Zines: Death/Black Metal and Underground

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      n e t z i n e s

Chronicles of Chaos
Once a comprehensive metal zine, this publication has now become web-based and started indiscriminately accepting label mailouts as the whole of its investigative strategy, making it a pale version of Metal Maniacs, free online.

Infested Graveyard
Rancorous humour attacks the weak in the genre while fanatical metal appreciation reveals the excellent as resplendent in this scene-penetrating zine.

The Lodge
Webzine which consists of in-depth interviews with new but lesser-known bands, and exacting analysis of old favorites.

Zine with a nose for the top form of metal that digs straight in and raps out the commentary. Nice "no crap" reviews policy that mirrors our own.

Océan Morphique
Grim French-speaking zine that covers the larger names in the underground that may have been forgotten but not lost in the generational turnover.

Laconic but enthusiastic Greek metal fanzine based on the world wide web for maximum exposure.

      p r i n t   z i n e s

Air in the Paragraph Line
Like a college writing journal gone Kerouacian collage, this zine covers everything from politics to figures in the underground to postmodern literature with a flair for the esoteric and demented. More complex than most zines in language and topic, this rag is actually read and not browsed.

Scruffy journalistic rag covers the "industry" and does it without regard for quality, but manages to nail just about every band that gets any media mention at all. Most of the reviews are either salesjobs or a fun chance to put down an up-and-coming band, but the strength of this zine are the standard but useful interviews.

Black Heart
Developed within the framework of old school layouts duplicated on the backroom copy machine at work, this zine incorporates a large amount of basic but inventive computer layout techniques to break up the abundance of text it has. Interviews are lengthy and often ask more about the beliefs and motivations of a band than about the tedium of being on tour and fighting with labels, and reviews attempt to both describe music and its impact; there are also articles on the degeneration of society and several opinion pieces on the state of black metal and politics. The main weakness here is the lack of experience of the writers, which translates into an enthusiasm not warranted by some of the music reviewed here. Stunning black and white cover art and excellent judgement in text arrangement.

Trying to cover everything in the underground and making it halfway, this zine has some of the clearer reviews to be found in the underground but often gets hung up on external aspects of the music. Interviews get relatively in depth but fail to follow up on the potential of their questions, leading to a discontiguous experience. Still, more ambitious than nearly all and despite its pixelated, grainy layout a rewarding read.

This gore-obsessed booklet is a photocopied, stapled, sparse layout with interviews of a few bands, some conversational but metal-literate reviews, and "photo" features of old woodcuts and modern snapshots of famous methods of murder and the killers who implemented them. While interviews ask variants on standard questions, they are positive in their focus on the present time and not past acts, and reviews despite telling little of the music ably classify it in its position on the metal spectrum and within the community, and leave much of the inference to an alert reader. A great read with focus on details and minimal intrusion from the world of commerce.

The Crusader
Fanatical warriors of metal forge this magazine from pure wood pulp with the blood of their enemies as ink. It is rare for a zine to recognize the real culture of metal alongside the music and the excesses, and these guys do it with flair and passion. Highly recommended!

This zine gains points for having a TI99/4A on its inside leaf. It is a conversation with a career metalhead, never getting too much in depth but covering the basics in a friendly way that at its worst becomes only skin-deep, but at its best focuses on the personalities behind these works. Ambivalent record reviews aim to showcase the underknown in the underground and manage to bring up the names, but rarely state a case for each band.

Death by Metal
By cutting its aims back from style toward the basics of covering the scene, this zine creates a basic portrayal of the bands liked by its editorial staff and manages through standard but conversational interviews to describe a range of bands. Most impressive are the reviews which give a basic metalhead view of many releases, often describing the band with one sentence of a five-sentence paragraph and talking about its impact in the rest. Too many weak bands and tolerance for commercial/christian bands make it a page-skipper, but where it lands it hits square.

The Edge
Another one of these L.A. Weekly-styled city-specific guides, the Edge hits hard radio, heavy metal and just touches the fringes of extreme bands in the larger Texas cities. Mostly content recycled from other interviews, this magazine serves as a forum for advertising of metal-related events in these areas.

Explicitly Intense
Although the name doesn't fit with a zine that censors out c***se words, this zine features a beautiful layout and a selective approach to mainstream and underground metal. Interviews are done in an enlightened version of the standard style, and while non-descriptive, reviews give a general sensation of the style of each release. Too much focus on melodic and conventional bands keeps this zine from really exploring the underground, but its straightahead journalism makes it a useful resource for a survey of heavy bands.

