Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vinyl Confessions - Grave Robber releases

I love vinyl albums.  I love the large-scale artwork, the spinning of the album on the platter, and the sound that emanates from my speakers when a record is playing.  I also love the collect-ability of vinyl and how limited edition releases can enhance an artist or band's discography beyond just standard CD's, digital releases, or even cassettes.  Vinyl is the traditional collector's choice of format, despite the arrival of the 21st century and the Internet Age.  While vinyl never went away (the underground rock, punk and hardcore scenes still thrive on this), the mainstream has now embraced vinyl once again.  The problem with this is that most current mainstream vinyl releases are of the "audiophile" variety, i.e. they are overly expensive 180-gram vinyl that costs 2-3 times as much as either a CD or digital release would cost.  Now, I'm all for high-fidelity audio, but I don't think most folks who listen to Nirvana or Metallica are the proud owners of $5,000+ audio systems with $2,000 turntables that contain diamond styli.  I'm certainly not in that camp, and I suspect I'm not alone by a long shot.

So it is with great joy that a vinyl lover like myself can find great deals on classic albums (via thrift stores or second-hand record shops), as well as when current artists release new music on vinyl, whether those releases are included in the original "run" of an album, or whether they are a special or limited edition situation that happens some time later.  Even more fun is when a band puts out a vinyl release that has that extra something special that makes it either more fun, more collectible, or just more desirable to own.  Hand numbering, free digital downloads included, CD-R copies of the release as a bonus, etc.  These are all great features of a modern vinyl release.  But at the end of the day, the vinyl lover has to be satisfied with the purchase of the vinyl album, since the amount of physical space that record takes up has to be worth sacrificing to own it.


Thankfully, the recently issued triumvirate of Grave Robber albums are worth the space on your shelf.  Kudos to Vinyl Remains for flying the indie vinyl release flag, and for issuing these 3 beauties.  Grave Robber's debut album, "Be Afraid" checks in first with new cover art, as well as a delicious golden see-through vinyl.  The band's 2nd album "Inner Sanctum" is released as well, and despite having the same artwork as the CD release, looks great at that size and sports a snazzy see-through red platter.  And finally, the recent compilation "Exhumed" is here, also with original artwork, but in a wonderful bright green see-through record that ties in nicely with the green logo on the front.  In addition, each release includes a 2-sided semi-gloss print that has artwork and album credits printed on them.

The albums sound great in vinyl form, though I am biased because I already enjoy the music contained therein.  My audio setup I usually use (at my office) isn't high-end by any stretch - I have a table-top "retro" stereo unit w/ a top-side turntable and then have a nice set of Logitech speakers plugged into that with great frequency range and response, and a nice subwoofer included in the package.  So while a bit of the "vinyl hiss" is present due to my somewhat lacking configuration, it still sounds great while it's spinning.  The music comes across sufficiently loud like the original CDs do, with no additional mastering evident.  From a sound perspective, these things don't disappoint.  The see-through colored vinyl albums are a treat, and though most indie vinyl re-issues or special editions are released in either colored see-through or the sort of opaque "tie-dye" style nowadays, I am still giddy like a school boy when I see the bright colored records slide out of the sleeves.  The retro graphics styling on the vinyl center portion is also great, giving it that sort of late 50's, early 60's feel.

Don't they just look tasty?!

Here are the few (minor) negative things.  First, they're not numbered.  Yeah, that's a small quibble, but with the indie vinyl market being a specialized as it is, it's always a treat to have them numbered, even if they're not individually so by hand, but if the sleeve mentions how many copies were pressed.  Secondly, there are no lyrics.  Why include nice semi-gloss printout sheets if you're not going to include the lyrics?  It's true that Grave Robber's lyrics are pretty easy to hear and make out, but I still think including lyrics would have been a nice touch.  Third, there's no download option.  This is also a very small issue, but one that should be noted.  If you're going to purchase the full album in vinyl format, it's a good idea to provide a download of the item.  This doesn't affect me personally, because I already own all 3 of these on CD (the 1st and 3rd of which I own in multiple versions), but for vinyl lovers looking for their fix, in today's world, it's also a good idea to include something they can throw on their chosen media player.  I don't consider the exclusion of the band's cover of "Children of the Grave" to be an issue (available on the CD version of "Inner Sanctum") because the vinyl probably wouldn't have had enough space to include it.

Despite my minor complaints, these are a MUST for Grave Robber fans who are also fans of vinyl.  If you already have these albums in either digital or CD format, and you're not a collector or vinyl fan, they're probably not an essential purchase, especially if you don't own a turntable to play them on.  The exception to that rule is if you're purchasing them again to help support the band, to which I say bravo.  Vinyl needs to stay alive for more than just the collector's market (and nerds like me), and this band is too important not to support.  Their message is important, their approach is unique, and everything about their music is done right.  Highly recommended.

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