Alas, with Tiger Beat having gone grunge and Teen Beat hamstrung by the arms-for-MySpace-friends scandal, only a few publications exist for a fella of my discerning tastes. Revolver is not one of them.
Heavens! The bands featured here are loud and angry, and they never smile. With their full-throated roars and ink-lined arms, they seem set on electing Satan president (on a ticket, perhaps, with George Pataki). If I bumped into them in the market, they'd mock my belief system and slander Josh Groban.
Or not. Assuming you can get past the ungodly noise its featured artists make, Revolver flashes subtle intelligence and wit, without scuffing the enthusiast sheen that a niche music magazine of this sort needs to succeed. Its editors and contributors are quite obviously fans, and the mag's every item abounds with their knowledge and enthusiasm.
Revolver reminds me a little bit of the dearly departed (at least in print form) Creem. It's nowhere near as merrily irreverent, mind you, but at least it attempts to avoid the groggy boosterism of today's music mags. Correspondence from readers gets bunched under the heading of "Hellbent for Letters" (precisely two metalhead Magazine Rack fans will get that reference), while the passcode for access to free tunes on the mag's web site is "WWJD?" The February issue of the mag even manages to jazz up -- actually, the word "jazz" should not be employed in or around Revolver, not even in the interest of adept wordplay -- the always-hackneyed year-in-review feature, adding categories like "fatwa that made U.S. conservatives seem permissive" and "most anticlimactic day" (6/6/06).
Of course, Revolver also shares some DNA with the rockin'-without-irony-or-self-awareness titles o' my youth like Circus and Hit Parader, mostly in the way it celebrates a certain select core of bands. If Revolver likes you, they really, really, really like you; Mastodon must've done something very right over the last few months.
(Speaking of which, after a single run through Revolver, I've updated my list of Best Band Names. It now goes: 1. Napalm Death. 2. Nachtmystium. 3. Mastodon. 4. The Wiggles. 5. ChthoniC. I remain surprised that "Goatulence" has gone unclaimed.)
Organizationally, Revolver doesn't distinguish itself. As in just about every other rock mag, you get the front-of-the-book collection of odds and ends ("Bulletin"), the features, then the reviews. Within that established structure, however, Revolver gestates a few truly inspired ideas. In "Adventures of 'The Unit,'" the mag challenges a band to write and record a song on the spot, and chronicles the experience for posterity (in a rare intelligent mag/Web tie-in, the final product is posted on Revolver's Web site). "Bulletin" also entertains with its continuous bottom-of-the-page crawl, which starts out with a riff on the PornTube domain name and somehow meanders into a bit about worms and the Bible.
As for the features, I'm reasonably certain that the February Revolver marks the first appearance in a rock mag of a "five favorite pieces of scripture" sidebar, which accompanies the uncommonly thoughtful sit-down with the heads of several Christian metal bands. The Dave Grohl/Mastodon summit similarly veers down some unconventional avenues.
There's not much here to tsk-tsk. Revolver could probably serve to hire a few better writers, or at least ones capable of restraint on the descriptive front: the most recent record from Mastodon (yup) is described, exhaustingly, as "a churning, writhing beast of demented rhythms, serrated riffs, and mind-boggling leads." I'd probably ditch the page devoted to random product and video-game plugs, which stick out as much as an Air Supply appreciation would. And please: can we rid ourselves of the now-mandatory item in which a Designated Interesting Person shares with the world the contents of his/her iPod? The I'll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours thing is so seventh grade.
Beyond that, Revolver rocks. It's every bit the magazine for prog, classical, hardcore, black/death, and spooky-core metal zealots that Harp is for melody-craving Freedy Johnston loyalists like me.