Hydra Head Industries announced its own imminent demise on Tuesday with word that the pressures and debts of the post-noughties music industry bear too much of a financial burden to keep the label afloat.
This is an absolute bummer. Started in 1993 by high school student Aaron Turner (who went onto front Isis), Hydra Head went onto be a key cog in both the burgeoning metalcore and sludge scenes with an added hand in the then-niche world of speciality vinyl.
Come December, the label is shutting its doors to new releases, and while they’re planning on keeping their back catalogue going for as long as possible (if only to recoup costs), there’s little hope that they’ll ever be able to get up to full strength again. They’re accepting donations if you’ve got the money, but another way to help out is to buy what they’re selling. Which, in this case, is a pretty impressive catalogue of albums ranging from the hardcore to the ambient. Here are some of our picks.
|Botch – We Are the Romans
Like the Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity, the final for which was released by Hydra Head in 1999, Botch’s We Are the Romans is caked in aggressive time changes and wall shattering breakdowns. The difference is that technicality and good hooks aren’t mutually exclusive for Botch, who threw in just the right amount of groove and melody to keep the chaos interesting. This is metalcore at its purest and a must have for anyone into great songs with better titles (“C. Thomas Howell as the ‘Soul Man’”, “I Wanna Be a Sex Symbol on My Own Terms” and more).
|Cave In – Jupiter
We’ve already covered metalcore with that Botch album, so why not take the chance to hear when one of the genre’s greats took a dynamic left turn towards the progressive with Cave In’s Jupiter, an album that’s still pissing people off 12 years later. This takes the bands usual angst and tosses it through a ringer of Fugazi and Pink Floyd. Both a reaction to Steve Brodsky’s vocal troubles and an increasingly sterile scene, Jupiter survives on its own musical merits long after the message has died.
|Mare – Mare
There aren’t many vocalists who can do what Tyler Semrick-Palmateer did on Mare’s lone release. At 5 songs and 25-minutes, Mare is a horrifying experiment in sludge, droning through mountainous riffs and chaotic experimentations all pinned to the sound of Semrick-Palmateer’s unmatched shrieks, screams and wails. Better still, he can sing, too. Just don’t expect much of it.
|Daughters – Daughters
The third and final album from Daughters essentially abandons the band’s roots in grindcore in favour of a sound that’s sounds like Nick Cave fronting a hallucinogenic Jesus Lizard tribute band. While vocalist Alexis Marshall called the album “less than shit,” it remains a pretty startling combination of unprecedented technicality and groove, with actual songs somehow revolving around what often sounds like a crazy person punching their guitar to pieces.
|Old Man Gloom – NO
Aaron Turner’s first full-tilt return to music following Isis’ 2010 break-up, Old Man Gloom’s NO is an almost dizzying hour of music that runs the gamet of sounds all in a sludgy, doom-infused framework. The long spaces of ambient noise might be a bit to take on their own, but spin NO as a complete package and you’ll quickly found yourself lost in the nightmare. If this is the end of Hydra Heads records, there’s no soundtrack more fitting than this.