From Beyond
A highly professional layout enwraps a simple zine of interviews exploring the experiences of touring musicians and reviews which immediately take an opinion and argue it aggressively throughout a basic description of each band's concept and sound. Unlike most zines of this type, this one is printed on glossy paper, has some professional standards and, while it picks some things which are designed to please its label masters, also goes for both the more popular acts in the underground and some up and coming unproven new arrivals.

Gallery of the Grotesque
As text, this zine is one of the leading voices in the American underground because of its blandly nonplussed coverage of all things metal, with the same averted-face objectivity that British music magazines of the early 1960s employed before rock'n'roll simply gave them heart attacks. The music in here will hurt a staid journalist more profoundly than that; the violent and blasphemic bands which hover right above the demo stage and refuse to entertain thoughts of commerce are the most common fare here. In addition to musicians, zines, distros and outspoken voices in the metal community and beyond are interviewed in depth and their statements constitute essentially the whole zine; a handful of opinion pieces and creative writing works are interspersed in this mixture with artwork that is sometimes stunning and sometimes the conceptually beautiful and raggedly immature artwork of editor Wilhelm. While the result is disturbing from an aesthetic perspective and often appears cartoonish, the resulting mindset is - to its absolute credit - a departure from any aesthetic domination of mental process.

The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds
Although it seems like an adolescent lust fantasy, the Grimoire hides a heady intellectual pursuit of freedom in its sex-drenched, homosexuality-slagging pages while it pimps head man Bill Zebub through nonserious but often insightful interviews and tossed-off, abruptly decisive reviews. Includes a slut photo session per issue and numerous degraded females on parade throughout, but there's content in there also.

Hell Frost
Heavy focus on the eccentric contributors to the underground as well as broad scene coverage, by some very professional and dedicated metalheads. Intelligent interviews and a massive flotilla of album reviews, by genre. DJ Goat (of KCUF radio) swears he reads this during his pre-show pot smoking break.

Hellish Massacre
This zine is abundant in spirit and often slack on the follow through, but for a xeroxed book-format zine is one of the most visually stunning zines extant, even if in a low-tech, pen-and-ink style of ghoulish graphics. Short interviews giving updates on the process of a band and grainy photographs - usually action shots - of the members give context, while reviews which treat each release with a cursory analysis of the music and a lengthy discussion of its importance and appearance are often vague but sometimes markedly insightful. Opinions are from the throats of exuberant taste merchants and would fall into the category of scenesterism if it were not for their acumen at sizing up black metal bands.

Highwire Daze
Covering a range of bands from underground pop to the most savage of metal, this zine uses a simple format of short interviews and very polished reviews. The interrogation style of working with bands used here produces some excellent results, but rarely more than one peak of interest, so it is wise these interviews are short. Reviews, while verbally describing each band to some degree through comparisons, often fail to state anything useful other than that description and basic approval. Overall however this zine acquits itself much better than most.

Sleek layout and good use of both color and black and white makes this zine immediately identifiable as one of the broad-distribution metal zines that hopes to analyze both mainstream and underground bands; as our reviewers don't speak Finnish, we have no idea what the writing is like, but coverage ranges from Dio to Horna without blinking an eye. Similar to larger international metal zines in choice of material and appearance, this is one of the more tasteful versions of an attempt toward this type of zine.

Intellektual Spew
Variety of coverage nicely touching on grindcore all the way through new-wave black metal and old-school death rottenness. Esoteric review topics touch tangentially on metal at first but reveal their centricism (and the intensely personal Hessian-ness of the editors) with a revelation of the commonality between metal and epic spirits through history.

I Spit on Your Grave
Expert listing of classic and undiscovered bands in interviews that favor historical importance and personality profiles of the band members, in addition to in-depth feature articles on topics of metal culture, flesh out this magazine where the talkative but dimensionless reviews cannot. High editorial standards, excellent graphics and a great sense of humor.

Kremlin Kore
A skater's eye view into the underground, covering everything from extreme punk to the punishing death metal bands which match this zine's name with their doctrinary adherence. Many interesting features include lifestyle focus, interviews, comic strips and a handful of reviews. Not as in-depth as many but very intensely driven toward essential motivations where applied.

