Friday, October 14, 2016

A sampling of places you can still buy metal records in the United States

I’ve been way too lazy with this blog, to the point it’s almost completely faded into obscurity. That wasn’t meant to be a Dehumanized reference. Alas. Something that I’ve been meaning to document because it might be useful to someone else, or merely a reminder to myself, is the names of great record shops that I’ve come across in my journeys. M and I are rather avid roadtrippers, vacation for us doesn’t really mean a formal plan as much as “how much time do we have” and “how far from home can we go?” We try to estimate a turn around point, then pass thru as many cities, national parks, and other points of interest as we can. This past summer, we managed to travel from our Mid-Atlantic residence to the Pacific Northwest and back. Our 2 ½ week journey obviously required a soundtrack, so I made a point to google up and visit some record stores along the way. In the process, I discovered some serious gems out there still retailing all kinds of killer underground metal in a variety of formats and figure that it’s worth putting the information out there for those who still enjoy the old school record shopping experience.

These aren’t listed in order of preference or quality, but in the order that I recalled them when I scribbled down a list of the noteworthy shops I’ve come across. Future entries will document other places worth checking out.

Zion’s Gate Records
1100 E Pike St
Seattle, Washington

This place is incredible. It’s located in Seattle in what I assume is the historic arts district/gay district of downtown. Their focus on METAL, with an enormous collection of vinyl and band shirts. LOTS OF RARITIES. They’ve got an impressive collection of CDs along the wall as well…I’m a CD shopper mostly because the number 1 place I listen to music is in the car. Some of their CDs can be on the pricey side…rarer and imported items are probably going to go 20 bucks each. I did manage to pick up 3 Count Raven records here, which was pretty awesome.

2nd Avenue Records
400 SW 2nd Ave
Portland, Oregon

A labyrinth of punk and metal as well as some other stuff. Tons of vinyl but they carry extensive CD stock as well. It’s a bit confusing as you basically have to ask the counter people to see the CDs, which they have kept in somewhat alphabetized but not particularly organized boxes; they’re more used to dealing with people that know what they want than the intrepid hunter. That said, while there’s a little bit of hassle in having to ask periodically for more boxes to search thru, they have an impressively large and varied selection of metal for sale in basically every subgenre. Their vinyl collection isn’t quite what Zion’s Gate is, but it’s massive as well. Lots of shirts and merch too. Really fair prices as well which as a good thing; I dropped almost $200 bucks in one visit. 

The Record Exchange
1105 W Idaho St
Boise, Idaho

Most college towns have a Record Exchange and Boise, Idaho is no exception. Kinda at the edge of downtown not too far from Boise State University’s campus; they’ve got a fair amount of everything here and their metal assortment isn’t too shabby. I picked up albums by Solstifir, Scour, and Unmerciful here if that gives you an idea. This was the first record store I visited in the Pacific Northwest and I was a bit surprised to discover just how big metal was out there.

Twist & Shout Records
2508 E Colfax Ave
Denver, Colorado.

This shop reminded me of what Tower Records was back in the day. You aren’t going to find super obscure stuff, but you will find everything you could want that’s on Relapse, Century Media, Metal Blade, Season of Mist, Unique Leader, etc along with a few oddball items. It’s not a metal specific store, but the metal section there is pretty large. I didn’t actually see a whole lot of vinyl there, but it did have a really decent sized CD section. Good prices. There's even amazing bookstore next door worth your time as well!

Bull Moose Records
151 Middle Street
Portland, Maine


82-86 Congress Street
Portsmouth, New Hampshire

This is a local chain of record stores in Maine and New Hampshire that’s a must visit when M and I are adventuring northward. Not a metal specific shop, but lots of great prices and a great selection of both new and used metal CDs. There's more locations than just these two, but I can't vouch for them. What I will say is that both the Portland and Portsmouth locations are located in really scenic tourist friendly spots so if your significant other isn't interested in waiting an hour while you comb thru used records to find that hidden gem there's other stuff to keep them busy. Also: the Portland location is kinda located downstairs across from a DVD's a bit of a goofy spot to find.

