The New Noise: An Oral History of Decibel Magazine (Inspirations)

By Steven Ward

What magazines were you guys trying to emulate with Decibel? I'm guessing Terrorizer. But maybe there's more influence in Decibel from other magazines too?

Albert Mudrian: I don't think we were necessarily trying to emulate anyone consciously, but you could say that Terrorizer--or more specifically, what Nick Terry established with Terrorizer from 1996 to 2000--probably served as some kind of blueprint for what Decibel has become. For me, that was the first extreme metal magazine that demonstrated it was possible to cover this kind of music in a literate fashion that was clearly reverent, but wasn't afraid to acknowledge, occasionally embrace, and regularly poke fun at genre clichés. And since I drafted a few of their former contributors in Catherine Yates, Daniel Lukes, and obviously Nick Terry at Decibel's onset, it's only natural to draw those comparisons. However, I think Red Flag Media's aforementioned indie retailer publications that I edited prior to Decibel's launch probably helped shape the magazine even more. We had some top-notch writers involved with those magazines, including guys like Jon Caramanica, Michaelangelo Matos, Jack Rabid, and Keith Harris and we were able to bring over long-time contributors like Nick Green, Rod Smith and Chris Kaye to Decibel. There were also recurring features like the "Call & Response" that originated with those publications, which I decided to adapt to Decibel as well. That said, I've probably been subconsciously ripping off ideas from just about everything else I read--whether that's Blender or

Nick Terry: As a former editor of Terrorizer from 1996 to 2000, I can see the T influence but in reality the mag is nothing like Terrorizer. I know T was a big inspiration for Albert, but I think he translated that into an American context. So I'd also add Alternative Press as a possible deep-background influence, especially since some of the writers have written for AP (including myself, in 1995-6).

Nick Green: Decibel obviously owes a lot to Terrorizer, especially during the years that Nick Terry was editing it. Early in its inception, it was frequently described as "the American equivalent of Terrorizer." I think that's a pretty flattering comparison--the editorial focus of these publications is slightly different, but someone who loves Terrorizer will probably dig Decibel and vice versa. For me, the best point of comparison is with the late, great Ego Trip, a magazine that managed to be extremely respectful to its subjects and highly irreverent at the same time. So there's that mix of silliness and seriousness, which is highly appealing. So if there's a dismissive review of some death metal band from Poland, it's usually from the vantage point of someone who knows enough about what they're talking about to poke fun. The other thing is that the magazine works on multiple levels. Some of the readers are going to be really interested in finding out how the new Finntroll record stacks up to the one that preceded it. And for the readers that don't give a shit about Finntroll at all, the magazine still manages to be engaging and speak to them anyway.

Do you guys seee Revolver as competition? Decibel always features way more extreme and obscure bands. But Revolver is the only other American metal mag I can think of that is literate and well done.

Rod Smith: Revolver is great for what it is. Metal and affiliated genres generate so many worthy artifacts and events that no single magazine could ever hope to cover everything thoroughly. Even though they sometimes cover the same bands, Decibel and Revolver are so essentially different that I really don't see all that much real competition between the two. They might as well be Vanity Fair and Maxim.

Albert Mudrian: I think Revolver caters to a different reader than Decibel. Revolver is definitely in the tradition of ‘80s newsstand publications like Circus and Rip, which also served as a good entry point for people who might have metal inclinations but probably can't recite Napalm Death’s albums in chronological order. I see Revolver as a great gateway drug; start with them and when you are ready, come to Decibel.

J. Bennett: I don’t see Revolver as competition at all. Shit, I write for them too, you know? That said, I would definitely pay money to see a naked oil-wrestling match between Albert and (Revolver Editor-in-Chief) Tom Beaujour.

Kevin Stewart-Panko: I honestly have never really sat down with a copy of Revolver in years, although I've met the editor a couple times and I know Bennett writes for 'em. Competition? Sure. I'm not up on the behind-the-scenes stuff, but I would think that every mag covering extreme music would present some amount of competition for every other mag covering extreme music. I think the hardest part for Decibel would be trying to get certain segments of readers in the extreme music community to move beyond their comfort zones. Most metal and hardcore fans are notoriously close-minded, prone to snap judgements, with a very "us vs. them" approach to music, and this even extends to which magazines they'll read.

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  • Introduction

  • Origins of Decibel

  • Joining the Decibel team

  • Mags that inspired Decibel

  • The Decibel Hall of Fame

  • What kind of man reads Decibel?

  • The joy of Decibel

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