Hydra Head Records Shuts Down

After nearly 20 years at the cutting edge of modern metal, the legendary label is shutting its doors and saying goodnight. But what does it mean for the wider metal industry?

Ultimate Guitar

Hydra Head Records has officially announced that it will close down this year.

The renown label has released music by Isis, Botch, Cave In, Harvey Milk and Pelican among many others, and has been one of the most prominent in the independent metal scene for two decades. It will be sorely missed by both its fans and Ultimate Guitar.

Writing in a sentimental post on its blog, founder Aaron Turner said their vision and the harsh realities of business don't align in a way that will let it continue:

"The simple fact of the matter is we've been running on empty for a while now and cannot afford to keep our doors open for much longer. Years of imbalance between creative ideals and financial realities, personal problems amongst the label operators, an unwillingness to compromise our aesthetic standards, a tendency towards releasing challenging (i.e. unmarketable) artists, and the steady decline of the music industry in general, are amongst the chief reasons for our inability to continue.

"Though not every second of doing this label has been enjoyable, it has been a very rewarding and meaningful project for me, and I hope for many of the other lives to which it has been directly connected."

The label will continue releasing new music towards the end of 2012 to help pay off its artists.

UG wishes the best to Hydra Head staff and its artists. You can still buy music and merch from its website, and we recommend browsing the Hydra Head Bandcamp page where you can listen to most of their releases. You're guaranteed to find a few gems.

