Allan Horrocks and Andee Connors run Aquarius Records in San Francisco, CA. It’s the best record store in the country, especially if you don’t live right next to a record store and especially if you like metal. I interviewed them a few months back for the ongoing Taco Riff series, and figured they’d have a good take on all of your holiday shopping. I called them up to get their wrap up on their favorite metal of the year. Although they took notes on what they were going to say, they ignored them entirely almost as soon as we began.
Before we begin, you should sign up for their bi-weekly (now becoming weekly) mailing list of favorite new releases. It’s mindblowing.
We started with me trying to type what they said, but they were going way too fast.
Okay, the only way I can record this is by plugging my phone into ProTools and hitting play. So this is being captured in 24 bit audio.
AH: Great, now you can spend hours editing and slaving over it.
AC: I’m stepping out now, it’s annoying to be next to you while I talk.
AH: Yeah, I’ve noticed that too.
AC: I hope that you’re recording this, because our banter has already started.
I sent you guys some great questions ahead of time, right?
AC: Well, I told Allan not to prepare for this.
AH: Yeah, what are these questions you’re talking about?
So it’s the end of the year, people are putting lists together and I thought you guys would be the ones to ask: what are your favorite records that would have to be on a short list of the best metal stuff that’s probably well below the radar?
AC: So we’re definitely steering clear of obvious stuff like Deathspell Omega that everyone would know.
AH: Who’s radar are we talking about?
AC: Are you done now?
AH: Stop hassling me!
DO probably is above the radar.
AH: Okay, so this is an obscure release that people haven’t heard about.
AC: I’m going to let Allan go first. This’ll be fun for me. I’ll keep jumping in and out because I’m restless today.
AH: Okay, well, I’d definitely say that Realmbuilder album, which came out in vinyl last year but came out in CD in 2010. But people still probably haven’t heard of it unless they read about it on our list.
AC: I don’t remember what it sounded like. Why don’t you refresh me?
AH: Realmbuilder. Summon the Stone Throwers. It’s a two piece American, DIY kind of metal band that plays stuff in the vein of Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol and other kind of cult, Robert E Howard worshipping 80’s epic metal bands.
AC: Are you reading this?
AH: No I’m not; this is all off the top of my head. That record, I’ve played it A LOT. I’ve just totally fell in love with it. The singing is not typical metal vocals and maybe not all that good (in terms of sounding powerful) but that’s another thing I really like about it. It’s got this … not indie … not goth but definitely not metal vocals. They’re melodic and it really works with the music. It’s just great epic melodies and the lyrics are awesome. It just has this whole atmosphere that I really appreciated.
AC: My turn? I like that record a lot, I haven’t listened to it in a while. Now I will.
I think my favorite would be this band called Murmuure. It’s spelled M-U-R-M-U-U-R-E.
Of course it is.
AC: I could actually put a couple of umlauts in there for you. They – or maybe it’s a he – are French. It’s sort of black metal but it’s really weird and it’s like … like he recorded an hour of improvised guitar. And then he recorded live drums and edited them and programmed some drums and wove it all together into this like, shoegazey, black metal Cocteau Twins or something. It’s really cool and pretty and weird and maybe almost metal enough that regular black metal fans would like it. But probably not.
AH: We made it Record of the Week.
AC: If someone doesn’t read our list, they may not know that this great record happened and they should buy it because it’s awesome.
Here’s another band that I love that, for some reason people don’t get into as much as they should. It’s a band called Johnny X and the Groadies.
[a bit sarcastic] Why would anyone have a problem with a band called that?
AC: [oblivious or, more likely, ignoring the sarcasm] I know, especially since one of them always dresses up like a mummy, one is dressed like an 80s glam rocker, one of them has an axe … that’s all I remember. They’re from Portland and they kind of sound like a really heavy noise rock band playing black metal with lots of keyboards. They’ve been – unfairly – described as “party black metal”.
But they are completely AWESOME. I’m going to send you a picture of that band so that you know what I’m talking about.
[Justin derails the interview on a digression about weird black metal.]
AC: [After a while, getting things back on track.] Allan and I are still the metal guys here and we love the stuff we always have. In fact, recently we’ve been listening to 80’s Christian metal if that makes any –
Uh. Is there … is there something there to that? I have a hard time …
AC: What do you mean “is there something there?”
AH: There’s a lot of good bands.
I guess that’s my question. My impression of that world, from far away, was “I don’t want anything to do with that.”
AC: Well, we’re not talking just about Stryper – who actually did rule, by the way –
AH: I don’t know about that. But I do know that there’s other more underground metal bands from the 80’s, there’s talented people that just, unfortunately for them, were brought up wrong and they’re born into some Christian family and so they were like “I wanna rock, I wanna sound like DIO” but they had to do it in the context of singing about Jesus and so, at the time …
AC: Let’s be honest. Singing about the Devil is not that much cooler than singing about Jesus.
