of Mustaine and Hetfield here) along the way. Personally, I always preferred Mustaine’s lyrics (surprise!) but I’ve raucously bellowed along to both bands often enough to be able to say that the lyrics on those ‘80s (and in some cases ‘90s) albums really resonated with me. So I call a tie, up to that point at least. Sadly, Metallica lost the plot in spectacular fashion during the ‘90s. I don’t care why. Whatever happened, by the time they arrived at St. Anger they were utterly incapable, either individually or collectively, of writing decent lyrics. Listen to that album, with its hopelessly compromised self-help manual buzzwords and awkwardly confessional cut ‘n’ paste sloganeering, and if you don’t cringe at least once, you are a robot and I’m telling Harrison Ford. And yes, I know he’s a robot too. OR IS HE???? It doesn’t matter because even if he was writing lyrics blindfold, with a turd, at the bottom of the sea, Indiana Jones would do a much better job than some of the guff on St. Anger and, it pains me to say it, Death Magnetic too. Have you actually listened to the lyrics on that album? No, thought not. Too busy having a crafty wank and celebrating Metallica’s return to the world of music that doesn’t suck, I’ll bet. Not to worry. I’ll summarise for you. “Boo hoo! I’m rich and messed up! And I’m overly familiar with a rather large number of clichés!” I think the hook in Broken, Beat & Scarred rather says it all: “What don’t kill you make you more strong!” Bad grammar and massive cliché alert!! Anyway, James, try telling that to Stephen Hawking.

Meanwhile, Mustaine’s lyrics remain as sharp and snotty as ever. I still don’t agree with his politics or his religious views, but the man writes lyrics that (a) suit the music perfectly, (b) make sense out of context, so that when you read them on the CD booklet, you don’t feel sorry for the poor sod that wrote them. On the new album, he sings about dangerous motor sports, political corruption, medieval torture devices and battles from Lord Of The Rings. Dave Mustaine is awesome. James Hetfield is also awesome, but sometimes his lyrics suck.


On the one and only time that Megadeth tried to reinvent themselves, it went horribly wrong. You’ve probably either never heard Risk or, like me, you’ve blanked it from your mind as if it was an unfortunate incident involving genitals and cutlery that occurred during a tentative masturbatory exploration in the distant past. That’s YOU, incidentally. Not me. I’m a good Christian boy. Anyway, the point is that Risk is largely hideous and Megadeth were never supposed to be a poppy band with dance-style remixes and radio-friendly choruses (even though they frequently do the latter perfectly well in a 100% metal context). The great thing is that Mustaine knew that Risk was a mistake and has since acknowledged the fact. The whole reason his band survived at all was that he realised that everything was going tits up and that other people were interfering in his vision of what Megadeth should be. He told everyone else to fuck off, grabbed the reins and has been fully in charge ever since. That’ll explain the increasingly brilliant records and complete lack of reality TV-style documentary films. Metallica, on the other hand, went a bit peculiar after the Black Album made them inordinately rich and famous. Lars and Kirk started hoovering up mountains of cocaine and suddenly decided that they it would be a good idea to start playing country rock tunes, ripping off Corrosion Of Conformity and pretending to be gay. Then they thought it would be awesome to record a live album with an orchestra. Then they thought it would be awesome to make an album with songs written by committee and with no guitar solos. They were wrong about all these things and James Hetfield knew it, but for the most part he was too busy necking vodka and cudgelling bears to death in the woods to do anything about it. Dave Mustaine has had his fair share of problems too, but he never started wearing eyeliner or putting spunk on his album covers.


Speaking of which, many of Megadeth’s album covers were created by Ed Repka. He rules. Mustaine doesn’t like him very much anymore, but the point still stands. Even the recent Megadeth album covers are okay. Metallica, it seems almost unnecessary to point out, have only had one decent album cover since …And Justice For All, and that was for an album that sounds like it was recorded inside Bob Rock’s arse and no one will admit to liking it. I don’t know what the new Megadeth album will have on its cover, but I’m willing to bet at least one of my testicles that it will be better than a coffin-cum-fanny combination.

