Show & Tell

Brick and Mordor A record store heavy on the metal spins its last gloom and doom.

Death Do Us Part: Lame metal sales are forcing Hill to close Strangeland.
Darrow Montgomery

I’ve never really understood metal. Personally, I feel that musical tales of fogged-out dragon lairs and fetal hellfire baths should be reserved for one place and one place only: Scandinavia.

Most of D.C. is pretty much with me on this. “There are a lot of metal fans in the area, but I don’t know if there was a time when there was a thriving scene,” says Ryan Hill, owner of Annandale metal and industrial niche shop Strangeland Records, one of the D.C. area’s rare hubs of metal activity. Dan Boyd, a Strangeland employee since 2006 who plays bass for Fairfax metal band the Seventh Gate, agrees. “To be completely honest, the metal scene in D.C. just isn’t that great,” he admits.

The District’s modest metal scene, at least, hasn’t been strong enough to keep the 1200-square-foot Strangeland afloat. Earlier this month, Hill announced that the shop will soon descend to the underworld of D.C.’s fallen brick-and-mortar record shops in a flurry of maxed credit lines and six figures of debt. The outfit will close its doors on March 17, the second anniversary of its grand opening. “Three months from now, Strangeland will be a memory and a loan payment on a monthly basis,” says Hill.

With Strangeland’s close, the store’s collection of metal bands like Witchfynde, Pungent Stench, Nunslaughter, and Rotting Christ—along with local acts like Admiral Browning and Age of Ruin—will be hard to come by in the District. “Ninety-seven percent of the stuff on our shelves is stuff you won’t find anywhere else,” Hill insists. I decided to take this last-ditch opportunity to listen to some metal before it’s gone. Starting Feb. 1, Strangeland’s collection will be priced to move.

Army of Lost Souls, Trollrock

Sticker Price: $16.99

On Shelf Since: August 2007

Sampled Track: No. 3, “Demon Killa”

Me: When I arrive in the shop, Boyd informs me that I’m too late to find his new personal favorite, Italian pornocore provocateurs Funeral Rape—“I bought up all of the Funeral Rape,” he admits—so I pluck this one out of the racks on the strength of its cover. The art delivers: A wizard conjures a ring of fire as a skeleton army marches into a wicked lightning storm. As a final touch, two glowing green eyes peek from the depths of a cave. But the lyrics—“Can’t get the voices out of my head/Can’t get the voices out of my head/And I need/Demon Killa”—fail to produce the portended doom, and the singer’s old-school Axl Rose delivery is precious. More rock than troll.

Metalhead: “Really cheesy power metal,” says Hill. “Power metal and thrash have more fun. They’re not about being evil or anything like that. They’re about going to a concert and fucking rocking out. You’ll have a lot of ballads, and you’ll have a lot of fantastical imagery like dragons and shit like that. I don’t really listen to it.”

Collection, clotted Symmetric Sexual Organ

Sticker Price: $8.99

On Shelf Since: November 2007

Sampled Track: No. 5, “Alkanoid”

Me: Has me at “Clotted.” Track 5 kicks off with an awkward DJ endorsement: “Listen to this if you dare,” he says, “Those of you who think you know what grind really is.” Grind, apparently, is a tight 30 seconds of straightforward guttural throat action. According to the liner notes, all vocals and guitars are recorded by a guy by the name of Sumi Hendrix. The dude wails like a demon birthed from Hades. I almost buy this.

Metalhead: Clotted Symmetric Sexual Organ, or CSSO, is “your typical Japanese grindcore,” says Boyd. Hill’s never even heard them before. “This is one that I actually got from one of our consigners,” he says. “I couldn’t even get this through one of my distributors. You will not find this anywhere.”

Thunderdome, Pink Cream 69

Sticker Price: $12.99

On Shelf Since: January 2007

Sampled Track: No. 2, “Thunderdome”

Me: I pick up Pink Cream 69 for the name, which doesn’t sound very metal—just vaguely sickening. Unlike a lot of its death metal cousins, Pink Cream 69 forgoes feudal sensibilities for a more futuristic tack. This album, their ninth, appears to have been crafted entirely around the 1985 Mel Gibson-Tina Turner vehicle Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Choice lyric: “In the Thunderdome/You’ve got a right to win or lose/In the Thunderdome/You’ve got a choice but you can’t choose.” The big disappointment here is that these guys sound pretty much like human beings. Includes a straight cover of the Knack’s My Sharona.

