Heavy Blog Is Analog // April 2024

What once was Heavy Buys is now Heavy Blog Is Analog. Here, we look through some recent vinyl purchases, featuring an AFI bootleg, two of 2023's best death metal LPs, and wall to wall mathcore -- including but not limited to a chamber orchestra rendition of a classic Dillinger Escape Plan album.

18 days ago

What once was Heavy Buys is now Heavy Blog Is Analog. Heavy Buys began as a catch-all review column for recent purchases relevant to the website, whether it be vinyl, CDs, cassettes, shirts, or even musical instruments. That was the idea at least, but when 99 out of 100 entries in this column are vinyl – many of them you can't even buy by the time we hit "Publish" – we decided to transition the column to reflect its current purpose: to talk about and review vinyl first and foremost, as well as other physical media as it comes up.

As I type this intro, record store day has came and went on another year without picking up anything relevant to heavy circles. Yes, there were heavy releases from Motorhead to Asking Alexandria, and even a Black Breath box set, but nothing that caught my eyes in particular in that realm. RSD 2024 Ambassadors Paramore dropped two new editions of their latest album This Is Why, with and without remixes. Additionally we got a 12" single with their celebrated new cover of Talking Heads' "Burning Down The House" with a B-side of David Byrne covering the group's new wave banger "Hard Times." I also bought a The 1975 live album, which happens to be the best sounding record I've ever purchased. But we're not here to talk about those today; despite the genre-agnostic swing we've taken in recent years, we're still a site that primarily focuses on relatively extreme genres.

What we will be focusing on today is what I've collected sporadically over the last several months as this draft began collecting dust back in February. Doing this column has become a bit of a ritual, where relevant releases sit on top of my shelf without being properly put away until I can take them out for photos and a proper listen. As I began writing this intro, I had 17 purchases sitting around the shelves in various states of undress and preparedness. Some I was able to re-sleeve and put away after coming to conclusions such as "no, I probably won't be reviewing that Peeping Tom repress for Heavy Buys" and "I just don't have it in me to take photos of and review three different standard Deftones LPs."

What's left below are some of the more interesting records Jordan and I have gotten in the mail or purchased in the post-Christmas/Q1 2024 zone, including avant death metal, a bootleg, and a whole lot of mathcore, including a chamber orchestra Dillinger Escape Plan cover album. Hopefully the next edition of this column will have a much quicker turnaround and I can catch up with my spending habits and put these records away. Speaking of, if you're so inclined, you can follow me on Discogs!

Let's dive in.

-Jimmy Rowe

AFI - Decemberunderground

Dark Blue
Unofficial Pressing

That's right, I'm back on the bootleg grind. The way I see it is that if a band or a label can't or won't put their album out on vinyl and some backwoods plant in Russia did it, I don't care a bit to dip in when one comes across my desk. My experience with the quality of bootlegs in the past have been surprisingly positive, although I am somewhat bitter about picking up a middling boot of AFI's seminal Sing The Sorrow literally days before an official repress was announced. If you've followed the column at all, you know I picked up the official, and was disappointed that it wasn't that much better than the bootleg due to some persistent noise during playback. There's pros and cons of either copy, but I at least have my bases covered and can feel better knowing I actually gave the band money for a real copy.

But now we move on to the follow-up with 2006's Decemberunderground, which is also in a state of decades-long unavailability on the vinyl format. I can only imagine that the band are planning a similar repress in or around 2026, but why wait when this is readily available? It popped up one morning at my usual online boot haunt, and it didn't take much convincing to give it a go. No regrets.

Much like my unofficial copy of Sing the Sorrow, we've got the entire album crammed into one LP when two might have been the more audiophile-minded option, and while Decemberunderground is a shorter album than Sing the Sorrow, they've included two bonus tracks, including a cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Head Like A Hole", so the sound is a bit compressed and flat, like you're playing a YouTube video over the speakers. Yes, this is a bootleg and therefore was probably sourced from some less-than-ideal audio files, and the total with shipping from Tullamarine, Australia (here's the only hint I'm giving!) putting the cost to just under $60, it's not exactly a frugal or wise investment. But when the alternative is having the gap in the discography, as a fan, it's a justifiable expense. Personally, I'd rather have it.

