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 #26 from 2002

Incantation Blasphemy (Necropolis)
It’s hard to think of something interesting to [say] when there’s nothing interesting about the record. It’s death metal by the numbers, definitely. The production’s not bad. I don’t know how many records they have, but they’ve made this record before, there’s no doubt. If you like Incantation, you’ll like this record.
Available on Bandcamp

The Berzerker Disimmulate (Earache)
The snare drum sounds like someone hitting a Folger’s coffee can with a fountain pen. The riffs aren’t bad. The production is really sloppy. The drums have less balls than Sandra Bernhardt. This band has no balls whatsoever. The weak point is definitely the drum machine if I had to pick one.
Available on Bandcamp

Alchemist Organasm (Relapse)
I definitely don’t like the vocals. The music’s got a little bit of atmosphere. These guys are idiosyncratic the way Atheist and Cynic is. They’re definitely different. It’s alright. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say I’d buy it, but I’m definitely down with it.
Available on Bandcamp

Virgin Black Sombre Romantic (The End)
It’s definitely different. I don’t know what they’re trying to do. Dude, violins and piano are so sad and depressing and dark. If there was a temple of shit, these would be its monks. Are you kidding me? Is this for real? This sounds like Pavarotti singing for some fake ass Norwegian black metal band. What the hell is evil and dark in Australia [where the band is from]? Don’t they sing about kangaroos and boomerangs? King Diamond would find this melodramatic.
Available on Spotify

Hate Cain’s Way (World War III)
I’m so old and jaded. This could be the Incantation record for all I care. This is good for death metal, but who needs death metal anymore? This is two thousand and fuckin’ two. Whatever. If you’re really into death metal, this is more death metal for you. I don’t know what else to tell ya. It’s alright. I’m sure Satan is very proud. I mean, it’s better [than the last album] but it’s fuckin’ weak and fuckin’ unoriginal.
Available on Discogs

Taken from archive 'zine issue #27 from 2003

Boris Amplifier Worship (Southern Lord)
I would say great tones, solid production, very crushing as long as you’ve got the time to sit and get crushed. This record requires a lot of time, concentration, patience, but it’s worth it. I can rock out to it.
Available on Spotify

Discoria 2002 Demo
This is a competent, well produced, well played, depressingly boring death metal demo. I don’t know who wrote their bio but they really need to get over themselves. There’s a lot of name dropping going on [in the bio], for example Morbid Angel, Nile, and Immolation, but this band opens for those bands, and probably always will.

Hortus 2002 CDR
Hortus is strange music created by bizarre men of science. Eccentric the way the Melvins are eccentric. It kinda sounds like Devo playing Swans covers. Awkward rhythms, crazy noises, lots of kookoo bass tones. At times the bass sounds like Moog synthesizers. Crazy, spacy shit.

Ludicra Hollow Psalms (Life is Abuse)
It’s pretty brutal. I’m not a big black metal connoisseur but I think I dig this. It’s really fast, the vocals are very spiteful, but it’s that thin black metal guitar, that Darkthrone guitar, that kinda drives me crazy. But it’s definitely vicious in parts and the packaging’s pretty rad. It’s pretty good.
Available on Bandcamp

Magrudergrind demo
Total pussy snare. Guitar tone is pretty sick. They’ve got some meaty riffs. The faster riffs are kinda nondescript. Vocals aren’t bad. Need to put a little more sac in there. Recording as a whole: pretty good for a demo. This band has potential so I won’t slag ‘em.

“I wish they were faster, a lot faster, like way faster.”

