Welcome back to Heavy Buys, our monthly column where Heavy Blog staff take a dive into physical goods peddled by our favorite bands. This month, we’ve unboxed the latest in (un)dead media from the likes of Blut Aus Nord, Coheed and Cambria, Protest the Hero, White Ward, and more!

Speaking of Heavy Buys: we’ve got some merch of our own! Check out some shirts, stickers, and a pin of our mascot Crunchy — which you can also see perched below among some cassettes — over with our friends at A Thousand Arms.

Without further ado: C O N S U M E

Blut Aus Nord – Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses

Purple Translucent
Debemur Morti Productions

French extreme music label Debemur Morti Records have been around since 2003, but it wasn’t until 2020’s Stare Into Death And Be Still by Ulcerate when I started to pay close attention, embarrassingly late as it is. Ulcerate had been kicking around Willowtip and Relapse before being scooped up by Debemur Morti, and while I had heard of some bands signed to the label prior (Blut Aus Nord being one of them), I never purchased anything from them, nor did I look that closely. Debemur Morti clearly prided themselves on being the place for weird, dark, and boundary-pushing extreme metal. It’s been a wild two years since, with my collection growing outward by White Ward (see below) and Plebeian Grandstand records in addition to that Ulcerate LP, and with the release of the new Blut Aus Nord record Disharmonium – Undreamable Abysses, I’m stoked to add another, because the quality of physical product that this label releases puts them in a league of their own. 

Not only does the label deliver a great quality LP, but the packaging has been fantastic. I talk a lot about how bare bones vinyl pressings – standard weight black LPs in jacket with artwork on it and that’s basically it – are underrated. Debemur Morti, in my experience, tends to throw in extra. Plebeian Grandstand’s Rein en suffitt included a book, and my copy of Stare Into Death included a patch and a slipcover with alternate artwork, so when I finally got around to picking up a copy. I was happy to see that even standard runs of Disharmonium included a slipcover as well, which gorgeously builds outward with psychedelic Lovecraftian presentation to suit the record’s horrific and otherworldly soundscapes. Also included: an insert with additional artwork and a two-sided poster on paper that is monstrously thick. 

I had missed out on those stellar looking first run of splits and splatters and was more or less stuck with transparent purple, but I can never be mad about purple, especially considering the artwork. The color of the vinyl coordinating with the artwork still feels like a novelty to me every time and never gets old. 

The production on the album is very weird, perhaps intentionally so, in order to capture this extradimensional aesthetic. There’s a lot of “air” and an unusual weight to the sound that makes the music feel quiet even when it’s loud, which leaves plenty of opportunity for the vinyl artifacts to seep through. Is the possibility of intense vinyl crackle between bouts of blackened ethereal whooshing enough to ruin the listening experience or does it only add to the character? That’s for you to decide. I couldn’t quite get the record clean enough to avoid it altogether, but I was in dire need of the ability to put this album onto the turntable well before spooky season.

Available at Aisa Merch | Discogs

-JR


Coheed and Cambria – Vaxis II: A Window To The Waking Mind

Marmalade Glow (Blue / Orange Swirl) 2xLP – Webstore Exclusive /4000
Roadrunner Records

I resisted it in a dark and distant past, but at this point in my life, Coheed and Cambria are among one of my favorite bands. Their blend of pop-punk and prog rock just hits me to my core, and they’re always a good time. The much anticipated follow-up to 2018’s Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures finally dropped in June after its May release date was delayed due to manufacturing issues (which we’ve discussed plenty around here), and despite some mixed feelings about the record and its weird electro-hole in the middle, it’s still a cool spin.

This one was another case of it paying off for signing up for bands’ newsletters. The email advertising this drop came across my phone as a push notification, so I was quick to pounce. I felt confident at that time, what with leading single Shoulders being pretty incredible. I’m fortunate to have got my order in when I did, because despite the 4k run, these sold out quick, and more than a couple of folks on Coheed fan subreddit /r/TheFence have complained about orders being cancelled. There are other runs available fortunately, but name a more iconic duo than science fiction and the blue/orange color scheme.

On a physical front, Vaxis round two is awfully similar to round one. If you’ve laid hands or eyes on the vinyl release for Vaxis I, there should be no surprises here; It’s a similar tri-fold aligned vertically instead of horizontally. It’s a bit wonky and cumbersome, especially if you’re like me and like to store your LPs outside of the jacket without poly inner sleeves (gotta double them up behind the gatefold within the outer sleeve) but it’s a neat trick to pull off with the packaging. Within the center and right panels from the inside perspective (now horizontal!), the two records came housed in printed sleeves with additional artwork and lyrics. 