Metalhead: “This is another one that you definitely won’t find on the shelves, period,” says Hill. “These guys fit more into the obscure hair metal category; believe it or not, there is still some underground hair metal. I don’t know how they’ve kept that going.” Hill admits he doesn’t know the story behind the German five-piece’s name. “I don’t get it,” says Hill. “But whatever.”

Aria Des Vampor, Cuntworm

Sticker Price: $12.99

On Shelf Since: March 2007

Sampled Track: No. VII—Cuntworm uses Roman numerals­—“Tasting the Blood, Tasting the Spirit”

Me: Despite a name that screams Take a listen! this one’s been on the rack for a while. The song employs some sick synth action, but the murky lyrics—I can only make out “I still dream of you/In my mind”—are awfully soft. I did not expect this mushy bullshit from a band called Cuntworm.

Metalhead: “There are some bands that I’ll bring in particularly for the crassness of their name,” says Hill. “There’s a brand of metal called goregrind; this is an offshoot, which is called pornogrind. Pornogrind is essentially the same, but instead of being over-the-top gory, it’s over-the-top sex. The album covers alone would keep them out of most stores.” Adds Boyd, “You can’t just go into Wal-Mart and get a Cuntworm album.”

Grand Declaration of War, Mayhem

Sticker Price: $18.99

On Shelf Since: October 2007

Sampled Track: No. 3, “A Time to Die”

Me: Before I listen, Boyd unravels the band’s lore: In 1991, lead singer Dead shot himself in the head in the pursuit of suicide-aftermath album art (check out dead Dead on the cover of 1994’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas). Then, guitarist Euronymous reportedly stewed and ate Dead’s brain while drummer Hellhammer forged a necklace from his bones. Jealous that Euronymous was more evil than he, bassist Count ­Grishnackh (self-named after an Orc chieftain), stabbed Euronymous two dozen times, finally through the skull. None of these people are featured on this album, which Boyd dismisses as “not the true Mayhem.” Whoever this Mayhem is, they sound like Voldemort backed by a zombie guitar army: fucking sweet.

Metalhead: “This band is a hard-core, fucked-up band,” says Hill. “There’s something going on in Norway that I will never fucking understand.”

Ride the Lightning, ­Metallica

Sticker Price: $19.99

On Shelf Since: September 2007

Sampled Track: No. 8, “The Call of Ktulu”

Me: I get about a quarter of the way through this 8:53 instrumental from 1984 before zoning out. I have to admit that I like Metallica by Metallica, released seven years later, better.

Metalhead: “I’ve only sold a handful of Metallica albums. The problem with mainstream stuff is that it’s hideously priced. The fact that Metallica sits on our shelves at 20 bucks is a joke,” says Hill. “The thing that pisses me off about them is that they’re the most vocal band against downloading, but they’ve done nothing to lower the price of their records. You’d think they would extend a fucking olive branch to their fans,” he says. “You’re probably better off buying this from Target.”

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Our Readers Say

TERRIBLE article. you completely skipped over the variety of music strangeland offers aside from metal (punk, indie, dance, etc), the free shows theyve hosted showcasing dc/md/va local talent to help boost their prospective scenes, and how much that store has truly done for musicians and music lovers in this area. it is so unfortunate that there is not enough support to keep the store open as strangeland closing up shop is truly a great loss. here's a tip, do a little more research or stop writing articles.
I agree with Beth. You left out many many aspects of Strangeland. This store had sone so much for not only the metal/industrial scene around here, but the dance scene as well. They have/had an impressive selection of breakbeat and dnb records. Plus, the strictly locals parties were always off the chain.
Another crappy article from Amanda Hess. shocker.
Wow, what a great way to start an article. I'm not sure if you took journalism in college or what not -- but it doesn't seem so.

