My $180 shopping spree at Heartland Records

I’ve mentioned numerous times how Heartland Records in Melbourne, Australia, is my absolute favourite record store. So much so that once a year when the festive season rolls by, when asked by relatives what gift I would like, I imply that a Heartland Records gift vouchers wouldn’t be sneezed at.
Consequently, it’s around this time every year that I go on a Heartland Records shopping spree and end up with some killer new music. Here’s this year’s haul.

My annual pilgrimage to Heartland Records.

This is what I ask for every Christmas.

Bathory — Bathory

First cab off the rank: the first album in the Bathory discography and arguably one of the first true black metal albums.
I decided to buy this after I recently renewed my interest in Under The Sign Of the Black Mark (Bathory album number three) after owning it for several years. With this I’m expecting primitive, low-fi, Venom-inspired proto-evil noise. I don’t expect it to have aged well but I do hope to get a deeper understanding of what it must have been like to hear this for the first time all the way back in 1984 — that’s more than 30 years ago, in case that wasn’t painfully obvious.

Bathory — The Return…

Second cab off the rank: the second album in the Bathory discography. I’m familiar with just one track from this album, a cover version of the title track from the Marduk – Glorification EP. I’m expecting more evil low-fi noise, but of an improved calibre compared to its predecessor. Again, I’m going to try and imagine what it must have been like to be bludgeoned in the face for the first time with such an infernal racket when this was released in 1985.

Bathory — Blood Fire Death

When the discussion arises, I like to point out that Quorthon (Bathory main-man, guitarist, song-writer, etc.) is one of the very few people who can take partial or full credit (the jury is still deliberating) for creating not one, but two styles of heavy metal: black metal, which originated in the first three Bathory albums, two of which are listed above; and Viking metal (more of a term, yes, but still a thing), which has been agreed on as starting with the 1990 Hammerheart album.
I’m a fan of the melody, epicness (a heavy metal album entirely about Vikings, which gave rise to a thing called Viking metal, is as epic as it gets) and solid song-writing on the Hammerheart album. Blood Death Fire was its predecessor and was an in-between album. It bridged the rawness and downright evil vibe of the first three Bathory albums, and led to the more melodic Viking sound / concept / vibe of the Hammerheart album.

Bathory shirt

I don’t own a Bathory t-shirt, so this was an opportunity to correct that. What's that, wearing a Bathory shirt but not being intimately familiar with all Bathory albums makes me a poser? So far I’ve probably spent more money supporting this band than most people under 25.

Motörhead — Rock ‘N’ Roll

A couple of years ago I made a conscientious effort to appreciate more Motörhead, so I figured a good starting point was a neat box set containing the first six full-length albums in the Motörhead discography. I’m glad I did that because not only did I love these classic Motörhead albums, I’d also grown to appreciate and understand enough of Lemmy and Motörhead to be able to genuinely consider myself something of a fan before he died.
At the start of the year, I could genuinely say I'd gotten into Motörhead, yet there were something like 14 more Motörhead albums out there that I still needed to get to know. After Lemmy’s recent death, I made the point of getting to know more of his music, which is how I picked up this and another Motörhead album (below).
Coincidentally, I had a copy of Rock ‘N’ Roll on multi-generation dubbed cassette tape when I was all of 11 years old. I can’t recall what happened to my copy but I do recall when listening to it that it didn’t leave a lasting impression. More than 20 years later, I’m really loving Rock ‘N’ Roll, having fast-tracked this album to be listened to first off the pile.

Motörhead — March Ör Die

March Ör Die is the second of two newly acquired Motörhead albums. Apparently long-time Motörhead album cover artist Joe Petagno was incredibly unhappy with this one.
I haven’t listened to this one yet but I’m tipping it’ll be a great album. It’s not merely Motörhead, but it’s Motörhead doing the track Hellraiser, among other things. If you haven’t seen it, do make an effort to watch the video. As I said previously, no matter how awesome you think you are, you’ll never be Lemmy-winning-at-cards-against-the-Cenobite-Hellraiser-himself-awesome.

