Albums Worth Waiting For

Sometimes life gets in the way of a good hobby.  I’m single, so it’s not as if I have family concerns that limit how I spend any excess income.  If that weren’t the case, I’m sure the idea of excess income would rapidly become a fantasy.  In that regard, perhaps I should correct myself.  Sometimes an excess of hobbies can get in the way of a good hobby.  Better?

In the quest to build the perfect music collection, I tend to come across so many different artists that I end up chasing the albums that most recently come to my attention, pushing more and more music further down my want-list.  When factoring in other hobbies, lifestyle choices, and expenses, my music collecting goals can get delayed.  As Mick Jagger sings in what is undoubtedly a different context, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you just might find you get what you need.

Here are five albums that took me years to obtain, but I’m pleased to say were all worth the wait.

Gorguts – Obscura

In my first few years of listening to metal, my curiousity was sky-high.  I started with thrash and more traditional heavy metal, but I’d always make attempts to step out of my comfort zone.  Though I was stuck with a weak dial-up connection during my teen years, the internet was still one of my major music discovery methods.

The BNR Metal Pages was one of my first go-to sources for learning about metal music online.  It may seem primitive by today’s standards, but I’m glad to see the site still exists.  I was curious about finding some metal bands from my native land of Canada, and this site featured an outline of the more notable ones.  Rush, Voivod, Strapping Young Lad, Annihilator, etc.  Basically the higher profile, usual suspects that people normally identify with Canadian rock/metal would show up on my radar (though I had developed a brief Razor fascination as a teenager).  Then came Gorguts.

Gorguts was such an unusual name to me.  This was before I exposed myself to much death metal, so vulgar sounding names were a novelty to me.  I never heard them until a long while after learning about them, or if I did it was one of their earlier Roadrunner Records-era songs.  When I finally decided to invest time in finding Gorguts’ music, I needed a starting point.

Obscura kept showing up as their most notable work. It received a lot of mixed reactions because people didn’t know what to make of it at the time of it’s initial release in 1998. It’s similar to the backlash that Atheist received when they released Unquestionable Presence.  Though there’s a seven year gap between these albums, many death metal fans still weren’t open to new approaches.  Opinions have changed since then, and it is now considered a landmark album.  There’s even a notable technical death metal band that adopted Obscura as their moniker.

Unfortunately, Obscura was long out-of-print, so copies of it weren’t exactly priced to move. I put it out of my mind until Luc Lemay reformed the band to create the album Colored Sands with a new lineup featuring Dysrhythmia members Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston.  I loved the album, saw them live promoting said album, and shortly after learned that (at long last!) they were going to re-release Obscura.  I quickly placed an order for the fancy-schmantzy blue coloured vinyl edition.

Anyone ever get that feeling when your heart races when you unexpectedly come across an album when pouring through the shelves in a music store?  Finding a copy of Obscura in the bargain bin of a used CD store did that to me.  I was so stunned by it’s presence that I temporarily forgot I had the vinyl on pre-order!  In this case, it was the original Olympic Records version, so I easily parted with the four bucks.

I’m now the proud owner of two copies of the album.  I usually don’t grab multiple versions of the same album, but I’ll call this one a happy accident.  While they modified the cover slightly to incorporate their current logo (the pic I’ve provided is the original cover), the expanded liner notes provide great insight to the creative process and musicians.  For fans of more straight-forward death metal looking to broaden their horizons, Obscura is well-worth checking out, especially now that it is plentifully available.

Oceansize – Efflorese

This is the case of an album that was never financially out of reach, yet it still took longer than I wanted to obtain it.

My introduction to Oceansize (named after the Jane’s Addiction tune) came soon after I stumbled across a valuable music resource on the internet, Prog Archives.  The site featured a media player that showcasing songs of artists selected for inclusion in their archives.  For Oceansize, whom the site categorizes as psychedelic/space-rock, they included a track off Effloresce titled “Massive Bereavement”.  To fresh ears, it reminded me of an easier-to-digest Mr. Bungle, especially during the second half of the song.   That’s all it took to sell them to me.

