Music critic, Daniel Marsicano shares his side of the story about heavy metal music, that first listen to “Turn The Page” and how the internet has skewed our perception of journalism.

You have been writing for several years in several formats and positions. Why did you choose music journalism?

I’ve been into journalism ever since I was in middle school, helping my technology teacher write video game reviews for the school newspaper. I was the editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper, “The Accent.” When I got to college, I continued to study journalism. I never considered writing about music in any capacity until my freshman year. I saw an opening at for a staff writer in their music section.
I was a big fan of the site at the time, and it seemed like an interesting opportunity to undertake. I wrote a review of Chimaira’s “Resurrection,” which was good enough to land me a position on their staff. My first published review was for Machine Head’s “The Blackening.” From there, I worked on my writing, trying to improve with each review. It’s a process that I’m continuing to learn to this day.
There’s something about sitting down and expressing my thoughts on a piece of music that draws great appeal to me. Though I’ve only been doing this since 2007, I’ve developed a vast range of knowledge on music that I’ve very proud to possess. The metal culture itself, especially the people that write about and create metal, is unlike anything else out there. It’s one of a kind, and I’ve always felt accepted in it, even when I was struggling to find my literary voice in the early days.

Reading your work, I realize that your taste in metal music is rather eccentric. When and how did you get acquainted with heavy metal?

I have to thank my mom for opening me up to heavy metal. I still remember the first time I became entranced by metal. I was 11 and driving with the family down the backroads of New Jersey in the middle of the night. My mom was a big fan of the classic rock stations, so I became familiar with bands like Led Zeppelin and The Who early on. I didn’t pay much attention to the heavier stuff, as I was more into classic rock as a young kid.
That fateful night, the radio station was playing Metallica’s cover of Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page.” It was something about the power and force behind their version of the song that mesmerized me. I knew I had to hear more like it, so I picked up the “Garage Inc.” album immediately afterwards. That was the first metal album I ever bought.
From there, I was a slave to the metal machine. I began to do research, finding out about the artists that Metallica covered on the album. Bands like Black Sabbath, Diamond Head, and Motorhead became objects of my affection. Soon enough, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer entered the fray because of the “Big 4” association. Most of my high school years were building up my CD collection with every album from the “Big 4,” along with other metal artists of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I began to really dig deeper into metal, past the stuff that would be considered “mainstream.” That’s how I became interested in genres like death, doom, and black metal. I got recommendations from friends, spent hours on the Internet looking up bands, and tried to soak in as much about metal as I possibly could. I love listening to new music, whatever genre it might be. There isn’t one particular genre that I’m obsessed with; I honestly enjoy them all for different reasons.

Based in New Jersey, what can you tell us about the metal scene over there that we don’t already know about?

Like every place in the world, there are bands that have hit it big (The Dillinger Escape Plan, God Forbid, Overkill) and then are the underground darlings (Evoken, Ripping Corpse). However, there are plenty of up-and-coming bands looking for any kind of spotlight. Fantastic talents like Beyond Dishonor, Windfaerer, and Grimus deserve more coverage than they may get, and that’s what I like to do as a writer. I like to give bands working their way up the opportunity to get their music out to a bigger audience, whether it’s by interviewing them or getting a review up of their latest work.

As a part of, SMN news, and Metal Underground – you have come across several releases. What are your “must have” album/EP’s for 2012, so far?

Well, it’s hard just to pick a few, as 2012 has been a great year so far for metal. The album that I will probably have near the top of my “best-of-year” list has to be Woods of Ypres “Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light.” No album this year has moved me the way that this album does, and it’s really a shame that David Gold is not around to see the positive response it has obtained. CattleDecapitation’s “Monolith Of Inhumanity” is just an insane death metal record, and seeing them play almost the entire album live reinforced how incredible the album is. For those looking for the lighter side of metal, Anathema’s “Weather Systems” is top-notch. In my opinion, it’s easily their best album since they switched to a more atmosphere style of music.

On that note, what are your “must watch” movies/films for 2012, so far?

This is a tougher question for me to answer than picking the “must-have” albums/EP. I love films, but I tend to stick to less contemporary material. More often than not, watch older films from the ‘70s and before; material from directors like Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese, before they got really big. From what I’ve seen this year so far, I would have to recommend “God Bless America,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” and “Cabin In The Woods.” That list will probably get bigger once I actually stop being cheap and go to the movie theaters more than once a month.

Do tell us more about your aspiration to be a novelist/screenwriter?