Various — Extreme Sündenfall 10

The Germans put out some superb EBM / industrial / goth compilations. Compilations like the Gothic Compilation, which hit at least 61 volumes, come to mind, as does the Extreme series (Extreme Sündenfall, Extreme Clubhits, Extreme Traumfänger, Extreme Störfrequenz, Extreme Lustlieder, and more).
This one appears to be one half of the 2010 edition. Like every Extreme Sündenfall volume, it’s got cringe-inducing cover art (every cover has a different nekkid lady or two for some reason), but that’s balanced out by what will hopefully be some decent music and new artists worth investigating.
Those wacky Germans. I guess a bit of flesh helps them keep the scene alive.

Marilyn Manson — The Beautiful People

In 1996, shows like MTV (when MTV still played music videos) and Rage began airing a disturbing music video from a then relatively unknown American artist calling himself Marilyn Manson.
At the time, Nine Inch Nails was a big deal, two years after the release of 1994’s The Downward Spiral. By extension, industrial metal was attempting to break into the mainstream. The much maligned creation called nu-metal was also busily being the bane of ‘serious’ metal heads who thought whining and wearing dreadlocks was an affront to heavy metal. It’s also worth noting that Kurt Cobain had been dead for two years and the grunge phenomenon was petering out.
Into this environment arrived former music journalist Marilyn Manson with his hit single, The Beautiful People. Produced by both Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Dave Ogilvie (Skinny Puppy), its unmistakeable guitar riff to this day hangs like a chain around Manson’s neck, forever the Marilyn Manson signature track.
The shocking-rock imagery and theatrics, the heavy but accessible metal / hard rock sound, and extremely savvy publicity machine (Brian Warner, before he took the stage name Marilyn Manson, was a music journalist with an uncannily sharp nose for how rockstardom worked) ensured Marilyn Manson was constantly in the headlines. And with that, he managed to get himself successfully lapped up by an entire new alternative music generation.
I was never much of a Manson fan to be honest. I don’t own a copy of Antichrist Superstar, from which The Beautiful People is taken, probably because I recall borrowing a mate’s CD copy not long after it came out and not thinking very much of it.
The single that is The Beautiful People represents a throwback to a time when three-track physical releases, put out on the cheap in cardboard sleeves like this one, were a viable way for record labels and distributors to promote themselves, and for pre-streaming / downloads / torrents / YouTube / etc. kids to get their hands on new music.
Those were the days. A widespread alternative music culture was alive and kicking all over Australia — embodied by the tremendous variety and credibility that was The Big Day Out, when it was a genuinely cool alternative festival.
1996 was a good time for a kid to be into alternative music.

Ministry — Twitch

Ministry are a group that its devotees rant and rage over with all their heart, and which I personally took a very long time to ‘get’.
I never actively disliked Ministry. It’s just that they had a sound that kind of didn’t do much for me. The combination of Al Jourgensen’s raspy vocals and the heavily processed, kind of second-fiddle guitar tone just didn’t excite me.
Then one day I had a Ministry breakthrough moment after buying The Last Sucker album, incidentally as part of a previous Heartland Records stash. The first and closing tracks from The Last Sucker — they’re very different but both stompingly good tunes — got me interested in Ministry again, and from there I ‘reverse engineered’ things. I re-discovered classic Ministry albums that I’d previously purchased on reputation alone and from there grew to appreciate all this great music from the Ministry discography that had previously not done much for me.
That’s one of the reasons why I collect physical media. I feel that a predominantly digital-format collection is too ephemeral for my needs. You might not love or appreciate something at the time but you may grow to love and appreciate it later in life.
With digital media it is too easy to forget, which means it is too easily deleted. A physical collection, by virtue of its physical presence, forces you to revisit and re-evaluate. Indeed, I can’t recall the number of times I have bought a release, not thought much of it, shelved it temporarily, and then re-discovered and genuinely re-appreciated it at a later time.
Ministry’s Twitch album is (apparently) a predominantly electronic album. I don’t know how I’ll feel about it compared to later-era, guitar-based Ministry, given that Ministry for me wasn’t love at first sight. And what if it doesn’t grip me first time?
Then I'll shelve it for now and stumble across it at a later time.