  1. LIVE

I went to see Metallica for the first time in 1988 at the Hammersmith Odeon, on the …And Justice For All world tour. Danzig were supporting. It was fucking brilliant and I wasn’t even drinking heavily. Happy days. I saw them again at Wembley Arena in May 1990. Warrior Soul were supporting. It was fucking brilliant and I was drinking heavily. Happy days again. No complaints about Metallica’s live prowess back in those days whatsoever. I only saw Megadeth once when I was younger and I really can’t remember much about it, other than the fact that the venue was in London, I had an absolutely amazing time and I drank my own bodyweight in poor-quality lager. So far, so equal. In recent years, I’ve seen Metallica so many times that I’ve lost the ability to distinguish one show from another in my battered memory, but although I really, really enjoyed them at the 02 Arena recently and thoroughly enjoyed hearing Master Of Puppets all the way through at Download (whenever that was), I just don’t think they’re as good as they used to be. Everyone knows that Lars isn’t the greatest drummer in the world, but at least he used to be able to play the songs at the right tempo. These days, the faster songs are often a little bit painful to listen to. As with their recent albums, the Metallica of today sound looser and more like a garage band than they ever did in their thrash heyday. Back then, they seemed well-drilled and precise. Now, they’re still brilliant but they never quite match up to my memory of Hammersmith or Wembley. Megadeth, in stark contrast, seem to be even better now than they were 20 years ago. The last time I saw them, at Brixton Academy in 2008, they were so fantastic that I actually did a small wee in my pants. Chris Broderick is, without a doubt, the best lead guitarist that Mustaine has ever recruited and the rhythm section were similarly flawless. The whole thing was jaw-dropping from start to finish. And while Metallica insist on wheeling out the occasional songs from their rubbish ‘90s albums, Megadeth seem to know precisely what the kids want. And that’s Tornado Of Fuckin’ Souls. I’ll keep going to see both bands for as long as they continue touring, but as far as who I’m more likely to get stupidly excited about, there’s simply no contest.


Dave Mustaine invented thrash. Fact. All the best songs on Kill ‘Em All were his. Listen to Killing Is My Business and you’ll hear the real birth of thrash/speed metal. Listen to Kill ‘Em All and you’ll hear the bit just before the birth of thrash metal…the bit where heavy metal bands sped up a bit and took more speed to assist with the speeding up thing. It was all Mustaine’s idea. Seriously. That’s why Megadeth are still a thrash metal band. Because that’s what he does. I’m not sure that Metallica are entirely sure what they are these days. Either way, Dave Mustaine invented thrash. Factimundo. Don’t agree? Too bad. Dave Mustaine invented thrash.


There’s nothing wrong with a bit of therapy. I had some once. Sorted me right out. Well, mainly. I still kill stray dogs, but otherwise I’m fine. The thing is, though, that I’m not in a heavy metal band with a huge worldwide fan base. Not entirely sure what went wrong there, to be honest. I feel a bit cheated. Still, fame and fortune has its drawbacks too, doesn’t it? For instance, you might be so incalculably wealthy and dazzled by the bright lights of stardom that you decide that it would be a totally rad idea to film the recording of your new album, including every last bit of excruciatingly personal behind-the-scenes minutiae, and then turn it into a major motion picture! Well, we’ve all done it! Or, rather, we fucking well haven’t. I’ve seen Some Kind Of Monster now. I put it off for about two years because I found the whole idea a bit traumatic, but in the end I sat through the whole thing and found it moderately enjoyable. The problem is that I don’t feel I’ve gained anything as a fan of Metallica by learning that they employed a therapist to help them “work through” their interpersonal problems. After years of touring and being forced to spend time with each other, it makes perfect sense that Metallica might have one or two issues to thrash out behind closed doors but why, in the name of Jesus H. Corbett and all his equally non-existent disciples, would you want to show the whole world? It’s nothing to be ashamed of, the therapy thing, but surely it wouldn’t hurt to maintain a teensy bit of mystique and arcane charm. I already knew that James Hetfield was a tormented soul, that Lars Ulrich was a gobby pain in the arse and that I wouldn’t pick Kirk Hammett for my pub quiz team any time soon, but to have it rammed down my spasm-plagued gullet in such an unapologetic manner just seems a little bit too much.

