Musical Darwinism with J.R. Hayes: music reviews From The Vault

Over the years we’ve sat down with J.R. Hayes from Pig Destroyer and played him some records that have come in for review, and he would give us his first impressions. These are up on the blog in previous “Musical Darwinism” editions, and we also have excerpts called “In Conversation” where he drops additional pearls of wisdom on us.

We ran a bunch of J.R.’s columns back in the print ‘zine days, and have collected them below. It’s a trip back in time to the music of the 2000s and 2010. Enjoy.

Taken from archive 'zine issue #40 from 2009

Bloodsworn All Hyllest Til Satan (Agonia)
Now that’s a metal riff. A little “Four Horsemen,” maybe, a little gallop? Oh, poopy black metal drum machine. You gotta have more than one riff in a metal song, you know what I mean? I don’t see what’s so dark about this shit. It just sounds bad. The chiming guitar sound; the treble’s all cranked up. Take this out. This is terrible. Can’t take it.
Available from Agonia Records

“This sounds like a band youʼd see open for a band that you like.

John Wilkes Booth Sic Semper Tyrannis (Triple T)
This kinda reminds me of Only Living Witness. Like a heavier Quicksand, post hardcore, all those Revelation bands, Orange 9mm, all that shit. Reminds me a lot of Rollins Band too, the way he’s kinda talk-singing the vocals a little bit. The guitars are fuzzy; that’s pretty cool. The drummer sounds like he’s listened to some Helmet records. This sounds like a band you’d see open for a band that you like, you know what I mean? Like, you go see Kreator at Jaxx and these guys are fuckin’ opening that show. This is alright. It’s not my thing.
Available on Bandcamp

Runemagick Voyage to Desolation/Dawn of the End (Enucleation)
See, this looks like it’s gonna be black metal as hell, but it already doesn’t sound like black metal. The drums sound too good; the guitars have too much low end. It almost sounds like a Dick Dale riff or somethin’, like a surf riff. Oh, that’s got Jungle Rot written all over it. It’s not a total lost cause. I mean, it still shits over almost all the metal you’ll hear anytime recently, but it’s it’s just boring. It’s not my thing. Take it out.
Available on Discogs

Rwake Voices of Omens (Relapse)
I’m kinda biased ‘cause I like this band. I wasn’t crazy about this record, but it’s still a good record. ‘Cause I like the first album, too, but it was more like you were listening to the potential of the band than you were listenin’ to this great record. You were thinkin’, “This band could make a really good record, but it’s just not this record.” There’s a little bit of change up with the vocals, but the guitar players are really good. They come up with some creative stuff. You heard Thou, that doom band from New Orleans? They kinda remind me of this band, because the guitar players are the strength of the band.
Available on Bandcamp

Wino Punctuated Equilibrium (Southern Lord)
The word “punctuated” isn’t very rock. Sounds like something Ron Keel would do, or … too funky for Dokken. I just mean it’s got that Night Ranger groove. There’s a million stoner rock bands you could prob’ly reference, but it’s just Wino doing his thing. It rocks like ZZ Top would rock or something. Your dad could rock out to this. Fuzzed out boogie stoner. This record is very Sabbath. Sabbath Sabbath Sabbath.
Available on Spotify

Taken from archive 'zine issue #41 from 2010

Gollum The Core (Rotten)
It’s a little early on, but I don’t know if this label really has a sound, you know, but they have those schizophrenic-type bands that go from riff to riff, genre to genre. The riffs are kinda unconventional, which is good. That could be an Acid Bath riff. Sound like they probably listen to some Acid Bath. Transition’s kinda shabby. If you’re gonna switch vibes like that, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. It’s kinda catchy; it’s got a good groove to it. This song kinda sounds like it could be a Melvins song, a rockin’ Melvins song. This band’s pretty cool.
Available from Rotten Records