Ministry — The Land Of Rape And Honey

Ministry album number three and also the album released immediately after Twitch (above). It’s Ministry’s first attempt to get serious with industrial metal by way of guitars. As with Twitch, I’m not sure what to expect on this one. It’s from Ministry’s early days and is bound to sound remarkably different to later releases.
As for the appalling name… apparently it’s taken from a slogan for a real, actual, genuine location somewhere in America that specialised in rapeseed and other agricultural products. Trust Al Jourgensen to come up with that.

Various — Celebrant 2003 Der Mittelalterliche Klangkörper Zum Wave-Gotik-Treffen

I'll buy you a cookie if you're a non-German speaker and you manage to pronounce "Der Mittelalterliche Klangkörper Zum Wave-Gotik-Treffen" that without inadvertently spitting on yourself.
There are few places in the world where a full-length compilation of artists making Medieval and Medieval-inspired music makes financial sense; there are even fewer places that will host an entire stage playing this style of music at a major international festival.
Germany is one of those very few places. Or possibly the only place.
Wave-Gotik-Treffen is the famous international ‘black scene’ (as the Germans call it) festival where once a year every incoming flight to Leipzig is transformed into Flight Number 666 as thousands of black-clad-wearing freaks invest the city to catch 150 or more bands playing ‘dark’ music, from noise to industrial to goth to — you guessed it — medieval-inspired.
“Der Mittelalteriche Klangkörper” roughly translates as “The Medieval orchestra.”
There are 15 tracks on this compilation from the 2003 “celebration” of the festival. Other than that I have no idea what to expect. I recognise one group here: Corvus Corax, a group associated with Tanzwut, who in my view play the greatest bagpipe / Neue Deutsche Härte rendition of the Beethoven’s Ode To Joy ever recorded.
Medieval-inspired German Medieval music. What’s not to like?

Metallica — Death Magnetic

A few years back I saw this at JB HiFi for the princely sum of $14. At the time I felt that was too much, not because it’s fashionable to trash everything Metallica has touched in the last 20 years (which is laughably easy to do) but because I’d heard so many terrible reports about the dreadful audio compression that Metallica, for all their financial power and production nous, neglected to get right on this album.
Death Magnetic is the album that, apparently, has an unbearably messed up dynamic range. Fans hated it because it could have been a decent album, if only it didn’t sound like arse. Famously, an earlier release of this album's music — released for a video game, no less — didn't get the final dynamic range-ruining, ultra-compression treatment. That is, the video game version sounded far superior.
Nonetheless, I’ve heard worse albums — albeit not from the world’ most successful and best-resourced heavy metal band. For this reason, I felt Death Magnetic shouldn’t be entirely discounted, so I decided to give it a go when I saw it at Heartland Records for the equivalent of $8.

Various — Maschinenfest 2002

Maschinenfest is an annual festival in Germany (of course — where else?) focusing on industrial, noise, experimental and other extreme electronic music.
I’ve got some great stories about Maschinenfest after I went there with a mate in 2013. It was my first ever European festival and the gig (and the trip there and back) was one of my memorable.
I totally had an intriguing, fascinating, thigh-slappingly funny account all written down and ready to share. Then some lowlife burgled our house and stole my stuff. I lost my backup hard drive with a whole bunch of treasured holiday pics.
So that was a bit discouraging.
One day I’ll retell the story of our adventure to Germany and Maschinenfest 2013.
I believe the Maschinenfest organisers release an annual compilation of featured artists. The version here is the 2002 edition, released 10 years before the event I attended, when music (and by music I mean noise) creation technology was less sophisticated. I’ll be interested to see how it stacks up to the 2013 edition, which I vaguely recall I have lying around somewhere.

Imminent Starvation — Nord

Talking of noise, I know of at least one person who claims that hearing this album changed their perspective on industrial music. I don’t know much about Olivier Moreau, the artist behind Imminent Starvation (later renamed just Imminent) although I own his triple seven-inch ‘cowboy-noise’ collaboration with Synapscape. It’s an odd release, being a collaboration of two artists playing rhythmic noise (do the kids still call it powernoise?) and twangy cowboy guitar. For real.
I get the impression that Nord was something of a watershed movement for a lot of people. The individual mentioned above, for example, claimed he lost interest in ‘regular’ EBM after hearing Nord. I’ve heard comparable views, though not quite as drastic, from others over the years.
Nord is eminently dark and foreboding. I heard a few tracks some years back but I was into other, more accessible electronic music at the time. I imagine Nord still holds up today and is as nasty and cold and intense as it was when released in 1999.

