BEST VINYL RELEASES (2009)

Hydra Head Records

A little-known fact about metalheads: Hidden under all that drab black and played-out sloganeering for all things unholy is a genuine penchant for flair and, often, an appreciation for life's nicer things. L.A.'s doom-and-distortion community in particular has an insatiable appetite for vinyl, and the Los Feliz–based Hydra Head Records (whose owners also run the Vacation Vinyl shop) has the best fix in town. The recent Xasthur double-LP, All Reflections Drained, might be the best package of wax we've seen all year: two 180-gram 12-inch picture discs lodged inside of printed cardstock sleeves, inserted into a heavy-duty gatefold jacket that makes the cover image of a deified, rotting corpse look and feel like fine art (plus a silk-screened sweatshirt patch). Big Business' Mind the Drift got a more conceptual treatment, copping its inner art from vintage "Greetings from..." postcards and featuring a postmarked back cover track list appearing in a missive scribbled to "Darling" from "Donald." Hydra Head goes whole hog. To wit, a mouth-watering sampling of recent vinyl colors they've pressed: silt gray, red mist, watery pea soup and carrots, white with purple haze, red rocket, and caramel vanilla bean swirl. hydrahead.com.

—Chris Martins

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