Celan Halo (Exile on Mainstream)
I’ve already heard this album. This is the dude from Unsane playing with one of the dudes from Neubauten, some other German weirdos. It’s a cool record. It sounds like a slightly more industrial Rammsteined-up Unsane, you know what I mean? A little bit darker, a little more atmosphere, but it’s Chris Spencer playing guitar and singing, so it sounds like Unsane. As long as he’s playing guitar and singing, it’s always—it doesn’t matter what they call the band, it’s always gonna sound like Chris Spencer playing guitar and singing. There’s a really interesting song at the end of this record that has, like, a piano in it. You should check this out; it’s a pretty cool record.
Available from Exile on Mainstream

Seizure Crypt Under the Gun (Bad Elephant)
[sarcastically] Please be metallic hardcore. Oh man, I was really hopin’ it would come in with some Hatebreed-type action. You sure this isn’t the soundtrack to Desperado? Man, this is some odd stuff. You know, it’s got that thin guitar sound, and, I dunno, it sounds like old—really old American hardcore punk, like Negative Approach or Angry Samoans, that kinda shit. The riffs are kind of interesting; they’re aggressive. The singer of this reminds me of Schnauzer. The three goofy vocalists, you know what I mean? All this kind of shouting over each other like a bunch of morons? It’s hardcore. It’s not hardcore in, like, the Madball sort of way, but it’s hardcore punk. It takes you back to that old—maybe the first Agnostic Front 7” or something. Anyway, it’s pretty cool, and that’s about all I have to say about that.
Available on Bandcamp

Satyrasis Creation of Failure (Seventh Door)
I don’t know why I’m thinking of Sacred Reich. Prob’ly death metal, thrash metal, thrash death, death thrash. You know, not horribly produced, but definitely not state of the art. The drums are kinda weak in the mix. The vocalist knows when to shut up, which is always a good thing. Takes his time, picks his spots. It’s kind of a tough voice, like, you could hear him singing for some old band in the ‘80s, like a Forbidden or a Faith or Fear, a band from that era. European death metal bands tend to have more of that Iron Maiden/At the Gates kind of melodic, you know, the Thin Lizzy thing, it’s all kinda built into their programming, you know what I mean? American bands tend to have more of that, less of a melodic touch and more of an aggressive edge, and I guess that proves my point if they’re from Michigan. The way they’re thrashin’ out kinda reminds of maybe the first Megadeth album a little bit; the first two Megadeth albums, maybe. Y’know, solid death metal band, the vocalist has got some balls … cool band.
Available on Bandcamp

Irepress Samus Octology (Translation Loss)
Please don’t be black metal, please don’t be black metal … Oh boy. We’re in for a long night, aren’t we? I dunno, right now, at least, the opening is pretty unconventional to say the least. This part kinda reminds me of City of Caterpillar or something like that. That kind of, I don’t know what you’d call that type of guitar, that kind of flamenco sound. Just waiting for some serious Killswitch vocals to come in. The drummer definitely sounds like he’s a jazz guy; prob’ly at least the bass player too. I guess they’re an instrumental band? If they had a vocalist, he would’ve been stinking it up long before that. You know he would’ve been shitty as hell, too. Yeah, I mean, I guess the closest thing I could probably equate this to would be like a Pelican or maybe Dysrhythmia? They’re a little stranger than this, I guess. It’s like, kinda post-hardcore, kinda jazzy instrumental stoner jams. I dunno. It’s not my thing, man. It’s not my thing at all.
Available on Bandcamp

Under Pressure Black Bile (Escape Artist)
Yeah, I think I mentioned Negative Approach earlier, but this totally fuckin’ sounds like Negative Approach. It’s just straight Detroit hardcore. You know a lot of hardcore bands nowadays, they have that automatic metal guitar sound. There’s no metal guitar sound on this; it’s definitely a punk album. Drums got a little punch to ‘em, some nice little lead breaks in there. The guitar kinda reminds me a little bit of Ass Cobra by Turbonegro. It’s high-energy punk, hardcore. I think really it’s the vocalist that makes it sound like a hardcore album. If they had more of a whiny type of vocalist, they could almost be a pop punk band. ‘Cause the music isn’t really super-aggressive. The vocals are really what’s doing it for me. I have a feeling, I don’t think we’re going to get any curveballs from this band. Probably a whole album of this, but you could do a lot worse.
Available on Spotify

