“Revolver” Takes Aim At Metal’s Devoted Fans

anono | March 4, 2008 10:00 am

And now it’s time for another installment of Rock-Critically Correct, in which the most recent issues of Rolling Stone, Blender, Vibe, and Spin are given a once-over by an anonymous writer who’s contributed to several of those titles–or maybe even all of them! After the click-through, our correspondent examines the April 2008 Revolver:

The magazine under consideration this week was conceived with a much different editorial mandate than the one its evinced for the lion’s share of its history.

In late 1999, the folks behind Guitar World announced that they would be unveiling a sister publication, one that would not be predicated upon whichever varieties of guitar music were popular at a particular time. Your Boy will now forego lengthy description of the company’s mandate and will merely note that the aborning publication, Revolver, was clearly intended as a American take on the English magazines Mojo and Q, with perhaps a soupcon redolent of the now-defunct Musician Magazine.

The first issue, dated Spring 2000, proceeded under an adage that is now blessedly invalid: “a rock publication bearing the image of Jim Morrison cannot miss on the newsstand.” Therein, readers found a roundup of notorious arrests of popular music figures, an interview with the yet-to-be-reunited Police, a piece regarding J-Pop, a “crash course” in electronica, and a higher quotient of establishment rock writers contributing copy than was common in Guitar World then as now. Being that the mag’s shepherds, Tom Beaujour and Brad Tolinski, had been editing GW for some time and thus seemed to be tentatively exploring how to address non-rawk artists, the first Revolver was not terribly confident. But its heart was the right place.

It wasn’t to be. Blender, which had the advantage of being run by an Englishman who had run Q and who filled it with the scribblings of many British freelancers schooled in the Q/Mojo voice, hit the stands the next year and enacted everything Revolver wanted to with much more verve. What’s more, Revolver‘s then-publisher, Harris Publications, has never been known for its to patience to let its properties find their way on the newsstand.

So in 2002, Revolver switched its emphasis to metal: it was hence “the world’s loudest rock magazine.” YB can’t say for sure, but he bets that Harris’ ad reps had plenty of existing relationships with advertisers pertinent to such an enterprise. In any case, in 2006 Harris sold the mag to Future Networks, to which they had previously sold Guitar World and its satellite publications.

If anything, the prevailing iteration of Revolver has succeeded RIP instead of Mojo. Published in the late ’80s and early ’90s by Larry Flynt Publications, RIP carved out a niche as the thinking hesher’s alternative to the grocery- and drugstore-proffered Hit Parader and Circus. RIP editor Lonn Friend seemed a bit too chummy with the likes of GN’R, and his mag was dealt a crushing blow by the Seattle deluge of ’91. But it was a lively magazine in YB’s memory.

And so we come to Revolver as it has stood since 2002. YB has been told by someone who should know that many edit staffers and freelance writers therein do not swear undying allegiance to the varieties of extreme metal, hardcore and screamo covered therein. But Revolver‘s brain trust has apparently made the canny decision that, unlike ever-mistrustful-of-mainstream-media indie-rock sissy boys and gatekeeper-guarded chart-bound artists, metal musicians these days tend to be unpretentious, easy-to-deal-with-dudes with whom one can have a couple of beers and who can be counted on to be cooperative. These are also dudes who in some cases have lots of monomaniacally devoted fans around the world who, assuming they still have an affection for print media, are underserved and would appreciate a lively magazine aimed towards them. For instance, Revolver covered the 2004 onstage slaying of Dimebag Darrell with the intensity that Sports Illustrated afforded the Michael Vick saga.

That said, the April 2008 Revolver doesn’t present much evidence of said dudes as hugely interesting to outsiders. Like most musicians, these guys are going to be partial to talking almost exclusively about the music they have made recently and tours on which they are about to embark: personal anecdotes emerge only in service of this aim. YB doesn’t begrudge discussing the artistic process, and he realizes that many fans would be more interested in the resulting topics than he.