Mindflair Green Bakery (Bones Brigade)
It’s pretty hairy. It’s kinda got the same swagger as the last Brutal Truth record. It’s grind but then it’s offbeat and obviously fueled by bong hits. The advantage of bonghit grind is that it’s interesting because they take the bong hits and go off in strange directions, but the disadvantage of bonghit grind is that those directions don’t seem to go anywhere. If you’re patient with them they’ll feed you a couple sick mosh parts.
Available on Bandcamp

Nigel Pepper Cock The New Way (Life is Abuse)
Dude, that’s messed up. Dude, what the fuck is wrong with this band? Dude, this is depraved. I remember Slayer’s Reign In Blood scaring the piss out of me when I was 11 years old. Looking at the packaging of this record I’m maybe the most uncomfortable since. Honestly I have no idea what to say. I’m fuckin’ speechless, dude. The music definitely doesn’t live up to the packaging, but the packaging is out of control.
Available on Discogs

Paganizer Dead Unburied (Forever Underground)
All right. Fuck. More well played, well produced, depressing as hell death metal. In Virginia this is what I call meat and potatoes metal, and I only eat caviar.
Available on Spotify

Set Ablaze demo
The band photos kinda look like a Bold record or a Gorilla Biscuits record, but these guys are a straight-up death thrash band. At times they’re trying to be melodic, at times they’re trying to be heavy, but it kinda feels very middle of the road. I wish they’d make up their minds and go in one direction or the other. I’m not feeling the hate, I’m not feeling the mosh, so something’s wrong. They’re all definitely good musicians, though. It is possible to be too eclectic.

Sut-Nam demo
Dude, come on! This is somebody who’s been listening to Slayer and Hatebreed at the same time. The vocals sound like a rabid dog but not a threatening dog, if that makes any sense. Definitely not a cliché band. They’re interesting enough. Some of the riffs are pretty good but I’m not diggin’ the production or the arrangements. There’s definitely some Floorpunch parts, if you’re into that. I wasn’t really feelin’ the vibe but definitely not a terrible band. Live they’d probably be fun to watch.

Trap Them and Kill Them 2002 3″ CD
This fuckin’ rules. It’s good. They actually have good guitar riffs, which is more than 90% of the grind bands out there. It’s tight, it’s aggressive, it’s mad as hell. What’s not to like? … The vocals are ragin’ as hell. Listen to him: he’s fuckin’ pissed. Relentless as fuck, period.

Taken from archive 'zine issue #30 from 2004

Beaten Back To Pure The Burning South (Dark Reign)
Way too early in the record for an intro like this. This is like a track five thing, you know what I’m saying? What are we on, track two? I mean, so far this is kind of like Buzzov•en, southern hardcore. I mean, this isn’t bad stuff. If it’s from the south, it’s cool, you know? I like it. I wish they were faster, a lot faster, like way faster. The packaging’s pretty fucking cool. I dig this. It’s pretty cool. It’s a little too midpaced for me, but the guys got riffs; he’s bringing the riffs to the table. The singer sounds like he likes to break a beer bottle over his head every now and then, and I don’t know where from the south that they’re from, but they’re from the south, so that’s cool, you know? Yeah, I give this, uh … three thumbs up.
Available on Spotify

Agent Steel Order of the Illuminati (AOS/Artillery)
Oh god. This is all about like … I mean, this reminds me of Flotsam and Jetsam, you know? Just like old ‘80s American thrash metal. Well executed, but too heavy on the musicianship, not heavy enough on the hate. The hate right now is maybe on about one. We need more hate in this thrash. The cover looks like a lost Journey record which is kinda cool, so points for that. The singer is something completely out a time warp too. I mean, anybody who misses Joey Belladonna needs to buy this record. This is all about some operatic thrash. This gets one thumb up for the execution. It’s kinda like if you’re judging like, say, a gymnast or a dancer or something like that, it’s like, good marks on the difficulty, but kind of a cliché routine. Lack points on the style. Not vicious enough for me. I mean, this is a good record. It’s up somebody’s alley; it’s just not really my thing. It’s thrash but it’s straddling that line between thrash and power metal. The singer’s just like a little too retro for me, but if people like old Queensrÿche, shit with this kind of vibe, they might eat this up. So props to Agent Steel.
Available on Discogs

Chainletter My Parents Fuck Me
I really have no idea what to say. I mean, it kinda almost has that Anal Cunt disregard for its audience; just strangeness. Interesting perverse sense of humor, but I really don’t know where they’re trying to go with this. This is one of those CDs where every track is a little bit different, every track is coming from a different angle, so it’s hard to get overall perspective on the concept. It’s kind of anarchic grindcore. They’re doing whatever they want to do, they’re having a good time, I’m sure they laughed their asses off when they made it, but it’s a demo. It’s what you would expect out of a demo, so good for them. I hope their parents are good in the sack.