Now as you probably know, Dave Mustaine is a long way from being blameless in the old drug-munching psycho department. Sacked from Metallica for being a rowdy drunk with poor table manners, he spent the next decade shoving half of South America up his nose and half of Afghanistan into his veins, while swimming in a vast pool of chilled Jim Beam. He might be a hero of mine, but he really was a fucking nutter and deeply objectionable with it. The last time I interviewed him, he also mentioned that he’d once dabbled extensively in the occult. Personally, I think all notions of paranormal activity and occult are a load of sweaty knackers, but I don’t doubt Mustaine’s sincerity. Neither do I doubt his claims that he spent a lot of money and a lot of time trying to exorcise his demons, real or otherwise, and that he must have visited more than a few therapists in his time. But thanks to the fact that there has never been a Megadeth movie recounting a difficult period in the band’s career, with all the tantrums and smashed tiaras that would surely have ensued, I don’t have any mental images of Dave sitting on a black leather couch, whimpering through a veil of snot, or shrieking dementedly at his band mates in an attempt to vent 20 years of inner turmoil. Instead, I always think of Dave Mustaine as that fucking awesome ginger dude from one of my favourite metal bands of all time. He dealt with his problems and then shut the fuck up about them. Another win for Dave, then, yeah? Yeah.

  1. HAIR

Dave Mustaine still has long hair. So does everyone else in his band. That is all.


Like everyone else, I was a little bit thrilled when I heard Death Magnetic for the first time. Even though I really didn’t mind St. Anger (I still say that Sweet Amber is awesome and All Within My Hands is brilliantly bonkers), it was obviously time for Metallica to either make a kick-arse metal album or bugger off already. They just about managed the former, I think, and even with a little bit of hindsight the album stands up as the best thing they’ve done in 20 years. However, the amount of critical froth that I had to wade through to get to a review that told the truth about Death Magnetic was somewhat staggering. There are at least five great songs on that album, but it’s no classic. Instead, I firmly believe that the vast majority of the cheers and fanfares heralding its release were inspired by an overwhelming sense of relief that Metallica had finally made a strong album again. Totally understandable. I would be a miserable, mean-spirited bastard to deny anyone their little happy-skippy dance to commemorate such a long-awaited moment. However, when you compare Death Magnetic to the new Megadeth album, it vanishes in a puff of Danish hot air. There is simply no comparison. Endgame fucking rips, from start to finish. It is remorselessly metal from start to finish, and not in an old-guys-giving-it-a-jolly-good-go kind of way, but in a state-of-the-art, teach-those-youngsters-a-thing-or-two, come-and-have-a-go-if-you-think-you’re-metal-enough-even-though-you-don’t-stand-a-chance kind of way. The band are on blazing form, whether its Mustaine and Broderick’s magnificent six-string mastery or the pinpoint grind ‘n’ thud of James Lomenzo and Shawn Drover, and every single song crackles with pure energy and real, chest-out-and-fuck-right-off attitude. Cosy obsolescence? No, sir! Metal up your ass? Yes please, and one for the horse! Endgame is a fucking fantastic heavy metal record…a thrash metal record, goddamnit…and it wipes the floor with just about everything else I’ve heard this year. It’s almost certainly the best thing Megadeth have done since Rust In Peace, and by my reckoning that makes it the second best Megadeth album ever. I’m getting slightly aroused just thinking about it. When all is said done, it’s a clincher. Even if you totally disagree with everything else I’ve said, you will soon succumb to the undeniable truth that Endgame is better than Death Magnetic and that, therefore, Megadeth in 2009 are better than Metallica in 2009. You can’t argue with science. And I am a scientist, aren’t I? You can tell by the way I sometimes wear glasses when I watch telly and I occasionally seem a bit awkward in social situations. I’m the heavy metal Johnny Ball. I’m King Diamond in a lab coat. I’ve just written three and a half thousand words of this rubbish. That’s how much I like Megadeth. Good day to you.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