God Module — The Magic In my Heart Is Dead

I own the below God Module tour shirt and it makes me feel really old. It’s from God Module’s 2009 Spooky Down Under, which, by my calculation, is getting on to seven years ago. The gig doesn’t feel like it was that long ago, hence why it makes me feel old.
God Module circa mid 2000s was a first-tier name that was routinely mentioned on flyers and in conversations when talking about EBM, terror EBM, terror banana, or any other synth-based danceable music with distorted cookie monster vocals.

It feels like yesterday, just seven years ago.

God Module releases up to 2005’s Viscera album were good, but I thought the follow up, 2007’s Let’s Go Dark, wasn’t as strong. It was fun and had a couple of good tracks, but I felt it didn’t have quite the same strong song-writing qualities from previous releases.
The Magic In my Heart Is Dead was a follow-up EP released in 2010, the first major new release after Let’s Go Dark. I haven’t heard it yet, but I’m keen to know where God Module went with this.

Mz O and Her Guns — Damnation / Salvation

Despite the fact that I spent years attending goth clubs and gigs, spent a lot of time hanging out with goths, and for some time back there probably devoted considerable energy (or at least, considerably more than I should have) to dressing like a goth, I really didn’t get that heavily into goth rock.
I loved all the new EBM and industrial music that I was discovering every week; I loved the huge stripe of alternative music that got played at goth clubs; and when bona fide gothic actually rock got played, I rarely objected to it. However, I just wasn't that heavily into gothic rock. The most extensive collection from a gothic rock artist that I own amounted to half a dozen or more CDs from Australians Ikon. I’ll happily concede that this anomaly in my collection has a lot to do with them being a local group that I gladly wanted to support and which I saw play live on numerous occasions.
Otherwise, my CD collection lacks a significant guitar-based trad goth component (at least as a proportion to my heavy metal and EBM / industrial collection). It’s a shame really, because there is so much excellent trad goth music out there outside of club floor hits.
I wonder sometimes if this dearth in appreciating trad goth rock music had something to do with the radical anti-EBM stance of some of the traditional purists from my clubbing days. Without mentioning names, there was (as is commonly the case with alternative groups) a certain group of people who loudly trumpeted the traditional gothic rock cause, and who were openly hostile to anything that sounded EBM-related. It led to dramas and arguments and silly feuds, and I suspect they played a part in putting me off gothic rock for so long.
Now this was all a very long time ago. We've all grown older and more chilled out. I’d like to think that all parties kissed and made up, or at least feel they could do if called on to do so.
More to the point, it’s never too late to get to love new music. And while one CD from a Christian Death vocalist is a small start, it’s a good starting point nonetheless. I hope Mz O and Her Guns does an unprejudiced job of opening my mind to more trad goth rock.

Assemblage 23 — Defiance

Assemblage 23 is one of those prime offenders who specialised in the above-mentioned EBM devil’s music. I owned the mandatory EBM-goth-industrial club floor filler that was the Disappoint single (more of an EP really) – specifically, that Funker Vogt remix that wows you when you hear it when you enter a club for the first time, and three years later makes you cringe because they’re still playing it. Like come on, they could at least play one of the other six remixes, right? Oh wait, no one will dance if they do that.
Alas, what’s the old adage? The DJ can please all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but never all the people all the time.
Tom Shear (that’s Mr Assemblage 23) is a cool dude. I saw him perform live once and I follow his witty, clever, and genuinely interesting Facebook posts. Apart from the Disappoint single, I own one other Assemblage 23 album, 2004’s Storm (along with two accompanying singles).
I’m not that familiar with his earlier material, like Defiance here, or his later three albums, so this is a good start for a ‘staple’ of the EBM / future-pop that I love and danced to so much.

