15 Highlights From 15 Years of MetalSucks
Update, January 12: Now with 16 highlights, because I forgot to include Threatin! Now added for your enjoyment.
On December 26, 2021, 15 years to the day after Matt (you know him as Axl) and I launched MetalSucks, my mom asked me to sort through a pile of my old stuff that had been buried for years in her closet. In that pile, I uncovered a hand-written letter Matt gave me on June 6, 1996, the day we graduated from the 8th grade — at the same school we’d been together at since Kindergarten — and headed off our separate ways to high school. Here it is:
It would bring 14-year-old Ben and Matt great joy to learn that 39/40-year-old Ben and Matt not only stayed in touch, and not only remained silly, but made a career together out of being silly for 15 years. It’s insane, really, and the privilege is not lost on me. And our working relationship has never been better.
To celebrate our 15 years of MetalSucks, here are 15 of my favorite memories. One day when we are no longer involved with this website, whenever that may come, we will look back fondly on these moments especially, as well as, of course, the pleasure it has been to serve you all day in and day out. As New York Dolls said on their underrated 2006 comeback album, “one day it will please us to remember even this.”
Private Living Colour Album Release Performance (2009)
Matt and I received a very exclusive invite to the album release party for The Chair in the Doorway, Living Colour’s 2009 album. And by very exclusive, I mean very; it was literally the band’s family members (grandparents and children were in attendance), a small handful of label/management people, and the two of us. I cannot overstate how cool this felt for us; Living Colour were one of our favorite bands when we were younger, and hometown heroes at that. It was super validating to be recognized by the band at all, but especially to be recognized for the coverage we’d been giving them (moreso than any other major metal publication).
What’s more, this was no ordinary album release party where everyone mills about and screams into each others’ ears while the album inaudibly blares through shitty-sounding speakers. Hosted at their rehearsal space in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the band performed the entire new album start to finish. It was truly special.
My Interview with Nikki Sixx (2011)
Nikki was my first A-list interview. More than any other artist chat up until that point, it was a “holy shit” moment when I suddenly found myself on the phone with someone I’d grown up watching on TV. Despite having already conducted dozens of interviews with metal artists both large and small during the first five years of MetalSucks and long ago coming to the realization that my heroes are just ordinary people, I was nervous. Hopefully I didn’t sound like an idiot. I probably did.
I’d also like to shout out Rich Ward (then of Stuck Mojo) for being the very first person to respond to and grant an interview request from a completely unknown website, with an honorable mention to Mike Szuter (Magna-Fi), the second. And a special nod to Sevendust’s Clint Lowery, who did the same when he was independently promoting his Hello Demons… Meet Skeleton solo album (I found an @aol.com email address somewhere on the internet and he wrote back!) and has continued to support us throughout the years.
Death Metal Subway Busking with Allegaeon (2019)
I’d had the idea for a death metal subway busking video kicking around my brain for some time, and Allegaeon finally took the bait when their publicist pitched us on coverage during the band’s NYC press trip to promote Apoptosis. This video was SO MUCH FUN to shoot — Greg and Riley fearlessly and flawlessly nailed it — and the video’s all-time view count, currently sitting at nearly 1.1 million, speaks for itself.
The Converse Rubber Tracks x MetalSucks Series (2013-2016)
For several years, Converse operated a recording studio in Brooklyn that served as a de facto marketing campaign for the iconic sneaker brand. For most of those years, the company gave us a bunch of money to fund a content series in which we picked our favorite unsigned bands, got them into the studio with top-shelf producers like Kurt Ballou and Will Putney, and released their music into the wild. They gave us very little creative input, completely trusting in our tastes and expertise. Best of all, it was an incredible opportunity and exposure for all the bands who participated. It’s rare “big money” comes into the metal world, but when it does it’s awesome to be able to make the most of it.