A band of Coheed’s caliber with the backing of such a major label basically ensured that this vinyl release would be high quality, and despite the delays, this is an incredible addition to the discography. Though, I don’t think there are many folks out there on the fence about this one; Coheed fans are a passionate and dorky bunch. But in case you’re waiting on funds to come available, the wide-release clear electric blue also looks great!

Sold Out (Sorry! Other variants may be available) | Discogs 

-JR


Cross Bringer – The Signs of Spiritual Delusion

Battlefield Swirl (Black/Grey/Red/Pink Hydrodip) / 52 of 77
Tomb Tree Tapes / Zegema Beach Records

I won’t blame you if you haven’t heard of Belgian-Russian blackened crust maestros Cross Bringer, though that’s a shortcoming you should probably rectify immediately. The Signs of Spiritual Delusion dropped in 2020, quietly becoming one of my favorite dark horse releases of the year. Punishing and ecstatic in its chaotic vitriol, TSOSD blends everything you love about euphoric black metal anthems with the stomach-churning energy of a skronky mathcore unit doing flips off their cabs. 

I’d been wanting to pick up one of the boutique hand-decorated tapes that Tomb Tree and Zegema are known for, so fuck me silly when I was casually browsing Zegema’s catalog and stumbled upon this perfect specimen. I had no idea Cross Bringer had even pressed tapes of the album, let alone that they’d be this intriguing. There are multiple multicolored hydrodip variants (and a solid silver one) but I was only able to snag the most common version – this “battlefield swirl” that looks like blood and plasma leaking into the soil amongst the discarded shrapnel of a warzone. Pretty fitting colorway, I’d say. Of course, each tape will have its own unique pattern given the decoration process, which is cool by its own right. Side A and B are marked by a single or double exclamation point stamped in red; no text or other markings appear on the tapes themselves. I highly suggest picking up a copy while they’re still available. Support boutique tapes! 

Available here from ZBR | Discogs

-Calder Dougherty


Luminous Vault – Animate the Emptiness

Standard Black LP
Profound Lore

I’m always of two minds when it comes to support of Profound Lore and the bands on the label. In the past, they’ve been host to some allegedly sketchy fuckin bands, to say the least. I certainly don’t feel very comfortable giving money to a label that has released music from fascists. I won’t expound upon that much here; AV Club covered this issue back in 2017 in the wake of Profound Lore’s release of a Disma EP. When it comes to Profound Lore artists, I make sure to do a little research first, which should always be the case, but you shouldn’t even have to worry about it at all. 

On the other hand, Profound Lore is home of some genuinely progressive, boundary pushing, and high quality music, and often with good politics. Just this year, we’ve seen Profound Lore release must-hear music from Artificial Brain, Aeviterne, Cosmic Putrefaction and Luminous Vault, among others. It also helps that they’re one of the cornerstone labels in metal that’s home to legacy artists and certified classics, and they’re still holding down affordable physical releases with $20 vinyl records for the most standard single-LP releases. Checking their store-front, the most interesting variants for the new Dreadnought LP are a mere $21. 20 Buck Spin are right there with them in the lower 20’s, and we love to see it in a time of $35 LPs. 

I sat out pre-orders for this new Luminous Vault LP because I had erroneously assumed it would remain available given its esoteric nature, but I wound up missing out on all the cool limited first pressing variants. I wasn’t going to count on there ever being a second pressing, especially with many Profound Lore 2022 pressings still waiting in the wings on their first pressing; Aeviterne and Cosmic Putrefaction aren’t even available to pre-order yet! Google lead me to some third party sellers selling the standard black edition, including Rough Trade (linked below for those interested!), but the costs were marked up to $27 before shipping; eight dollars above the label price. I knew I could get a deal at my local record store if they could get it from their distributor, but their system turned up with a backorder status for this one. I searched around Discogs and found the standard black available from Red Scroll Records, a Discogs-certified indie record store from Connecticut, who I had done business with before, for only $23. A great deal!