My aspirations as a novelist/screenwriter have only come about in the last few years. I never saw myself as the kind of writer that could handle a massive undertaking like a novel or a screenplay until my senior year in college. I took a creative writing course that opened my eyes to the potential I had as a novelist/screenwriter. Using an idea that I’ve had since I was 15, I wrote a screenplay in late 2010/early 2011 called “The Lost Soul.” I’m very proud of it, though it is collecting dust at the moment until I figure out what to do with it next.
With all the music writing I handle, it is hard to find time to fit in a novel, but I’m doing my best with that. It’s a slow process, but I hope to get something done in the next year or two. Being able to act creatively like this allows me to flex my writing muscles, and not be confined to reviews and interviews. I enjoy those as well, but I get a different kind of joy out of sitting down and fleshing out characters and stories that have come from my twisted imagination.

The internet has skewed the perception of “journalism”. What are your pet peeves about the press?

I went to school specifically to learn about journalism, so my definition of what journalism is differs from music writers who jump into the field with no writing experience. To me, what I do is not journalism. If I was out there, reporting on hard-hitting stories and breaking news involving music, I would consider myself a fedora-wearing journalist of the classiest kind. I think of myself as a music writer or a critic, but not a journalist.
Anybody who sits and regurgitates press releases to make “news” is not a journalist either. It takes no skill to copy and paste a press release someone else spend time working on, and plopping your name on it. That’s really one of my biggest pet peeves about the so-called “metal press.” Having a blog and throwing other people’s work up there with your name in the byline doesn’t make you a journalist; it just makes you a wily Internet basement dweller.
The Internet has very few avenues for compelling metal journalism; hell, in fact, it’s hard to find it in print too nowadays. Maybe I’m being very jaded or a cynical prick, but that’s how I see things. I have no issues with people going out there and trying to make a name for themselves in metal journalism, but it takes a lot more than being on a bunch of mailing lists to call yourself a journalist.

When you are not being a writer – how do you spend your time?

Since 90% of my life revolves around writing/listening to music, I find I don’t have much free time. When I do find it, I spend it working out, playing video games, watching obscure films, and reading. I’m trying to learn how to cook too, but that’s shaky territory at this point.

I read on your Twitter profile that you like 80’s romantic comedies – are you talking about “Say Anything” or “When Harry Met Sally”?

Both actually, though I would have to say that “Say Anything” is definitely one of my favorite ‘80s movies, period. I’m a big John Cusack fan, so that helps things a bit. I enjoy all kinds of ‘80s romantic comedies, especially “Moonstruck,” “Sixteen Candles,” and “My Crazy Summer.” Like music, I have a very eccentric taste in movies. I can watch “Cannibal Holocaust” one day and “Sleepless In Seattle” the next. I enjoy watching both of those movies in different ways, as well as everything from westerners and cheesy action flicks to artsy, low-budget indie films.

Are there any last words that you would like to add?

I just want to thank you so much for letting me be a part of this. Anybody interested in keeping up with my work or wanting to learn more about me can visit me on Twitter @heavytothebone2. I’m very sarcastic and a little goofy, but that’s where you can find any articles that I write. I’m more than happy to respond to any tweets sent my way as well!

Thank you, Dan Marsicano!



Edward Banchs tells Air Guitar about his book on African Heavy Metal, expresses his opinions on Pussy Riot and talks about his obsession with guitars!

Please give a brief introduction of yourself?

Well, I was raised in a small industrial city/town in Central Pennsylvania, Altoona. I moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when I was 19 just to get out of that place. I wanted to pursue music. I started a band with some like minded gentlemen called Negative Theory and we gave it hell for four and half years. Playing thoughout the region; Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, even as far west as Arkansas. We shared the stage with bands such as DRI, Sworn Enemy and Rwake. We were dirty, loud and angry. I MISS IT! I left Pennsylvania for South Florida in 2004 just to get back into college (university as you may say). At the time, it appeared that our band was not going to do much. In retrospect we just needed a break. We got back together after five years to play with a band that we are all fans of, Architect (Syracuse, NY- Metal Blade). It was great seeing those guys again, they are my best friends. And I really do miss living among the mountains and winters of Pennsylvania. Florida is flat, hot and too much of a contradiction to my personality. I live in Orlando now, which is a little better than south Florida in terms of peronality. Who knows what the future has in store, maybe some more music with my best friends, maybe some change of seasons again. Florida lacks a proper autumn.

Into the gritty, how did you get introduced to heavy metal?

Growing up, my neighbor and I were obsessed with guitars and the sound that came from them. MTV, at the time, was heavy into the glam metal, and we ate it up, I even made a guitar out of carboard with the Poison logo on it! They were the local guys who ‘made it’, so everyone was into them…as was I. So I learned about the other types of metal through a show that he and I were told about, Headbanger’s Ball. Saturday nigths at midnight. Every Saturday, we soaked every note, of every band. Needless to say, the glam was ditched as the Anthrax, Skid Row tapes came in. Once the ‘90s came it was Helmet and Biohazard and even my Korn phase. Once I got into hardcore in the late ‘90s, extreme metal got into my radar. Here I am today with the same obsession.