Scion Rock Fest, Atlanta (2009)
Speaking of doling out corporate money, Scion (a division of Toyota) was spending bushel loads of it in the metal world for a while there. Scion Rock Fest, a four-stage affair at The Masquerade in Atlanta, not only had an absolutely stellar lineup — Mastodon, Neurosis, High on Fire, Boris, Torche, Nachtmystium, Wolves in the Throne Room, Kylesa, Rwake, Pig Destroyer, Krallice, and many more — but provided with me with an opportunity to meet and hang out with folks who have become lifelong friends. It was an epic weekend, to put it mildly.
The 2011 MetalSucks South by South Death Showcase (2011)
Kvelertak on their first-ever U.S. tour. Wormrot on their second. Red Fang and Havok as fresh, new bands on the up and up. Meek is Murder kicking things off. All in the TINY, and I do mean tiny, cramped confines of Headhunters, Billy Milano’s former club on Red River in downtown Austin. How did we pull off this lineup?? It’s kind of insane, and so was the show: I’ll never forget the six members of Kvelertak crammed onto that little stage in their underwear and drenched in sweat. Special shoutouts to Bobby Nall and Bill Wilson for helping to make this show happen.
I went to South by Southwest a number of times of the years and always had a blast; take what I said above about making friends and forging relationships at Scion Rock Fest, but multiply it by ten. In particular, I’ll always cherish extravagantly tucking and folding with Corey Mitchell (R.I.P.) and the rest of the crew; IYKYK.
The Metal Suckfest (2011)
Somehow we convinced Live Nation to spend a bunch of money on a two-day, twenty-band metal festival. Somehow we roped in a bunch of sick bands to play it. Somehow it was a bit ambitious and lost of a bunch of money. Somehow it was still a ton of fun to do. Thankfully no one lost their job!
The Guns N’ Roses Cease and Desist Letter
Before Chinese Democracy saw the light of day — well before anyone knew whether it would ever even come out or not — we shared a leaked version of a song from the album that had begun making the rounds. We were promptly served with a cease and desist letter from Axl Rose’s lawyer, remarkably successful in its intent of scaring us shitless, so we pulled it down immediately. But to receive that kind of communication from Guns N’ F’ing Roses was incredibly validating: we were in the Big Boys Club now! Matt printed out the letter and still has it stored in a box somewhere.
The F*nberg Piece (2020)
Far from “silly,” this is the single piece of Real Journalism of which I am most proud, a Very Important article amidst a sea of pointless Corey Taylor headlines. It took an entire year from beginning to completion, but accomplished what it set out to do.
The Threatin Saga (2018)
Another piece of Real Journalism, although of an admittedly sillier variety, I had no idea what I was getting into when I published this initial piece about the bizarre tale of an unknown American musician who had faked online success to book himself an in-progress U.K. and European tour that no one was attending. I woke up the next morning to insane website traffic numbers and a bevy of related messages, and for the next two weeks my life was completely consumed by all things Threatin. I was on the front lines unpacking the complicated onion-like layers of Jered Threatin’s (né Jered Eames) deception as they unfolded in real time, and while international outlets like The New York Times, BBC and Rolling Stone ended up picking up the story, MetalSucks was ground zero for all things Threatin.
I’ll never forget sitting on my living room couch at 2am one morning transcribing an interview I’d just done with one of Jered’s now-ex-bandmates, when my wife, her eyes half shut, wandered in, took a look at me, paused, and muttered simply, “Threatin?” “Yup,” I replied, as she went back to bed. It was all-Threatin all the time for me during those final weeks of 2018 until we finally uncovered his true identity and back-story and public interest waned. We pursued a documentary shortly after and got pretty far into those talks, but Jered, enraged that we exposed his bluff and that we wouldn’t indulge his lie that “it was the plan all along,” wouldn’t play ball. Those two weeks of constant coverage were a stressful but insanely fun time, and some of the work of which I’m most proud in my entire career.
Working with the MetalSucks Writers (2007-2021)
I’d like to thank everyone who has ever contributed content to this site with particular focus on the group that guided us through the early years with stellar, outside-the-box, razor sharp writing: Anso DF, Kip Wingerschmidt, Leyla Hamedi, Finn McKenty, Corey Mitchell, Kim Kelly, Sammy O’Hagar, Etan Rosenbloom, and Chuck and Godless for getting the podcast off the ground. Working with these folks was truly a privilege, as was publishing work by the other fine scribes who have joined us since. Thank you for your service.
