Even if you don’t own any of their records, you have most certainly heard The Melvins because their sound rings clearly in the anthems of  bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Tool. Where those legends hammered the Melvins’ sonic textures into more traditional song structures, selling millions of records in the process, the original purveyors of that sound continue to record music as if each instrument were a stallion and the studio a wide open range—each instrument, each riff, runs freely across the tracks as the band charge forward with wild, reckless abandon. Call their sound experimental, avant garde, metal or punk—nothing will consistently fit, and this is perhaps the secret ingredient to a career that is now approaching their thirtieth year.

If Run DMC are The Beatles of the rap world, then Public Enemy are The Rolling Stones. Hell, they’re The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the Sex Pistols all rolled into one unstoppable rhythmic megaforce. Few bands  have left a cultural footprint as massive as Public Enemy, who began their recording career twenty-five years ago with a sound that paired the funk of James Brown with the snarl of punk rock. That these New York-based rappers have lasted a quarter century, selling millions of albums and touring over eighty countries speaks to the universal, gut-level appeal of their uncompromising lyrical attack.

You know why you don’t see any heavy metal acts on American Idol or X Factor? Because metal doesn’t sell shampoo. Fresh-faced, heroin-free go-getters who look good in J. Crew? They sell the shit out of shampoo, but metal…not so much. When Five Finger Death Punch’s third album, American Capitalist, entered the charts at number 3 last fall (behind the Midas-throated Adele and pop-goth idols Evanescence), the Vegas-based quintet slapped the music industry into the realization that the thirst for heavy music in this country is far more profound than anyone had understood.

For Brendon Small, cortex-squashing pressure sort of comes with the territory. Small is the creator of the breakaway hit TV show Metalocalypse, writing the scripts, voicing several characters, and because the show concerns a fictitious death metal band, Small composes all of the ferocious and unbelievably catchy music for each episode. The show is a bona fide cultural phenomenon, first attracting a rabid cult audience (are cult audiences any other way?), then finding seismic popularity in the mainstream.   Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, award-winning documentary producer Warner Herzog and Hall of Fame inductee Slash are a few of the legion of celebrities who have proclaimed their enduring love of Metalocalypse. The show, featured on the Adult Swim cable channel, begins its ravenously-anticipated fourth season on April 29 with more preposterous plots, scorching humor and the show’s most impressive lineup of celebrity voices yet. In fact, both Hamm and Herzog will be appearing in Season Four, along with an astonishingly diverse and talented cast of other actors, comedians and, of course, musicians.

“World domination”–two simple words that evoke visions of battles and conquest; of smoldering ruins and vanquished enemies; of being able to cut to the front of every line on the planet. Real power.

Whether seen as a goal or a lifestyle, “world domination” has been exhaustively explored in literature, yet never as boldly, crudely and hilariously as by guitar virtuoso Zakk Wylde, founder of rock outfit Black Label Society, church-going Catholic boy and all-around inducer of mayhem. Wylde’s new book, Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide to World Tour Domination delivers explicit, often jaw-droppingly graphic instructions for transitioning from fat-fingered guitar novice to flaxen-haired rock god, exploring everything from choosing the music you play to how to avoid being tea-bagged on a tour bus. Yes, tea-bagged.

There are two kinds of all-star jams: the kind that people rave about for years and the kind that leave a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. An example of the latter category is what happens at the end of every single Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

An example of the former took place last September, when a gang of heavy metal’s tallest legends assembled in New York City to literally put on a clinic. David Ellefson (Megadeth), Kerry King (Slayer), Charlie Benante (Anthrax), Frank Bello (Anthrax) and Mike Portnoy (Adrenaline Mob/Flying Colors) descended on the Best Buy Theater in New York City and took turns demonstrating techniques before breaking into a ferocious jam session that ended with surprise guests Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Pantera’s Phil Anselmo taking the stage for a pair of Pantera songs. Anthrax closed the festivities by delivering a full set for the 500 lucky bastards who paid zero dollars to watch history go down.

 

The first time I met Mike Portnoy was on the set of That Metal Show after the taping of an episode featuring him and guitarist John Sykes.

“Hey there, Mike,” I said, “Big fan.”

 

 

Stepping away from the distractions of genres, Felony Flats is one of the most exciting releases of 2012 and the beguiling Anya Marina continues to establish herself as one of the decade’s most interesting musicians. Her latest batch of sonic narcotics bring together a number of styles, anchored by her sultry whispers, serrated wit and impossibly addictive melodies.

Marina’s savvy pop has decorated the scenes of numerous films and television shows, with her biggest placement on the New Moon soundtrack, catapulting her into the heart of the Twilight franchise maelstrom. Although that album boasted the likes of Thom Yorke, Bon Iver and Deathcab for Cutie, it was  Marina’s sparse, haunting “Satellite Heart” that hijacked the attention of the film’s obsessive fan base.

 

Making a splash on iTunes is an exceptional feat. The talent pool is thoroughly saturated with millions of songs from every genre imaginable and competition for listener’s attention has never been more fierce. Even established artists struggle to maintain an online presence, relying on gimmicks such as special iTunes EPs and issuing “deluxe editions” of albums that include one or two songs available on iTunes only. For emerging artists, uploading an album into the iTunes library is no different than buying a quick pick lotto ticket at the local Gas N’ Sip–even the highest-quality music can be easily lost in a sea of downloadable competition.

Tucked away beneath the North Pole, Sweden is seen as either a nation of impassive minimalists with great kitchens (thank you, Ikea), or a land of large-breasted blonde females with morally-casual attitudes (thank you, beer commercials). Sweden is of course, neither, but a righteous cultural epicenter, where a high premium is placed on education, art and innovation. But old stereotypes die hard.

Drawing from influences such as disco, rock, punk and soul, Foxy Shazam have masterfully crafted their own brand of modern rock–impossible to pin down and satisfying enough that you don’t care. After eight years of relentless touring and releasing music that sounded like nothing happening anywhere in the mainstream, Foxy Shazam are now reaping the rewards of their hard work in the form of their second major label release, a tour with The Darkness and an explosion of new fans.

 

Mike Doughty is the mastermind behind the 90s “slacker-jazz” cult band Soul Coughing, former poetry classmate of Ani Defranco, pseudonymous gossip columnist for the New York Press, surrogate Suicide Girl photographer and a successful solo artist out now with both a new album The Question Jar Show and his first memoir, The Book of Drugs.

Introduction

I was driving a 32-foot U-Haul truck from New York City to Tennessee with my heavy metal-loving buddy Juke.

We made the trip mostly by night. I’ve always been of a mind that road trips are meant for staring out the window while listening to songs like “Turn the Page,” for ruminating on life, death and all the miles behind and ahead and for having the sort of meditative conversations you’d never have in the day-to-day world.

 

What happens when you cross a black metal musician–a practitioner of one of rock and roll’s most obscure and inscrutable styles, with a vegan–equally relegated to patrolling the fringes of diet and nutrition?

You get one of the hottest viral sensations since the water-skiing squirrel.

Among the best of 2011’s uniquely impressive field of music biographies was rock journalist David Browne’s exquisite Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970. The very concept of the book is fascinating–in 1970, amid a violent sociopolitical backdrop (the Kent State shootings, the tragic Apollo 13 mission, the domestic bombing campaign of The Weathermen), four of the twentieth century’s most important albums were released while the artists creating the music were breaking up their bands, fleeing the music industry and in one case, fending off another round of institutionalization.