Try To Google It, I'm Sure You'll Find It | Discogs


Afterbirth - In But Not Of

Green / Red Merge [limited to 150]
Willowtip Records

It may be news to you that despite this being the third LP from Long Island progressive brutal death metal outfit Afterbirth, the band have a history reaching back into the 90's with demo tapes circulating until the band reached eventual collapse by 1995. Very rare does a band like that get a second life, but Afterbirth have managed to regroup nearly two decades later, culminating in a cult classic debut album The Time Traveler's Dilemma in 2017 and their equally celebrated 2020 follow-up Four Dimensional Flesh through deathcore and brutal death boutique Unique Leader Records. Afterbirth has since transitioned to Willowtip Records, and released what some might consider to be the death metal album of the year of 2023 with In But Not Of, containing the band's best work to date.

Indeed, In But Not Of gathered universal praise from outlets and communities focused on this corner of music, with Heavy Blog in particular highlighting this record as a highlight not just in our Death's Door 2023 Recap, but also in our genre-agnostic unranked Top 25 Albums of 2023 list. It was during this late-year retrospection that I looked into getting a copy of the album for myself, but the finer-looking variants had came and went. Fortunately, I caught an email notification from Willowtip on Bandcamp where they had unloaded the final copies of this record that were left over, and pounced. It wasn't without a markup, either; all told, this was $47 shipped for a single LP. Now, months later, a second press is available for $36 after shipping. Bold of a label to flip their own stock, I'm not gonna lie.

The fear of missing out fuels many of my purchases, and this is one of the incidences where it was unfounded. I can't say I regret it too much, though. This specific variant is quite nice. The audio quality and presentation are as to be expected from Willowtip; a damn fine label with consistent output. I've long said that death metal sounds incredible on this format, and the old-school tilt that Afterbirth have lends to a powerful listen on vinyl. As a top death metal album of not just 2023 but of the decade thus far, it's a must-have for fans of the genre.

Variant Sold Out [Other Variants Available via Willowtip and Bandcamp] | Discogs


The Callous Daoboys - Die On Mars

Mars Variant [Band Exclusive /157]
Acrobat Unstable Records

I hate to admit it, but I slept on mathcore darlings The Callous Daoboys' 2019 debut album Die On Mars and didn't get into the band until their sophomore album Celebrity Therapist dropped in 2022. By the time I worked my way back to the debut, the vinyl was long gone. Patience paid off this time; the breakout success of Celebrity Therapist generated enough renewed interest and available resources for the band and screamo label Acrobat Unstable decided to revisit the material for a new pressing. This is my first purchase from Acrobat Unstable, and it won't be my last. Looking at you, Dreamwell. But more on them later.

All told, the new pressing is simple and straighforward, and doesn't really need anything else. Die on Mars is a single LP in a sleeve, with lyrics on a black double-sided insert. The disc itself is in great shape and condition and the record plays nearly flawlessly. Chaotic albums such as this tend to do pretty well on the format, but as far as mathcore goes, The Callous Daoboys have a bit more dynamic going on. Immediately, "Flip Flops at a Funeral" bodes well for this pressing; the outer edges tend to pick up more noisy artifacts, but this first track's quieter violin-led verse is pitch-perfect and clear. The sass-ridden beatdown to follow also absolutely destroys.

While this specific band-exclusive orange splatter variant sold out within moments of going live at the end of 2023, Acrobat Unstable has copies in two more gorgeous runs for $25 before shipping. If you've been similarly asleep at the wheel as I was prior to Celebrity Therapist and are a fan of avant garde metal, mathcore, and post-hardcore, Die On Mars is worth perusal, especially as it documents the beginning moments of a band that is fast earning their place atop the mountain of mathcore. See y'all during the Calculating Infinity shows this summer.