Dr. Slaggleberry The Slagg Factory (Crash)
I can’t really get down with the instrumental metal thing. Maybe I’m a vocalist but I’m biased, you know, but I really can’t think of any instrumental metal bands that really do it for me. I appreciate the musicianship and stuff. It’s kinda got a Mental Vortex by Coroner [sound], real unconventional riffs and unorthodox, but it just never feels like it’s going anywhere to me. Good musicianship, but not my cup of tea.
Available on Bandcamp

Revolta Thought Police
Pretty cool band! That sounds like a Slayer move right there. That’s a pretty cool mosh riff. I like the vocalist. That’s some fucking Years Of Decay shit right there, fuckin’ put the stink on it. They know how to mix up the mosh parts and the fast parts. Singer’s got a pair of balls.
Available on Bandcamp

Walken 2009 album
If they were a waiter, their tip woulda just went down to zero. That is bad service right there when you start bustin’ out those fuckin’ vocals. I hate it. I fucking hate it. I hate when they do the—I was just about to give the guy a compliment on his voice, and then he fuckin’ has to bust out the—I mean, anybody who’s even remotely familiar with metal will understand, you know, when the vocals start to get, like, this operatic kind of—and not operatic in a Bruce Dickinson way, ‘cause Bruce Dickinson’s got balls—I’m talkin’ about the Gregorian chant type of bullshit that these bands try to pull off. And it’s like, they should all just have their dicks cut off and fed to them. Fuck these bands. I just got no use for that shit, man. I mean, I’m sure they’re nice guys and they prob’ly love their mommies and stuff, but I don’t wanna listen to their metal album.
Available on Bandcamp

Nasum Doombringer (Relapse)
Is this the live album? It’s weird, because I expected it to sound a little more pristine than it does. It’s a little more raw than I figured it would be. ‘Cause, you know, you think of Nasum, they have that very, like—it’s like a nicely trimmed hedge, you know what I mean? It’s like they’ve trimmed all of the excess fat off of their sound; the only thing that’s left is what they wanted, you know? It just feels very, I don’t know what the term I’m looking for is. I think in some ways a raw production kinda does them good, kinda humanized them a little bit. You can tell the drummer’s going for it. I was actually at that show, and they totally ripped. I actually thought the second night [of the tour they recorded this on] was their best night. The night of Nagoya they totally tore it up, but it’s fuckin’ merciless grind, dude. I mean, it almost wipes the taste of that last band outta my mouth. Almost. Yeah, it’s Nasum; it rules. What the fuck do you want?
Available on Bandcamp

Skullflower Tribulation (Crucial Blast)
I’ve heard some of this band’s older records, and it’s like noisy, dirgy stuff like Earth or SunnO))) kind of stuff. But he’s been doing it for a long, long time. You know when a song starts out like this, and you start thinking, like, “How long is this gonna go on? Does it go on for a minute? Does it go on for 20 minutes? Is it the whole album?” I dunno. I was expecting there to be more musicality to this, you know what I mean? Just based on stuff that I’d heard before, which isn’t much, but this is almost like a noise thing, like, I dunno—Masonna’s too over the top, but it’s not quite that harsh. Every track sounds like a band getting ready to play. Like you’re on stage, you got everything turned up, and it’s like, EEEEEE. And it just not kicking in. I guess he’s just going for a totally abstract “this is a noise album” kind of vibe. Maybe I’m just not in the mood for this sort of thing right now, but it’s not doing much for me.
Available on Bandcamp

“If I gotta put up with nine more minutes of this shit, then these guys are not going to survive Musical Darwinism.”