Leather n' Spikes
Dedicated to the extravagance and uncannily bizarre methods through which the underground arrives at its conclusions, this zine leaps into the midst of the violence, chaos, depravity and uniqueness of the underground, celebrating the extremes and independence of underground metal with a focus on black metal. Hand-assembled collages of computer-printed text and custom illustrations overlaid with pictures form the backdrop for intensive, well-researched interviews and features detailing some aspect of the past of metal in each issue. Record reviews classify and explain context, and all mentions are careful to include contact addresses. With its obsession with the deviant and beyond social bounds, this zine is a homage to the ways of old and an invocation of the new.

Medium: Seance of Death
Laid out with what looks like an Apple //e and nice printer, this zine is two columns of text and minimal illustrations in a 10-page A4 size pamphlet. The interviews are basic and make up most of the content here, with the rest being political and social facts and commentary. Part metal zine, part activist rag, this makes for a brief informative sliver of the world on newsprint.

Metal Core Zine
Pointedly selective and in-depth examination of the underground from a long-time scene observer who feels out the more distinctive and intellectual acts in the underground for lengthy and details interviews, abrupt but direct reviews, and various features which give a taste of Hessian life to the reader.

Metal Curse
One of the more articulate zines out there, this glossy features many short reviews that often describe a band, but more often assess it offhandedly, allowing the reader to take in quite a bit of information. In-depth interviews pursue sensible questions and grind answers out of each band, resulting in some amazing sessions and a few that are question-answer police reports. Despite some cheesy pornography references, the standards of this zine are quite high and with its quality layout make it a worthy read.

Metal Mafia
Good coverage of some of the favorites of the American halfway-to-mainstream scene, and most literate reviews that describe the instrumentation used on each release fill out this zine sparsely decorated in the underground fast layout style; horrible goofy cover and too much scene favoritism on a social level. However, a moderate read with some insights; too bad it's defunct.

Metal Nightmare
This zine is going to web-only releases from now, mainly because the layout is nothing but text - and in that, there's a certain wisdom in keeping this product unacceptable to the short attention-span types. Interviews vary around a basic style, and reviews are one-liners with some yakkity-yak to give the paragraph shape, and the reviewers seem to appreciate anything that stands up to one listen, without regard for its repetition value.

In layout and appearance, this zine is amazing; like the big glossy mags, it has shining pages with a good balance of images, backgrounds and varied text and form of layout. The articles are intended well also, and are written with a professional demeanor, covering both intuitive and learned factors of the underground, albeit in a bit of a talky fashion that sometimes sacrifices clarity of text and flow for a dialogue with the reader. Choice of bands alternates between covering known stalwarts of the underground, some adventurous choices from off the beaten path, and then some of the more mainsream melodic and gothic metal attempts from the underground that aren't deserving of these writers' time. Reviews are too praise heavy and almost uniform, but occasionally will spot a rare aspect of quality in something overlooked.

Promethean Crusade
Although this zine seems indiscriminate about who or what they review, and reflect a good deal of label interests in their mix of mainstream and credible underground bands. Their choices in reviews go only to the surface of the underground, meaning that most of these are covered elsewhere, but there is a reasonable attempt at describing the music despite the influence of "personality writing" which fills pages. Interviews are standard and somewhat detached, but some articles shine for their focus on music.

Designed to take advantage of the dynamic difference in visual impact between black and white, this well-written zine is in the form of some synthesis of a diary, a tour report and a web log, being a constant stream of text divided into semi-chapters in which bands are discussed, with the forms of discussion being analysis, live reports, music reviews or news breakdowns. As a result this is both strikingly interesting and compact enough to be read cover-to-cover. Black and white photography of natural scenes emphasizes one of the fundamental motifs of this magazine. One of the few that A.N.U.S. staff sought in a second issue.

Read Between the Lies
This zine is both an excellent source of quality information, and a nearly unending source of label whoredom. The phrase "fellating Relapse records" comes to mind when one reads the reviews placed prominently next to advertising for labels of the middleground of the metal community, somewhere between hipster obscurity and mainstream acceptance. Bands interviewed tend to be the more recognized names with a leaning toward the metal hybrids and postmodern regurgitations of other styles within a metal framework. While the writing is basically competent, and the interviewers are proficient at their task, the sold-out and trivial nature of much of this content makes the zine halfway useless.

This magazine maintains impressive standards of content, layout and professionalism, but you have to like reading about a lot of oi, hardcore and metalcore with a smattering of articles on metal in the death/black styles, and not mind that this is essentially the official voice of the National Alliance. This one came to me for an article, "Is Black Metal a White Noise?" which explores the opinions of Nordic black metal musicians and some of the connections between their music, spirituality and politics. Not for everyone.

