Lurking on a high street in East London sits a small, unassuming, black-fronted shop with a gothic title above its door. It might not sound much on paper (or your screen), but it’s a portal into the deepest, darkest recesses of heavy metal. Crypt Of The Wizard is London’s newest record store and the only one 100% dedicated to defending the faith. The soundproofed black walls house a plethora of albums across the wide spectrum of heavy music – from Anvil and Sepultura to Hexvessel and Twisted Sister to Mayhem and Solstafir. There’s even a sofa and coffee machine to chill out and admire your purchases.
Dedicated to promoting the best in metal, the store has an abundance of underground records unavailable anywhere else in the city. From self-released tapes to a wealth of Mexican black metal, your craving for new noise will be sated.
But how did this metal mecca begin? And what sets it apart from the other splatter-vinyl vendors across London? We paid a visit to the store for a chat with manager and ‘Heavy Metal Consultant’ Charlie Woolley to find out.
Why did you start a metal record store?
“Well there wasn’t one in London, and we were bored of complaining, so we thought ‘Why not us? Why shouldn’t we do it?’ So we did. The scene’s healthy enough to support one. There’s so many good bands in the UK and all over Europe, and the shipping costs on records from abroad are ridiculous, so we thought there was a way of getting stuff in people’s hands slightly cheaper without doing the boring internet side of things as well. But mostly it’s so we can create our jobs and listen to metal all day.”
How did you get into metal?
“I’m from East London so my first true love was Iron Maiden. I think an older friend put a bit of Maiden in my hand when I was seven or eight and the album covers got me, then it went on from there. I’ve never not been into metal as far as I can remember. My dad bought me my first leather jacket when I was ten – I was a bit confused then, I had the Sex Pistols patch, the Iron Maiden back patch, the Nirvana patch… I’ve always been into heavy music but metal has been at the core of it for me. It just feels like it hasn’t been this good for years and that keeps you going with so many good releases each year.”
The store is called Crypt Of The Wizard, is that a reference to the Mortiis song?
“It’s a little nod to Mortiis. We threw around a lot of names but that one just stuck. About two days after opening we got an email from Mortiis saying he liked the name and good luck with the shop, which felt like a blessing. We were just happy it wasn’t a cease and desist letter!”
Are you trying to promote more independent records alongside the likes of Maiden?
“We’ve got a lot of the classics, especially stuff that’s really difficult to get and have to pay stupid money for on Discogs. We’ll have reissued versions of those, so people can have the album on vinyl, but not have to pay hundreds of pounds. But I’d say the vast majority of our stock is smaller bands and smaller labels, that’s what we’re really interested in. We’ve got very little second-hand stock at the moment, we’re mostly interested in promoting small distributors, small bands – we do tape releases for smaller bands as well.”
Alongside all the independent smaller releases, how mainstream is the collection likely to get?
“We’ve got room for all sorts of things in here. Lots of people like lots of different stuff, and here are a lot worse things you can do in the world than make bad music. We are guided mostly by our tastes, so some things we feel like we should stock, some things we feel like we know people will buy, but predominantly the stock is stuff we think is good. Luckily we’ve got excellent tastes.”
Is there anything here you wish was yours?
“The Reverend Bizarre boxset of their last album So Long Suckers is gonna be a hard thing to sell for me. It was never supposed to come out on vinyl because three of the songs are 20 minutes long, but they eventually put it out on a four-disc boxset and it’s a beautiful thing.”
What else can we expect from Crypt Of The Wizard?
“We’re definitely putting gigs on, but we won’t be putting many on in here. Although we have just started to organise the first one, which will be live-streamed by Hotel Radio. We’ll be promoting shows, we’ve started working with Live Evil to promote some shows, we’ve got DJ nights coming up. We’re hoping to do a little label as well. There’s a lot of different avenues it could go in, but for now we need to actually finish pricing up all the records. We’ve been so busy we haven’t had chance to sit down.”
Crypt Of The Wizard is open 11am - 7pm, Tuesday to Sunday, and can be found at 324C Hackney Road, London E2 7AX.