You are based in Florida, what can you tell us about the metal scene over there that we don’t already know about?

The local musicians complain frequently and often, like anywhere else. They think that no one here cares. Often they are oblivious to the history of metal in Florida, and rock in general. Besides the death metal that are well known, all of which still call Florida home, bands like Marylin Manson, Poison The Well, Dashboard Confessional, New Found Glory, Less Than Jake, Saigon Kick, Nonpoint, and even Matchbox 20 and Creed, are among the many who started out of Florida. Lynard Skynard and Tom Petty are also with Florida origins, so the complaints are ridiculous. A local Orlando band that is doing well is Trivium, they will be the first to tell the work that is involved with getting a break music. The work ethic, the dedication, all are involved. In general, American bands are thought of as being in a great spot, and yes the opportunities here are better, but the work must be put in, all of the bands I mentioned worked ridiculously hard and were extremely dedicated to their passion. Luck goes a long way, but talent goes even further.
As far as who is up and coming, I must confess I’m oblivious. I go to few gigs, and local support is rare for the national and international touring acts.

Currently, you are working on a book about heavy metal in Africa. Do give us a short synopsis of why you have chosen to write about the once ‘dark continent’?

I am an Africanist. I studied the continent academically, I was an intern for a lobbying firm in Washington D.C. working the Diplomatic Corps on issues such as development, foreign policy and aid for Africa. I LOVE Africa. I have an MA in African Studies from the University of London. I want to earn a living somehow, someway working with Africa.  Aside from metal, it is the other aspect of my personality that I consume my self with. Everyday, I check the African news sites and the metal news sites. Everyday. So it made sense for me to pursue the book. I was tired of finding nothing about metal in Africa, and I knew it existed. I fear that many judge it as a novelty, and that is a gross misrepresentation of the genre in the continent. The photos of Africans with guitars were not taken seriously, often they were mocked and the comment boards were not kind. Thus, I want to write about the dedicated and passionate thoughout Africa that defend the faith everyday. Frank Marhsall, the photographer in South Africa, did a fantastic job of capturing the passion in Botswana, yet it is getting overlooked.
The idea was in my head for years, I just went for it. I was tired of telling people that metal in Africa was real. It is about time the metal world includes Africa in their conversation.

What are the myths about Africa that you would like to dispel – in terms of music?

Everyone has the image (outside of Africa) of the percussion cirlces, the chanting, the hymns, the prayer songs. While that is respectable, the demand for Western music is incredible in Africa. Heavy metal fans are no different. The beauty of the genre is its adaptability with tradition and culture. Quite often, many do not believe that this music exists in Africa, yet they can believe that hip-hop exists because of some bogus stereotypes. It is no different, a Western genre that spead globally, much like metal. Africa has long surprised people, hopefully African metal may do the same.
The generalization of Africa in Western culture is patronizing. Too many fall into the trap of generalizing an extremely disparate and diverse continent.  Few realize that Africans have the same interests, goals and passions as anyone else in the West would. My book is called, Heavy Metal Africa; Life, Passion and Heavy Metal in the Fogotten Continent, because I feel that Africa is fogotten as a result of stereotypes and generalizations.
I fear that the stereotypes of Africans is the biggest obstacles metal musicians in Africa are going to have to face. I hope my book changes that.

What can you share with us about your book, so far?

It is ambitious, it is challenging, and it is taking on a life of its own. It will be a while more before I’m near completing it, but I look forward to sharing it with the rest of the world. I’ve met the nicest, sincerest people throughout this process. There are moments where I’m so humbled by the generosity of everyone involved, I get even more motivation to keep going. They trust me, and that means the world to me.

What are the challenges of having to publish your book?

Books about Africa and Heavy Metal have small audience. The industry is very competitive, more so than music I feel, and it is taking a hit, much like music as a result of the pirating of books. So it is difficult  getting someone to take a chance on a new author writing about a topic that many already feel is a contradiction. But I am optimistic something will happen.

I’m going to be biased here and ask you, what do you think about the metal scene in South Africa? What do you like or dislike about it?

I love it. So many talented acts. Dedicated, passionate, and most importantly, in my experience, there is a mutual respect and a fraternity. Bands are proud of the other bands’ acheivements and applaud the other bands’ efforts. I LOVE it. Overall, throughout Africa I notice the same thing. Everyone is there to support each other in the ‘game’, as we say in the US. Great respect for each other. Too many good bands that stand out for me, I cannot just name them. I love the diversity of the scene, black metal, death metal, thrash, glam/sleaze, power metal, prog, metal-core, hardcore, and blues/stoner. I LOVE IT!!!

