Indie fans, metalheads, punk rockers, rap and hip-hop enthusiasts, lovers of the experimental and the avant-garde — drop what you’re doing and get over to Armageddon Shop. You’re just not going to find a better selection of those genres anywhere else in Boston; I guarantee you will not leave empty-handed. Despite its hidden location in a basement on Eliot Street in Harvard Square, and despite the fact that I wandered in 10 minutes after it had opened for the day, Armageddon was probably the most happenin’ record store I’ve visited so far. The reason? It’s simple. Armageddon is doing exactly what many other records stores aren’t: supporting the underground and local music scenes.
Founded in Providence, R.I. a little over a decade ago, Armageddon expanded to Boston in 2010. Its owners have definitely taken the concept of a record store and run with it, investing in a truly unique business model in light of their mission to promote the underground scene. Besides carrying tons of vinyl, CDs, cassettes, band t-shirts, books, and zines, the shop also runs an independent record label and books shows for foreign and local bands. That’s community involvement if I’ve ever seen it.
Let me first warn you that I’m no connoisseur of heavy metal, garage, hardcore, noise/industrial or punk. Truth be told, the shop felt a bit like a guy’s club, and as someone who was A, a female, and B, not wearing black, I stuck out like a sore thumb. But from the looks on the faces of the pierced, leather-jacketed dudes occupying the place, I can say with confidence that Armageddon slays on all those genre fronts. Even though I wasn’t familiar with most of their specialized inventory, it was still thrilling to sift through records I’d never heard of, if only to check out the intense (and sometimes freaky) album covers. Never before have I seen so many skulls and illegible band logos.
The store’s indie section, however, was more up my alley. I came across records that would be an anomaly to find in other stores in the area, including Hunx and His Punx’ Street Punk (2013), Sonic Youth’s 1983 EP Kill Yr Idols, and so much Bikini Kill. I mean, I’m convinced that only one physical copy exists of electronic artist Dan Friel’s out-of-print 2005 EP, Obsoleter — and yes, it was at Armageddon.
As great as it is that so many record stores these days are keeping classic rock alive, it’s just as important for vendors to distribute the music of subcultures and modern indie artists. Without a place for punk, or metal, or noise bands to get their music out there, and without a hub for their fans to actually gather and discover those records, there simply cannot be a healthy local music scene. That’s why a little shop like Armageddon is so vital to Boston. It may be tucked away in a basement, but it’s fueling the music community in ways it’ll never know.