Nine Inch Nails — The Day The World Went Away

Have you ever listened to an album and thought, wow, how I wish I’d discovered this artist all those years ago when I was an angry teenager / was going through a hard time / was still into good music / etc?
My proper introduction to Nine Inch Nails was when a friend lent me The Fragile double-album. It was 1999, I was in the final stretch of my last year of school, I was desperately trying to figure out where I fit into the world by way of establishing my identity, and I was grappling with all the intense anxieties that come with being 17 years old.
At the time, I thought the first disc of The Fragile was ok. I especially liked (and still do) the epic track We’re In This Together. However, this was pretty much my first foray into electronic music and I vaguely recall wondering just what the big deal was with this band called Nine Inch Nails. CD burning and ripping, let alone file sharing, wasn't prevalent, and I eventually returned my borrowed copy to my mate and didn’t think much of it.
Believe it or not, it wasn't until year later that I got to hear the masterpiece that was The Downward Spiral. Sure, I’d heard Closer and other tracks from the album a million times in clubs, but I’d never sat down to appreciate and properly listen to The Downward Spiral in my own time.
Which is a real shame. In fact, the very thought makes me genuinely sad.
That’s because there is no doubt in my mind that I would have absolutely latched onto the angst and dark themes and sharp, contrasting moods that make up The Downward Spiral. Looking back at my 14 to 17-year-old self, I can easily imagine being blown by away this album, reading into every skerrick of subtext, interpreting every minute part, and totally identifying with this album’s nihilistic meaning, man.
14 to 17 years old is a profoundly formative age. Among the many, many, many things going on at that age that shape who you are and who you become, it’s also the age when you figure out what music works for you. We all move on to discover and love new and exciting music as we move along (or in some cases, tragically leave it all behind), but the albums that we discover and angstily identify with when we’re young will always occupy an unassailably special place in our hearts.
I know that The Downward Spiral should have been one of those albums for me. But alas, somehow it flew past me. By the time I finally got around to listening to The Downward Spiral, it was too late to become a ‘formative’ album. I got The Fragile instead.
As I said, The Fragile wasn’t a bad album. And now that I got my hands on The Day The World Went Away single here, the first single from The Fragile, I genuinely appreciate the mellowness, rich guitar production, and vibe of this track.
But without trying to diss Trent, The Fragile was — for this confused 17-year-old boy who, like others like him, didn’t know his arse form his elbow and therefore based a large part of his identity on the music he loved — the wrong introduction.

Various — The O-Files

Once upon a time I bought 25kg of music from an independent record store. They were closing down and decided to sell their remaining stock by the kilo.
There was I, patting myself on the back for thinking what a fortune I would make on ebay. Then I gradually discovered that this scheme didn’t quite work as planned.
I’m embarrassed to say though that I did this more than once (see my story on buying too much music).
One of the collections I purchased contained a large amount of early to mid-90s industrial and EBM. This was music from an era when goth and industrial were still stewing (sort of) in similar black cesspits. They were less culturally distinct than they were by the turn of the millennia, and bright, fluffy, fluoro raver and graver gear wasn’t a common thing (yet).
The O-Files is a compilation, named after releases on the Off Beat record label.
This record label is known not only for its influential roster, but also because it led directly to the creation of Dependent Records after its demise. Based in Germany, Off Beat and especially its 'spiritual successor' released multitudes of synthy, danceable, future-pop-like or cookie-monster-vocal-accompanied EBM and industrial from artists that became a big deal in the first decade of the new millennium.
Often in concert with the enormous (relatively speaking, anyway) Metropolis records, Dependent released a whole bunch of albums from the likes of Seabound, Covenant, VNV Nation, Suicide Commando, Velvet Acid Christ, and many more.
All of these artists had originally either appeared in some way on the Off Beat roster (either signed or at least distributed through it in some way), or otherwise took their cue and inspiration from the artists on this label.
Having said that, the industrial and electronic music from this era doesn’t blow me away. The production and recording equipment has that distinct ’90s filter, something which I think you had to be around for at the time to genuinely appreciate.
This isn’t to say that there wasn’t a shortage of ripper music released during this time, only that I personally prefer a late ’90s and onwards sound when it comes to EBM / industrial / aggrotech / whatever terror banana sound.
The O-Files is four singles from four artists: Numb, Click Clic, Individual Totem and New Mind (albeit with several remixes). This is always a nice way to better understand the breadth of an artist because, despite being ostensibly a compilation, this makes it almost album-like. Indeed, anyone who collects compilations knows that the old one-track-per-artist compilation is a notoriously hit and miss method to appreciate an artist.
Of course, this being a singles collection, I’m expecting some filler from the remixes. Then again, I may strike obscure gold.

