It looks like all these Record Store Days are paying off. In 2012, global sales for vinyl records hit $171 million, their highest point since 1997 -- the same year that Hanson's "MMMBop" topped the charts.
This Saturday, April 20, marks the sixth annual Record Store Day, when artists and labels dish out rare and exclusive releases to fans that results in a sort-of major shopping day on the musical calendar.
There are lots of reasons to love vinyl, especially heavy metal vinyl -- besides the fact that you can play them backwards and get the messages Satan wants you to hear.
The nuanced layers of stinging guitars that you didn't know existed, jumping off of Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan." The whiskey-tinged, gravelly voice of Phil Anselmo on Pantera's "Clash With Reality." Or that down and dirty, fuzzy-licious core from Deftones' "Beware."
Mmmm . . . There are few things that know how to seduce this heavy metal chick better. And this year, we get a whole slew of original and revamped metal material on vinyl.
Rob Zombie's got a 10-inch of his latest single, "Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown." Deftones are using Record Store Day to kick off a series of live vinyl releases, and Avenged Sevenfold is prepping a pair of releases, including a unique "Carry On" picture disc. Soundgarden and Coheed and Cambria are giving sneak peeks at some of their demos on vinyl for the first time.
But one of the greatest things about Record Store Day is that the artists who are putting out these releases love vinyl just as much as the fans who line up to purchase the discs do.
"I love vinyl. Absolutely. I wish it was more widespread . . . [With digital,] you don't get that kind of low-end and warmth that you get from vinyl," said David Draiman from Device and Disturbed during a recent interview.
A couple of months ago, Cradle of Filth lead singer Dani Filth hit it right on the head: "I used to love trolling around aimlessly, you know? Just looking in stores, record shopping. You don't even have to leave your bedroom now, do you? You can just download entire back catalogs on Spotify for, like, $4.
"I think for vinyl there is going to be a revival, to tell you the truth. It comes around in cycles. That's one thing about this industry -- well, this genre. People are dedicated and loyal and they do want the product. They do want to be dazzled by the artwork and lyricism. If you can't afford vinyl, you can at least get a better sound on CD. Nowadays, I think CDs are the cheapest they've ever been. I don't see the problem. You used to pay £20 for an import record from America. Nowadays, you can get that, another record, and the lead singer's motorbike and first-born son stapled to the front for about £8."
Okay: it's common knowledge that the appeal of records is the album art and that larger-than-life sound that you can't get from CDs or downloads. The low and mid-range projects more depth than on CD or digital download -- and conveys much more information. In fact, up to 90 percent of the information that's on a CD is thrown out in compressed digital audio, for bandwidth reasons.
It may be hard to beat the convenience of downloading songs wherever you are, especially for 99 cents; but it matters to those who have that weird conceptual divide between "real things" and the less tangible. People like me, who prefer hardcover books to e-books, magazines to Web sites, and records to MP3s. And truly, there's nothing like spending hours inside a musty old record shop, sifting through thousands of pieces of history. Then, playing the record at home is almost like a ritual experience, indulging in complex packaging and running fingers over the intricate cover art.
"It's just back to those days of when album covers were so exciting," explained Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante to me in an interview not too long ago. "I always go back to Zeppelin III when you had the spinning wheel inside the cover, and Physical Graffiti with the windows and the interchangeable on the inside . . . the KISS records . . . it was fun. And nowadays nobody does stuff like that anymore. It's a dying art. We joke about things, the way things are getting smaller and smaller. Songs are known as files now, so we joke about it when some kid comes to see you like, 'Hey, can you sign my file?' You know?"
Yes; yes. We do know, Charlie.
After the jump: Some of the most anticipated heavy metal and hard rock releases of Record Store Day:
All That Remains: Fall of Ideals
Avenged Sevenfold: Live in the LBC & Diamonds in the Rough, Carry On
Between the Buried and Me: Parallax 1 & 2 vinyl boxset, The Anatomy Of
Cream: Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6- 2005"
Deep Purple/Type-O Negative: Side By Side: Highway Star
Deftones: Live: Volume 1 -- Selections From Adrenaline
Dio/Killswitch Engage: Side By Side: Holy Diver
Jimi Hendrix: "Hey Joe" B/W "Stone Free"
Lamb of God: New American Gospel (Gray Marble Edition)
Testament: Dark Roots Covers
Rob Zombie: Dead City Radio and The New Gods of Supertown/Teenage Nosferatu Pussy
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Happy heavy metal hunting.