There's a cartoon on the internet that does the round among music aficionados: one man is showing off his record player and collection to a friend, and proudly intoning “There's two things that attracted me to vinyl: the expense, and the inconvenience”. It's much beloved among people whose disposable income on mostly re-buying records they already have on CD, or can get on streaming services for peanuts. The question is, why do it? Well, sure there's the snobbery factor of owning vinyl, but there's more to it than that. As lovely as the access to unlimited music is, there's nothing quite like a physical product you can hold in your hands and pore over in every detail. The excitement starts before the music; studying the artwork, the liner notes and every detail hidden. Try getting that from a streaming service from a postage stamp on your phone. Then there's the soothing look of the record, as it goes spinning round and round on the platter, the rustle of the needle, then the music bursting into life and then the rustle of the run out as the side ends and you need to flip it over. You don't move near the player in case it skips, and you don't skip any tracks to your favourite; you absorb the album as the artist intended. Every groove etched in your memory as you sit back and let the player do its work. Every record is special and unique; it might be a mass produced record or a limited collectors' edition, but no record will sound the same as it ages with hisses crackles and pops lining each groove.
In today's world, with the disposable nature of being able to switch from track to track in the swipe of finger, there's something very collectable about vinyl. Record fair do a roaring trade, and modern releases get the best of both worlds, with a download code slipped into a gorgeous vinyl package, where they have the space to realise their vision. I've loved the format since I first had enough cash to spare for it, short of making it to a live show there's no better way to show your appreciation for the band. So here is a selection of my favourite vinyls from the world of metal. A honourable mention must go to my edition of Black Sabbath's debut album, that would have made the list but due to a mistake at the pressing plant decades ago, has a Mannfred Mann album on side A instead of Sabbath. These records have everything they say on the label and so much more.
The London rockers hark back to an earlier age, so no surprise why this is such a triumph on vinyl. This was a landmark album in my burgeoning taste for extreme metal and having it on blood and ash vinyl makes perfect sense. The band in their fine suits on the interior artwork and a lady in her birthday suit from the back sums up how grandiose this album is; wicked sinful indulgence in every vice on every level of Hell.
An example of what this medium can do. The artwork is ever richer with little details popping from the cover and the book insert has the lyrics piled on top of each other in a cacophonous collage. Musically it is outstanding: a flesh-stripping emotional firestorm that does not let up over the four sides marked J, A, N and E. This album was important to me so I bought it before I even got a record player. It's that important. This album is blazing whatever format it's on, and owning it on vinyl as well gives it the full respect it deserves.
'The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull'
An album with a Biblical reference for its title, so it's fitting that it receives lavish attention. The ambient doom metal sound perfect for the languid spinning, and the packaging fits. The cover art is contained within leather bound covers, making it a true gift. I had the good fortune to pick this up on my birthday at one of their gigs so it holds a lot of sentimental value, and something I was pleased to have in my hands years after I had received the album as a download.
So maybe you can't show this vinyl off in polite company, but what an album to own! The Nottingham sludge masters redefined what the genre could do, and with grooves this thick you gotta believe this is an essential. My copy is shit brown and others were banana yellow, but whatever format you have, you have one of the stand out albums of extreme metal. Special note must go to the cover art by Mike Diana – crass and juvenile as it is, the large scale print lets you study it in its full revolting glory.
This Hull fivesome is the reason we're into underground metal. This EP smashes the turntable with all the grace of an asteroid with no compromises whatsoever in the granite and bone colouring. What makes this one extra special is the liner notes; this album was a pre-order where people pledged money and I have the good fortune to be among the people thanked in the notes. What better way to feel connected to the scene than to know how much you're supporting a band so directly?
'Crack The Skye'
I already had this seminal album on vinyl, but just look at the photo! You can print an image on CD, sure, but that's would be but a pale imitation compared to this. Mastodon always have vivid rich artwork and this looks so pretty on the platter. Musically it's flawless – the prog metal is as gripping as it was a decade ago and the perfect album to watch as it spins hypnotically on your turntable. We live in a world where many spikes of bullshit demand our attention, so what better way than this to achieve transcendence.
'Times of Grace'
When an album gets reissued, you can often be assured of its inherent quality. This band should need no introduction, and neither should producer Steve Albini. His production technique is flawless and you know that when he turned his ears to the ultra-dense, ultra-heavy, ultra-intense music that the Oakland outfit have made their own, you know you would be a getting a quality sound. Also a noted audiophile, you can be assured that his production sounds as good on vinyl as it looks majestic, from the regal purple of the vinyl themselves to the stark silver artwork amid the black on the gatefold.
There's always jokes about how Tool are overblown and pretentious. So what better way to indulge in that ambition than four discs of sprawling red wax? Those very qualities are the ones that make them most fitting on this medium – the extended song lengths of peaks and troughs where you really shouldn't skip are perfect for unlocking the secrets of an album that's still as intriguing as the day it was released in 2001.
'Shadows Of The Sun'
Good things come to those who wait. I had wanted this on vinyl for years, but I was late to this record and by the time I had found it, the price for vinyl copies were beyond my price range. Then a divine stroke of luck – it was reissued! I snapped it up immediately. It's a glorious experimental piece, lovingly and respectfully remastered and utterly timeless. Perfect for sitting back and just letting it flow all over you.