"I’ve never really understood metal. Personally, I feel that musical tales of fogged-out dragon lairs and fetal hellfire baths should be reserved for one place and one place only: Scandinavia."

If you don't understand, and don't give two shits about it, then why are you even writing?

Not only that, but as other above me said, Strangeland has a pretty wide array of EDM and not only brought in local DJs, but bigger names from our area as well, covering breakbeats, drum 'n' bass, dubstep, house, techno, and much more. But it seems you didn't really give two shits about writing this article other then "this is some metal store and metal belongs in Scandinavia".

You should have done yourself a favor and really dug deep about what Strangeland offers. One of the few US Records stores that catered to DJs who don't wanna spend their money online & overseas and being able to avoid the horrible £ to $ exchange.

Its a sad day that they have to close. Its a great loss and Ryan is one of the nicest people I've met, from tracking down white label vinyls from the UK and giving me a fare price, letting us hang out there and drop records, etc etc etc.
The comments for the metal tracks should have been listed like this instead:


Worst. Article. Ever.
Strangeland rocks and you, Ms. Hess, did not do a very good job on this article. First rule of journalistic writing: don't put yourself in the article! We want to hear more about Strangeland! Did you really interview "most of D.C.?"
Where's your sense of humor, people?
You didn't even mention any of the other genres of music that they cater to. It's no wonder they have to close. You didn't even mention that they had local DJ's that played shows there. I bet you didn't even look around that store and notice the wide range of music that was stocked there. HORRIBLE ARTICLE
Per usual, even when the City Paper bothers to cover something outside of the district and indie/punk genre it still can't take it seriously. This article reads like a homework assignment written by a begrudging senior too cool for school. So glad I moved away from DC, is it any wonder great underground punk, electronic and yes even metal band from outside of the city limits and scene have a hard time thriving and usually wither and fall off after a few years.

Long live Strangeland, City Paper get a new slant.
this article really did suck a lot. the call of ktulu was a great song, and the only one they ever released with dave mustaine still playing guitar. it's a historic metallica track. and new metallica sucks, didn't anyone tell you, that's why you don't hear about them anymore. as for the edm, well, it's been sad by others, so i'll refrain from mentioning it again. you really do need to go back to third grade, and learn to write. did city paper hire you on a whim? i know, you must have wonderful tits?
Amanda's writing makes my penis move. Very well executed
this made me laugh more than a few times. fuck the hataz
Kudso to Ryan for busting his balls supporting all genres in and around the DC area.

Amanda, if you would like to see why strangeland was such a great place come on out this Saturday for the metal show that runs from 2-12. Then go back to your studio apartment with your 14 cats and re-write your crappy article

Apocalypse Show
Strangeland Records
Saturday 2pm-12am
5-10$ small cover
BYOB if over 21
Amanda doesn't live in a studio, it's a basement one bedroom with low ceilings, and in lieu of cats she has an unparalleled James Spader diorama collection. Also she was hired for her ass. Not her tits. If you commentators would bother to do any research before slamming an article maybe you wouldn't suck so much. Also exploding kittens.
Amanda's a fine writer. Anyone who knows her would realize she wasn't hired because she had wonderful tits
You're learning. However, you're at a serious disadvantage because you didn't wear band shirts throughout high school (see: overkill, carnivore, opeth, voivod, etc.). And you didn't spend junior high thinking Call of the Ktulu is awesome. This is understandable. One day I'll school ya, old school. All of the above who say your article sucks would probably get punched in the face by the likes of Pete Steele. And he would know, more than any of us. 5 stars. Woo, panda.
Gee, thanks for all the misplaced snobbery from a hilariously uninformed excuse for a "journalist". No wonder the Onion is kicking the City Paper's ass. And using a failing small business owner as a forum, that was an especially classy touch.
I would love to comment on this piss poor excuse for journalism, but le sigh, the first 11 comments have said more then enough and I would only be repeating the obvious. STOP WRITING.
Awww, look. Another Yinzer trying to act like a Hipster and kick someone when they're down.