Sea of Tranquility
Sparse and enlightened layout of white pages with architectures of text makes this a joy for the eyes, but what is found inside often fails to live up to this promise. Lengthy reviews that describe sound and impression of a wide range of bands, despite being a clear and engaging read, often fail to explore the musical dimension (or lack thereof) of featured acts. Also, there is hilariously discordant coverage of mainstream hair/shredder bands which seems to undermine much of the motto "Music for the New Intellectual." Still, a worthy read and one of the few metal zines to have professional and also tasteful layout.

Short Wave Warfare
Slicker than most, this zine throws its effort into the "reading" part of enjoying an underground rag with lengthy interviews and live show reviews, as well as an innovative forum or two. The interviewers stay on their feet intelligently throughout their time talking to each band, and invent useful questions to bring out the unique feel of each. Reviews are less inspiring, a one-pass viewpoint that seems destined to select only the more ear-friendly stuff, which explains why the most useful part of this release remains its conversations with known bands.

Book-size and of xeroxed layout, this is entirely a homebrew project that unites the glories of times past, heavy metal and popular culture in a perversion of stoner logic. It's not primarily a metal zine, but it demonstrates a good knowledge of metal and surrounding culture in articles that are designed primarily to be funny. The main disadvantage here is a hipster/scenester taste left in your mouth after reading it, but the "Heavy Metal Issue" had most of us here chuckling at A.N.U.S. H.Q.

Talk - a lot of it - mars the writing in this magazine by making it too much about the writer(s) and creating more bulk of words than meaning, but the choice of bands is nearly completist for the upper levels of the underground and some of these reviews highlight the bands diligently. Goofy commentary and silly layout detract from this, but Sloth remains powerful for its vast coverage of metal bands in review.

Sounds of Death
This magazine has improved quite a bit since its inception, but is still the hallmark for all that is sold-out within the underground. Favoring either "cute" hybrid bands or mindlessly simplistic "brutal" death metal in reviews, this thing is basically a sales job with sneering, cynical interviews and a high page count of advertising.

One of the more realistic metal zines out there, Spear pokes into the scene with direct questions in lengthy but music-centric reviews that attempt to get behind the creation of the music in question. Feature stories delve into metal culture and current issues with journalistic flotation, but reviews often falter into conversation or excessive description of the obvious, despite wide and choice coverage of scene movers.

Transcending the Mundane
As a journalistic approach, this is one of the better attempts in the underground: cram in shorter interviews, but more of them, and focus on a broad spectrum of up-and-coming bands with less support of the large, obvious, slick label favorites. Smaller and medium sized labels have a good chance of getting their bands heard through this zine, which includes the ever-popular CD sampler for more exciting landfill. While the coverage of the "middleground" is a great idea on paper, many of these bands are dismally bad, and the template-cut interviews bring out how uncreative many of them are with their verbal answers as well. Still this zine is more likely than not to reveal some newcomers with potential, and tries harder than most to expose its readership to otherwise overlooked material.

The only shiny metal mag you can find in mainstream stores that doesn't suck, Unrestrained features much of the staff of the highly-acclaimed Chronicles of Chaos E-zine who here bring their flavorful and introspective style to new heights. Interviewers research their bands and fashion unique articles on the distinctiveness of each band, covering the underground and some mainstream but extreme stuff also. Reviews are conversational and take a neutral attitude toward most bands, but the exceptional ones are often highlighted.

Worm Gear Zine
Professional layout belies the depth to which this magazine sinks into the underground, asking up-front questions in a variety of reviews, features and interviews. Excellent coverage on an individual basis of those bands and individuals lucky enough to be featured in this solid zine from Michigan.

Wretched Corpse
A phonebook of reviews and free-form interviews with bands from the most well-known to the more obscure in the underground. Very personal reviews with many heroes of the underground add human interest to a solid publication.

Zine Guide
Like a more commercial followup to Factsheet 5, this is a compilation of a handful of well-researched articles combined with a phone book of zines listed by name with contact information and a brief summary with a half-line of review material. These statements quickly outline the content and attitude of a zine and then flick an offhanded statement of assessment before dispatching the topic and moving on to the next zine. And do they cover zines - reasonable metal coverage, extensive esoteric coverage, and a solid readout on the bread'n'butter of the zine community, the style and social experience zines disguised in various scenes across the spectrum of areas to spend your time. For anyone researching a zine or considering their reading matter carefully, this is invaluable.

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