As a BA degree holder in Political Science from Florida Atlantic University, what are your thoughts about the punk-rock group Pussy Riot?

Well, well. Russia is showing itself to be the ‘free’ country is disguise. I applaud their efforts. They struck the wrong nerve with the government by protesting in the church, that perhaps hurt them in court. But the message was clear and in many ways, they won. They showed the world what sort of country Russia really is. Still!

What are your hobbies outside of music?

I read a lot, I explore vegan cooking , and enjoy sports here and there. I write about sports for as well.

Are there any last words that you would like to add?

Thanks for the opportunity, thank you South Africa for having a great metal scene and I look forward to shaking all of your hands, sharing a beer with you and talking about metal! I need to get back out there soon. I love SA. Beatiful country, great people. All the best.


METAL AND ME ~ by Mark Brandt

One of the most enticing things about metal is its ability to take all sorts of people under its wing. Metal is a genre rooted in emotion; in its cheerier moments it makes you feel strong, empowered and united. In its gloomier parts, it is an enveloping and strangely comforting blanket of darkness. The diversity of the genre (to anyone more acquainted than a cursory glance) is truly phenomenal, stretching across more than a hundred countries and countless styles. It was only inevitable that one teen, a logophile disillusioned with the offerings of more mainstream genres, was going to fall into the trap, and its eccentric assortment of music and people.
By way of explaining why I do what I do, I’d like to tell you a story, traveling back to 2005. A boy, aged 14, possesses a music taste ranging from rap to smatterings of rock bands, but nothing particularly offensive. An older school friend has passed him a couple of albums with intriguing artwork. He chooses at random and clicks the CD into his player. What flows through appeals to his rap/rock-oriented senses, but there is an underlying darker atmosphere than what he’s accustomed to. It feels almost metallic, punchy and full of energy. He flips the jewel case, and reads the album title. Linkin Park’s Meteora.
Admittedly, not the classiest of entries into the metal sphere, but it is tough to deny that Linkin Park provides a solid gateway to discovering metal. What followed was a yellow brick road, stopping at Disturbed and others along the way, before a final accidental stumble onto Insomnium solidified my love of melodic death metal. I was hooked, and my research of metal bands drew me in further and further. The combination of melody, vitality and poetic lyricism appealed to me as a writer, particularly focusing on lyrics. The genre became irrelevant, I grew to love all of them, although the darker side was always interesting. Soon, I found a way to merge this new-found love of metal with the current love of writing.
Although my lyric-writing days faded at the age of 18, the love of writing and words continued. Due to a lack of metal-loving people in the proximity, I soon turned to the internet and its various forums, inexperienced with the genre but eager to learn. After finding myself saturated in band recommendations, I discovered I could be pickier with my choices, what with metal being a “diamonds in the rough” genre. Still searching for new music to listen to, a more analytical side opened up. Although I was nowhere near an expert, I still noticed patterns emerging, discovered full scenes of similar bands, and the dot-to-dot game became easier. I found myself improving at recommending albums for friends to try, based on their current music taste. It wasn’t long before my own reviews emerged on a blog, in the plethora already on the internet. A series of consequential events resulted in collaborations with like-minded sites (like this one), which resulted in me becoming firmly planted in the world of music journalism, much more quickly than I envisaged.
Far from the portrayed jet-set lifestyle that of course inevitably entails (sarcasm, gentlefolk) with working in the metal industry, music journalism is far from glamorous. Much like any writing-based job, it has its downsides, its deadlines, its stress. It can be quite demanding of your time, especially if you feel like a perfectionist. But the perks compensate: meeting wonderful individuals in the business, listening to high quality music (bracing yourself for the worse releases) and this wonderful feeling that you contribute something to the genre. The emotion you get when you see people taking influence from your recommendations, being a metal tour guide of sorts, is wonderful.
For all its squabbling and infighting, metal is a fairly united and passionate scene, and one that I love dearly, stepping aside the endless trivial arguments about lineups, bands and genres. Once that is removed, what is left is an entity still finding its feet, but each decade becoming steadier than the last. As a journalist who loves his job, I feel a sense of pride to be a part of this blossoming genealogy.

– Mark Angel Brandt (InAngelsHeadphones)

Brandt is a lover of music in most genres. At the moment, he is studying Russian and German. You can visit all his music musings at InAngelsHeadphones

Catch Mark’s writing at Metal Recusants, DeathMetalBaboon, A Metal State of Mind and (140 characters) on Twitter.