Embrace your roots, odds are you were conceived during the guitar solo in Iron Man
Reading this article, my first curiosity was why Strangeland was even mentioned, when the obvious point of interest was Amanda's fascination with herself and her disdain for heavy metal and Scandinavians. I was concerned that anyone else reading might somehow think that the sentence or two Amanda devoted to mentioning Strangeland was an accurate representation of the store or its focus. While I personally am not an avid fan of much fringe music, I respected what Strangeland was trying to do, and it's a shame that a cool little indie record shop is shutting down.

Instead of using the closing of this small store that had good intentions--bringing live local music and hard to find recordings to a variety under-represented genres of music--as a personal kicking ground to poo poo heavy metal(only one of many music styles the store you were supposedly writing about offered) maybe the "reporter" could have actually put in a little effort and done a worthwhile article on the shifting paradigm of music and how it's effecting small business and consumers of fringe products.

Amanda? Are you listening?

I've met Ryan only a handful of times, but I remember when he was working at Tower Records(also closed down) and first started talking about opening a store of his own. His genuine love for underground music and his desire to provide a service for others lead to Strangeland, a well intentioned idea that was behind its times but deserves notice for its efforts.

Way to spit on a man when he's down, Amanda. I hope you're at least really impressed with how cool you looked in your mirror while you were typing this worthless article.
You know, I had a nice long conversation with Amanda about Strangeland, I was lead to believe this was an article on the state of indy music stores and how digital downloading is affecting them and the scene. Instead it somehow became an article on the state of metal music in the D.C. area?

I liked Strangeland, whether I agreed why they're going out of business or not, and this article really doesn't do the store justice. Metal is only a portion of what they carried, and the writer seems more focused on her own personal likes and dislikes then actually bothering to really explore the store or the scene. But also lets not discount the fact that the entire article has a negative tone from the get go, and she arrives at the store, prejudice's intact, because she just doesn't like metal. Why if she doesn't like metal would I read her review of metal music?

Returning to the original subject however I guess a thought provoking article on the true state of music in the city wasn't going to be interesting or appearing. I mean no one really cares about the growing lack of venues, the loss of another local store, or even the big controversy that is currently making headlines regarding the effects the digital age and the changing consumer is having on the music industry.

I was looking forward that that poor, lost somewhere along the line article, and I'm sorely disappointed in what replaced it.
i think the point of saying that metal belongs in scandinavia was so that it could serve as a leader into the notion that dc's metal scene wasnt strong enough to help keep strangeland in business. on a side note, learning how to read may help one become a more effective basher of writings.

everyone seems disappointed that this article misrepresented a cherished shop. but i am going to derive from the information available here that the indie, punk, dance, industrial, dnb, or [insert name of overlooked scene - i guess i am unresearched] scenes probably weren't strong enough to keep it open, either. too bad people were too busy complaining about citypaper articles/imagining amanda's tits to support their respective scenes. ahahahaha suckas!
I find it interesting that the writer of this article openly states in the beginning of this piece that she does not understand metal, thus it appears her logic is that gives her free reign to blast musical genres that she does not understand.

What the writer fails to mention that Strangeland Records offers various genres of 'obscure' music from various European countries that are great, but there are some equally as crappy as the metal she highlighted in this article.

So,by her logic there lots of of music that should remain in the region it originates from, but Ryan Hill has for a short period of time made available various obscure musical genres for people to divulge into instead of just sticking to what's available in D.C. That's an accomplishment that not many people have taken in this area, and that speaks volumes.

The sad thing is, that it's way too easy in any scene to become some sort of elitist bitch and become über critical of what you don't understand or what you don't like. I was that way once, but thankfully no one ever published my negative and biased bitching.
Connecting Strangeland's closure with a less than strong local metal scene is a bit of a stretch. It would be like saying Tower Records closed because there aren't enough music lovers in DC. People want bits, not atoms; so unless I'm personal friends with the owners or there's a show on, I probably wouldn't truck out to Bailey's Crossroads when I could p2p or itunes music I'm looking for. As for the health of DC's metal scene, when you consider the number of shows booked anywhere from 930 Club to The State Theater every month, the number of bands from the area that've done decently -- Pig Destroyer, Darkest Hour -- and huge showcases like the annual Maryland Deathfest, things could be worse.

