The Ultimate Steel Dissector
After the Iron Maiden show in New York City, I traded two recent copies of Ink Nineteen to S. Craig Zahler for issue two of his excellent metal review 'zine The Ultimate Steel Dissector . Along the lines of DIY , The Ultimate Steel Dissector is roughly 50 pages of Mr. Zahler's (who's a writer for Metal Maniacs , as well) reviews of metal music comprising recent releases as well as his favorites over the years. This is his magazine and he'll do as he sees fit! No advertisements of any kind, it's a labor of love for the author (read: "expensive hobby") and this is clear by the painstaking analysis ("dissection") and crafting of each review. Bands featured in this issue include Accept, Bathory, Borknagar, Celtic Frost, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Manowar, and Ulver. All metal genres appear to be covered, and though Mr. Zahler doesn't mind letting the reader know that Deep Purple released the greatest metal album of the 1970's ( Machine Head ), and that his favorite band of all time is Iron Maiden, he in no way discounts Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Death, etc. Quite the contrary, he gives equal time to everything reviewed; that is, I could tell he gave each album way more than a cursory listen. I was impressed by this, because his allegiance to metal isn't jaded by a distaste for extreme metal on one end and any distaste for power metal or garden variety hard rock on the other.
For example, while I thought Deep Purple's last album Purpendicular was good and "had its moments," Zahler gives the album its due (and high praise) with such zeal and precision that not only did I learn something, but I had to get out the album and re-listen, this time from a "music appreciation class" angle. In addition, his reviews of Japan's Sigh and Bathory reveal an academic approach to metal reviewing I am almost afraid to approach (mainly because I know about an eighth of what he knows about metal!).
I was also impressed by his excellent handling of Iron Maiden's Virtual XI , the second of two IM albums featuring Blaze Bayley on vocals, who's been since replaced by second IM singer Bruce Dickenson. I, like Zahler, liked Blaze's vocals, and while it's obvious Steve Harris writes with Bruce in mind, Zahler makes excellent points regarding Blaze's criminal underrating by critics and old-time fans alike. (And quite frankly, hearing Bruce sing "Futureal" sounded weaker than Blaze's album version.)
There are great year-end "best of" lists as well as the best short essay on the role of Led Zeppelin in heavy metal that I've ever read (I wish I wrote it!). And, last but not least, this guy can write negative reviews like nobody's business! He is brutal on Celtic Frost, ouch!
There is no web or e-mail contact, so you'll have to use the more traditional method of pen, paper, stamps and two dollars.
The Ultimate Steel Dissector, S. Craig Zhaler, 201 W. 101 St. Apt. 1B, New York, NY 10025
--David Lee Beowulf