Skinny Puppy — Too Dark Park

Talking of a ’90s filter, how about a late ’80s filter? Like Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy was a Big Deal in industrial music, yet they’re a group I was never into. With Nine Inch Nails it was a case of just two ships passing in the night, whereas with Skinny Puppy it was a case of missing the boat entirely.
I suspect I just wasn’t quite old enough to Dig It with Skinny Puppy (see what I did there?). That is, Nine Inch Nails was a big phenomenon when I was around that I somehow missed, whereas Skinny Puppy was probably five to ten years before my time for me to be really in the right state of mind, at the right time of life, to ‘get’ them.
I’ve bought a couple of Skinny Puppy albums over the years. Some of their early, ’80-era material in particular has me wondering in amazement just how a couple of miscreant kids managed to create such varied and messed up sounds with nothing more than a minimal music setup that they brapped away at over the weekend.
Too Dark Park was Skinny Puppy album number six. I’m wondering if it will be my breakthrough Skinny Puppy moment. If not, like so many releases before it (and as has been mentioned several times already) I’ll simply relegate it until it calls me again at some other time, which in this instance will hopefully be the right time.

C-TEC — Cut

Cut is the second album from this industrial EBM ‘super group’ that was at various times called Cyber-Tec Project, C-Tec, and (according to some releases, albeit listed incorrectly) Cyber Tec.
Their track Let Your Body Die, released in 1995, was popular club hit with a sound that still stands up today — no small achievement given that it’s more than 20 years old!
Cyber-Tec Project counted amongst its members the unmistakeable voice of Front 242 vocalist Jean-Luc De Meyer, plus at various times (live or in the studio) members of Cubanate and even the drummer from Nitzer Ebb.
In addition to Let Your Body Die, which featured its own EP and numerous remixes, I was also a fan of a few tracks on C-TEC’s first album, Darker, a mellow electronic album that takes some getting used and which has long moments that sound nothing like barn-storming, dancefloor-hit stomping dance tracks.
Jean-Luc De Meyer’s vocals, as I said, are unmistakeable. I feel that even a lousy EBM track is made better thanks merely to his contribution. Given the talented pool of people involved in the creation of Cyber-Tec Project / C-Tec material, Cut is unlikely to sound dated, despite being more than 15 years old. It might, however, take some getting used to.

Sunn O))) — Void

So I’ve mentioned three or so times on this page already that the best thing to do with a release if you don’t dig it right away is to hold onto it and revisit at a later time.
This is one of the reasons I trash and criticise albums outright. How you feel about music — even music you don’t like — is so very subjective and dependent on countless external factors not strictly related to how an album sounds.
These factors can range from what your personal expectations are about a release you’ve been waiting for, to whether you’re stressed that day, to whether something meaningful is happening in your life at that moment, which just happens to coincide with you playing a particular lot of music on repeat. The significance and prevalence of all these factors and so many, many, many more can change from week to week or from year to year. Their combined mass amounts to how you would otherwise feel about a certain artist, release, song, or genre. Hence, as I keep saying, if you don’t like something one day, it’s always a good idea to revisit it later; and hence, this is one reason why I love physical media, because it’s harder to delete and forget a physical item.
But once in a while I will come across something that, try and try as I do, just is not for me.
Drone metallers Sunn O))) are apparently one such group.
A mate strongly recommended Sunn O))). So did a record store owner.
And as far as I can tell, abandoning a guitar next to an amp to make feedback noise for an hour is not too dissimilar to this studio-recorded Sunn O))) album.
Perhaps I’ll revisit this 10 or 15 years from now, like I did with the Ministry and Nine Inch Nails releases listed here. Maybe then Sunn O))) will finally sense.
Until then, I’ll stand by the adage that if one doesn’t have anything nice to say, it’s best not to say anything at all.

Clearly drone metal isn’t for me. Goodness, what a snooze fest!

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