My Fate Happiness Is Fiction (Crash)
First line, first song on the album: “God, Satan, Shit.” How can you argue with that? They have a song called “Sickness” but they took all the vowels out. I guess they don’t like vowels. Good production; production’s heavy. Well, it’s really, really, really bargain basement thrash stuff. It’s not fast. The drummer’s definitely not a basket case; he’s playing it pretty straight. This band’s trying to do kind of heavy groove nu metal stuff. To me it sounds like Disturbed; that’s the first thing that pops into my mind. It’s got that kind of groove, it’s got the kind of gothy lead singer. I mean, they’re from Finland and that’s cool. I like Finland; I’m a big supporter of the country. I think more bands should come from Finland, but this band’s definitely into too much commercial shit for me. You know when you go to see a band and the guitar player’s playing his guitar like two inches off the floor and he’s all hunched over like the dude from Korn? This is those kind of riffs. This is the kind of riffs you play when you’re all hunched over. And I don’t like riffs that are like that. I like riffs that people have to stand up straight to play, but that’s just me. I don’t have any money, I’m usually pretty broke, but I would bet all the money in the world that this guitarist plays hunched over. I don’t know, this is sooooo not my thing. This needs to stop. This nees to come out right now.
Available on Spotify

Failure Trace demo 1
This kind of reminds me of Enemy Soil, dare I say it. It’s a demo, it’s primitive as hell, it’s crusty, it’s grindy, it’s angry, it’s good. It just needs something else. It needs anything else to distinguish it from … I don’t know, I like the vibe a lot, but there’s nothing that makes it jump out at you, like the drums or the guitar or the vocals; it’s all good but not unique, so it’s missing that extra personality that it needs to rise out of the muck, you know what I’m saying? But their heart’s definitely in the right place, so I give them props on that. I would say out of 100 thumbs, this is about 73 thumbs. And they’re from Thailand, so I don’t know how easy or difficult it is to get a band together in Thailand, but good for them. Hopefully they’ll rock Thailand.
Failure Trace on Bandcamp

Cult of Luna Salvation (Earache)
Oh man, this is gonna be rough. These guys are audacious. “Coupling mountainous sonic audacity with organic openhearted honesty.” Interesting. This is good stuff, it’s well executed, it’s well produced. I think some of the arrangements are a little bit overdone; certain parts I think go on longer than they should. This is in that Neurosis, Isis kind of vein, but kind of along the lines of the later, post-Times of Grace Neurosis, where there’s a little more subtlety in the arrangements, but it’s not quite as unique and creative as old Neurosis kind of stuff. It just kind of more sits, knows where it stands, the tempos don’t change too much. It’s good and it’s heavy, but there’s not that sense of the unknown where it just feels familiar. It doesn’t feel, like with old Neurosis, where you never know where they’re gonna take you, you know what I’m saying? It’s not nearly as much fun when it’s like that. But these guys are a good band. I really wish Earache would put out more stuff like this as opposed to the stuff they normally put out, but that’s my opinion.
Available on Bandcamp

Lair of the Minotaur Carnage (Southern Lord)
It’s definitely metal from the old school, back when Mötörhead was still influencing metal bands, you know what I mean? You can definitely hear tons of Frost in there too. It’s nice and thick and noisy, it’s got that High on Fire type of vibe. I bet you a million dollars these guys fuckin’ play with no shirts on. They have to play with no shirts on, probably bullet belts or something. It’s good and heavy but it doesn’t sound dated. The production’s really good. It still sounds very contemporary. I like the cover. Kind of reminds me of Pleasure to Kill by Kreator, which is always a good thing. I mean, the album’s called Carnage. It’s on Southern Lord. I dunno, what’s not to like, really? I’m down with this. These guys are doing exactly what they want to do, and that’s cool. It’s heavy metal. Fuckin’ thrash, man. Awesome. I don’t know what else I can say about this.
Available on Bandcamp

“No, you canʼt win an argument with a guitar riff.”

