In case you haven’t noticed, there are two Jimmys (Jimmies?) that are a part of the Heavy Blog family, and while I’m the dude who started this site back in 2009, I’m not the Jimmy who started the Heavy Buys column. However, this Christmas season was incredibly fruitful, with a myriad of prepaid visa gift cards and sales going on that created a perfect storm for collection expansion. I took the opportunity to upgrade my current setup to something only slightly less casual (but still incredibly entry level) and expand the collection to pick up five records that I had been meaning to purchase from the previous year.
The buying spree began with a holiday sale at Relapse Records, who were parting with their 2016 releases for 20% off retail. They had previously done a sitewide sale just around Christmas time with savings hitting up to 40% off, but I missed it and hadn’t gotten my money yet. Oh well, lesson learned! I still managed to pick up two of the greatest death metal records from 2016:
Obscura – Akroasis
Specifications: Orange / Bone White Merge 2xLP gatefold with D-side etching. Relapse.com exclusive, limited to 500.
Purchase: $26.99 via Relapse Mailorder (purchased on-sale for $21.59). Other variants available.
I absolutely adore it when a vinyl record is available in an option that compliments the artwork, and the Orange/Bone White merge coloring on this one is gorgeous next to the artwork. The D-side etching is also a nice touch, depicting one of the planetary spheroids from the artwork along with the band’s logo. I’d include a photo, but it’s incredibly difficult to capture on camera.
The vinyl edition of Akroasis comes with exclusive bonus track “Melos.” It’s an incredible instrumental track that definitely stands apart from the record at large and serves as a great outro following the already epic “Weltseele”; “Melos” builds upon “Weltseele”‘s progressive use of acoustic guitars and world music influences for a brief ambient track with expressive and passionate guitar solo, making for an enriching vinyl experience.
Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis
Specifications: Gold Translucent with Black and Red Splatter 2xLP gatefold. Relapse.com exclusive, limited to 500.
Purchase: SOLD OUT at Relapse Mailorder (purchased on-sale for $19.19). Other variants available.
I’ve already reviewed the new Ulcerate record and mentioned it on the Editor’s Picks post back in October, so I’ve spoken plenty about this incredible record already. This makes my third Ulcerate purchase in my collection; a good amount, but I’m sorely missing the group’s first two outings Of Fracture and Failure and Everything Is Fire. I’ll correct these egregious oversights soon enough, but for now I’m just stoked to have another piece of the puzzle.
Astronoid – Air
Specifications: Sky Blue / White Swirl (Limited to 65 copies in North America)
Purchase: SOLD OUT at Blood-Music.
This one’s kind of cheating because I pre-ordered it back in October, but it finally arrived just before Christmas. Just as I was stoked on Akroasis‘ colored vinyl matching its artwork, Air’s limited Sky Blue / White Swirl coloring absolutely floored me as an extension of the album’s art and overall aesthetic. The record sounds massive in the format, and it cements in my mind the many reasons why this band were so buzzworthy this year. Air is simply glorious. Blood Music’s notorious knack for quality vinyl pressings definitely continues to hold up, though I’d prefer a gatefold to a standard sleeve. I’m beyond excited that I was able to catch this when it went on pre-order before it sold out.
Between the Buried and Me – Bohemian Rhapsody
Specification: Black 7″ single
Purchase: $7 via Merch Connection
I’m a bit of completionist when it comes to Between the Buried and Me and I own at least one copy of everything that’s been pressed to vinyl thus far, so I had a bit of anxiety surrounding this one because they started selling it exclusively on tour last year during a time where I couldn’t make it out (for reference, I drove 238 miles round trip to nab Colors Live on vinyl during a Record Store Day event a couple of years ago).When it did finally hit online, I couldn’t get it right away due to other expenses. Fortunately, they never sold out (at least at the time of the present writing) and I was finally able to grab one.
BTBAM’s cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is fun and serviceable, but it’s hard to do Queen justice. “Rhapsody” is such an iconic song and features some vocal acrobatics that Tommy Rogers can’t (and to his credit, doesn’t attempt to) pull off. Guitars fill out the call and response vocal harmonies in the higher register and some clean guitar is put in place to forego the acapella intro. They make it their own, and it works. However, as far as Queen covers go, their cover of “Bicycle Race” from The Anatomy Of probably takes the cake.
The B-side of the single is “Vertical Beta 461”, a re-working of an old solo track written by guitarist Paul Waggoner for a compilation called Guitars That Ate My Brain in 2009. Some minor changes were made to the track and vocals were included to flesh it out into a proper BTBAM track. It has a bit of an Alaska vibe to it, so surely that’ll please longtime fans.
It’s not exactly essential, but I’ve got them all up to this point and they’ve been my favorite band for years. And for under ten bucks, it’s great if you’ve already got something you plan on buying from Merch Connection, which was the case for me.
The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation
Specification: Black 2xLP gatefold with D-side etching
Purchase: $20 via Merch Connection
As is the case with Between the Buried and Me, I need to own every release from The Dillinger Escape Plan. The fact that they have an impending disbandment makes my task a little easier to keep up with, though it’s a problem I wish I could have. The DEP swan song Dissociation was a must have, and the independent release of the album through guitarist Ben Weinman’s label Party Smasher, Inc. worried me, as I wasn’t sure the label would have the resources to consistently meet demand and that they would quickly sell out before I was able to make the purchase. These fears were unfounded, and the label has already provided a number of editions and variations of the record that have since sold out. I settled on the standard black 2xLP, and while the quality of the packaging isn’t as outstanding as the Relapse and Blood Music purchases I made this month, I’m pleased with the music (obviously) and the D-side etching of the DEP logo.
Audio Technica LP-60 Bluetooth / Samson BT3 Bundle
Specifications: Audio Technica AT-LP60WH-BT Bluetooth Automatic Turntable (White) w/ Samson BT3 Monitors & Knox Carbon Fiber Vinyl Brush (Bundle)
Purchase: $239.98 via Amazon.
Finally, I was sorely in need of an update from a Crosley Cruser, a cheap entry-level record player that, while neat looking, is not all that great. Mine’s been beat up, connections lost, and scratched to pieces by cats. I did minimal research on this purchase and just dropped money on a high rated and affordable bundle from Amazon and ended up with the Audio Technica LP-60 Bluetooth turntable.
Since then, I’ve learned that the LP-60 is a serviceable entry-level turntable (and that’s putting it nicely if the r/vinyl subreddit is to be believed), but is problematic in its inconsistencies and has been known to read with a heavy pressure (which can damage vinyl) and just generally be of cheap build. I have had some minor issues (some off skipping being the most glaring issue), but overall, I don’t regret the purchase. After all, I’ve only so much money and I don’t necessarily have the money to drop on a more respectable alternative, like an LP-120 or a U-Turn. Oh well; It’s an improvement from what I’ve got regardless; perhaps next year I’ll upgrade again.
The biggest draw to this bundle was finally having some decent monitors with Bluetooth capability. It’s a bonus that it works with the turntable, but I’ve also been needing some speakers for use with my other devices. I’m actually very happy with these monitors so far. They can be a bit bassy, but that’s no issue.
So with my influx of holiday cash spent, I can look forward to tax season around the corner so I can splurge a little more. And of course, we’re all counting the days to Record Store Day this year. Hopefully I’ll have an excuse to make the 238 mile round trip to my favorite record store!