Variant Sold Out [Other Variants Available via Acrobat Unstable] | Discogs


Couch Slut - You Could Do It Tonight

Black/Red/Grey Merge (“Wilkinson's Sword") [limited to 250]
Brutal Panda Records

As much as Couch Slut hit “holy fuck” levels sonically, they always keep their art game on point, too, enhancing their harrowing sounds with some simply disturbing visuals. That said, Leandro De Cotis returns with another slew of NSFW comic vignettes depicting some, to put it plainly, unsettling and unsavory scenes. It’s pretty hardcore stuff that’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you’re listening to Couch Slut, you can easily imagine the kinds of stuff that can come across your eyes. Presented in the classic grey-on-black, the dark and gritty visual language continues from prior releases, and I’m very down with the uniformity of this style through all of their releases.

As such, I opted for the grey/black/red variant for this go. I could cry about the red coming out a little more magenta than depicted in mock-ups, but it plays well with no distracting noise or skips. The gray and black labels are clear with everything you need to know, featuring famliar logos/art. As an extra, there was a strange postcard included that I’d feel pretty uncomfortable sending to someone, so obviously this stays on the fridge.

Like their prior releases, it’s packaged in a simple, single-pocket jacket. Unlike their prior releases, however, is the abundance of gnarly De Cotis art here due to the expanded lyric book. Rather than a single lyric sheet, we now get ten images sure to inspire nightmares for a week — what a treat! Really though, it’s hard for me to imagine a Couch Slut record without something that doesn’t make my skin crawl, and for that I’m thankful. After all, this is some subversive shit. Again, the hand-scrawled lyrics add a bizarrely personal touch, making the tales on record a bit closer to real life, despite the truly monstrous depictions of some of these characters. It’s an effective package that urges you to sink into the seediness and confront it all head on, with your ears and your eyes.

Available via Bandcamp | Discogs

-Jordan Jerabek

Dreamwell - In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You

Thawed Memories (Electric Blue w/ Black Smoke)
Prosthetic Records

Over the last year or so, I've been getting into screamo and related genres like emoviolence and have been enjoying that journey immensely. Visiting classics from the likes of Gospel, Orchid, and City of Caterpillar (among others) has been quite a journey that has helped shape my ever-evolving music taste and, as a musician, sonic vocabulary. In tandem, I've also been tapping into the current wave of screamo, including recent darlings Frail Body (that's one for next time!). One of the highlights of the current scene, for me, is undoubtedly Dreamwell. Their 2023 LP In My Saddest Dreams, I Am Beside You easily made my Top 25 of 2023, and as such, I had my local record store order a copy towards the end of the year.

With In My Saddest Dreams, Dreamwell blends screamo, post-rock, mathcore, noise rock, and the faintest suggestion of black metal for a much darker follow-up to 2021's Modern Grotesque. On a musical level, the album is phenomenal. Crushing, devastating, and emotionally resonant for your darkest days and lowest of lows. The physical product stacks up pretty well; that cover art is enough of a draw as it is, being one of my personal favorite covers of the year. The artist, Helvetica Blanc, is a favorite around these parts.

Perhaps it's a bit of a nock against this specific pressing that there's seemingly no connection between the art and the color scheme of the vinyl itself, but that's hardly worth complaining about when I'm enraptured by the deep blue merge effect regardless. There was a more aesthetically consistent variant available, but as my local record store ordered it blindly from their distributor, it was luck of the draw. The record, it turns out, plays nearly flawlessly. No complaints there.

I'm such a fan of this jacket. It's a simple card jacket, but the type of finish with a paper-like grain, really makes the artwork pop, and I much prefer the feeling of cardboard/stock in my hands than something more glossy and plasticine. We're getting into the woods here, but I'm gonna cut the rant short: I can't stand glossy jackets.

Inside, we have a rarity for the vinyl world: a four-booklet with additional artwork and lyrics. Full-sized, with staples; a proper booklet! Thank you Prosthetic. A tip of the hat as well to the band and designer Jared Shute for throwing House of Leaves and DSM reference in the lyric page under the instrumental track. As a mental health professional whose favorite book of all time is House of Leaves, that felt like it was made for me. I have a feeling these are my people.

As a relative screamo novice, I'd argue that Dreamwell are a must-have band of the moment, and their inclusion of a wide variety of post-whatevercore influences helps seal the deal given that the product delivers.

