Malcolm Dome: 1955 – 2021

Kerrang!’s Phil Alexander pays tribute to his friend and legendary music writer Malcolm Dome, who has passed away at the age of 66.

Malcolm Dome: 1955 – 2021
Phil Alexander

There are some people who seem indestructible. A constant force. Always there. Malcolm Dome was one of those people.

In a journalistic career that spanned over 40 years, he wore his knowledge lightly, and championed an endless stream of artists – both established and emerging – that benefitted from his relentless enthusiasm. Similarly, he connected with several generations of readers, writing with the same feverish zeal with which they consumed his work.

To those of us that had the pleasure of working with Malcolm, his sudden passing has left us stunned. In all honesty, it is hard to find the words to describe a man who was so complex and so deeply loved – a maddeningly funny, eccentric individual who cared little for the material things in life.

By his own admission, as a teenager Malcolm was something of a weekend warrior, his education and family background pointing him towards a more polite career in science rather than rock’n’roll. His love of music dictated otherwise.

He began his career in 1979 at Record Mirror, one of the UK’s four principal music weeklies, where his first interviewee was Hawkwind leader Dave Brock. Malcolm’s arrival at the paper also coincided with the rise of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, a scene which provided him a host of acts to write about and allowed him to find his voice.

In 1981 he co-wrote his first book, Encyclopedia Metallica (the self-professed Bible Of Heavy Metal), with fellow journalist Brian Harrigan. This slender but influential tome traced the genre’s roots from the late-’60s into the modern day, providing invaluable context to a new generation of fans.

Soon after Malcolm arrived at the short-lived Metal Fury magazine, before joining the editorial team on Kerrang!. A man who eschewed sleep at the best of times, there he found himself thriving in an office environment where the good times were in plentiful supply.

Always keen to embrace the new, he became of one the principal advocates of the next generation of thrash metal acts – the likes of Metallica, Anthrax and Celtic Frost among them. Refusing to have his tastes pigeonholed, he also conversely wrote extensively about acts that included Mötley Crüe, Ratt and Bon Jovi – all of whom would personally acknowledge just how influential his support actually was down the years.

Leaving Kerrang! in the mid-’80s, Malcolm worked on the UK edition of Metal Hammer before creating a new fortnightly title named RAW. The magazine was launched in the summer of ’88 at the Monsters Of Rock festival at Donington Park – itself the scene of so many moments of mayhem engendered by the man himself.

Initially produced from a small broom cupboard just off Baker Street, RAW’s broad editorial remit allowed Malcolm to write about the new breed of alternative American acts spearheaded by Jane’s Addiction. One particular encounter between him and singer Perry Farrell led to a surreal conversation and an equal abstract piece which began with the immortal lines: “This feature has been written backwards. Make of that what you will.”

Moments of such idiosyncrasy aside, Malcolm’s approach to writing was always based on a sense of righteous passion combined with his natural wit, erudition and insight. He was never shy about offering up criticism – he famously admonished acts both in print and in person when he felt they’d disappointed him – but neither was he swayed by what was deemed fashionable or hip.

Following the grunge explosion, Malcolm enjoyed a stint on Metal Forces magazine before returning to Kerrang! in 1994 where, as News Editor in the pre-internet age, his natural propensity for gossip and his nose for a story saw him take great pride at breaking stories before any other publication.

Adopting his legendary ‘first-in, first-to-the-bar’ approach, he also helped develop a unique camaraderie within a team that was truly obsessed with the music we wrote about. If three-hour liquid lunch breaks at The Old Coffee House, the nearest hostelry to Kerrang!’s Carnaby Street HQ, seemed like a good idea at the time, then they also led to the inevitable Thursday night office endurance test where we scrambled to finish the following week’s issue. More often than not, those bleary evenings were illuminated by Malcolm’s endless anecdotes, his string of random impressions, and his familiar refrain of “In you go!” as he cajoled his fellow staffers into the kitchen, forcing them to furnish him with hourly cups of tea.

When Malcolm left Kerrang! for the last time in the late-’90s, he joined legendary producer Tony Wilson at Total Rock Radio. There, Malcolm almost seemed to take up residence in the studio, becoming one of the station’s principal broadcasters and helming countless shows in the process. He also continued to write for publications including Prog magazine, Metal Hammer, Classic Rock and, latterly, Rock Candy, as well as delivering a steady stream of sleeve-notes for assorted reissues – a number of which benefited from his first-hand insight and experience.

As news broke of his passing over the weekend, those of us that knew Malcolm felt the need to privately share stories about the man. And there were so many stories…

Despite the extreme sadness we all feel around his death, it is impossible not to smile at the endless stream madcap memories he has left us with. Most significant of all, however, is the way in which Malcolm helped shape the narrative of heavy music for four decades, not just in the UK but the world over. So many musicians, fans, publicists, and fellow writers – myself included – owe him a genuine debt of eternal gratitude.

So, thank you, Malcolm. Rest well. And love to you always, my friend…

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