Spinal Cord Remedy (Crash)
It’s Polish death, man; it’s Polish death. It’s the way they do death in Poland. The guitar player’s trying to get melodic on your ass a little bit, kind of like Carcass does on Heartwork, you know? But that kind of stuff annoys me because I just like it being brutal. I don’t need the extra guitar solos and all that stuff. If you dig something like Vader or the early Pestilence stuff, this isn’t that bad. You can tell they probably listened to Meshuggah a few times too. They’re trying to do some of that off-time rockin’, which is cool if you’re into rockin’ off-time. Did I mention that this is Polish death? It’s death metal from the Eastern Bloc of Europe where they like death metal a lot and they do a lot of death metal. I’m not really into this whole scene. I mean, I like Entombed, I like Carnage, I like the first Dismember. I don’t really know what’s been going on with death metal in the past fuckin’ 20 years in Europe. I mean, I’m glad these guys don’t sound like they’re trying to rip off At the Gates like everybody else is ripping off At the Gates nowadays, and that’s good, but like I was mentioning earlier––Entombed, Dismember––this is a direct descendent of that type of death metal. If you like this kind of death metal, this is pretty well done. There’s no lame choruses where he’s trying to sing like the dude from Depeche Mode, there’s not any cheesy Cradle of Filth keyboard bullshit. It’s death metal, you know? If you like death metal, this is some more death metal for you. I would say, out of, let’s see, seven thumbs, I’d give it five opposable thumbs for this album.
Available on Discogs

Taken from archive 'zine issue #35 from 2006

For this batch, J.R. teamed up with Blake Midgette from pg.99.

Decapitated Organic Hallucinosis (Earache)
J.R.: These riffs are really dissonant. Sound like Rorschach riffs.
Blake: Or Discordance Axis riffs. Sounds like a drum machine.
J.R.: All the European death metal bands; their drummers all sound like drum machines. Irritating.
Blake: Technical, but doesn’t really have any feel at all.
J.R.: It’s aggressive, it’s death metal, it pummels. Right there––
Blake: That’s pretty fucking sick.
J.R.: That’s a good death metal riff.
Blake: That honestly sounds like something I’d write if I was in a death metal band.
J.R.: The singer is nothing special. The drums, like I was saying, most European death metal albums, it just sounds fake and triggered, which is frustrating. But you can’t argue with brutal riffs. I mean, you can try to argue with them, but you’re not gonna win.
Blake: No, you can’t win an argument with a guitar riff.
J.R.: No, you can’t. I mean, if the riff is brutal, then it’s brutal. If a death metal album’s got brutal riffs, then it’s probably gonna be a good death metal album. End of story. It’s what it’s all about.
Available on Spotify

Earthride Vampire Circus (Southern Lord)
Blake: This sounds a lot like Clutch.
J.R.: I just hate it when you get exactly what you think you’re gonna get. As soon as I looked at this record, I coulda told you what it sounded like.
Blake: Wah-wah fuzz pedal. The singer just went “Uh.”
J.R.: I mean, there’s just a market for this type of shit.
Blake: These guys probably all look like Mitch Hedberg, and they have tight jeans on, and I can see the singer just like, microphone stand, head going back and forth next to it.
J.R.: That’s a nice little riff there, though. I like that riff. You gotta give credit where credit is due. This is pretty cool for the style.
Blake: I don’t really like this kind of music. I’ve had enough of it. They don’t do it as well as some of the other people.
J.R.: Somebody who does it well is somebody like Boris, ‘cause they change it up. They’re like The Melvins; they do weird shit. This is playing to a style. This is playing to a formula. It’s not terrible; whatever. I’ve definitely heard worse.
Blake: I definitely like the fact that the singer sounds like Motörhead. That’s the best thing I can say about it.
Available on Spotify