I was a little disappointed with your choice of "Call of Ktulu". So many tracks on Lightning that outshine that snorer. But that sort of points to how alot of the selections were set-ups for a bit of a laugh.

For those who commented on Amanda's behalf: your backing her up is admirable and all. But alot of the "hataz" made good points about the article. Turning this into Amanda and her friends versus everyone else week in - week out isn't a good look. Espsecially when your posts can be distilled to either "leave my friend alone" or "well ... well ... y .. suck too". all these people can't be pulling the same critique out of their asses just for kicks.

Lastly Amanda, I thought it was a little easy for you to summarize metal by refering to smoky dragon lairs and hellfire baths. there are also decapitations, disembowlings, impalings, abductions by demon and the odd spontaneous combustion to consider. :)
I'm not a metal fan either, but this article is crap, disguised as a joke. " and one place only: Scandinavia."?? I did not realize Scandinavia is just one place.
i have to agree with allot of the comments below. never in this article did i hear about and other of the genre's that have also supported strangeland over its time with us... also the shop put on more local shows than i have ever seen in VA, not once did i hear about that. i will always remember strangeland. but this article sucked.
Early on, Strangeland was one of my 4 favorite music stores that I physically set foot in, along with Vintage Vinyl in NJ, the Relapse store in Philly, and Generation Records in NYC. In my first visits, Ryan was friendly and provided proper service. Later on, though, I had the misfortune to be served by Joe, who instead of transferring the CD directly from the sleeve to the jewel case, would place the unprotected CD, data side down, on the counter. He even piled several jewel cases on top of one data side up CD. When I protested, he said this isn't bad for CDs-only scratches are. THE GUIDELINES FOR PROPER CD CARE ARE THAT CDS BELONG ONLY IN THE PLAYER OR THE JEWEL CASE!!! A store that prides itself on its selection of rarities should especially know the proper handling of CDs. On subsequent visits, despite my prior complaints, this Joe continued to engage in the same mishandling. On one visit he mishandled all 4 CDs that I was buying. I sent an email to Ryan, and since, by chance, I didn't encounter Joe (who still ranked high in the Strangeland organization) or any further problems, I continued to give Strangeland my business. However, this past Fall, when another employee named Pat engaged in the same mishandling, I had had enough of this nonsense. It was obvious that this was an organizational problem with Ryan unable and/or unwilling to properly train/control these lowlife dregs. I sent a nasty email to Ryan and quit shopping there.
Numerous Independent stores keep their CDs separate from the jewel cases that the customers browse through. It was ONLY at Strangeland that I ever encountered such a mishandling problem. Recently, at Smash! which has the same system, noting how the employee properly transferred the CD, I mentioned my experience at Strangeland. This employee said she would have gone off if someone treated the CDs that she was buying like that. Also, while at the CD Cellar in Arlington, I noted the proper sevice, and then mentioned what I experienced at Strangeland. He said it made no sense what Strangeland was doing since keeping the CDs behind the counter was meant to prevent such mistreatment of the CDs. In a nutshell, employees at both Smash! and CD Cellar confirmed that this behavior at Strangeland was inexcusable and way out of line.
Since I understand that the Tower Records in Tysons Corner was profitable, Strangeland should have been able to draw on their customer base when they closed. My guess is that while I gave Strangeland chance after chance before finally ceasing my visits there, for other customers just one encounter with Joe would be enough for them to never shop there again. In addition to mishandling the CDs, Joe and Pat would look at you like you were from another planet for complaining about it and not even thank you for your business. In email correspondence, Ryan basically made lame excuses for these two lowlifes who basically spit in my face with their mishandling and behavior. Joe and another employee would also play cheesy rap (one song was anti-White racist) that did not belong in such a store. It was one slap in the face after another with this store. I'll buy my rarities through mail order and on trips up North and I won't miss Strangeland. What a clueless store.
Keith here, disregard that, I suck cocks.

