Mold Dominion: An Introduction


It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single person in possession of a vinyl collection, must be in want of good fortune.

By the time I sold my vinyl collection in 2017-2018, I had around 500 LPs and probably 200 7″s. Most everything ended up scattered between record shops in Gainesville, FL, as well as Athens and Decatur, GA. Some of the most prized pieces went directly to friends, but most of it got unloaded at sometimes incredibly fair and sometimes incredibly unfair prices. I needed the room; I definitely needed the money; and I also needed, very much so at the time, to be out from underneath this form of collection that started in 1999 or 2000 and had become wearisome and burdensome as I schlepped from apartment to apartment on a nearly annual basis. In a sense, my collection was living all over me.

What I did not get rid of, perhaps to nobody’s surprise, is the booklet upon booklet of CDs and a crate full of cassettes. Those CD booklets are collecting dust in the corner of my room, jammed behind a bookcase that used to hold some of that vinyl, while the tapes are under my bed. Sometimes I’ll grab a few of the cassettes and send them to friends. Mostly, though, they sit there, for some reason less dusty than the CDs.

When cassettes became hip again—sometime in the early 2010s—it was an obvious response to the hole in physical media created by the explosion of vinyl prices and a pervasive indifference towards CDs. Vinyl, once nominally the same price as CDs at a show or from a distro or from a label, as we all know, became shockingly expensive to print, distribute, mail, and purchase. It still surprises me, though I’m no longer in the game.

Ultimately, and even for those of who still love physical media even if we buy it more rarely than ever, there is the deflating sense that the mass accumulation of digital files on Bandcamp cannot and will never replicate the pleasure of a tangible collection. There is also the very real sense that, for some of us with predilections for collecting, we can use digital purchases on Bandcamp as a bulletproof excuse to buy even more. The confluence of these two realities interact in the ever-expanding Bandcamp libraries, an attempt to assuage the physical loss with an invisible list of files in which something is far more likely to get lost.

In steps the legend JR Hayes (Enemy Soil, who once released a split with Pg99; some band named Agoraphobic Nosebleed; some other band named Pig Destroyer). Frustrated at the bounty of great bands on Bandcamp that could or did not offer physical copies, Hayes and friend Jesse have set out to correct course in whatever way they can. At the end of 2022, Hayes founded Mold Dominion, a new imprint based in Virginia dedicated to releasing music explicitly on CDs and cassettes. Armed with a shared passion for archiving music, particularly local bands, the two began seeking out artists that they thought deserved this wider—and more affordable—form of distribution and preservation. When I asked Hayes why tapes and CDs over vinyl, he gave a very simple, direct, and honest answer. “I don’t have anything against vinyl, but I started with cassettes in the ’80s and transitioned to CDs in the early ’90s, so those have always been my personal preferences.”

Mold Dominion is a return to a particular type of trading and collecting rooted in those decades, decades we all revere for the bands they produced and sounds that emerged. Too, and perhaps just as importantly, Hayes noted the lowered cost for bands and fans like: ” [T]apes and CDs are quick and cheap to manufacture and cheaper to mail, and I think in underground music there’s a lot of value in that.” A lot of us buy digital copies because it forgoes shipping, it often costs (much) less than the available vinyl or other media, but, as Hayes makes clear, we don’t have to give up on CDs and cassettes if we still want an affordable way to not only support underground artists but also to give those artists an opportunity to expand their artistry into designing physical merchandise. We can all conjure up—and maybe we should in the comments!—CDs or tapes or vinyl that, in their physicality, emphatically influence how we appreciate or enjoy or think about or remember the actual music.

Let’s take a look at a few of the Mold Dominion releases to get you totally stoked on what’s to come!