The Zakk Wylde Fan YouTube Covers Video (2018)
Zakk was the very first to take the bait on our idea to have famous metal musicians watch fan covers of their songs on YouTube, and he knocked it out of the park, serving as the de facto launch for what would become a very popular series of videos. As anyone who’s met Zakk knows, he is just a joy to be around, absolutely lights up the room, constantly cracking jokes. 14-year-old Ben and Matt would have been absolutely AMPED that this ever happened, and I’m not gonna lie, 36-year-old Ben and Matt were really friggin’ jazzed on it too.
Getting At the Gates to watch a Robyn video (2019)
In late 2019 I hooked up with At the Gates on their tour bus in NYC to sit them down in front of a playlist of pop music videos by fellow Swedish artists from across the decades. In truth, it was an elaborate and expensive scheme to get them to watch a Robyn video, and it was totally worth it. (They’re big fans, fwiw).
The phone call from Dallas Coyle (2008)
I had just started working at Atlantic Records when my cell phone rang, and it was God Forbid guitarist Dallas Coyle on the other end, cold calling to pitch a series of guest columns. I became nervous and star-struck — God Forbid were heroes of ours, a direct inspiration for starting the site — but I was able to ascertain that Dallas fully “got” what our site was all about and wanted to be a part of it. It was some of the first direct recognition we’d received that what we were writing was not only reaching the metal community, but was resonating. His resulting column, The Hard R, ended up being wildly popular over the course of its nearly three-year, 56-article run from 2008-2010.
We’d go on to work with several other regular guest columnists from bands over the years, including Eyal Levi (Daath), Sacha Dunable (Intronaut), Paul Masvidal (Cynic), Dave Brockie (Gwar), Misha Mansoor (Periphery), Mike Schleibaum (Darkest Hour), Justin Foley (The Austerity Program), A.J. Minette (The Human Abstract), Tony Sannicandro (Job For a Cowboy), Greg Weeks (The Red Chord), Paul Waggoner (BTBAM) — and of course Dallas’s brother, Doc — and many more. Thank you all for your dedicated and loyal service as well.
Countdown lists (2007-2020)
Numbered lists as a measure of importance are inherently silly. There is no such thing as an objective measure of how “good” music is, or who is the “best;” it’s all subjective opinion. But silly has always been the name of the game here, and the metal masses delighted in arguing endlessly about our lists, so we were all too happy to assemble them and pump them out. They were a lot of work, but also a ton of fun! Especially the ones where we polled the entire industry and tallied results, but also the ones where Matt and I just got together, smoked a joint and argued over placement of our personal favorites. Some of my favorite lists we compiled include The 21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century… So Far (covering through 2009, our first industry-polled list), The Top 25 Modern Metal Guitarists, The 25 Most Important People in Metal, and of course The 25 Best Metal Bands of All Time.
Breaking bands (2007-?)
MetalSucks played a much bigger role in aiding bands’ careers in our early days than it does now. This changing landscape is not unique to MetalSucks but comes as the result of a shift in the role of the metal media as a whole over the years; most discovery happens these days through playlists, algorithms and social networks, not because any “tastemakers” say someone ought to listen to a band. Despite the criticism we often get for devoting less space to up-and-coming bands than we used to, that’s simply not the kind of content folks want from the media anymore, and the numbers are proof and then some.
In any case, in the late ’00s and early ’10s streaming services didn’t exist yet and social media didn’t have the prominence it now does, so when we hyped up young bands, folks listened. I don’t want to take sole credit for breaking bands because that’s simply not reality, but I do believe we had a strong hand in helping fledgling bands such as Periphery, Protest the Hero, Revocation and a handful of others find a larger audience during that final period when writers’ opinions still held sway.
Thank you all for reading our site these past 15 years. Rest assured knowing that it does indeed make us feel very old when people tell us “they’ve been reading since high school.”