I’m full of hate, me. I might seem quite cheery and amenable in person, but beneath the surface boils a black and hissing swamp of purest vitriol. If love and hate are two sides of the same coin, then someone slipped me one of those joke coins with two identical sides. Only I don’t get to play practical jokes with it, or con people out of their cash. No, I get to mistake it for a chocolate coin and I choke on it every day, relentlessly, until my throat is bleeding and my eyes are sticking out on stalks like a rubbish alien from some crappy sci-fi movie that I really, really despise because 90 per cent of everything that comes out of Hollywood is vapid, insulting and designed to make me REALLY FUCKING ANGRY. Fuck you and ironic ooh-isn’t-Arnie-brilliant post-modern behaviour. No, he isn’t. He’s a shit actor and a shit politician. Apart from the first Terminator film, he’s a massive bag of dick. Die in pain. And don’t pull a funny face and say ‘Get to the choppaaaaaah!’ unless you want me to club you to death. You and Arnocorps and that bloke from As I Lay Dying can all eat a bowl of hot wank and drown in your own screams. And don’t get me started on The Lost Boys. AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!

So, yeah. I’m full of hate. And nothing gets me going more than people who spoil music – and metal in particular, naturally enough – for me. Why you can’t all just shut the fuck up and let me enjoy myself in peace? No, you can’t, can you? You have to bother me with your "opinions" and your illiteracy and your utter lack of humour and intelligence and joy.

But I’m an equal opportunities hater. I don’t want anyone to miss out and I don’t want anyone to be wrongly forced into the wrong subset of my Venn diagram of hatred. So here’s a list of the main culprits; a little guide, if you will, to the people that are going to get smashed with hammers when I eventually get round to taking over the world. Oh yeah. You better be ready to grovel, fuckface.


Yeah, I know. I was a teenager once. I bet I was incredibly fucking annoying too. I had a rubbish haircut and appalling dress sense – no change there, then, you say? Fuck you! – and probably thought I was hilarious, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and far smarter than I actually was. But even in my worst moments, when I was little more than big gob, a baggy t-shirt and an irritatingly obstinate erection, I was never anywhere near as vacuous, tedious and insulting as the bumbling fuckwits that pass for teenagers these days. What’s wrong with these people? They can’t speak properly, they certainly can’t write their own language to any meaningful degree and, worst of all, they don’t have any interest in anything other than themselves. Political views (crass or otherwise)? Forget it. Insightful judgements on music/art/cinema/telly/culture in general? Get to fuck. An unhealthy interest in becoming “famous”, preferably after getting a degree in media studies at some god-awful former polytechnic? Ooh, yes please!! And do you think you could be unbearably smug and vain at the same time? Awesome. Thanks ever so much. And don’t forget to have a stupid-looking mobile phone, ugly trainers and a totally pointless and self-defeating "attitude" that makes you look, sound and smell five years younger than you are. You wouldn’t be anywhere near as awesome without that. You dreadful waste of skin and oxygen.

And yeah, I know this makes me sound like a moaning old cunt. That’s because I am a moaning old cunt. Your parents were right. Young people today know fuck all. Let’s kill them all and start again. Apart from my kids, obviously. Touch them and I’ll stab you.


Who invented the internet? Was it Al Gore? I don’t suppose it matters. They’re going to Hell anyway. Or at least they would if it existed. Sometimes being an atheist can be really depressing. But compared to spending five minutes on an internet forum, a crushing sense of existential despair is like a walk in the park followed by a strenuous wank in a bath full of cash and tits. It’s not just that the internet has enabled every dim-witted arsebag on the planet to have a “voice” – these blogs are brilliant, aren’t they? Really rewarding…and free too! – thus cluttering up cyberspace and MY EYEBALLS with an endless stream of intellectually crippled diarrhoea…it’s also the fact that the vast majority of those people think it’s also absolutely fine to form a huge, global community dedicated solely to winding me up and making me want to commit acts of genocide while jabbing myself in the eye with a biro. If I were to list all the things about internet waffle that annoy me, I’d be here all day and so would you. Except you’d probably be too busy LAUGHING OUT LOUD. Yeah, that’s right, the world is stuffed to the clagnuts with people laughing out loud in front of their monitors. Bellowing their faces off, most of them. It’s deafening. I really wish I could be there to witness it first hand because, at the risk of sounding a little bit cynical, I’m not entirely convinced that anyone is actually laughing at all, out loud or otherwise. I don’t mind people typing ‘lol’ if it’s done with irony. Like voting for the Liberal Democrats or drinking Dr. Pepper, it’s all in good fun and no one goes to prison. But if you’re a grown man or woman and you have EVER typed ‘lol’ or ‘rofl’ or, Christ preserve us, ‘lmao’ in any context other than as a joke or as a parting display of defiance on your own death warrant then you are personally and directly responsible for my blood pressure being “slightly high” and I will now dedicate my life to ensuring that you never get to take a shit at your leisure again. I will install an alarm system in your bathroom if necessary. You’ll be halfway through and BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. HAHAHAHAHA!!!! Shittus interruptus!!! LAUGH OUT FUCKING LOUD!!!