I attended university in a smaller city in Canada with few music stores.   Fortunately, the HMV in the area would order in albums that you did not need to pay for in advance.  Seeing as the store’s selection wasn’t often up to my standards, I took frequent advantage of their policy.  It wasn’t too long after my Oceansize discovery before I requested that they order in a copy of Effloresce.  I expected to get a call from the store within a couple months, but that would not be the case.

Thankfully, the band, like most, had more than one album.  I received Frames as a Christmas gift months that very year , and it certainly held me over.  I had recently seen some live rehearsal-style footage on Youtube, and luckily, my copy of Frames came with the DVD featuring this among the footage.  That album helped get me through the stresses of post-secondary education, so it was very much a worthy placeholder.  In fact, the HMV called me around a week or two before I was to move back home from school to tell me that they could not fulfil my order.

Soon after heading back home, I found Self-Preserved While The Bodies Float Up at Sonic Boom Records.  Don’t get me wrong!  I like that album, but the void remained. I still hadn’t tracked down the original album that brought Oceansize to my attention.

Once I found a stable job and moved out of my parent’s house, I finally grabbed my own credit card and began making online music purchases.  Effloresce was near the top of my shopping list, so it was naturally one of the first that I crossed off it.

Forbidden – Twisted Into Form

I learned about Forbidden because Slayer’s drummer at the time I discovered them, Paul Bostaph, was once a member (as was Machine Head’s Robb Flynn).  I believe I first saw the band listed on a Slayer fan-site that I can’t seem to locate.  I also saw a brief 15-second clip of their performance of “Chalice Of Blood” from the concert video Ultimate Revenge 2.  It was such a short sampling because it was on a VHS compilation tape from Metal Head video magazine (Volume 1) that either my brother or I found at a pawn shop when we were around 16.  Albeit a very short taste, the riffage in that song sounded so devastatingly powerful that we knew one of us had to get an album of theirs.  The trouble was that their work was long out of print, so we did what we normally did to build up our CD collections.  We waited.

I typically have good fortune when checking my nearby Deja Vu Discs location’s stock of used CDs. When it came to Forbidden, lady luck did not shine down upon me. I’d estimate it took around four to five years before they had either of Forbidden’s first two albums in one of their stores. My brother grabbed Forbidden Evil, and I got Twisted Into Form, both of which appeared on the same trip.

The album was exactly what I was hoping for.  Top-notch Bay Area thrash rivaling the quality that I’ve grown accustomed to with Puppets/Justice-era Metallica or the first four Testament albums.  Russ Anderson is more in the traditional/power metal school of vocalist compared to others in thrash metal that have more grit in their voices, but I liked the contrast.

Oddly enough, I ended up purging this album from my collection after about a year or so of buying it.  I’d routinely do this type of thing when I was younger during stretches of unemployment.  If I wanted to buy more music, I’d sell some albums that I wasn’t so enthusiastic about at the time in order to free up some money.  I also remember getting rid of my copy of Dreaming Neon Black by Nevermore (which also features Tim Calvert as a guitarist) around the same time, so that’s another wrong that needs righting eventually.

I re-purchased Twisted Into Form at some point this year to cure my feelings of seller’s remorse.  It’s not the original edition I previously owned, but this version includes the Raw Evil Live at the Dynamo EP as bonus tracks, so that’s good for a taste of some Forbidden Evil material as well as a faithful cover of Judas Priest’s “Victim of Changes”.

Cardiacs – A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window and On Land and In The Sea

Cardiacs are a hard band to describe to people.  They’re a bit proggy, a bit punk, a bit psychedelic, a bit poppy, and a bit silly.  Much of their songs sound as if you’re playing a 33 1/3rpm record on the 45rpm setting.  That may not all sound particularly appetizing, but it is to this guy.

I first heard of them when I was first getting into Napalm Death, and bassist Shane Embury mentioned them as an influence in the Noise For Music’s Sake liner notes.  I never properly checked the band out until Napalm Death recorded a cover of “To Go Off and Things” to help raise money for Cardiacs bandleader Tim Smith’s medical expenses.  It sounded rather different from Napalm Death, but they’ve always seemed to name-check a great range of influences.