AH: And at least the Jesus people believe it and I don’t think a lot of the Satanic guys do. So it adds another layer of sincerity that makes it more fucked up. They really mean this and they think they’re going to Hell … that’s scarier than a lot of Black Metal, despite what a lot of Black Metal people try to portray.
AC: THAT’S ALLAN SAYING THAT. In case any of you Black Metal guys wanna … uh …
AH: [after a pause] Wanna what?
AC: [quietly] You know what I’m saying.
AH: There’s a bunch of bands from back in the day like White Cross and Bloodgood and Sacred Warrior and Neon Cross, Scarlet Red. There’s this compilation I found in a bargain bin called Ultimate Metal and I thought “that sounds good.” And it was Ultimate Metal. For Christians from 1989. “This tape will BLOW YOUR HEAD OFF.”
AC: Apparently, it did blow Allan’s head off.
AH: Oh yeah. Then I did some research and found out there’s this label called Intense Millennium Records that’s reissuing a bunch of stuff, including Vengeance, which is sort of a thrash/death metal band. And that death metal stuff is kind of an interesting take on the Christian stuff. Because once the vocals kick in with the growl, it sounds kind of demonic and you’re like, “Does this really work for a Christian band?”
[Goes on about this for a while]
AH: So, yeah, the best metal from 2010 is all the reissues of Christian Metal from the 80’s.
Ah. Aaaaahhh. Sooo … wait, what’s the name of the label?
AH: It’s called Intense Millenium and I think it’s run by someone by the name of Pastor Bob –
Of course his name is Pastor Bob.
AH: – who’s like a long-haired metal priest. He was involved in a magazine called Heaven’s Metal from the 80s.
AC: I feel like Allan has spent the past few days reading the liner notes for these records.
AH: And the Bible.
The only liner notes you need!
AC: Just the New Testament.
AC: I don’t even know what that means.
So what’s your favorite metal release of the year?
AC: Didn’t we just do that?
AH: No, we talked about the most obscure, favorite release. So now you can talk about Deathspell Omega, Andee.
AC: I think Murmuure is my favorite record of the year.
AH: Okay, so you’re done. My favorite of the year is also Realmbuilder. No, actually, one of the records I was most stuck on was Christian Mistress record. Which is not Christian, by the way, despite what we were just talking about.
AC: That’s the only reason he likes it. Because it’s got Christian in the name.
AH: No. Let the record reflect that I’m an atheist.
AC: I thought you were a Quaker.
[derailed again, including Justin’s great joke about “have you sown your Quaker oats?” which was hilarious]
AH: Back on track. What do I like about Christian Mistress? It’s got good songs and good signing. The vocalist, a female vocalist, can carry a tune. She doesn’t sound like anyone else. Well, I think in the review we mention that she sounds like Kate De Lombaert from ’80s Belgian band Acid. But she’s got a unique voice and the songs are memorable, dual guitars … it’s an 80s style, NWOBHM influenced stuff with these really good songs. I was surprised in a way because they’re from Olympia and they’re on 20 Buck Spin. And they come from that scene but they made this awesome traditional metal album that I was definitely into.
AC: What’s that other band? From Canada.
AH: Cauchemar. With the woman who wrote that heavy metal cookbook.
AC: They sound similar, kind of that 70s vibe. Actually I wasn’t differentiating … I really did like the new Deathspell Omega record, but I’ll bet Metalsucks writes about that all the time. I liked the new Hell Militia record. I guess I picked mostly black metal, I didn’t pick any regular metal.
AH: I didn’t really pick any black metal.
AC: You don’t really like black metal.
AH: I like good black metal. I like the Deathspell record. I mainly listen to reissues. (ED: See above) I liked the Deepswitch reissue, for instance.
AC: Oh! That’s good. That has rapping on it.
AH: Yeah, and there’s a Christmas Song, by the way, so it’s timely.
AC: It has a picture of nun with a vibrator on the cover. Cartoon, sort of.
Oh, that’s too bad that they weren’t able to spring for the photograph of an actual nun with a real vibrator.
AH: It’s more of a phallic candle.
AC: I think it’s supposed to be a dildo.
AH: The record is called Nine Inches of God.
AC: Hence the dildo.
AH: It’s sort of trippy and she’s melting and stuff. Apparently the guitar player’s dad painted it.
I bet his name wasn’t Pastor Bob.
AH: No. There’s a good grind album, the Japanese band AKBK.We haven’t talked about any grindcore yet.
AC: Wow, that’s obscure.
AH: That’s true. It kind of sounds like Agoraphobic Nosebleed. But it’s probably the best grind record I’ve heard this year.