Of course, I could be overreacting.


Another thing about the internet that makes me want to kill you is the way it allows people to pretend that they don’t like or enjoy anything. It’s not “cool” to be passionate or enthusiastic about music anymore. In fact, any kind of outward display of excitement inspired by a new band or a new album or even A-Ha’s ‘Manhattan Skyline’ (which is bitching, by the way) is nearly always greeted by online twits and real life dickheads alike with a look of utter contempt. The reason? Again, the world is full of idiots and idiots, bless their shrivelled souls, consistently confuse passion with naivety and think that the only way to maintain a façade of intellectual fortitude is to sigh witheringly and pretend that nothing, no matter how self-evidently awesome it might (subjectively) be, is anywhere near as good as the stuff that they used to like…you know, “back in the day”. I also hate the phrase “back in the day”. You’re 25. There is no “day”. Throw yourself in front of a train. Thanks.

Cynicism is dull. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of healthy scepticism, particularly when it comes to politics, religion or those pathetic numpties that think that man has never actually been to the moon – Look at the shadows! They’re all wrong!! No, YOU’RE all wrong! HAHAHAHA! – but cynicism…joyless and relentlessly non-creative sneering at everything, just for the sheer brain-flattening hell of it…is dull, dull, dull. Jumping to the moronic conclusion that every band on the planet is desperate to make millions of dollars by deliberately making awful music, primarily to offend your delicate sensibilities, might make for a few chuckles when you and your dismal friends are congratulating each other on how much more awesome you are compared to, you know, “ordinary” folk, but it’s not actually necessary. Or helpful. Or worthwhile. Or anything other than the behaviour of an utter shitcunt. Why not just listen to what you like and let other people do the same? I can’t bear Linkin Park or Nickelback and I have no idea how other people can listen to them without vomiting blood, but one of the great things about NOT being a total turd juggler is that you concentrate on stuff you DO like instead. And don’t bother trying to build a case for [INSERT BAND HERE] not being “real death metal” or “true heavy metal” or “authentic Estonian two-step nipple-grind”. Leave the genre definitions to people who have a vague fucking idea what they’re talking about (i.e. me) and spend a little more time getting your pointy head round the idea that no one cares what you think and that everyone is entitled to listen to and enjoy whatever music they choose. I get paid to express my opinions on music and yet somehow I manage to get through life without berating people for liking Disturbed more than Opeth. Actually, that’s not strictly true. But I only did it once. And if you must base your taste in music on a bunch of aesthetic and theoretical criteria that have absolutely fuck all to do with what the music concerned actually sounds like, then could you please do it quietly and somewhere where other people don’t have to endure the sight of your scrunched-up little face and your twitchy-eyed, I’ve-never-touched-a-woman, alarmingly sweaty general demeanour? Great. Much appreciated.


It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally I meet people who “aren’t really into music that much”. Sorry. I don’t get it. You’re making my brain hurt. Take this pill. You’ll sleep for a long time and the rest of us will stop feeling creeped out. Cheers.


Oh sweet swivelling Christ on a moped. This is where I start to feel clots forming on my brain.

The music industry is full of emaciated wankers in awful clothes who think that they’re way cooler than me. That’s fair enough. They probably are cooler than me in the sense that they’re more likely to be allowed into trendy night clubs and they’re more likely to present T4 and they’re more likely to die lonely and alone in a pile of lacerated septums and parrot shit. But I don’t really aspire to that kind of “cool” anyway. I’m quite a long way past giving a shit, to be honest. I have two kids, a beer gut and all the CDs I can eat. I am not, as common parlance would have it, bothered. But what I really can’t tolerate is people who hover around on the fringes of the metal scene with a look of haughty superiority on their faces. People who think they’re “above” heavy metal. People who used to like it but “grew out of it”. People who only listen to the small handful of metal bands that are broadly considered to be arty. People who like Isis and Sunn 0))) but who sneer at Megadeth and Cannibal Corpse. And so on.