It took a few songs to figure them out, but it didn’t take much for their unique sound to grow on me.  I really dug the songs “Dirty Boy” (which reminded me of Devin Townsend’s work) “Day Is Gone” “A Little Man and a House” and “Is This The Life?” which was the closest they had to a hit.  Funnily enough, a few years after listening to that Napalm Death cover, I noticed that guitarist Dan Mongrain was wearing a Cardiacs t-shirt live when his band (Voivod) co-headlined a tour with (you guessed it!) Napalm Death.  Message received!  It was time to take getting a Cardiacs album seriously.

I didn’t look in much detail over the span of the internet like I’ve just recently started doing for some obscure stuff.  I tended to stick to Amazon, which is still usually the first place I look, where a Cardiacs album typically sells at the same price as three or four standard-priced albums.  Given the option, I’d take the three-to-four albums 99 times out of 100.

This was a case where I finally bit the bullet and put down a bit more money than I would normally spend on CDs.  I acquired the two pictured albums as a bundle on eBay. They weren’t exactly cheap, but it got to the point of waiting that I didn’t want to hold off any longer.  Compared to the outrageous listed prices on other sites, finding theses CDs at around $25 CAD a piece is a relative steal.  In fact, I just snagged a copy of Heaven Born & Ever Bright from the same eBay seller nearly one year later at around $20.  If this trend remains, I should be ordering Sing to God from the same guy for $15 at some point next year.

If you’re gonna dream, dream big!

Sadus – A Vision Of Misery

The first time I heard Steve Digiorgio’s bass playing, I was completely enthralled. It coincided with my introduction to Death through watching the music video for “The Philosopher” when I was around 18.  I’m not 100% certain that it was my first exposure to fretless bass, but it was definitely my introduction to fretless bass playing in a metal context.  It was around this time that I bought my musically like-minded twin brother a copy of The Sound of Perseverance as a Christmas gift.  This album did not have Digiorgio on it (though still a great listen), so I had to do a bit of digging for albums featuring my new bass inspiration.

While The Sound of Perseverance was the only Death album available at the local mall, it wasn’t long before I found a second-hand copy of Individual Thought Patterns at Deja Vu Discs.  I’d also found his appearance in other sources such as his stint with Testament (see The Gathering) and his stand-in session work on Quo Vadis’ Defiant Imagination.  However, I was intrigued to hear more of Digiorgio’s work in his pre-Death band, Sadus.

Back when downloading MP3s was a big deal, my brother and I would vigorously search the interwebs in hopes of discovering more great metal bands.  We loaded up a stellar collection of lo-fidelity audio (that unmistakable sound as if it’s being played under water) of metal bands ranging from Agent Steel to Zyklon.  We never really dabbled with Napster or similar music-sharing sites, opting to record label or band sites, which commonly had a downloads section where you can get a song or two per album for free.  In this routine process, we found some Sadus songs on the band’s official website.  I don’t know all of their songs they featured, but one I definitely recall is “Aggression” off of Elements of Anger.  The problem was that each of their songs would fade out at around the two minute mark.  Good enough sampling for me, and I was sold.  The problem was that I couldn’t find their albums anywhere.

Fast forward fourteen years later, and one of my long Youtube video journeys led me to stumble across the song “Deceptive Perceptions” off A Vision of Misery. After sampling a few other Sadus tracks in their discography, I decided that would be the album with the most appeal.  Still, it really didn’t matter where I started because all of their albums have been out of print for a good decade and at seemingly low supply.  So I waited yet again to do some bargain hunting.  Twenty dollars may not sound like a deal on a used CD, but it was the lowest listed value I was able to find after a few extra months of patience.

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Am I alone out there in waiting so long in making such purchases?  Would it be a better strategy to get an album at any cost rather than waiting potentially years for it?  Or should I scrap my physical music collection altogether and become devoted exclusively to iTunes or Spotify?

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