Variant sold out online, but another variant is available for Purchase at Bandcamp | Discogs


Necrot - Lifeless Birth

Clear With Blue, Purple, Green & Black Splatter [/350]

Necrot is one of my favorite bands to collect. This is largely because Tankcrimes has done a great job with each of their recent pressings (and repressings) — they offer really solid value for a $25 (as of now) record. Per usual, the Marald van Haasteren art gets the proper treatment with high-quality gatefold printing that gets down to the nitty gritty of his designs. The jacket itself has a sturdy, though not quite “premium” weight to it, rocking a nice big foil stamp of one of the coolest logos in all of death metal (courtesy of David Mikkelsen. Sure, they’re a pretty standard adornment, but every time it gives me a “hell yeah, we’re getting into some death metal” feels. TC is really good about pairing the layout with some great wax options, and as the band has surged, it’s nice to see that they’ve been broadening their offerings, too, with nine variants (one black) for Lifeless Birth’s first press.

So as one would assume at this point, Lifeless Birth continues this streak of winners. The artwork is as sick as ever, including a gnarly complementary piece on the inner gatefold. Marald knocks it out of the park on this album with something not quite as grotesque as 2020’s Mortal, but nonetheless worthy of poring over as these are some gloriously sinister visuals. The vibrant color palette runs the gamut of the rainbow, a first for Necrot and generally uncommon in the genre. I dig how the cooler cover and outer gatefold complement the warmer artwork on the inner, it grabs the eye at every level. As a bonus, this album comes with a huge promo poster of the cover plus the covers of Necrot’s previous releases, so kudos on them for tossin’ in a lil’ extra.

The wax fits the bill, too, with a nice four-color splat on clear that picks up on many of the hues from the cover. Labels are easy-to-read with a nice logo/tracklist combo, something I’ve become a touch more appreciative of in my advancing age. I’ve come to prefer the style on this (and Blood Offerings) where the entire track listing is broken down on side A with their logo/secondary art on the B label. Why muddy up a good spot for a pentagram? Plus, they toss this bad boy in a poly-lined black paper innersleeve which fits nicely into the single-pocket jacket — a welcome addition for anyone precious about their collection. Visually, it’s a cohesive package with everything you need and nothin’ ya don’t. At a time when new LPs are going for north of $30 on the regular, they really seem to hit a sweet spot here, and I don’t want that going unnoticed. In fairness, if I’m being nitpicky, the other three Necrot records in my collection don’t have quite as much surface noise, but I’ll chalk that up to this specific splatter variant as the culprit. Noise doesn’t bother me a ton, but it’s something to consider if you’re looking for a smoother ride.

Sold Out (Other variants here) | Discogs


Nithing - Agonal Hymns

180g Standard Black [limited to 100]
New Standard Elite

When it comes to death metal, there's something attractive about the most unlistenable depths that the genre has to offer. It's one of the reasons I love the genre; it's an arms race to the bottom, and year after year, bands find new ways to push the envelope of technicality, musicianship, production, and good taste. If a band sounds like gravel being shoved into a garbage disposal, I want to hear about it. Nithing are one such band, with a dichotomy of high and low brow death metal that feels as though an advanced race of extraterrestrials arrived in pre-historic earth and taught Cro-Magnons how to perform free jazz with sticks and rocks while fueled on psychedelics heretofore unheard of.

Agonal Hymns was easily one of the best death metal albums of 2023, perhaps outdoing the aforementioned Afterbirth in the weirdo brutal tech department. After some delay, underground brutal death metal tastemakers New Standard Elite pressed the album on vinyl, with a strict limitation to 100 hand-numbered units. After shipping, these went for $50 a pop, which is extraordinarily steep for a death metal single LP pressing on standard black vinyl with no real bells and whistles to speak of. But FOMO fuels so much in this hobby and within these niche subgenres, and they sold out within a few hours of being posted online. Am I stoked about the price point? Not at all. But I got one!