AC: The Brutal Truth reissue is the best grind record of the year.
AH: Actually, yes, but that’s a reissue.
AC: But you said you only listen to reissues.
AH: Yes [inhaling slowly].
AC: So it works out.
AH: [bites lip, still inhaling]
AC: What about Bow Wow?
AH: The Bow Wow reissue would be one. The White Boy and the Average Rat Band reissue…
AC: What about the Circus of Power reissue? What about that?
AH: No, because I don’t think they’re that great.
So, let’s pretend a standard MetalSucks reader is in the store who has a broad taste. What’s a non-metal release you’d recommend to them?
AC: That’s actually … that’s what the store’s about. We’re trying to get metal heads to listen to pop music and pop people to listen to weird, heavy music.
AH: Yeah. Maybe the Aun record, which is not really the metal record. It sounds kind of experimental.
AC: But it sounds like Sunn O))).
AH: And it does have the drummer from Voivod. Aun, VII.
AC: I would say that’s still within the realms of metal. I would say that aTelecine thing. It’s the band of the porn star Sasha Grey. And I know you know all about porn. Anyway, it’s really cool and creepy. But it’s industrial and collage-ey. It seems like it’s dark and weird and I think that people who might get into metal would get into it.
AH: Thinking along those lines, there’s this project called Umberto by one of the guys who plays in Expo 70. It’s this project that does this home-brewed Goblin-y synth sound scape that we also made Record of the Week. And he has this record called “Prophecy of the Black Widow” that got the occult vibe sound to it that a lot of metalers would dig. Even though it’s closer to some kind of dance music than metal.
Andee, why are you looking at me like that?
AC: I’m just listening to your dulcet tones. Yeah, it’s weird. I’d consider myself a metal head, generally, because I have been for a long time. But having worked here so long and being in this music environment, it doesn’t seem weird for me to be a metal head but like totally wussy pop music. I have to take a step back and realize that there are people who are like “I ONLY LISTEN TO METAL”. In a way, I think the store exists to groom people out of that.
AH: But we do know that every metaller likes Kate Bush. Every metaller likes Depeche Mode.
AC: But no one knows exactly why.
AH: It has something to do with their girlfriends.
Wait, Kate Bush? From the Peter Gabriel song.
Both: Oh, like that’s the only thing that she’s ever done. [laugh at Justin]
AH: Oh! Something else we just listed was Tetragrammaton, which we described as sounding like a Black Metal Taj Mahal Travelers. They’re not Black Metal at all, but they have a vibe –
AC: But you’ve have to know who the Taj Mahal Travelers are.
Okay my final question. Let’s go back to that person who is in the store who only likes metal. What’s something that you guys love from this year that’s from outside the realm of metal that would drive him screaming out of the store?
AC: Hmm. Well, I know one. There’s this whole movement of music called Footwork music. It’s kind of like hip-hop. But it’s total ADD, with drum loops and the same vocal phrase repeated over hundreds of times. Then there’s these little bits of soul samples sprinkled in that are sped up really fast. It’s like the music for these special dance battles. And it’s TOTALLY AWESOME and it’s also the most insanely irritating thing ever. And we play in the store all the time because we all love it. But I don’t know if we’ve ever made it all the way through one of the records because it’s so brutal.
In a weird way, it’s totally brutal and punishing and fucked up and hard-core. But in a totally different way.
The other one that I would say is a random CD that showed up in the mail.
AC: Fastest. It’s this one-man band from the East Bay and… first, it’s like … I can’t even explain it. It’s the most insanely demented thing ever.
AH: He’s supposed to be a rapper. Kind of.
AC: I don’t know. It’s really blown out keyboards and retardedly programmed drum beats and then [in gravelly, medium pitched voice] he keeps singing like this, over the top.
AH: It’s kind of like Witch House. It’s this guy’s 4 track project, and he’s got a bunch of records.
AC: And he’s really obsessed with ASCAP. So much that he has huge ASCAP logos on every panel of the CD and on the cover of the album.
AH: I’m sure he doesn’t get very much money from ASCAP.
AC: Although I looked at his website and he made some weird claim that he’d made so much money on music publishing that he didn’t need to make music any more. The record we have is called Theme. I’ll send you an mp3. Don’t steal it, though, because it’s going to be my theme song. Except for me an Allan, I don’t think there’s a person alive that wouldn’t be driven insane by that.
Which is also something that we enjoy here at Aquarius Records: the kind of music that a select few can stand or even tolerate.
AH: [In agreement.] Mmm.
Justin Foley plays guitar and sings for the Austerity Program. Their record Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn is out now. Visit them online at www.austerityprogram.com. All messages about urban bike riding, vegetarian BBQ and monetary policy will be answered first.
This post was last modified on January 7, 2011, 7:15 pm