One of my favorite pastimes is scouring the used bookshelves, the cheap DVD bins, the clearance section of webstores - hunting for the hidden gems in amongst the legitimately undesirable dreck. Sometimes the searches simply lead to finding known commodities on the cheap, other times the low financial risk allows the more adventurous side to take over and an excessive number of blind buys soon follow. The latter certainly results in quite a few "duds," but the occasional diamond in the rough has always been enough to lure me back in time after time. I figured I'd go ahead and share the results with you all - so without further ado, welcome to the first edition of "Schmitty Raids the Bargain Bin."
There was a period of time where I absolutely abused The End Records' webstore - Age of Silence, Deceased, Subterranean Masquerade, Green Carnation, etc. Did I mention these all came at less than $2.50 each with free shipping? Yeah, those were the good old days (sadly, shipping is no longer included). Granted, deals this good can't be had there anymore, but I figured I'd show the distro some loyalty and give them one more go 'round. I ended up picking up three albums before checking out. I'll get into the details a bit later.
Outside of a couple trips in the days leading up to Halloween, I had not set foot inside a Goodwill to shop in several years - I recently decided to change that. I first went to check out the movies and music (naturally) and, well... Let's just say that I would have donated that stuff too, just to get it out of the house. Thoroughly disappointed in the digital media and not in the market for new-to-me clothes, I fully expected to leave empty-handed. That is until I laid eyes on the bookshelves - I ended up purchasing three books. Symmetry is great isn't it?
So yeah, details. Being stalled in the middle of about three other books right now, I don't have much to say about the books I picked up other than their titles considering I've not read any of them so far. But based on my own taste and the word-of-mouth I've noted, I'm sure that I'll be enjoying myself when I eventually get around to The Andromeda Strain (Crichton), Hyperion (Simmons), and The Time Machine / War of the Worlds (Wells). Yay, incoming sci-fi binge!
Moving on, I actually can make some comments on the albums I purchased. First up:
Those in the know might recall that The Ichthyologist broke into my top ten for 2009 albums. Let me say that I obviously put off listening to their earlier material for far too long - this is more metallic and, dare I say, possibly even better than The Ichthyologist. Sludgy, sea-faring, atmospheric, experimental goodness. I mean, there's Hammond organs, crazy vocals and a trumpet on a nautical-themed album - if it isn't a complete trainwreck then, by process of elimination, it must be awesome.
I found myself lazily clicking around the cheapest CDs, doing something vaguely resembling lazy research when I came across an interesting band name or album title. When I found out that this was the side project of Dark Tranquillity's guitarist, I immediately mustered all of my available enthusiasm and added it to my cart with an excited "Eh, why not?" (If your sarcasm detectors went off, please reset them and return to your seat. This was only a drill.) Anyway, what I got when listening to this album turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Rather than the anticipated slab of derivative Gothenburg melodeth, I was presented with something more akin to Suffocation. The fact that it is viewed through a Gothenburg filter only serves to make this more interesting. Brutal, dynamic, catchy death metal - definitely a diamond in the rough.
For every diamond in the rough, there is - well, rough. What we have here is a fairly average US Power Metal album with a singer who is obviously reaching to imitate a power level that far exceeds his own. The problem isn't that the songs are bad - but they never break past the point of "pretty good." The problem isn't that Wade Black is a poor singer - but in order to carry this material on his own would require abilities on par with Dio, Halford or Dickinson (Amen). If you can't get enough USPM, this might just float your boat - for the rest of us, it is just kinda there.
Overall, I'm quite happy with my bargain bin raids for the past month. With all of the above acquired for a total of less than $20 - I'm going to count this as a success!