This is my first purchase from New Standard Elite, who recently underwent new management and were doing a bit of a reboot in 2023 leading up to this pressing. What we have in the final product is a standard black LP in a standard jacket. There's a two-sided insert with liner notes, credits, and lyrics. There's no additional art to speak of here, either; the distorted face on the cover appears on both sides of the insert and the back cover is a clever stitch of the two background figures on the cover side-by-side. Further, I'd be lying if I said that the hand numbering on the vinyl edition of this album was on a sticker placed on the outer sleeve instead of written on the jacket itself. I hate to be nit-picky, but remember, this was $50.

But down to what matters: how does the record sound under the needle? It's good! First impressions are hard to gauge because the production on this album from the ground up is a bit wonky, with an emphasis on low end chunk and very little in the way of dynamics. Coming off of something like the Dreamwell record above might make for a weird transition to something like this, but once your ears are tuned to what Nithing are trying to accomplish with this thick, clanging muddiness (complimentary - remember, this is one of the best albums of 2023), it starts to really come alive.

I can complain about the price as much as I want, but the reality comes down to Econ 101; this small label, fresh from a reboot and changing of hands, had a product that sold out almost immediately at its price point, so capitalism dictates that they could have charged more despite the minimalist approach to the end-product. I'm lucky to have the privilege of having grabbed one, and I certainly don't intend to sell now. Being bitter is easy, but I'm going to do some reframing and tell myself I could sell it for profit (I won't) if I wanted and be grateful. In the mean time, if New Standard Elite and Nithing circle back for a second press (or a new album!!), jump on it quick if you can.

Sold Out! (Sorry!) | Discogs


Psyopus - Odd Senses

Frankenflame [limited to 100]
Silent Pendulum Records

Back when I was discovering mathcore in the midst of its first wave, Psyopus were one of the harder bands for me to get into. I had spun Our Puzzling Encounters Considered and thought it was good enough to look forward to the follow-up to come years later, but when Odd Senses dropped in 2009 I didn't quite like it. In fact, I thought the record was abrasive to the point of being annoying. At that point, The Dillinger Escape Plan had begun incorporating pop and avant garde elements their their sound and The Number Twelve Looks Like You had a specific kind of post-hardcore weirdness that made the chaos listenable. Odd Senses, with its disregard for listenability, nearly incomprehensible song structures, and use of repetition to drive a point home, was actively annoying and difficult to listen to. And yet I kept coming back to it, fascinated by it like a grotesque painting, hard to look away.

Odd Senses aged remarkably well as an album. Not so much the artwork – that type of photoshop mish-mash was very much of the 2000's – but when it comes to the music itself, it's hard to place in time. You mean to tell me this came out the same year as Between the Buried and Me's The Great Misdirect and Mastodon's Crack the Skye? It feels like this could have came out in either 2002 or 2022. The vinyl format helps aid this timeless connection to the album, and as usual, Silent Pendulum Records are preserving this style of music so diligently, with respect to the craft that this niche scene didn't always have. The record sounds phenomenal, and much cleaner than the copy of Our Puzzling Encounters Considered that dropped in 2021, which is a relief.

I'm a big fan of Silent Pendulum and have been for years. They've made many albums, new and old, obtainable on this format where there wouldn't have been a shot otherwise. That being said, to beat a dead horse in this column, the $50 price tag on this piece is really pushing the limits here, not to mention the $11 shipping on top. I get it; we're in a recession, and at least it's not as egregious a markup as the above Nithing LP. Record prices continue to creep up, and Silent Pendulum Records stay on that cutting edge of charging an arm and a leg to get a record compared to the likes of 20 Buck Spin who are keeping 2xLPs under $30 after shipping for a similar quality product when it comes to packaging and the sound of needles on wax. Granted, just about every variant of this run of pressings is elevated in some way; they're the only label I've seen run "frankenflame" variants such as this, and the other variants aren't lacking, either, like the now sold-out super splatter. Perhaps the price of this is also boosted by licensing fees to Metal Blade Records. No matter how it stacks up, this being over $60 shipped is a tough ask, which may be a contributing factor to why this run hasn't sold out yet.

Fans of mathcore with deep pockets have a golden opportunity to catch a real gem here, as the record is gorgeous and the product is high quality. Though I suppose it goes without being said; why buy a record at all unless you're a fan? At least the buy now/pay later options out there make big purchases like this more manageable.