Go eat a dick, Keith.
To the impersonator above. You can't refute the facts so you resort to 3rd grade insults. If you want to bring this discussion down to the 3rd grade level-fine. It's you who sucks cock and takes it in the ass from boy george.
it amazes me that some of you are actually happy about the problems with our local music scene. apparently we care more about the process of moving a CD from the storage envelope to the case than the future of the music scene itself. i have been a constant supporter of strange land and not only was a customer... but also an employee. through this wonderful establishment, i was able to meet people who shared similar music interests and others who opened my ears to different genres. we offered free concerts, reasonable prices, and a staff that cared about sharing quality music and providing local musicians an environment to do the same. it is a shame that establishments like strange land can no longer survive in a society filled with apathy. it isn't what you do anymore... it is what you complain about. it doesn't matter who your friends are... it is how many your counter says you have. it has been a pleasure working for ryan... and working with laura, pat, ryon, and dan. even on those long nights filled with "charlie work" (emptying trash cans, scrubbing walls, and cleaning grills)... i looked forward to the opportunity of spending time with those who are passionate about music. and so i will continue to support one of the greatest record stores i have come across until the very end... and i certainly hope that future articles about the shop are written and commented on from the perspective of a knowledgeable individual.
Oh, by the way:

Keith Lowe = Mark Rosenkrantz
Being unable to perform the simple task of correctly handling a CD means you're mongoloid retards. No authentic music fan tolerates your b.s. which is why you're now out of business. Independent stores are the best but good riddance to yours.
Shut the fuck up, Mark. You know what you are? A problem customer. Every business had at least one, and you were one of ours. First time you came in while I was working, Ryan explicitly warned me about you and your stupid bullshit. Whenever you came in from there on, whoever was at the desk would think, "Oh shit. This fucking guy, again." We loved that you'd spend an hour in the shop and buy two four-dollar cd's. We loved trying to engage you in conversation and having you scuttle off like the bottom-feeding piece of shit that you are. We loved how you wouldn't make eye contact with us when we tried to be friendly and accomodating. Your niggardly contribution to the shop was not needed and not wanted. Personally, I'll be glad to never have to lay eyes on your ugly mug ever again. And if I do, I might be tempted to spit in your face for real.

PS - Fuck you, you narrow-minded prick. If you didn't like the rap, then suck it the fuck up and stick your fingers in your ears. I don't care what kind of Right Said Fred bullshit you listen to at your place, but if I want to listen to NWA at my work, than I damn well can.

PS the second - Your little black leather baseball cap is gay. Your green trakcsuit jacket is gay. Your fanny pack is gay. You are a faggot. Go back to your cave and die in it.
Of all the comments said above, you should take the hat comment into consideration. Seriously, nothing says "gay leather bar patron" like a leather baseball cap.
Out of everything said above, you should take the hat comment into consideration. Nothing says "gay leather bar patron" like a leather baseball cap.
The fact that I accidentally double posted can't stress the issue enough.
The least I ever spent at your store during a visit was $16 and on most others it was $30-60. Even $70 on occasion. That's "niggardly"? I have a Jansport pack NOT a "fanny pack". You sure are a reliable witness. I associate leather with HM/RnR/Sexy Females etc not homosexuality. A lie detector test would clear me of all of your accusations. No need to waste any further time here. F.O.A.D.
Sorry, but you are an idiot. You sound totally condescending, and it's great that you focus on all this metal and the lacking DC metal scene but say nothing to SLR's collection of good punk/hardcore and DC being the birthplace of hardcore punk rock. Stick to whatever music it is you listen to and critiquing that.
"Problem customer?" I simply warned about bad practices that would drive customers away. Lots of heterosexually oriented rock musicians wear leather caps such as Brian Johnson of AC/DC and Scorpions. Your own words and slander condemn you and prove that you don't belong in music or music retail.
This has got to be the worst article I've read in ages. And to write about something you are so unfamilar was simply stupid on your part, as well as whomever hired you. I take offense to your lack of knowledge of the music/scene and ask that next time you are more prepared.
Hey everyone this is Kangal and I'm old.
Im sorry to say that this is a simply horrible article about such a great store and venue. Amanda Hess completly missed the majority of all the great things strangeland records offred to the community.

Im only a high school journalist and i could write something better than this, and i did:

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