69 comments sorted by best / new / date

    So sad news... I personally discovered A LOT of amazing and unique bands through Hydra Head... So, best wishes to Aaron and all the guys from the label - thank you very much for your work and for your passion for really interesting, emotional and innovative Music!
    Labels are really struggling right now, Roadrunner have been seriously cut, HydraHead are dead, Basick are losing nearly all of their main bands... Thank God for Century Media...
    The Spoon
    Who has Basick lost?
    Basick lost TesseracT, somewhat monuments, Fellsilent to Sumerian and Bury Tomorrow.
    The Spoon
    Shame, I like Basick records.
    Same, but the label is really only for emerging bands, that's why so many sign to sumerian or century media when they get a fanbase going
    This really sucks. I got into so many metal and hardcore bands through Hydra Head. I honestly didn't know they were even still around. I know everyone is going to blame piracy but Hydra Head mainly released amazing and innovating art metal bands. Kids just want to hear crappy deathcore and metalcore these days.
    I feel really bad for not even knowing about them. Damn it, time to look up some bands
    Sad to hear about this. However, I'm glad they're going out on their own terms and not sacrificing their standards to stay in the game. It's always nice to see a business with a vision that actually stands by it good or bad. Best wishes in your future endeavors Hydra Head staff and artists.
    Anyway, the decline of musical industry is not the only reason. You can see Aaron mentioned a handful of reasons for shutting down the label.
    Another victim of the digital era. I seriously have no clue about how it can be done, but I wish that labels find a way to fit their business in this "online" thing permanently. Piracy needs to die, but the internet does not. What ****s things up is that the online "piracy" thing made people simply not want to buy music anymore, and that's a new problem.
    Meh. Natural selection, life goes on...
    Good logic. By your standards all that'll be left is Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne.
    Except that wont be all thats left. As much as you may think that money is the determining factor in the production of music, its not. Musicians and bands will continue to make all types of music from all walks of genres regardless of what the "music industry" or the economy looks like. One could argue that bands could have a much harder time "making it big" on a national scale - but I don't see that as a bad thing. Put more focus on your LOCAL music scene.
    Labels are a necessary evil. Tours, merch, albums, distribution, promotion, these things don't pay for themselves.
    This is indeed a very sad day. I discovered Isis, Jesu, Big Business, Boris, Pelican and alot of other great music through this label.
    This looks bad, I know, but really it is just one more step on the path to the new medium: digital music. Think about it; no labels telling you what kind of music to make and how much stuff to release, and people have easy access to your music cause it's all right there. Admittedly, piracy is a concern, but I've seen the world jump larger hurdles than that. This is just a sign of the times.
    What are you talking about. It takes large sums of money to produce a quality record, to market it, and get a band supported financially to go on tour especially when a band is up and coming. That is what is why we need labels to have quality music. And as far as no one telling musicians what to write, that is not true. Music that sells does so for a reason, and that formula will continue to be adhered to by the producers that dominate pop music. pop music will never change- thats why the business models of the katy perrys/lady gaga/nsync etc. dominate financially. When all the labels like Hydra Head are gone it will be truly depressing to be a music fan. Also, Quantity of available new music does not = quality
    This sucks but is inevitable. Every independent label will soon follow. This is the age of downloads and all these people bitching about music piracy should step off of their high horse. Like you haven't downloaded free music. How much money do you think the bands actually make off of record sales? Answer...not much. It's not like we won't hear these bands again. They just have to rely on themselves to get noticed and we, as fans of good music, will just have to look harder to find these bands. Besides, anyone can set up a studio like a lot of bands are doing already. Can't fight technology. But, if your music is good enough, you can evolve with it and still make a name for yourself.
    man, this was one of my favorite labels! To all the people trying to sound cool and edgy by commenting "who?" I really feel bad for you, you are missing out on a lot of good stuff!
    Impossible hydra can only grow because when you chop off hydra's head two more take it's place
    I'll buy a song off Itunes every once in a while, but spending $10.00 an album is just too much when you're very poor
    NOO!! Many they always put out solid stuff. I love this label, and Ipecac. Both weird and fantastic.
    Their bandcamp page is really cool, I randomly started listening to Old Man Gloom's "Christmas" album and I'm blown away by how awesome it is. Already a fan of Botch, Cave In, Isis, and Pelican, sad to see these guys are being forced to shut down. They had a great run though, they seemed to have a good amount of artistic integrity, which is rare these days.
    The world would be so much better if people just did the right things like buying an artists music. I don't care if it's Lil Wayne who has a ton of money. He owns the copyright and he deserves to be paid no matter what. How long will it take people to realize that they are killing the music industry?
    Josh Reubenking
    Well that sucks. But that's what illegal downloading does. Bands don't make as much of a profit as they used to, neither do record labels anymore. That's why a lot of bands are on tour. Cause that's really the only way they can make money nowadays. Not a lot of people buy albums anymore cause they can download songs and even entire albums for free. And when bands go on tour, the record label has to fork over money too. Especially when multiple bands from that label go out on tour at the same time.
    Guys, this is bad. Really bad. I have a bad feeling that this is just the beginning- As in it starts with the smaller indie labels, then the larger indie labels... Before long I fear that f***ing itunes, amazon and the like will be the labels.
    Why is that so bad? Does iTunes tell you what to do as an artist? Do they give you "contracts"? No, you make the music, and they distribute it. That's what record companies SHOULD have been all along.
    Itunes is a disaster. Maybe the artists get paid, but you have no right to the music...you don't own it once you buy it. You cannot even give it to someone in your family "legally". All of this "in the cloud" crap is a big, big problem.
    If the product is good, people will pay. Don't blame piracy for making shitty products and then wondering why the heck we ain't selling
    Sucks big time. I'll try to get what I can from them before they definitely shut down. And to the comment above, in a fair world the natural selection would place this right at the top of the chain.
    Suddenly I feel guilty for not buying White Silence.
    link no1
    So you should, this is what piracy does.
    I like how you just jump to piracy for no discernible reason
    No reason? Aside from the fact that it is probably the main cause for this?
    probably so your guesing now this is the MAIN cause of this. Even tough the text litterly says : Years of imbalance between creative ideals and financial realities, personal problems amongst the label operators, an unwillingness to compromise our aesthetic standards, a tendency towards releasing challenging (i.e. unmarketable) artists, and the steady decline of the music industry in general . I dont see piracy mentioned here anywhere except maybe in the steady decline of the music industry. But how you turn this into the MAIN cause for this is a mistery to me
    Yeah, it must have been completely unreasonable in every possible way to suspect that something as small and underground today as piracy might have anything to do with a record company shutting down, amirite? I mean they didn't actually so it's totally impossible that it had any influence on their company what-so-ever.
    Truth. Most people just seem to be unable to understand the harm it has caused. Not every record label is a greedy and enormous company that rips off money from their artists. Even if you do it for whatever reason, you should atleast acknowledge that piracy is selfish.
    Nah White Silence is really, really bad... and I've been a HUGE Cave In fan since Beyond Hypothermia.
    I loved White Silence. That is the only cd I've check out from Cave In, though.
    They're a great band. If you like White Silence I'd definitely recommend checking out they're whole discography. Cave In is criminally underrated in every way. Check out "Until Your Heart Stops" for heavier Cave In or "Jupiter" for the more experimental stuff. Maybe I should give White Silence another listen. I bought it right after it came out and was really disappointed because I've loved every other album.
    I hate how the industry in America seems to have fallen from being obsessed with money to being consumed by it. So when hardworking musicians, labels, etc. try and do something honest they get screwed. Fuck the large corporations that couldn't care less.
    And the masses of people that continuously pirate music because they think they're not doing any damage.
    Very sad news indeed, loved HH, a label that guaranteed quality on almost every single band and release. Some of my favourites on HH.
    It's a shame. I got into Pelican, Isis, and Big Business at an important time while I was learning guitar.
    Its too bad. But I think once all the labels fall apart, we'll have music that is free from commercial influence. Record labels only existed to distribute and advertise music. Once they're gone you will have to look for music a little more, as bands won't be as advertised as much.
    I honestly hadn't heard of this label before or any of its bands, but it's always sad when a company goes out of business. This is why I make a point to buy music from lesser known bands. I'm just really glad that Testament did really well this year though. I bet they could hold up Nuclear Blast all by themselves right now.
    Most labels out there were set up on the basis of selling physical copies. Unfortunately the sales on physical copies has declined rapidly and many labels just cant seem to adapt. I dont buy for one second that digital downloading is killing the industry, done the opposite actually as it has opened it up completely giving any band out there an opportunity to become known.