But Revolver manages to have fun: a ticker-style Index running along the bottom of this issue’s Front of Book notes the snaggly, almost feral teeth of former Sleep/current High on Fire mainman Matt Pike, and calculates the probability of executive editor Brandon Geist having inadvertently eaten “dog” during a four-month trip through Asia at 35%. This last bit somewhat undercuts Geist’s heartfelt editor’s letter, in which he speaks of the unity he felt when encountering metal scenes in Beijing and Malaysia: surely some of the metal fans in those localities wouldn’t enjoy that particular cliché (then again, maybe some would say that eating dog is, in fact, very metal).

Easily the most notable recurring features in Revolver for the past several years are its two celebrity advice columns, in which onetime Pantera and current Hellyeah drummer Vinnie Paul (brother of Dimebag Darrell) and Lacuna Coil frontwoman Cristina Scabbia counsel troubled metalheads. In this issue, Rhode Island’s Andrew F. asks Paul what he should do now that time spent with his band Ghost Town Rituals is messing with school work. Paul’s advice, which YB wonders if he heeded some 20 years ago: “You just need to put in a little bit more time hittin’ the books and get those grades up!!”

As for Scabbia’s part, Hawaii’s 15 year-old Katie writes in to ask whether she should act on her bi-curiosity. Scabbia sensibly suggests that the girl relax, but an accompanying illustration depicts a young woman imagining, in thought bubble style, female lips, tits and ass,. Clearly, the suggestion of hawt chick-on-chick action is at a premium in the still very macho world of metal: YB doubts very much that Revolver would publish a letter from a young guy asking Paul about whether he should pursue his own bi-curiosity, since both Paul and the readership would likely respond along the lines of “stay away from me, faggot!”

The issue’s cover story, “Big Business,” effectively promotes this year’s Gigantour, headlined by Megadeth. Dave “Must-stain-his-underwear” sits for a round-robin interview with the aforementioned Pike, Children of Bodom’s Alexi Laiho, In Flames’ Peter Iwes and Job for a Cowboy’s Jonny Davy. Writer Mikael Wood presides over a discussion that finds Mustaine bemoaning the state of current music and touring, to which his tourmates amiably concur. Not much to see here.

Wood also scribes “Better Off Dead,” a fairly compelling profile of the much-respected art-metal band Dillinger Escape Plan. The piece is concerned with the trials facing sole founding member Ben Weinman: the band’s records have never sold terribly well and its longtime drummer has defected to Coheed and Cambria. It also underscores the reality confronting not only metal dudes but of most musicians period: Reinman lives with his parents when not on tour. What’s more, in “Rebel Meets Rebel,” in which All That Remains frontman Phil LaBonte interviews Sammy Hagar, the former not only expresses his counter-intuitive belief that Van Hagar trumps Van Halen, but reveals to the latter’s disbelief that he lives in his mother’s basement: “there’s not a lot of money in screaming at people,” he says. It ain’t a late-breaking news story that your average musician isn’t as financially secure as your average hedge fund manager, but you gotta hand it to people willing to submit to certain indignities for the chance to rock.

It may be that Revolver occupies the squishy middle between DecibelThe Wire of extreme metal–and Metal Edge (although YB has been notified that ME has lately undergone an overhaul of some sort). But the mag does its job well enough.

Now, two quick notes:

• The abovementioned Wiederhorn is Revolver‘s workhorse, earnestly and diligently if not with great deal of spark expending much metallic verbiage (“blazing solos,” “groove(s) hard enough to turn cinderblocks to dust”) for 18 pages–interrupted only by ads–in a profile of Sweden’s “extreme” standard bearers Meshuggah, the interview mentioned above, and a review of Death Angel’s comeback album Killing Season.

• In a back-of book review of a pre-Christmas Ozzy Osbourne/Rob Zombie show at Madison Square Garden, contributing writer Kory Grow uses the Yiddish term “yenta” to describe some of the individuals waiting in line to see Cirque de Soleil in the adjoining theater. YB salutes the copyeditor who allowed said term to reach the eyes of a readership almost certain to be unacquainted with it.

Revolver [Official site]