Sunday, October 28, 2012

Black Sunday: Venomous Maximus - Give Up the Witch (2010), The Mission (2011) & Beg Upon the Light (2012)

I grabbed Venomous Maximus' EP, The Mission, back in March of this year following a review on, but settled at the time for the immediate gratification of a download version. Looking to buy their full-length debut, Beg Upon the Light, upon its release this month, I went whole-hog on the band's Big Cartel site and grabbed a wax version of each catalogue item they had to offer.

Important to vinyl presentation, of course, is the visual appeal and Venomous Maximus have established a strong identity thanks to the artwork of Daniel K. Miller. There are no credits on the packaging for The Mission and I am making an assumption that Miller, who is credited for both bookending bits of the catalogue, was responsible for this mad monk masterpiece as well.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult - October 26, 2012 - McGuffy's House of Rock, Dayton, Ohio

As I type this I have now seen My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult twice. My first experience with the band was seventeen years ago at the Garage at Caddy's Complex in Cincinnati (long since razed to make way for the Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium - probably a poor trade-off) on their Raygun magazine tour in support of their Hit & Run Holiday album. The lineup has changed (Levi Levi on bass is a standout memory), the core of Groovie Mann and Buzz McCoy have aged noticeably (as have I) and the sound, stripped down to its essential elements for this twenty-fifth anniversary tour, has never been better.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Black Sunday: Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell - Don't Hear It... Fear It! (2012)

While at first glance they may be dangerously off-putting with their oddball historical name or giant bird mascot, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell satisfies anyone's hankering for old-school Budgie-flavored hard rock with their solid full-length debut, Don't Hear It... Fear It! It's a sound that seems custom-made for the vinyl format and the record, released in a total of five variations, is an entirely satisfying affair.

The album as physical product is a relatively minimal offering, its one excess a gatefold sleeve which features two nice, wide photos of the band, with their feathered friend up front. The design and aesthetic are spot-on for the band's throwback sound and image. Tracklistings for both sides occupy the Side 1 label with an ornithological illustration from the 2011 "Return to Zero" 7" on Side 2.

A total of 1,300 records were pressed with 300 in purple vinyl with a bonus 7" containing "November" and "Cursed Earth." Another 100 clear vinyl came with the 7" with the remainder of the pressing coming sans single and split between 300 each of black, red and green. Multiple outlets stock the "regular" edition with Rise Above Records still offering all three of the colors - and I have yet to find the special edition with 7" anywhere. Don't Hear It... Fear It! is a fine, fun record that will fit well with any off-kilter hard rock collection, particularly those with a little Atomic Rooster, Dust, Budgie or Blue Cheer on the shelves.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Transparent Vinyl: By the Numbers

This is the nitty gritty. While I wait - and wait and wait - for the pressing process for Fister's Violence to get underway, I'm getting the books in order. For the few who may be interested in how it's breaking down (or who may be wondering "why can't I do this myself?"), I offer you a bevy of boring numbers. For the rest, sorry.

  • $479.00 - Mastering for vinyl - lacquer/plating (this is still where we're currently stuck. The mastering/lacquer was supposedly done/shipped off for plating on September 24th, with an estimated 7-10 day turnaround time. That was 26 days ago).
  • $1,430.00 - Pressing the vinyl. This reflects 500 10" records, 100 each of custom variations of mixed colors, five test pressings, one color ink on one color paper center labels, plain inner white sleeves and we do all the insertion ourselves. Note that this doesn't include jackets. That would have added at least $900. The band worked out a barter deal where I'll trade 100 records for all the jackets.
  • $225.00 - Shipping the vinyl from the plant to me. Note I still have to ship 200 back to the band/printer.

Those are basic expenses. It's significant to note, though, that the band already had the album recorded and mastered. That's an expense Fister shouldered alone and, much to their credit, one that isn't being passed onto anyone. When you divide by the 300 records I'll retain, the cost per record comes to about $7.11 per album. I also plan to invest more in shipping samples out for review (at these small quantities, it's amazing how quickly each record given away drives up the per unit cost), placing some advertisements and physically driving to independent retailers to see if we can place a few in shops as well.

Now for the nittier, grittier. I'm starting out maintaining a stock of two different sizes of record mailer as well as two sizes of padded envelopes as we'll offer t-shirts as well as a little of my own promotional swag. I have not purchased any of this in the most cost-efficient quantities yet, only stocking what I need to get through what, optimistically, I hope is only the first of multiple pressings. These expenses should be recouped in shipping/handling charges but I think it's more than fair to the consumer to be open about what this stuff actually costs. I won't go into detail any more painful than necessary, sticking to just what I have for the actual wax.

  • $1.44 ea - 10-5/8" square x 3" deep box - for shipping to those who want multiple copies and/or a t-shirt.
  • $0.64 ea - standard flat 12" record mailer (due to their dimensions, though, these can cost more to mail).
  • $2.47-3.31 - the cost for USPS Media Mail for 1-5 records (a rate we can use if no other items are included).
  • $4.12-7.49 - the cost for USPS First Class Mail for 1-5 records and a t-shirt or record bag.

Note that the shipping costs are to U.S. addresses only. I have also calculated for Europe (and plan to ship to anyone, anywhere who orders) and those shipping costs are nearly triple the U.S. rates. Also not added in anywhere are the costs of packing tape and bubble wrap (both of which cost a hell of a lot more than you would think), credit card processing and toss-in promo swag that makes each delivery a little more special.

