Kerrang! Living Loud: Four Decades On The Frontline Of Rock, Metal, Punk, And Alternative Music by Nick Ruskell

A review of the new book from Kerrang!

Kerrang! Living Loud: Four Decades On The Frontline Of Rock, Metal, Punk, And Alternative Music by Nick Ruskell

By Aaron Jackson

Mar 23, 2023 14:00

For many reading this, Kerrang!’s importance simply cannot be overstated. Totemic and tantamount biblical for those infatuated with a scene underappreciated and misaligned with the mainstream, Kerrang! stands as a communal reference point for fans of heavy music in the UK and beyond. In ‘Living Loud’, Kerrang! senior commissioning editor Nick Ruskell presents a 240-page love letter to the publication championed by both fans and artists for the past four decades. Wrapped up in a decorous hardback cover gorgeously littered with iconic issue covers from over the years, the book shouts the same aesthetic as the bedroom walls of countless young readers and, as such, is off to a great start.

In fact, visual components are integral to the final product here. For many, it’s the brash house style, coupled with a wealth of rich and intimate photoshoots that makes Kerrang! jump off the shelf. Powerless to pick up and flick through, readers are met with more photoshoots, live-action shots, posters and even a comic strip, all of which Ruskell is sure to pay tribute to in his book. The biggest testament to the visual contributions of the many photographers responsible for these shots (particularly the omnipresent Paul Harries) is just how recognisable so many of them are when reading through ‘Living Loud’.

Readers are told about how a healthy handful of these now iconic cover shots were, at one point, prescient. Particularly interesting is the foresight to run a cover feature of Guns N’ Roses for Issue 148. Former Kerrang! writer Dante Bonutto recalls how the Guns N’ Roses issue ran “before they were successful,” a decision he describes as “a big feather in the cap.” Its recounts like this which, when coupled with the fact that what followed was a working friendship between the band and the publication, really emphasise the clout and status that Kerrang! holds. It’s worth mentioning here that, in the specific case study of Guns N’ Roses, Kerrang!’s relationship with the band was somewhat short-lived. It was, after all, only a matter of time until Axl Rose went full, well, Axl Rose. Ruskell describes the fallout in detail and it makes for great reading. It wouldn’t be rock and roll without a bit of melodrama.

Seeing as ‘Living Loud’ bookends by nature, specifically covering the 1980’s through to the 2010’s, Ruskell’s work can be seen as a time capsule of sorts. As with the archives of Kerrang! itself, generations to come can refer back to this book as a snapshot of a scene that is forever evolving. Will the cover features of today be able to claim the same clairvoyance that can be levelled at Kerrang!’s pioneering of the likes of Metallica and the aforementioned Guns N’ Roses? Recent stars include Bob Vylan, Nova Twins and Turnstile, all of which know no ceiling to their success.

Of course, a subtler facet to the ongoing value of Kerrang! is their insistence on promoting breakthrough artists, those on the up and coming, with niche audiences and yet to garner widespread attention. ‘Living Loud’ is sure to shine the light on these artists too and it’s fascinating to read about some of the bands that had made appearances in issues of yore that have simply faded into heavy metal obscurity over time. Even the most well-versed metalheads will encounter names in this book that completely passed them by. With this in mind, there’s no reason why ‘Living Loud’ can’t unearth some of the scene’s fallen soldiers, diamonds in the rough, lost in the beautiful cacophony made by their contemporaries. Thanks to Ruskell’s diligence in combing through the vast repository of artists covered by Kerrang! readers might just find their new favourite band.

Speaking of favourites, ‘Living Loud’ boasts contributions from a host of figureheads in the heavy music scene. Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich was more than happy to provide the foreword for the book. In fact, ‘tallica fans will be over the moon, as they get a hell of a lot of room on the pages. Of course, it’s no secret that the titanic four-piece have a longstanding healthy relationship with Kerrang! and so naturally there is a trove of content to draw from. However, beyond that lot, as is boldly superimposed on the front cover, readers will also hear from Muse, Linkin Park and Ghost to name just a small few, so there’s plenty on offer for all fans.

‘Living Loud’ is marketed as a “coffee table” book which honestly feels like a bit of a disservice. While this piece certainly can be taken as a light read, or something to flick through just for the pictures or a snappy interview, the reality is that there is much more on offer here. Ruskell has succeeded in condensing 40 years’ worth of heavy music history into a palatable reading experience through the lens of a publication which is markedly omnipresent throughout the timeline presented in the book.

Most exciting is the prospect of the future. ‘Living Loud’ naturally closes out with a brief overview of the current decade. Ruskell thankfully refuses to dwell too long on the global pandemic which of course had a devastating effect on Kerrang!’s production and therefore, readership. Instead, he proudly declares the publication as “surviving and thriving”. Such is the nature of the scene that Kerrang has so passionately promoted. Loud, brave and stubborn to boot; fundamentally resistant to bend or break in the face of adversity. In short, ‘Living Loud’ is a celebration of one of heavy music’s most treasured institutions, its longevity and pivotal contributions to the very same history that it so aptly recounts.


‘Kerrang! Living Loud: Four Decades On The Frontline Of Rock, Metal, Punk, And Alternative Music’ is available via DK and other retailers.