Welcome to Salvo!

As a great band once said, who dares, wins.

Welcome to Salvo!
Mount Vernon Cemetery, Philadelphia

"In defeat triumphant,
In the face of massed adversity,
In a world of compromise,
...Some don't."
- Bolt Thrower, "Entrenched"

Bolt Thrower is one of those bands that has become so legendary, so essential, and so deeply ingrained in our collective riff-worshiping consciousness, that to proclaim one's love for them is almost passé. "Of course you love Bolt Thrower; everyone loves Bolt Thrower,' you might think exasperatedly to yourself, visions of yet another Twitter prompt or proudly bootlegged T-shirt dancing in your rattled cranium. I mean, have you heard "Worldeater"? That muffled opening chug alone is enough to activate every hesher in a ten mile radius, like a sea of long-haired Manchurian candidates clad in grubby black. This now-defunct British death metal band is as close as you can get to a universal favorite among the genre's endlessly thorny subgenres, sub-subgenres, and decades of wild musical evolution.

They're a given for anyone who likes death metal, or reasonably heavy metal in general—but, as I continually have had to remind myself over my 20 years as a music journalist, not everyone enjoys such things. As strange as it may seem to you or me, some people don't even listen to metal at all! In fact, a whole lot of people have no idea who Bolt Thrower is, or why bassist Jo Bench is such an icon to so many of us, or that they once beat up a bunch of Nazis with baseball bats, or how much it matters that, when the songs they recorded for what would've been their eighth album didn't reach their own high expectations, they simply scrapped 'em—then broke up. That kind of bone-deep integrity can be hard to come by, but Bolt Thrower made it look easy. That's one of the many reasons I love them so much, and what inspired me to name this newsletter after one of their songs, "Salvo."

"Still unchallenged,
Forging on,
No respite,
Until this war is won..."
- Bolt Thrower, "Salvo"

I promise this won't just be a Bolt Thrower fan site, though. My goal for Salvo is to shine a light into metal's many wonderfully dark corners, and spotlight some of its most brilliant, brutal, and forward-thinking artists, as well as a few legends here and there. This month, you can look forward to a long chat with Terminal Nation throat Stan Liszewski about how the Arkansas antifascist death metal/hardcore hybrid have carved out a place for themselves within a very conservative, very white region, and how forces entirely beyond the band's control nearly derailed their new album altogether.

I'll also be publishing a piece on Japanese death/doom lords Coffins, whose sole remaining founding member, Bungo Uchino, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about their new album, Sinister Oath, and what the Coffins fellas get up to when they're not blowing out our collective speakers with their trademark crawling, rotting ditties of death. There will be a Reaper's Digest roundup focusing on the month's heaviest new releases, too—and maybe a bonus interview if I can squeeze it in!

That's just a taste of what I have planned for Salvo. Back when I was working as the heavy metal editor at Noisey, VICE's music site (R.I.P.) I intentionally sought out the lesser-known, underreported on, more marginalized artists who were out there keeping metal fresh, and interesting, and dangerous in a way that resonated with me. Anarchist black metal, queer Canadian doom, feminist brutal death metal (and, yes, a few love letters to Bolt Thrower) were my bread and butter. I left the site thanks to one of the cyclical mass layoffs that were as much a part of the VICE brand as bad cocaine and Action Bronson, but to be honest, I needed the break.

By that point, I'd become such a polarizing figure in the metal world that, believe it or not, building a brand-new career in labor journalism from scratch way less stressful than dealing with the latest round of boneheaded metal hate mail (I was advocating for the whole "kick Nazis out of metal" thing a little too loudly for some peoples' tastes). The labor world welcomed me with open arms, and I threw my energy into fighting bosses who were way more evil than anything Diamond Head ever dreamed up.

By the time I was ready to come home and dip my toes back into metal journalism, though, the state of metal media had soured. The same ongoing collapse that's roiled the media writ large had breached our castle walls, too. Many of the sites and magazines I'd grown up reading (and, later, writing for) in the U.S., the UK, and Norway, were gone; the few that remained had devolved into pools of regurgitated press releases and Instagram drama. Newer metal blogs had popped up, too; some of those are truly fantastic, but nobody's got much money to throw around. I do enjoy contributing to Decibel, but magazine publishing is a slower-moving beast than my frenetic cache of story ideas can handle. I've spent most of my career pitching stories about metal to non-metal publications, and have gotten pretty good at it—but I'm tired of having to justify my love for this incredibly rich, complex global art form to people who don't get it and aren't interested in trying.

And so, here we are. For years, I swore that the last thing I ever wanted to do was become the editor of my own metal magazine, and, save for a few years shepherding the official MDF program, I've managed to steer clear of doing so. This doesn't count, either, because I don't have any plans right now to bring in other contributors or expand to print. Now, is that something Salvo may do in the future? Maybe! It sounds kinda fun! I'd love to get this project to a point where that becomes a financial possibility, and to eventually build this into something bigger than it is right now.

I've already found myself excitedly adding more and more artists to the interview schedule than I'd originally planned (and thank you in advance for bearing with me as I puzzle out the best publishing schedule for this thing!). This newsletter isn't my job, though, and I'm still going to be busy reporting labor stories and working on my next book (!), so I'm fine with taking things slow.

For now, this newsletter is simply a labor of love from one metalhead to a couple thousand others. Salvo's articles will focus on conversations with the folks who spend their precious time on this burning earth creating heavy metal art, and choose to share it with us. We'll speak of the personal, the celestial, the strange, the gross, the silly, and the bizarre—sure, we'll talk about the music, too, but my goal with Salvo is to dig beneath the surface, and find the stories.

If there's a metal band you've got a burning desire to read about, let me know; if you're not much for the heavy stuff but have a friend who is, I'd appreciate it so very much if you'd send Salvo their way. Together, we can make something special here. No guts, no glory, right?

As a great band once said, who dares, wins.

"As fire fills the sky,
We once believed in life,
Now time to die,
...For victory
...For victory..."
- Bolt Thrower, "...For Victory"