The record arrived housed in a poly-lined black inner-sleeve within a poly bag outside of the jacket, a practice that should be standard at this point for records that aren’t shrink-wrapped for retail. It’s a bare-bones pressing, including a separate optional inner sleeve with additional artwork and lyrics. No bells or whistles, but it doesn’t need it. Upon inspection, I was anxious about the center label for the LP appearing as if it were scratched to shit, and the LP itself quite dusty. Fortunately, the thin black LP was spotless after a surface cleaning, and played flawlessly. Another anecdote to file away under the common thinking that black LPs, even those that aren’t heavyweight, just sound better than their busy, colorful variants.

For me, Animate the Emptiness was a must-have and sits firmly within the top five albums of the year at the halfway point. I’ve no complaints about this pressing whatsoever; I just wish I had been on top of things enough to catch the pre-order period. Now I’ll sit and wait patiently for those Aeviterne records to come through.

Available at Rough Trade | Discogs

-JR


Protest The Hero – Fortress

Gold on White Cassette / 300
Zegema Beach Records

This baby became one of my white whale finds as soon as I started collecting tapes. Zegema Beach did a limited cassette run of each of Protest The Hero’s albums a few years back (I believe around Pacific Myth) and as such, they’ve been sold out for years. Fortress, besides being arguably their most successful album, is also one that I hold near and dear to my heart. It’s one of my most beloved records of all time. In fact, my biggest, most noticeable tattoo is a nod to “Wretch”. I was insanely lucky to catch this as soon as it went up on Discogs, and not only that, but it was still sealed (?!) and up for a reasonable price. I’ve never snatched something up so fast in my life.

As far as the tape design, it’s technically nothing fancy. The matte gold pad print on white shell looks sleek and regal. The tape itself plays beautifully, which I’m incredibly thankful for. The previous owner obviously had this sitting sealed up in a cool, dry spot, as there’s no warbling or warping due to age or environment. Sure, I may have ruined whatever price I might be able to get for it by taking it out of the cellophane and giving it a spin, but I’m not buying these to look at, damnit. When the mega conglomerates cut our access to unlimited streaming of every note of music ever published, you can pry my Fortress tape from my cold, dead hands.

Sold Out (Sorry!) | Discogs

-CD


White Ward – False Light

Blood Red in Beer 2xLP
Debemur Morti Productions

Ukraine progressive black metal act White Ward are favorites around here, landing the top spot on our 2018 collective AOTY list with Love Exchange Failure, which was an ambitious blend of sludge, black metal, and dark jazz. For me, it took me back to 2007 when I heard Between the Buried and Me’s Colors for the first time, but I suppose that album art is an obvious cue. 

I’ve mentioned this up top with the Blut Aus Nord LP, but my experiences with Debemur Morti pressings have been solid thus far, and their discography includes some of my favorite pressings within the collection, so there were few doubts going in that False Light would sound fantastic. Indeed, the slow ambient build of “Leviathan” was pristine and spotless after a ritual surface cleaning. Sure enough, Side A played flawlessly throughout, but the rest fared less fortunate to varying degrees. As per usual, your mileage may vary. 

As is the case with Debemur Morti’s limited pressings, the physical presentation of the album is stellar. Debemur Morti likes to do things a little extra, like a slipcover or a book, and I love them for it. The gatefold has a powdery finish that accentuates the abandoned rural aesthetic beautifully captured by photographer Lucas Deshazar. A 20 page book comes affixed within the gatefold, which is something I’ve never personally come across before. The supplemental materials for this record go above and beyond; not only are the typical liner notes and lyrics included as one would expect, but the band provides additional insights within the book about the album’s narrative. The book glued inside the gatefold makes storage of the LPs outside of the sleeves (a common tactic to stave off ringwear and seam splitting) a little more cumbersome, but I’m far from upset about it. 

At the halfway point, False Light is my album of the year. Who know what’ll happen when the new Chat Pile drops, but this record continues to get better every time I spin it. I regret missing out on the deluxe version with the slipcover and alternate artwork, but it could have been worse, as the rest of the North American stock is sold out. If history repeats itself, I imagine a repress will be coming along eventually!

Sold Out at Aisa Merch (Sorry!) | Discogs

-JR

Red on White Cassette / 100
Debemur Morti Productions

I don’t really have anything of substance to add, besides to say that this album rips and I was lucky enough to grab one of the last first press preorders. The crimson pad print on bone white shell looks immaculate, and it plays like a dream. Everything is crystal clear in analog, especially the gorgeous sax runs that wither and twirl through the air in mesmeric bliss. This will get replayed again and again in the coming years, I’m sure of it.

Sold Out (and so is the second pressing) | Discogs

-CD