I will be posting pieces from Chronicles of Chaos here, along with accompanying music. Enjoy, and remember, there is always an underground.
Saving money is hard when you have an addiction as severe as mine. Paydays turn into shopping sprees. The bank account seemingly never recovers to previous semi-prosperous levels. You spend hours online searching the web for deep cuts and first pressings. You lose sleep thinking of obscure one-offs like Slayer’s recently released “Praying to Satan: Paris Broadcast 1991” or the Pixies’ “In Heaven: Live At The Emerson College 1987 – FM Broadcast.” If you find yourself in a record store filled with your musical leanings, you turn into a fiend, combing the bins, racks and every square inch of the space for more hot wax and other physical format goodies.
It’s the thrill of the hunt more than anything, especially for metal fans. Metal music hasn’t always been widely available, though I did buy the new Killswitch Engage and Slipknot CDs at Target, and Walmart sells Motley Crue and Metallica vinyl, which is weird, but those bands have become mainstream and pop culture brands by now.
When I bought the Killswitch and Slipknot records, the young cashier asked, “Oh, what are these? DVDs?” I died a little. The heyday of tape trading and fanzines is about as far in the past as 8-tracks. CDs have apparently joined them.
But for me there’s still nothing quite like looking through crates of used records. You harbor the hope that every album you accidentally thumb past is the one you’ve been pining for, like a first pressing of the Stooges’ self-titled 1969 release. My proudest vinyl trophy to date is an original pressing of the Misfits’ “Legacy of Brutality” (1985) — the album that introduced me to a whole new world of weird music as a fourth-grader, thanks to Glenn Danzig’s “Evil Elvis” vocals and Doyle’s distorted rockabilly riffs from the grave.
One of my earliest, and best, friends Dylan brought the CD into class one day. He borrowed it from his older brother without telling him. At recess, all we could do was stare at the cover with its Crimson Ghost silhouette and font dripping with blood since we didn’t have a CD player. Dylan raved about the songs contained within like the devil himself wrote every note. He rattled off song names that made me nervous — “Some Kinda Hate,” “Angelfuck,” which he whispered in my ear and we both giggled, and “Where Eagles Dare” — but I couldn’t help but be intrigued. He let me take it home for a night if I promised to bring it back the next day. I must have played it 50 times that one night. I became temporarily obsessed with fully understanding and digesting Danzig’s words and tone. The Misfits were a perfect gateway band for a child with a head full of Halloween haunts. Dylan risked an ass whooping for me back then, but I’ve been all candy apples and razorblades ever since.
The itch to find the next “Legacy of Brutality” is insatiable. The internet and social media have made searching more streamlined, but there’s nothing like a boots-on-the-ground mission.
A trip to Denver isn’t complete without a visit to some of the city’s best record stores. When I found myself in the Mile High City recently for a freelance gig, I made the trek to Wax Trax and Chain Reaction Records to get my fix. Wax Trax, with its mural of Lemmy (RIP) outside, is a vinyl Mecca. I always make sure to pay my respects to the madman behind Motorhead before entering.
One of the workers put on Dinosaur Jr. shortly after I arrived that particular day. “I feel the pain of everyone. Then I feel nothing.”
The store’s walls are covered in gig posters and promos. I spotted a Speedwolf one from an early show at the 3 Kings Tavern. The Denver-based speed metal band put out one full-length album — 2011’s “Ride With Death” — that instantly became a cult classic. The metal blogs hailed it as a speed metal masterpiece at the time, as everyone in the underground waited for the band to take over the mainstream metal scene. But then they suddenly broke up and never put out another song, let alone record. “Ride With Death” — with its black-and-white cover showing a trio of werewolves riding motorcycles as the grim reaper looms large in the background — is now a metalhead measuring stick. Whenever quizzing someone about their favorite bands, the mention of Speedwolf either confirms or betrays their underground cred.
Once I saw that gig poster, I felt my pupils dilate, and my face flush. I must dig for some Denver music in the same vein, I thought. After some searching in a bin labeled “local music,” I came across Weaponizer’s “Lawless Age” (2017).
They had me at the promo blurb: “While one can recognize a variety of metallic sub-genre tags in the band’s sound from raw black metal to post-apocalyptic thrash to Aussie war-metal to anarchic crossover, it’s all menacingly welded menacingly into an indestructible shining alloy of slashing American steel.” Sold!
I came down from my high, but still had an edge, so I picked up “Songs of the Plains” (2018) and “Imaginary Appalachia” (2015) by new wave outlaw country crooner Colter Wall, too. Total damage: $60. Not terrible.
I really fell off the wagon at Chain Reaction. The small, nondescript store off of Colfax is dingy and disorganized, and I love it. The shop has a stage, complete with house drum set, which feels like you’re hanging out in your hesher friend’s basement bedroom as they play Metallica for you for the first time.
I went straight to the used bin, where I could barely contain my excitement. At one point, I caught myself salivating and quickly wiped my mouth. No one seemed to notice.
Record after record, I pulled: Destruction’s “Infernal Overkill” (1985) and “Sentence of Death” (1985, Metal Blade Records release); Noise Records’ “Death Metal” sampler (1984), featuring Hellhammer, Running Wild, Helloween and Dark Avenger, with censored cover sleeve; Sodom’s “The Saw Is the Law” (1991); and Combat Records’ “Combat Boot Camp” EP for NYC thrashers Napalm (1986). Not to mention the seemingly countless other records I left behind. Next time, I told myself, don’t want to overdo it.
On my way to the checkout counter, I picked up Haunt’s “Mind Freeze” (2020) on CD and a ghoulish looking tape by a band named Nefarious (it turned out to be the four-song demo of a now-defunct death metal band from Joliet, Illinois).
An overweight Mexican man with a septum ring and a tattoo across his knuckles that said “cats rule” tallied up my haul: $158. My stomach sank a little, but then I thought if I’m ever strapped for cash, I’ll sell some semen. At least my body makes more sperm, almost too much of it sometimes, but who knows when I’ll come across another first pressing of Destruction’s seminal “Infernal Overkill,” which is German thrash glory.
“You agonize in a pool of blood
You scream out and beg for mercy
Don't try to escape or resist
’Cause Christ won't help you tonight”
Sorry, future children, but daddy’s gotta get his fix.
My most recent bender cost me a total of $218. It could have been worse. It can always be worse. Plus, in Telluride, $218 buys a party animal a bag of blow and bar tab, with tip, on a typical Friday night. At least records are harder to crush up and snort.
The irony of my wax addiction is that I still need to buy a proper record player. Unfortunately, some things were left behind when I moved West, but it’s time for a new rig. A friend of a friend who visited town recently gave me some pointers on finding the right turntable.
“Spend $200 or so on a good table. None of that combo shit. And all that Crosley shit is crap.”
He’s a sound tech at First Avenue in Minneapolis, which is famous for being the early stomping grounds of acts like Prince, The Replacements and Husker Du. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’ve been eyeing a Crosley 1975T Entertainment System.
I did recently buy a Studebaker cassette player. One late night I threw on a Judas Priest “Screaming for Vengeance” tape I found many moons ago at a thrift store in western Pennsylvania. The label is hand-written, and the titles on the tape itself are almost worn away. I liked the aesthetic more than anything. The sound quality is terrible, as if Rob Halford is singing underwater, but daydreams of a fellow addict buying the tape brand new and playing it ragged filled my head.
“We are screaming for vengeance. The world is a manacled place. Screaming, screaming for vengeance. The world is defiled in disgrace.”