I’ll give you two examples. There’s a guitarist in a well known (and painfully hip) metal band who I’ve interviewed a couple of times over the phone. He doesn’t really like metal and always makes a point of reminding me that he doesn’t particularly like his band being associated with it, even though every single fucking tour they’ve ever done has been with other (much less hip) metal bands and he wouldn’t have a career or a fan base without the metal scene and its followers. He is, to put it mildly, a tit. In truth, his taste in music and mine are eerily similar (up to a point). Although I write about metal for a living, I’m a huge fan of jazz and progressive rock and hip-hop and obscure punk bands and blues and reggae and avant-garde classical music and lots of other mind-bending stuff. The difference is that I don’t expect a fucking medal for being such an erudite fellow and I don’t think that I am more sophisticated or mature than the average Slayer fan. I probably am, to be fair, but I don’t really care. Some of my closest friends have awful taste in music. I can live with that, just as they can live with the fact that they find my political views preposterous. Ultimately, there’s really no need to be an arrogant, hipster prick. So stop it.

Second example…a supposed friend of mine is currently playing in band that have a major label deal. They’re getting a decent amount of media attention and will probably do quite well, despite being 100 per cent contrived and bit wanky. Whatever. This guy recently did an interview during which he claimed, somewhat ludicrously, that he has “forgotten more about metal than Metal Hammer”. Firstly, I’ve know this guy for years. He doesn’t know that much about metal. He’s a part-timer and a bit of a poser. Secondly, by trying to imply that he’s a proper old school metal fan (whatever that means) and bemoaning the lack of proper old school metal bands, he reveals himself to be a bit of a cock. There are literally hundreds of bands around at the moment playing exactly the kind of music that he doesn’t think exists anymore. Furthermore, most of those bands receive coverage in Metal Hammer. That’s ignorance on a hideous scale, particularly given that he’s trying to set himself up as some kind of arbiter of good metal taste. That’s the problem with deciding that you’re too cool to hang around with actual metal fans. I don’t care what kind of music you’re into. If you’re more concerned with being cool than with joining in the fun and being honest and humble, then go fuck yourself and the trend you rode in on. And get some self-awareness while you’re at it.

Ooh, I feel much better now. Don’t forget, kids. It’s never too late to HATE HATE HATE!

Lots of love,

Dom xxx

Friday, 26 June 2009


Michael Jackson died last night. Sad, isn’t it? Sad for his children and sad for his family. Sad for his many millions of fans. Sad, in a weird kind of way, for music. Sad for everyone who bought tickets for his shows at the 02 Arena. I have absolutely no idea why anyone ever thought he would fulfil that obligation, but he was one of the most famous people on the planet and, despite not having made a really good record for over two decades, the power of that fame could have filled stadiums anywhere. So yeah, rest in peace, Michael Jackson. You crazy, moonwalking bastard.

On the other hand, screw Michael Jackson. I know it’s easy to take pot-shots at the dead, and the jokes are all over the internet already. People have no respect, right? Well, yeah, that’s certainly true, but then I had no respect for Michael Jackson yesterday so why would that suddenly change today? The fact is, that man was (and is) idolised by millions around the world, but that idolatry is based primarily on the Michael Jackson of Thriller, Off The Wall and I Want You Back…the guy that sang Ben and made little girls’ hearts melt, and the guy that changed what it meant to be a pop star, spectacularly and irrevocably. But he ain’t my fucking hero. He isn’t my king of pop. Not by a long fucking chalk.