Jilted/Beyond Description split CD (Forest)
Blake: [Jilted] sounds like it shoulda come out of Richmond. Like been on Vermiform or something.
J.R.: They’re from Italy, this band.
Blake: Total circle pit.
J.R.: It’s just crust, like punk, street hardcore, playin’ at Stalag 13 type of thing. It sounds good. The riffs are basic three-chord street punk.
Blake: It’s pissed off, strapped with energy.
J.R.: Wow, [Beyond Description’s tracks] sounds like their old shit. Come on, I need a mosh part. Dude, this song rules.
Blake: This is pretty awesome.
J.R.: I don’t know if it was their last record, but I bought one of their records at Reptilian. It was like, more midpaced, but if you play fast like [on this split], I’m gonna love it.
Blake: I really love the fact that they thank a band on here called Pile Of Trash.
J.R.: That’s a sweet name for a band.
Blake: I love that guy’s vocals.
J.R.: Yeah, his vocals are pretty awesome.
Blake: Sounds like a lot of the vocalists that you hear on Prank.
J.R.: Like His Hero Is Gone type shit?
Blake: Yeah, exactly. It sounds like it’s fuckin’ throat bleeding power.
J.R.: That’s what it’s all about. His Hero Is Gone, to me, is like the most evolved type of that kind of hardcore. It’s hard and it’s pummeling. I mean, that’s like state-of-the-art thrash. But these guys are Japanese. The Japanese always know how to do it right, you know what I’m saying? You never see shitty musicianship out of a Japanese dude ever. Like, we played with 324 in Japan, and Disgust, and both of those bands––the music’s really simple, but they play it right. They play it fucking dead on.
Amoeba has a used copy

Pan For Punks A Steelpan Tribute To The Ramones
Blake: You know what this reminds me of? When you go to Disney World and you go into one of those rooms, and you realize that they’re actually playing a real song, not just at the Polynesian luau, you know? And it’s like, whoa, this is the Ramones being played by a guy in a grass skirt.
J.R.: Well, the thing about the Ramones is like, it’s just great pop music. It’s not even punk, you know what I mean? The songs are perfect songs; you can do them a million different ways. I’m sure you could do reggae versions and they would fuckin’ rule. I feel like I could drive a bumper car to this.
Blake: I’ll say one thing: I’m pretty impressed. Do you know anyone who can play those drums anyway?
J.R.: It’s a dude doing Ramones covers with a steel drum. I mean, if that has any interest for anybody––
Blake: I’ll go ahead and say that guy probably has no friends, and as much as I thought that was funny and interesting, it was funny and interesting.
Available on Spotify

Severe Torture Fall Of The Despised (Earache)
J.R.: I mean, this is like meat and potatoes death metal, straight up.
Blake: Yeah! That vocalist has got a set of nuts on him. It’s real repetitive, but it works.
J.R.: It’s by the book, and it’s on Earache. This coulda come out any year on Earache between 1988 and now. This style’s already been defined, but it’s good.
Blake: The production is a little muffled.
J.R.: You know, if you’re gonna do death metal, you have to be mean, and they’re pretty mean. At least they’re not boring, or at least it’s not boring so far.
Blake: Do they have any axes or spikes or anything?
J.R.: No, but they’re definitely European. Just look at them.
Blake: Yeah, dude, they look like fuckin’ Vikings.
J.R.: They’re not from Detroit. Their guitar player’s name is Marvin. That’s pretty fucking cool.
Blake: I’m actually pretty into this. This is good.
J.R.: It’s good death metal. They were awesome live. They did a fucking cover of this Pestilence song off Testimony Of The Ancients. It was fucking awesome. Dude was like, “We’re going to do some old death metal!” And everybody’s like, “Argh!” He’s like, “This is by Pestilence!” They’re like, “Argh!” They tore that shit up. Everybody was goin’ fuckin’ nuts.
Available on Bandcamp