Atka – Untitled Album 1 (2018)
This is the album that laid the groundwork for Mold Dominion. About Atka Hayes says, “I heard it when it came out in 2018 and I thought it was the future of grindcore. I figured it was only a matter of time until a great label like Willowtip or RSR snapped them up, but it just didn’t happen. I felt so strongly about the material that finally I just said, ‘Fuck it, I’ll see if they’ll let me put it out.’ And I’m very honored that they did.” Mold Dominion has produced both a CD and a yellow cassette version of Untitled Album 1, both resplendent with neon colors and clean lines and geometry, matching the band’s aesthetic. Does it make sense if I say that I think Atka sounds like a band Dave Witte would be in? It’s mathy as hell, stretched to its maximalist limits, surprisingly melodic and tasteful at times, all while retaining something of that earliest germ of ’80s grindcore. It’s hard to disagree with Hayes—and what a person with whom to disagree about grindcore—that there is something deeply futuristic about this band. It’s also a reminder, nearly 6 years after its initial release, what magic is out there.

Deliriant Nerve – S/T (2023)
If Atka is “the future of grindcore,” Deliriant Nerve is the delirious history of grindcore, its itchy and Neanderthalic nerve center. Formed in 2021 and featuring ex-members of Needle and a current member of death metal weirdos Goetia, D.C.’s Deliriant Nerve is grinding powerviolence for the unwashed mosh-happy masses. Brutal Truth and Napalm Death and Man is the Bastard and Infest are all here, throwing one helluva basement show. A collection of their early releases neatly compiled on a bright pink CD with accompanying poster, Deliriant Nerve serves as a raging, unhinged, freewheeling introduction to a band from whom we will be hearing quite a bit more in the future.

Bandit –  Siege (2023)
We here at the Toilet are huge fans of Bandit. My dear friend Eenzy gave Siege 4/5 Burning Toilets and interviewed the band after a show in Atlanta. As Eenzy mentions in his review, Siege is “a love letter to Terrifyer-era Pig Destroyer.” Every time I return to Siege, I’m struck by its intro, containing a voiceover discussing the object-relations theory of pioneering Scottish psychoanalyst Ronald Fairbairn. Fairbairn’s theory was hugely influential on other major figures such as DW Winnicott and, really, the whole of 20th-century British psychoanalysis. Crackling on top of traditional Eastern European folk music, we are explained that it is better to have a bad object rather than no object, rather to have a sense of self-hatred than nothingness. For Fairbairn, there was nothing outside of the connections and contingency of social life; that is, the thing to consider above all else was the self in relation to an other. What the voiceover gives is a reason why, even if it sounds in service of something inherently negative (self-hatred): without an object to which one might cathect or attach, the self is no relation and is thus obliterated from any sense of sociality that might be productive. (Cue the Lacanians and jeers of jouissance. Cue affect theorists bemoaning our cruelly optimistic attachments to impoverished objects) Even a “bad” object keeps us attached, keeps us tethered, and, in that sense, can create the conditions for decathexis and future cathexis to “better” or even “good” objects. What has always struck me about Bandit, whether on Siege or 2018’s Warsaw, rooted as both are in the in/humanity of Eastern European struggles, is the wellspring of life, of living, of being alive, that suffuses the band. For $11.99 and courtesy of Mold Dominion, you can keep that sense of being alive in your car or in your Eiscman.

I always appreciate the opportunity to dive through a label’s offerings, exploring what there is, seeing how they want to curate the world. More than reading everything an author has to offer, it’s more like picking a publisher—particularly a small and independent one—and figuring out their aesthetics and their choices and their ideas and what they hope to see promoted in the world. While we’re all intimately familiar, of course, with Bandit, I was unaware of Mold Dominion or the other bands comprising the young imprint. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to take you on this journey.

More is on the way from Mold Dominion, including a remixed and remastered CD version of Abominog‘s 1995 Chaos Unleashed that, as Hayes states bluntly, “sounds sick as fuck.” I’ve never heard (of) Abomibog, but this is precisely the archival work of Mold Dominion: unleashing the chaos from the annals of Virginia’s underground music history. I, for one, am stoked.

Follow Mold Dominion on Bandcamp
to see what comes next.
Support good grindcore!

Did you dig this? Take a second to support Toilet ov Hell on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!