Taken from archive 'zine issue #41 from 2010

Linea 77 Available for Propaganda (Earache)
There’s kind of a Helmet groove to this song a little bit. This isn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be … Alright, now they lost me. I dunno. It sounds like they’re going for pop punk harmonies or something. This is like some fuckin’ broke-ass Faith No More. I mean, where do you even begin? I don’t know if I can overcome my prejudice for this band, ‘cause I didn’t like this band before I heard this, so maybe I just really wanna hate on it or something. It’s really sad that I’ve heard worse than this, you know what I mean? This reminds me of that whole ‘90s Blink 182—OK, Earache needs to have their asses whipped for putting this out, first of all. If that’s not a Blink 182 breakdown, then I don’t know what is. I don’t know how old these guys are, but they’re pretending like they’re 14, and we need to turn this off.
Available on Bandcamp

The Handshake Murders Usurper (Goodfellow)
This is pretty cool. Sounds like … the first thing that came to my mind was old Coalesce, but, I mean, there’s a million other bands that have the same kind of vibe. They prob’ly like Meshuggah. Got that stop-start, chugga-chugga hardcore, pinched harmonics, burly vocals. Doesn’t really stand out as being unique. Kind of like middle-of-the-road, technical, metallic hardcore. Maybe if you like Converge or something like that, you could get down with this, I guess. I like when bands write really technical hardcore that just sounds dumb, you know, when they just sound like a bunch of apes. It’s alright. It’s been done. Decent band, decent recording. I could get down with it. Prob’ly fun live. That’s all I’ve got to say about this band.
Available on Spotify

Rabid Rabbit 2009 album (Interloper)
Alright, this sounds like a band warming up. This is the point in a record where I start wondering if there’s ever going to be a singer, you know? It gets this far into the first song, and then I’m like, “OK, maybe there’s no singer,” which kind of worries me sometimes, ‘cause I’m not really that into instrumental stuff a lot of times. This kind of reminds me of some of the extended intros like Shellac would do. Sometimes one of their songs goes on for a while before the vocals come in. I dunno. We’re at the halfway point of the song now, and I’m not really convinced that this song’s gone anywhere yet. I like the beat, but if they stopped here and then they just went into a completely different thing—but if it’s just two more minutes of this … See, the drums and the bass are locked down, and sounds like something that I would like normally, but he’s just off doing this real abstract kind of Greg Ginn solo guitar, and I’m just waitin’ for the guitar to lock down and do a riff, you know what I mean? But it’s just not happenin’. The guitar’s all loose and noisy, and it’s kind of a jam, I guess. I’m kind of torn, because I like that it’s noisy and that it’s abstract, ‘cause I like some noisy, abstract stuff, but this doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere to me. I mean, if I gotta put up with nine more minutes of this shit, then these guys are not going to survive Musical Darwinism. Some of it reminds me of Steel Pole Bathtub, which is a band I really like, but even the old noise rock bands had real solid songs. These guys have good bass riffs and a drummer who likes toms a lot, but I hate it when it sounds like a dude’s learnin’ how to play guitar on a record. Maybe he thinks he’s the dude from The Jesus Lizard, but he’s not. Nobody’s that cool. The rhythm section needs to find something else to do. I like the rhythm section. I thought I heard a singer; is he off getting something out of the Coke machine right now? What is he doin’ while all this is goin’ on?
Available on Discogs

Guilty As Sin Led to the Slaughter
So what we have here is some really bush league-sounding drums—kick drums just sound terrible, all artificial and shit—you’ve got some stale thrash guitar goin’ on, standard intro where you start wonderin’, “Is this band the new Metallica?” and then you realize, no, they’re not. But where’s the vocalist again? Is he at the Coke machine again? Is he getting a Ginger Ale? I mean, what the fuck is this shit? Where the fuck is their singer? Who the fuck starts a goddamn thrash band without a singer? So, what do they have, a mute singer? Just run around on stage with a mic? This is fucking stupid. I wanna go on record as saying this record is fucking stupid. Who the fuck wants a bunch of stale-ass thrash riffs with no singer on it? This is dumb. I wanna know who these people are.
D.U.: They’re Guilty As Sin.
JR: You’re goddamn right they are!
Available on Spotify

