Looking for obscure black metal albums? You can still buy local
For record collectors, heavy metal is an expensive buy. Reissues of classic albums come in deluxe packaging, and even the most obscure bare-bones metal albums are priced high. I’ve been to record stores across most of Canada, as well as a few select ones in Europe and the States. Prices ranging from $40-$90 depending on the album seem consistent, and frustrating.
It is a factoid bereft of reason; no one seems to know why vinyl junkies can’t headbang in front of their turntables at a reasonable cost.
Many fans turn to online distributers, some of which promise records at what most consider a fair price (roughly twenty doll hairs). A friend and I recently decided to split shipping on an order of heavy metal records, ordered through Discogs.com, a website that allows record lovers to sell, buy and trade with each other.
To my surprise, the records by bands such as Entombed, Possessed, Oranssi Pazuzu, and Castevet, arrived two days after I confirmed the order, with the return address on the package naming a small town in southern Saskatchewan.
Who could possibly be selling the most obscure and dirty black metal albums in my home province, where the population is just over a million and the majority of small towns are slowly becoming dried up husks of frontierism?
After a few emails and a phone number exchange, I was dialing long distance to talk to this stranger and find out what the skinny was on selling metal records world-wide out of a rural town.
The answer was surprisingly simple.
“I’m a music whore,” laughs Alan.
A record nerd in his early forties, Alan* pays his bills and other life expenses by selling records all over the world, largely to European and American collectors. He started buying records when he was eight-years-old, amassing an enormous collection over his lifetime, and at one point, donating a massive seven thousand LPs to a radio station fundraiser.
Moving from city to city across the western provinces, Alan continued collecting, even buying multiples of the same album in case a friend needed one. As he continued this practice, he wound up selling a few select copies online, and now boasts upwards of two thousand albums on his online store, with another four thousand uncatalogued and scattered around his house.
Though Alan’s Discogs account sells a few select punk, krautrock and indie records, his collection is dominated by black metal, death metal, grindcore…you name it. All things heavy. So, why metal?
“I love all music,” he told me. “I grew up playing in punk and garage bands as a kid. The Catholic girls I dated in high school were listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure…bands like that. So I like all types of music. But, metal is tough for a lot of listeners to track down, so I try to make it a little easier for people to access the music they like. That’s why I focus on metal in particular.”
When I tell him that the average price on a reissued metal album in Saskatoon nears the $40 mark at some stores, he couldn’t believe it. “What?!” he exclaimed. “Holy shit. I guess I haven’t been inside a record store in Saskatchewan in a long time.”
I asked Alan how long he plans to continue doing this and operating out of such a small locale. “I’m here to be near my ailing parents. I still go out to Alberta once in a while for work, but otherwise, I’m here selling records. I’m not getting rich, mind you. Just doing something I love.”