Available for Purchase at Silent Pendulum | Discogs

See You Next Tuesday - Distractions

Milky Clear + Hot Pink [limited to 500]
Good Fight Music

Mathcore fans have been eating good over the last few years despite the death of The Dillinger Escape Plan. We've got a renaissance going on with classic bands coming back and all these seminal albums getting reprinted. Unfortunately, a label I won't name here are snapping up some myspace era gems and locking them up and throwing away the key, but the releases that matter the most are available and the bands that made them are becoming creative in this space again. I distinctly remember See You Next Tuesday occupying this false-grind, almost deathcore space back in the 2000's before their eventual breakup. Now, they're back and their 2023 album Distractions was a welcome one indeed.

I had heard the album a couple of times through streaming services and told myself I'd definitely get around to picking one of these records up if the opportunity came up once money was right, and around Christmastime, money was most definitely right, as their label Good Fight Music dropped this LP on sale for a stunning and insane 75% off, coming in under $15 after taxes and shipping. The elephant in the room: either the album sales had to have been abysmal for the label to just unload these at what very well might be approaching a loss, or this specific variant was low quality. Surely, it wasn't out of the kindness of their heart, but then again, Good Fight also recently released a Distractions remix album and surely wouldn't have done that if the album proper hadn't met expectations. Regardless, at $6.25, I was going to find out.

I've purchased records from Good Fight a time or two and had no issues with their albums before, so I was definitely curious. In a column where I'm constantly complaining about high prices, am I really going to look a gift horse in the mouth?

To my surprise, the album is absolutely flawless. In fact, it's stunning. The opening track "What A Funny Girl You Used To Be" opens like a colossal sludge metal track and explodes into a flurry of deathgrind that is so satisfying. The moments of industrial and electronic freakouts and glitches are quite explosive as well, and what a delight it is for all of this to be erupting out of a hot pink vinyl. That's the SYNT aesthetic for you.

I'd say the gamble paid off, but at the price point of the sale, I had nothing to lose. Unfortunately that steep steep cut has long come and gone, and as of drafting this post, it's back up to $25. But even then, if you've been sleeping on this album and maybe saw this deal and thought there was something gravely wrong, think again. I've actually seen a few random sales for Good Fight artists on social media since then as well, so maybe if you're keen on Good Fight artists, keep a sharp eye on their socials in the future.

Available for Purchase at Good Fight Music | Discogs

SEVEN)SUNS - One of Us Is The Killer

Handmade [limited to 100]
Silent Pendulum Records

More mathcore for you, but this time with a twist. Seven)Suns is a string quartet associated with The Dillinger Escape Plan. During their final run of shows in New York City back in 2017, the last song Dillinger ever played was a rendition of the title and closing track from their swan song Dissociation, with this string quartet backing the band on stage. Years later, we now have that same string quartet coming through with a full-album cover of One Of Us Is The Killer. Why? Why not?!

Silent Pendulum came through with the physical copies, and I was able to come in at the right time for a handmade variant. I'm not quite sure what that means in terms of production at the pressing plant, as I assumed based on videos I've seen online, they're all kind of handmade aren't they? But this natural PVC with inky black stripe is certainly a unique pressing.

Musically, this is about what you'd expect out of a mathcore chamber orchestra. Bows scratch and screech across strings in a very organic and intimate sounding performance with faithful arrangements of the iconic Dillinger Escape Plan album. My worry was that a chamber orchestra on vinyl might be susceptible to some of the format artifacts such as popping and surface noise due to the low-key nature of some of the arrangements and the space in the sonics of it all, but you might as well be in the room with Seven)Suns themselves.

It may be a bit of a novelty, but one that a die hard Dillinger fan such as myself couldn't pass on, especially since this was my first-ever handmade LP to my knowledge. I've since been lucky enough to land another, much more extravagant handmade record from Silent Pendulum's repressing of Arsonists Get All The Girls' Listen to the Color, but that's for next time. Back to Seven)Suns: if you're a fan of Dillinger, a mathcore die hard, or someone interested in avant garde music, give this one a look.

Variant Sold Out [Other Variants Available via Silent Pendulum] | Discogs


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Published 18 days ago