Amputee 2009 demo
I might be biased towards them, ‘cause I actually think Chainsaw to the Face [with whom they share members] is pretty cool. Kinda like goregrind without the slop, you know what I mean? It’s not super sloppy. Nothing really in the music for me. Guitar tone is kinda muddy, like “blah.” Kinda reminds me of Last Days of Humanity. This isn’t bad; it’s not doing anything for me. I don’t wanna take a shit on ‘em.
Available on Bandcamp

Minsk The Ritual Fires of Abandonment (Relapse)
I’ve heard this album before. I’m sure these guys are nice dudes, but, OK, you know how Enemy of the Sun is, epic and shit? Well, when other bands try to do that, it just sounds long-winded. It doesn’t sound heavy. I’ve heard at least two of these guys’ albums, and I’m not sure how many they have now, but they’re a good band and they’re recorded really well, and they got the atmospheric thing, you know, but when it comes time to deliver the big, monolithic riffs, it’s not there. I love Neurosis as much as anybody does, but I never really got off on most of the bands that try to do what they do, you know? And maybe I’m pigeonholing these guys, but I’ve never gotten Isis; they’ve never really made any sense to me. It’s not my thing.
Available on Bandcamp

Phantom Glue 2010 album (Teenage Disco Bloodbath)
All right, I’ll drink a little bit of this Kool-Aid. Got a little bit of that Unsane vibe goin’ on, you know. I dig this band.

Available on Bandcamp

Resurrecturis Non Voglio Morire (Casket Productions)
Definitely black metal-type riffs, but then they mix it in with some dirty, crusty riffs, but most importantly, it sounds pissed as fuck. It’s pretty cool. … I hope they don’t bust in with some really lame vocals. That would bum me out so hard. Like the dude from Creed, “with arms wide open.” Is that a talk box? You know, the Peter Frampton—wow. I don’t know how you go from death grind to this, but now are they gonna go back to the grindcore again? What the hell is going on? Well, they went into this little Halloween piano breakdown. The vocals kind of remind me of Mille from Kreator a little bit, you know what I’m saying? I dunno if this band works for me or not, but I’m definitely intrigued by them. Like, I’d want to check it out again. Maybe this [song] is their “Fade to Black.” I mean, I don’t know what my expectations were for whatever the fuck this band’s name is, but I guess I was wrong. Do you remember how on the Nembrionic record, Psycho 100, they just kind of do it all? They got the song that sounds like Motörhead, and then they got the grindcore, and then they got the melodic instrumental? Maybe that’s how this band is rollin’, cause, I mean, honestly, if you had skipped those songs and not told me it was the same band, I could’ve told you it was two different bands. It’s either ambitious or it’s incredibly stupid. You know what I mean? This is the sort of thing where either people think it’s the greatest thing ever, or it falls flat on its face; people just don’t get it at all. They’re trying to make everybody happy …

Alright, never mind. Everything I said about this band. No. There is no excuse for a metal band to have vocals—I mean, what the fuck was that? This is where me and this band, we kiss and we part ways forever. You know what? Fuck this band. Honestly, if I owned this album, and I knew that those vocals were in my record collection, I would never be able to sleep at night. See, they had me for a minute, but now I went soft. I’m flaccid. As soon as I hear those “aaaah” vocals—I don’t know. It’s the sort of thing that might even work in the right context, but you’re not heavy anymore when that sort of shit starts happening on your album. All of a sudden you’ve turned really, really lame, and I don’t care how many showers you take, you can’t get the lame off you. They’re ambitious, but they need to be ambitious somewhere away from me.
Available from la Feltrinelli

Speaking of pg.99, check out our classic interview with the band from 2001, archive ‘zine issue #25, page 14.


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