Meanderthal is a record collector’s dream come true.
Torche’s sophomore album was first issued on vinyl in the summer of 2008. Already a staggering success, when it came time for Meanderthal to receive the vinyl treatment it was a matter that both the band and their label, Robotic Empire, took seriously.
The first pressing consisted of roughly 3,200 albums, which is a rather large number for a band and label that typically sell less than metal genre giants, such as Mastodon or even other independent metal artists, such as Converge. The myriad of colors in this pressing, six in all, drives home the point that this release is something awe inspiring. The second pressing also integrated numerous color variants such as “ice storm” and “lizard skin” over the 2,000 album run.
In addition to an extensive color scheme, Meanderthal is properly mastered for vinyl, even though the pressing plant Pirate Press handled the album. Pirate Press is known for being one of the few pressing plants to take colored vinyl to absurd levels, by integrating things such as “haze” and color-in-color. However, the plant often leaves behind a copious amount of surface noise. Their “haze” actually leaves behind a thin layer of dust on the record, which is audible when one removes the record from the dust jacket, making an incredible album sound less than spectacular. A prime example is Blacklisted’s Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God, which sounds like a sand storm taking place within the needle. Luckily, Meanderthal did not fall victim to this travesty.
However, the album is better known for its packaging. When released from its polyurethane confinement, Meanderthal spreads its wings – quite literally. The incredibly expansive artwork is unveiled with each fold, and each curve. It is a sight that one must behold.
Two overlapping flaps are spread apart and only hint at what’s to come. As one slowly unfolds the winding casing, a record collector’s dream becomes reality. With artwork spanning across three different double-sided panels, Meanderthal’s defiance of normal conventions is obvious.
The artwork’s journey from the bottom panel to the top grabs the owner by the hand and brings them up a mountain filled with characters created out of a terrible acid induced experience. The album’s artwork is unlike anything released within the last decade. It is uncompromising and eerie – everything that a good metal album should be.
Meanderthal’s back cover is one of the most unique covers produced. A half-circle is cut into the back of the jacket that reveals an illustration of the band conjoined at the head, the track listing and the album’s credits. This is something that can only be seen when the actual record is removed from the jacket because when it is inserted into its designated spot, underneath the top panel, this area is covered by the record. It is worth noting that while many of the assorted colors compliment the artwork there is one that stands above all the others, the picture disc.
Most record collectors are known for having negative attitudes concerning the picture disc and with good reason. More often than not a picture disc release does not come with the standards of a jacket, liner notes and lyrics. They are usually packaged within a pocketed polyurethane sleeve that will crack and leave the record susceptible to scratches and damage.
However, this is not the case with Meanderthal. The picture disc is accompanied by the beautiful jacket, serving as the perfect addition to the already impressive packaging. Both sides of the record have artwork that only adds to the overall packaging instead of being extraneous. In addition, this variant boasts the largest pressing number (1,000) out of Meanderthal’s entire run, making it the easiest pressing to locate.
With all the bells and whistles that Meanderthal boasts it has a price tag to match. The most cost effective way to obtain a copy is to order directly from Robotic Empire’s online store where it can be found for $17.99. Most stores that carry the album price it anywhere from $20 on up, so snagging a “cheap” copy from Robotic Empire is one’s best option. It is pricier than most new albums, but considering the depth of creativity that went into producing such a behemoth, it is well worth it.