Generation Records
210 Thompson Street
New York, New York

I don’t know my way around NYC so well that I can tell you exactly where it is, other than it’s by Washington Square and NYU and it’s about a 10 minute walk from any of the Subway stations I usually use to get there. Decent selection of shirts and records…solid selection of new records upstairs that basically covers your recently released essentials. But if you go downstairs, you’ll find an ENOURMOUS selection of used CDs. It's a must stop every time M and I are in the city; there's also a really good Italian spot next door called Porto Bello and a neat little store dedicated to The Big Lebowski called "The Little Lebowski" that's right across the street. If you're not broke after stopping here, or are looking for other offerings beyond metal and punk, Bleeker Street and it's several shops are right near by as well.

Criminal Records
1154 Euclid Ave NE #A
Atlanta, Georgia

A really decent shop in the Five Points Neighborhood of Atlanta. I was able to basically buy GWAR and Rwake’s entire back catalogues on CD here for really cheap. It’s not the biggest shop in the world but if you’re in the area it’s worth a visit. They carry a lot more than just metal, but the metal is kept in it's own section if you look for it. 

Eides Entertainment
1121 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This is a comic book shop/horror movie shop/record store. A lot of people in Pittsburgh seem partial to Dave’s Music Mine over in South Side, but this has always been the place I’d spend more money at when I’m in Pittsburgh. You can usually find a few gems here when browsing around. 

The Sound Garden
1616 Thames St
Baltimore, Maryland

I just recently figured out this place has free parking behind the store. Of the places on this list, it's the one I go to the most. If you’re in the DC/MD/NOVA area…this shop is probably worth the drive if you’re looking for death/doom/black metal. You aren’t going to find super deep underground albums, but if they’re a band that’s played MDF, you’ll find their stuff here.

Static Age Records
110 N Lexington Ave
Asheville North Carolina

No CDs to be found here. I do think they sell cassettes. But there’s a healthy selection of underground punk and metal vinyl; I picked up vinyl by Acid Bath and Saint Vitus here. And fuck, Asheville is just a cool place to visit anyway; there's more shops that also sell vinyl nearby.

Places You Can Skip.

In my adventures, I've managed to find a lot of great shops to pick up obscure records. And sometimes, Google Search and Facebook has led me to disappointments...and M shaking her head because I've wasted time she could be eating gourmet cheese or something...

The Heavy Metal Shop
63 E Exchange Place
Salt Lake City Utah.

They’ve got those sweet shirts, so you expect that finding this store that it would sell a lot of CDs or at least Vinyls. Yeah….no. This place looks way more awesome from the outside than inside. There’s a TINY section for CDs, almost all of which are the same old shit by Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica and other 80’s dad rock. Shit you can find at any FYE or Best Buy. Vinyl selection is basically the same, but even more limited! There is an okay assortment of classic heavy metal shirts, but over half of the merchandise for sale at this place was “The Heavy Metal Shop” branded t shirts, magnets, coffee mugs, cock rings, etc. Okay, maybe not cock rings but the guy who owns this shop isn’t actually selling very much heavy metal out of his tiny cubicle, just products branded with his shop’s logo. Quite a letdown, especially since you don’t have to be in Salt Lake City for very long to pick up on the fact there’s a very healthy subculture scene there.  

On the upside, I did rescue a Metallucifer record that accidentally found its way there.


Chain Reaction Records
8739 W Colfax Ave
Lakewood, Colorado.

Mostly used crap CDs. Maybe the punk selection is better, but I found the metal offerings to be remarkable underwhelming and limited, especially compared to Twist & Shout. Vinyl wasn’t anything to write home about either. I guess they sell skateboards and shit too, but I’m too old for that crap. On the upside it's in the part of Denver where you'll find dead hookers and meth.

The Underground Rock Shop
617 Euclid Ave
Des Moines, Iowa

Juggalo hell. Their available CDs are used nu-metal garbage. Vinyl selection was moderately better, but it’s stuff most people into underground metal already own. A modest handful of Emperor and Darkthrone…I did stumble upon a vinyl copy of Celtic Frost’s "Into The Pandemonium" here…but they wanted way too much for it so I passed. I guess if you wanna buy bongs and drug paraphernalia they can help you out though.

Obviously there's places I haven't made it to yet. Embarrassingly, I haven't been to Vinyl Conflict in Richmond, Virginia. I should have been there already simply as a matter of proximity. Same could be said for Vienna Music Exchange, though based on the wares they sell at MDF each year I feel like I already own everything of interest they might carry. More ambitiously, I haven't been to Extreme Noise in Minneapolis, Amoeba Records in Los Angeles/San Francisco, Long In the Tooth Records in Philadelphia, or Armageddon Music in Providence/Boston. So more to come. Someday...