None of my heroes squandered millions and millions of dollars on the maintenance of a childish fantasy lifestyle. None of my heroes squandered their talent, wilfully and with thinly-veiled contempt for an audience of millions that waited patiently for new music year after year. None of my heroes were ever widely suspected to be guilty of child abuse or, if we’re going to be generous, having a highly dubious and inadvisable attitude towards relationships with children. If Michael Jackson was a normal guy with a normal bank balance, he would’ve been in prison yesterday. If you or anyone you know has ever been affected by child abuse or its impact on real people’s real lives, you’ll know why I and a lot of other people feel a little bit sick when we hear people talking about how brilliant Michael Jackson was and how he brought “magic” to the world. Maybe all of those accusations were unfounded. I don’t know. But I think you have to be extremely naïve to think that Michael Jackson was entirely innocent of all the charges that have been thrown at him over the years. And even if you ignore all of that and give him the benefit of a huge doubt, his contribution to the world of music since, say, 1990 has been negligible. He’s been a freakshow and little more. He was clearly suffering from major mental health issues for years, and yet because he was obscenely wealthy, no one ever had the balls to take him aside and compel him to get proper help. Everyone panders to the rich. That’s why the rich always have the option to exist outside of conventional morality, of conventional sanity. So no, he wasn’t my fucking hero.

I didn’t snigger or sneer when I heard that Michael Jackson was dead. I felt nothing, much as I felt nothing when I heard about Princess Diana’s untimely demise. These people, for all their desperate attempts to relate to ordinary folk and to convince us that they cared and loved the millions that fawned at their feet, lived unreal lives in total separation from the harsh, dispiriting reality of most people’s slow stumble towards the grave. That’s no reason to hate them, but I can never idolise someone whose humility was artificial and displayed for effect. I won’t deny it…I love Billie Jean and Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough and pretty much any of those dazzling, vibrant Jackson 5 records. He made some great music, made a lot of people happy and made a lasting contribution to my generation’s cultural memory banks. But I’m not joining in with this global outbreak of vicarious grief. I’m not going to take part in this retrospective rewriting of history. I’m not going to pretend that Michael Jackson “rocked” or that he had any particular relevance to my life. The Michael Jackson that I admired as a child died a long time ago. No gods, no masters, no kings of pop. Count me out, thanks.

Thursday, 25 June 2009


Here it is, then. My first blog. Actually, it’s not my first blog. I started doing this a couple of years ago and lost interest so quickly that I took my own breath away. Partly, I suspect, I simply didn’t have the time or the inclination to clutter the internet up with yet more self-absorbed ramblings…and Christ knows, that appears to be the whole point of blogs in the first place. Frankly, neither I nor 99.9% of the people that write these things are in any way interesting or witty enough to make the whole tawdry debacle remotely worthwhile. And yet here I am again, drawn back into a world where I arrogantly try to present my idle, mundane thoughts as some kind of compelling reportage on my life and the state of the world blah blah blah blah blah…and so on, ad infinitum, until we’re all staring slack-jawed and blank-eyed at our monitors, brains dribbling like opaque treacle out of our under-used ears, brains saturated with inane drivel and an overwhelming sense of futility. Kill yourself now. You might as well.

Let’s try that again.

