There's no question in my mind at least, that Metal Hammer was for a period the world's most popular and it's most mainstream music magazine for Rock and Heavy Metal. They were so big in fact, that some of these issues would contain full-size posters and even full albums or rare compilation discs. The price per issue was quite a bit, and they always sold for more than any other magazine relating to this genre on the market. (Around the time of Metal Maniacs however, the prices were probably a bit similar.) Metal Hammer trudged on for a number of years after the demise on Maniacs/Edge and was the “magazine” to own if you were a metalhead in the states. Though instead of simply mourning them, let's talk about what they did wrong. Notice this is here on the Tower blog and not a major website, because often I can't really say what I want to in the mainstream media.
First of all, we have to take into effect the topics. Metal Hammer, like many other metal magazines, did not have a very strong social media presence. It started to seem as if they just hired a slew of what basically amounts to “clickbait writers” while at the same time partnering with a horrible subscription service, so that people would have to literally pay money in order to read these articles. Yes, there was no way around it – if you didn't subscribe, then you absolutely were not going to be able to read the article you clicked on. Sounds kind of silly, since there is no going price on articles these days and most; if not nearly all of them can be read for free. I never charged people to read my articles and the magazine I write for never charged people to view them online. In this day and age, it's just a bit comical. They were probably losing money from the clicks that they could have gained per article view (and yes, there were a couple I was interested in reading – during the trial I found some really strong material) and it's a bit sad that they've stooped to that level in order to preserve their exclusivity.
Because the magazine hired writers that didn't really seem to know much about metal, only very popular and common bands were mostly profiled and featured. It really did become downright offensive to readers with how many articles we received about Slipknot, Slayer, Corey Taylor and Kerry King. Not to mention the Phil Anselmo drama from a few years back. There were of course times when the magazine would feature some lesser known acts in the form of “Subterranean” but that was once in a blue moon, and most of those acts would be the kind that aren't unfamilair to even the most casual of metal listeners. Again, I was a bit insulted. If you read the comments on their posts, you could see that the fans were growing tired of it as well. This magazine (and several others) used clickbait articles to milk popular artists or new release bands to the point of insanity. Last year was BabyMetal. This year was Metallica. Both have been covered here with my thoughts given, and though The Grim Lord's weeaboo sensibility seemed to gravitate more towards BabyMetal (but I've heard some far better Japanese albums this year, and yes – even in the same category) than Metallica, it is true that neither of these albums were great enough to deem THAT MUCH coverage. In all of the Metallica, Slipknot, Disturbed and other mainstays that they cover; Metal Hammer wound up detracting so many other bands in this industry. More than half the scene, if not ninety-five percent of it. This music is absolutely not created by a handful of bands. It is created by hundreds of thousands of millions of acts scattered across the globe. It is high time that these large corporate media outlets discover that.
So if we count the fact that Metal Hammer tanked miserably with readers on social media, it could also factor into why people just didn't want to buy the magazine as well. The great Metal Hammer UK began to show that it really didn't have an idea as to what kind of music it was covering and people were starting to notice. Rome was on the verge of crumbling. On the other hand, the magazine that I write for is quite varied and we give readers a large amount of different artists from around the entire scope of heavy metal, rock, punk, indie music and more, which not only helps in promoting these bands, but it allows people to discover new music, which is why I enjoy this work in the first place. This is what any media outlet SHOULD be doing.
At any rate, this kind of confusion and downright pandering to what it thought was an audience is why it lost it's readership. Wouldn't you guys hate it if I just reviewed popular stuff all the time? What if I only covered albums that have received about thirty thousand more similar opinions just behind them, neglecting other bands out there who may have only been heard by a hundred or so people at the most? Especially if they're good acts? Well, this is what I feel Metal Hammer did. They weren't really covering metal anymore, and their moniker even became a little misleading. It was almost as bad as Revolver in that sense, even considering Revolver a little better in some ways. Now we all know that Metal Hammer has always been about the popular acts, they were a mainstream metal and rock magazine after all. But this is just a bit pathetic. Net-traffic makes up a huge amount of revenue these days, and Hammer just wasn't fucking cutting it. It's not even the writer's faults. Most of these guys probably don't even listen to metal all that much and consider the work just another day job. There's no real sense of passion behind it and I'm not even really sure if the pay was worth it at all. I know that clickbait is the way to go in journalism these days, but it's just obscene to me. I guess if I learned to not give so much of a damn, I'd bite the bullet and write pieces like that. But I just can't. Judging from what happened to Metal Hammer, people are also getting a little tired of it. Being inundated with ads and subscription recommends before one can even view the article that they clicked on is downright repulsive. It stinks. Some of these ads might even encapsulate malware and I've gotten a few notices on my mobile about “fake malware” and the like. I don't want or need that. Not just to view an article. Don't we understand how stupid this all is?
Well, just in case we haven't, a media giant just gasped it's last breath and left behind a very bold question in it's wake. How do we fix the problem of broken heavy metal journalism? How do we go back to real articles and real interviews with bands that we're actually listening to right now? I mean, I'm not listening to Metallica right now. I did when the record came out, but I don't want to hear about them months after. I'd like to hear about some of the bands I listened to today, like Disconnect, Diablerie, Deathspell Omega and Distant Sun (you can tell I listen to records in alphabetical order, hehe). Hail Spirit Noir came out with a record this year as well, but they didn't get any real coverage for it. A band mixes black metal and seventies progressive rock in a way that I've never heard before, and these rags just don't give a damn. Same with our top pic for the year, Aenaon. Terrific record, one of my favorite albums. Diablerie was quite incredible as well. But no one's hearing these bands in mainstream media aside from sources like No Clean Singing (where they actually aren't making money and should be) Lambgoat, Invisible Oranges, Transcending Obscurity, Metal Trenches and others. These sources seem to be the media in regards to metal and some types of rock music as well as industrial and other genres, but there's no real money in it. Ironically the guys who write about Slipknot and such are the guys actually getting a wage for this. As in, it's a paid job. Articles that people care about aren't getting any monetary compensation, but articles that people get sick and tired of hearing about are literally generating some kind of income. Are we in the Twilight Zone yet? You know, I knew that there wasn't a lot of money in this business to begin with, but to find out what people are actually making a dime for is quite unpleasant. It's repugnant, even.
Obviously, The Grim Lord is taking a step back from this work in the effect that I'm not going to kill myself over it and would like to focus on my books, and enjoying the rest of my life. There's no question that devoting myself to this kind of work was taking a toll on my life as a whole, so I'm not going to completely throw myself into this as I have done the past few years. Even so, at least I'm not going to follow in Metal Hammer's example. In that sense, I'll continue to give you reviews of bands that I find interesting, regardless of how “metal” or “klvt” they are. I hope you'll join me for this ride, as I do plan to cover some other aspects like games and movies as well. Just depends on if I'm feeling up to it, the amount of albums I receive and the mechanics of life in general. 2016 has been a rough year, and to be honest I would have never expected Metal Hammer to bite the bullet. Really, that was the furthest thing from my mind. But this year has been quite a bitch, indeed. Here's to a better and brighter 2017.
- The Grim Lord