Dull shit for the vast majority of readers, to be sure. Add in the costs I wouldn't associate with any given record  - website hosting, monthly fees for sites like Big Cartel and, State vendor's licensing, et cetera - and it's certainly not a big money proposition at this scale. Rather, it's a labor of love. And I am loving every minute of it. I don't think a day has gone by since early August that Violence hasn't garnered at least one play on the iPod. To describe how psyched I am to actually hear the needle touch the vinyl would trouble the average person. I remain thrilled to have the privilege to act as a small link in this band's musical timeline and hope not only that they and I are happy with the results but, most of all, that their listeners are, too. 

humble f*cking beginnings.
the second chair makes me feel less lonely.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Black Sunday: Lucifer - Black Mass (1971)

I rarely go to the record store with a wishlist. It is just as rare for me to leave empty-handed. I prefer to browse new arrivals of both new and used material and, if nothing interesting comes up there, I file through the regular stock until something I missed before catches my eye. A few weeks back I hit the infrequently visited "electronica" section and came away with Black Mass, a Moog record on MCA's Universal City Records from astrology and occult composer Mort Garson, released under the name "Lucifer." How the hell could someone sell this off and, better yet, how the hell could I pass it up? I couldn't.

Friday, October 12, 2012

When Myth and History Merged into Mystery - Frost Giant - 2012

Frost Giant, of "the Hinterlands of Pennsylvania," are more than meets the eye. Their debut EP, When Myth and History Merged into Mystery, appears on its surface to be a slab of Viking-themed metal and, indeed, it delivers there at its core. And -core seems an apt suffix for whatever Frost Giant really is - an intriguing amalgam of Viking, folk, death and melodic elements - Vifolkore? Whatever you call it, When Myth and History Merged into Mystery delivers more than one would expect.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Monster - KISS - 2012

Kiss is an easy target. The band themselves readily and repeatedly admit that the spectacle supersedes the music and nowhere is this more painfully apparent than Monster. From its instantly forgettable made-for-big-box-megastore, uninspired artwork to its flat, muddled production to its uncanny absolute lack of hooks, Monster feels simply like aged-rocker cart-fodder. An album to buy because, hey, it's an album and most bands you dig don't release albums anymore. Kiss is comfortable, familiar territory. Maybe so. But Monster recalls neither heyday highs nor interesting, late-career lows. It's criminally bland.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Black Sunday: Cannabis Corpse - The Weeding (2009) & Beneath Grow Lights Thou Shalt Rise (2011)

Cannabis Corpse is fun to listen to, even more fun to collect on wax. With color variations like "Bongwater" and "Loogy," the run-to-the-shelf-and-compare song title tributes and insane artwork, this is a band, sincere or not, that almost demands the vinyl format in order to be fully appreciated.

With four records under their ammo belts, Cannabis Corpse appear to have settled in at Tankcrimes, at least for their last two releases, a 12" EP, The Weeding, and the full-length, Beneath Grow Lights Thou Shalt Rise. The immediate impact, and key now to the Corpse image, is the artwork by Andrei Bouzikov (an association which began with the band's Tube of the Resinated LP from 2008). For a metal vinyl collector this is a dream come true as Tankcrimes is at the top of the list when it comes to labels releasing lush, colorful packages with lots of colored vinyl in creative variations and, to top it off, everything they release sounds fantastic.

My copy of The Weeding came from the record's third pressing and I got one of 200 "Loogy" variations (a nice mucusy smear in the midst of clear vinyl). 300 splatter and 500 orange records rounded out that release though it appears only "Loogy" remains available. The sleeve is one of my absolute favorites and has the kind of detail that can keep you busy for hours. Add to that the artwork by Jared Power on the opposite of the lyric sheet insert and this brief EP offers one hell of a visual return.

Beneath Grow Lights Thou Shalt Rise is how the band caught my attention at the outset. A stellar video commercial for the record made it absolutely irresistible and, after grabbing this one, got the rest from Tankcrimes in one fell swoop (in addition to their own releases from Cannabis Corpse they also distribute the first two records). A gatefold sleeve holds the lyrics within but, again, it's the front of this baby that immediately draws the eye. Bouzikov's government-grade weed has apparently gone bad (or worse), tearing apart a hapless metalhead in excruciating, colorful detail.

The vinyl itself on Beneath Grow Lights Thou Shalt Rise is the "splatter" variant, a nice bright yellow base that complements the album's titles with splotches of green that match up nicely with, of course, all that green. As best I can tell, this and the clear "Pro Stoner Die Hard" and Bongwater Blue are all gone for now. Grab what you can while you can and hope they cultivate some more.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Born of the Bomb - Lich King - 2012

Born of the Bomb is as big as its name. Thrash revivalists/purists (I here on out dub 'em Frashcists) Lich King, already over the top, have, either by accident or design, crafted more than a monster - it may actually be something mature. A recent convert to the realm of Lich King, they were immediately easy to like, with three proper full-lengths progressing in excellence from 2007 to 2010, whose World Gone Dead sucked me in to an immediate "gotta grab it all" acquisition of the band's catalogue. "Fun" is an overused term for take-it-serious justification of less-than-serious subject matter but Lich King fit the bill. I'll wager that there are thousands upon thousands out there for whom Lich King's music feels custom-made. A DNA of stellar old-school thrash lies at the core of an unholy corpse acting as a conduit for influences ranging from George R.R. Martin to Paul Verhoeven, sprinkling in an overall love of the undead and post-apocalyptic chaos, and it all speaks directly to this born-in-the-70s-raised-on-Troma-and-Cannon-films metal fan. "Fun" is also, unfortunately, synonymous with "easily dismissed" and an act like Lich King, at this rate dead-seriously outpacing Anthrax's comparable evolution, ends up criminally underknown and dangerously underestimated.