Here it is, then. My first blog…in a while. To be truthful, when I sit and contemplate the value (or otherwise) of my opinions, whether they be on music (which I know quite a lot about) or politics (slightly less so) or anything else (virtually fuck all, but possibly more than you) , I’m always drawn to a mental image of some of the utterly vapid and pointless people that work in the media in this country. Not that I’m totally dismissive of the industry that pays my wages, obviously. Some of the finest individuals I know work at music magazines, but their qualities as people seem to have arisen in spite of their chosen profession rather than as any direct result of some supposed creative skill or zeitgeist-fondling acumen. Hearing the news this week that Conor McNicholas is following Kerrang!’s Paul Brannigan to those well-trodden “pastures new”, leaving the NME crumpled, violated and demeaned in a ditch somewhere in Hoxton, I was prompted first to emit a little cheer…not for any real reason…it’s not like I know much about Conor McNicholas other than that his ears stick out, he hasn’t got the faintest clue about rock music and he’s appeared on a few of those composite list programmes on the telly, spouting idiotic nonsense…and then I shed a metaphorical tear for the state of the magazine he leaves behind. With a heavy heart, I have to say I feel the same way about Kerrang! too. I used to read both religiously when I was a teenager (and Sounds, which died a natural death before it went downhill…probably a good thing, with hindsight) and, of course, I wrote for Kerrang! for seven years and have the mag to thank for my “career” (cue derisive laughter) as a music journalist. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take any great joy from seeing two once-great magazines being systematically destroyed by preening, careerist pricks (and I don’t mean Mr. Brannigan; a fine and decent man who probably should’ve bailed out a couple of years ago), but that’s patently the situation as it stands. As far as the NME goes, they’ve been flailing around cluelessly for years, bereft of any kind of coherent identity and rather more in love with themselves than their readers (I always imagine the NME office to be like a scene from Nathan Barley…a TV show that the magazine’s editorial team doubtless loved but completely failed to acknowledge was, in essence, about them as much as anyone), continually hedging their bets, taking mindless pot-shots at Morrissey and throwing their weight behind a succession of landfill indie twaddle and the kind of pretentious post-Doherty shite that resonates for ten minutes and then heads back to the dole queue, pockets full of smack. Kerrang! is an entirely different story. I spent years cheerfully defending that magazine, explaining to distraught metal fans that (a) there were still people fighting for metal at Kerrang!, and that (b) the proliferation of lightweight rock and indie/pop bands appearing in the mag were simply a necessary evil imposed on the editorial staff by the powers-that-be, who were drunk with power after a few freakishly successful years spent “rebranding” (try to type that without retching) and expanding into TV, radio and so on. When I left Kerrang! it wasn’t because of some haughty principle. I thought it was in decent shape at the time, albeit still not quite as enthusiastically metallic as it deserved to be. I left because I could see a great team of genuinely decent and honest people being assembled at Metal Hammer and, once a few other personal factors were thrown into the mix, I couldn’t see any reason not to join them. At the very least, and this has been borne out over time, I would get to write about music that I love and care about, rather than fighting for scraps and arguing with the aforementioned preening, careerist pricks just to be able to scrape a living and feed my family. I love it at Metal Hammer. It’s fucking awesome. The people are awesome, the magazine is awesome…even the readers are awesome, despite a worrying penchant for dressing up as pirates. They’ll grow out of it.

Ultimately, I doubt that more than a handful of people give a shit which magazines I write for, my reasons for leaving one and joining another, or what I think about the current state of two magazines that, in fairness, still sell pretty well considering the current climate. But anyone who knows me relatively well will know that the one thing I don’t lack when it comes to music is passion. I genuinely care about music, perhaps more than is strictly healthy, and as worthy and pious as it sounds, music remains sacred to me, even to the extent that I’m prepared to sabotage my own career to avoid joining the ranks of the soulless and the self-obsessed. That’s one of the reasons I don’t live in London. That’s why it makes me wince every time I pick up a copy of the NME or Kerrang! and see yet more vacuous, corporate shite being shoulder-barged into their pages in the breathless pursuit of more 14-year-old female readers. That’s why really I hate being in artificial social situations with music industry folk who don’t really care if I live or die, as long as I don’t shatter the façade of “ooh, this is all really brilliant and important!”…you know, that whole Radio 1 thing, wherein everything is “brilliant” all the time, even though it plainly isn’t to anyone with ears and a brain, and really we’re all just media whores, greedily sucking each other off in a wild and spiralling dance of death and self-loathing, as magazine sales plummet, kids’ attention spans recede and intelligence gets sneered at because it doesn’t really make anyone any money. Christ, I hate the fucking music industry.

And yet, I love it too, because it gives me the opportunity to write about some amazing music and share my passion and enthusiasm with kids who want to buy into the whole heavy metal thing that means so much to me and many of my friends. That’s the problem facing the NME and Kerrang!: do they employ new editors that actually give a toss about music and the joy of shared experience that it brings, risking lowered commercial expectations but retaining some shred of soul and intellect, or do they employ odious, jumped-up, coke-snorting careerists who think that music is simply a lifestyle choice and nothing more and who care more about the size of their salary, a quick but shallow boost to their withered self-esteem and another forward lunge into the black heart of the self-congratulatory, spunk-flecked abyss of the meeja biz? I’d like to pretend that I don’t care. But I do. Good jobs for good people with good intentions, that’s what I say. Fuck the cynics and the careerists and the pointless, flatulent wankers that think that Katy Perry and Fall Out Boy and Scouting For fucking Girls are “important” and "cutting edge", and that Slipknot and Machine Head are silly and dumb and inconsequential. Fuck them all in the eye. Hard. And then go and buy Metal Hammer. It may not be perfect, but at least we try. At least we give a shit.

Here it is, then. My first blog…maybe I should drink less coffee. Whatever. Cheers.