Extreme circumstances demand extreme measures

Photograph by Greg Christman licensed exclusively to Atmostfear Entertainment
Davide Tavecchia of Army of the Universe performing live at Irving Plaza, New York City, United States on August 18th, 2011

The year was 2010 when the idea began to take shape on a couple of dozen pieces of paper full with line sketches, rectangles and squares pointing out where the site areas would be, menus, design planning and artwork concepts, the overall functionality, etcetera… I still recall having my desk full of notes, stickers, pieces of contacts, many well known professionally printed magazines, fanzines, compact discs, and whatever was useful to grind and find fresh ideas. After a couple of days, I had to annex another parallel desk because the place was getting smaller for everything as I was learning from my storage boxes, more and more stuff that I had done over the years related to heavy metal.

It took me one month to purchase the official domain name, buy the hosting, install everything, do the graphic design (back then, the site looked grayish, gloomy, and the background had Dimmu Borgir members as they had just released their newest album, ‘Abrahadabra’) and obviously, register the name on the most well-known social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Shortly after, and while still under development, a local friend joined in and he began to gather contacts, reaching musical acts, radios and spreading the word about the “new webzine”, so we set it to be released online on November 1st, 2010.

It was exactly midnight when the site went online with some reviews, articles and interviews (Dimmu Borgir, Deicide, Pestilence, among others) and by 07:00 am the site already had crashed three times due to the massive addition of people browsing it (5,000 visitors) and the server barely could keep it up. By 12:00 pm, I had been behind my desk frantically calling hosting providers to find a stable hosting for the site, 14:00 pm the site was already on a new server, then switched between servers three consecutive times during November all for the same very reason, lack of capacity to hold the site online due to massive traffic.

The first month was an overwhelming period cupped out by some great technical experiences, what seemed to be a mere “online webzine” caught the attention of many people out there because it was different, it targeted more of the smaller acts, and the sense of the old-school underground unionship was always nearby as we reached more acts from the underground rather than follow the fashionable and questionable, mainstream scene. By December, a few people already had joined in and were working daily with us promoting the “project” and adding content. The name was also now known by quite a few and the interest remained. I was pleased and my expectations were surpassed by people’s support and constant “drop in” the site.

January 2011 seemed quite promising, however as soon as the year began (and due to a former member vendetta) the site goes offline for one week and we lost all the online data… So many thoughts. However, by using a daily backup before the crash, I registered a new domain name and purchased a dedicated server, this time instead of a virtual private server, and I restored the site using the backup. Unavoidably, it made me spend some hours fixing URLs, MySQL entries, broken images, and much more, but once I got it fixed the site went online once again and we started to promote the new domain name. Since that also in January, we announced the signing of our first act, Unearthly, we have decided it was better to drop the “webzine” moniker and instead replace it by “Entertainment”, as it would help us to engage into any further fields without being tied up to one single concept.

Becoming a record label was something way beyond my intentions and far beyond any of the members mental capacities, so as a consequence many left the stuff back then because they highly doubted that this would be something to move forward with. Actually, most left because they did not want to accept the responsibility of representing a record label nor having their names associated with it in case something went wrong. That’s the sad truth.

February 2011 sees a radio station lurking in the corner, as I engaged into another radio which ended up being a total waste of time, to then invite their current DJ’s to join in and build something worthy for them, something far more exposed and professional. The process went slow, confusing, and with some confrontations in between, we have begun to add new DJ’s from other countries and some proved to be irresponsible while others are still with us until the present date. Only in late March 2011 we managed to get a proper and stable streaming line, time which we also took to invest a lot of money and effort to buy and build our own custom dedicated streaming, to then implement the proper software and a few other tweaks.

In April 2011 the radio station went on air and we had gotten our streaming software paid and running, by this time iTunes added us to their radios listings after approval, and our listeners peak climbed up drastically. But only in late July, early August 2011 was when we became fully stable after some technical issues with the software, firewalls and server connectivity.

There is a lot left to be said about the way that we have journeyed so far and I will leave that to our official historical information otherwise this would be a very lengthy editorial.

As for the present; last Sunday I have decided it was time to entirely rebuild the site and also permanently fix some quite persistent server glitches. From the latest version up to the newest just some design changes (mostly backgrounds) and minor functionality implementations have been added to the site, as well as some required security patches and system upgrades. However after 10 months of such dark and gloom, login problems and the site being slower due to “quick fixes” which obviously led to a significant decrease in its performance, was more than time to stop for a moment and reboot from scratch.

This is something I had in mind to do for nearly two months, but time and health issues always got into my room which made it impossible to carry on until now, and I am glad I did. The new and improved site runs on top-notch technology, supported by a very strong server-side core structure and Content Delivery Network (CDN) distribution for faster loading performance, also brings up a completely new way of displaying content as sections are far more organized and cohesive, this not to mention some new functionalities as for instance, multi-blogging for our members and the ability of adding reviews directly to our site from the frontend. As for previous features in the site (social networking, discussion forums, etc) those are on stand-by for now until we manage to raise it at a stable level of usage. Same happens with all previously published content, which will be added to this current version on a daily basis, I simply did not migrate it yet because it would force me to waste weeks re-arranging everything instead of just copying what is truly necessary, avoiding previous mistakes, and most importantly, fixing system bugs.

The newest version proves to be neater, lighter, faster and organized, also turns out to be extremely rewarding for many people that donated and put their own money in the development of this new variant, without being officially part of our team. They donated so that we could invest back into new technology, and many others were those that brought their coding and programming expertise into the new site’s core, that between working breaks, edited and perfected the site’s coding, not to mention also those sixty-four maniacs that send a suggestion in less than twenty-four hours after I put up the beta link for them to view. All in all, not only people from all over the world got involved (we have coders from the United Kingdom, Poland, Brazil, Greece…), because it was either a “dream” to work on this or “an honour” to contribute financially to our growth, as there was also companies that provided us with killer extras, like Sony Entertainment, Adobe Systems, Kaltura, MaxCDN, and other companies that always supported us in one way or another, such as Earsplit Compound, Massacre Records, Relapse Records, Metal Blade Records, Roadrunner Records, just to name a few. The response to our extreme appeal was massive (and still is), and it has shown us that we are doing something that others in the same field are now following as an inspiration, that in eight months we have become a name highly recognized and people look at us with an extremely deep sense of deference.

And well, that is pretty much all I can say. Thank you all for contributing, helping and even suggesting – in one way or another – it helps us to keep up with the “world’s most advanced heavy metal news source online!”

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