Twilight 2005 Album (Southern Lord)
Blake:: This is lame black metal. It doesn’t have all the organs and stuff that I normally like.
J.R.: I just like that it sounds like they went to a lot of trouble to make it sound this crappy.
Blake: Yeah, the production is absolutely terrible.
JR: But I like it. It’s so bad that I like it, ‘cause it just makes everything, I dunno … it gives it kind of a creepy, you know, that creepy underground vibe that black metal is associated with?
Blake: I think the whole reason this group is a band is because the singer has wanted to sound like a tyrannosaurus rex since he was a child.
J.R.: This isn’t my type of music, but if I was really into black metal, this is the kind of shit that I would like. You know what I mean?
Blake: They’re going to be scary and dirty sounding, but it’s not either. I dunno. It doesn’t scare me very much.
J.R.: Maybe I just really like the artwork and I wanna like it really bad. I think the artwork’s pretty fuckin’ cool. This is why I don’t like black metal, though. [We] call these pirate riffs.
Blake: Like epic Braveheart gladiator style.
J.R.: Yeah. I hate those kind of riffs. They piss me off.
Blake: I really hate that band.
J.R.: Eh. Whatever.
Available on Bandcamp

Various Artists Back Against The Wall (Purple Pyramid/Cleopatra)
Blake: Oh, so this is all these people from these different bands doing Pink Floyd stuff.
J.R.: Or, this is them doing the entire Wall album. Lame. But it says it’s “the ultimate Pink Floyd experience.” How can it be more ultimate than actual Pink Floyd? I mean, don’t you think that that’s not really possible? This is giving me hives.
Blake: What this is, is a bunch of guys whose music careers are over, trying to live vicariously through Roger Waters’ old balls.
J.R.: I mean, why do you … I don’t know. I’m sure it was fun for these guys, but nobody wants to hear these people play Pink Floyd, you know what I’m saying? Why do you want to hear somebody try to play David Gilmour that’s not David Gilmour? It’s pointless. It’s done well, but I mean … I don’t get it. I guess it’s just for people who have heard the originals too many times, and they need to shake it up a little bit. That’s the only reason this could possibly exist. Take it out. It’s fucking awful.
Available on Discogs

Why Are You Laugh Ultra Dolphins (Robotic Empire)
Blake: I think the art rules, and this music is kinda charming in a way, but it … it’s too much like the Blood Brothers to me.
J.R.: Well, at least the vocals aren’t horribly out of key.
Blake: I definitely think anybody who’s into the stuff Robotic Empire puts out would definitely love this.
J.R.: The artwork is fuckin’ sweet, though. I dunno––what would you even call this? Are you talkin’ the Daughters type of shit? That kind of metrosexual pg.99 type of thing?
Blake: We weren’t metro. Fuck you.
J.R.: No, but I’m saying pg.99 is the dirty Sterling real thing. I’m talking about, like Blood Brothers––
Blake: This is whatever hardcore has evolved into. The new arty hardcore, it’s just a mishmash of a thousand different styles.
J.R.: It’s arty, but you know, there’s a lot of arty little fucking kids out there right now.
Blake: I know. That’s what I’m saying. This should be hugely popular. It’s better than Blood Brothers.
J.R.: Well, dude, what’s not better than Blood Brothers?
Blake: So is me taking a shit on my own bed.
J.R.: I’m surprised that their songs are this long. I think this would be a lot more interesting with cleaner vocals.
Blake: Actually, honestly, I think I could probably get into this.
J.R.: It’s good music. It’s like Dismemberment Plan, weird––I mean, they could be from D.C. Total D.C. sound, which is weird to say, but this is pretty cool stuff. Andy was definitely onto somethin’ putting it out.
Blake: It’s interesting as all hell.
J.R.: With the arrangements of the songs, I’m not convinced that they know where they’re going with them. The songs just don’t really …
Blake: I think that’s what’s kind of charming about it, though. It seems like … It feels pretty honest; it feels pretty young.
J.R.: Well, you know Andy Low’s not gonna put out a band with a bunch of fuckin’ chumps. I mean, I could listen to it and it could grow on me, but will I allow it to do that? Not when I have Deadboy And The Elephantmen to listen to, and the new Placebo album.
Blake: Right. I definitely don’t think I’d like to go see them play. I think their fans would be annoying.
Available on Bandcamp

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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