Aaron Turner announced his record label, Hydra Head Records, was closing up shop on new releases two weeks ago, much to the chagrin of avant-metalheads everywhere. Turner will continue operating the label to sell of his back stock, as well as reissue some of the label’s more popular releases in order to pay down the label’s debt.
As a sort of Eulogy, I decided to compile my favorite five albums from the label’s nearly 20-year run. (I shied away from singles, reissues and albums they co-released.) In no particular order:
1. Big Business Head for the Shallow
Coming on the heels of Karp drummer Scotty Jernigan’s 2003 death, Jared Warren needed a new musical outlet. He found it with Coady Willis, the powerful drummer whose Murder City Devils had broken up in 2001. Any of Big Business’s three amazing albums could have made this list, but Head for the Shallow perfectly encompasses their brutal vocals/bass/drum attack.
2. Coalesce 0:12 Revolution in Just Listening
This Missouri band’s history was always tenuous; despite their name they always seemed on the verge of breakup due to personalities, side projects, and family. But when they find time to work together—whatever rotating cast of members comes together—they really do, um, coalesce, into something brutally awesome. Vocalist Sean Ingram still has my favorite screaming voice of any metal band.
3. Oxbow The Narcotic Story
An utterly terrifying band, this is Oxbow at their scariest. The Narcotic Story might be their most unsettling, and best album. Vocalist Eugene Robinson, himself not the most stable of characters, tells the story of a drug addict. It’s painful, harrowing and nightmarish—made even more so by the fact the album’s instrumentation is so understated compared to Robinson’s wails.
4. Harvey Milk Life… The Best Game in Town
Absolutely brutal. One of the best metal albums I’ve ever heard – and they don’t even think it’s their best. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to sit with the band’s other albums enough to make a comparison, but Life… The Best Game in Town is one hell of an experience. \m/
5. Daughters Hell Songs
This band is not OK. There’s something wrong with them. Building off of the nasty Providence template laid out by the likes of Arab on Radar and Lightning Bolt, Daughters push musical, ethical and societal boundaries. I saw them at L.A.’s Knitting Factory a few years ago and they had to cut the show short because vocalist Alexis Marshall dropped his pants and—among other things—wrapped little Alexis around the microphone stand. Someone called the cops. That’s kind of what Hell Songs sounds like. Being violated.
Check out Big Business performing “Focus Pocus” off Head for the Shallow below: