Musical Darwinism with J.R. Hayes

We played J.R. Hayes some records. Here are his first impressions of each.

Conquest of Steel Victorious in Defeat
That opening was total Iron Maiden worship. Vocals are super-high in the mix, guitars don’t really have any teeth. They’re not going for any sort of, like, heavy, edgy metal. This is straight-up power metal. Classic metal, I guess you might call it. Pretty good for what it is. The guitars are just a little thin, toothless, for my taste. I like metal that’s more aggressive than this, but it seems to be well-executed. It’s not overly cheesy. Like, this kinda metal is gonna be cheesy by design, you know? But they’re not cheesin’ it out any more than they have to …

I stand corrected. Now we’re getting into some of that Lord of the Rings-type singing, you know? There’s this one Iron Maiden song that always cracks me up called “Quest for Fire.” You know that song? The first line is, “In a time when dinosaurs ruled the earth,” and every time I hear it I have to just bust out laughing. You know what I mean about the Lord of the Rings singing, though? It sounds like they should have a Prince Valiant haircut. Like they’re singing odes to Camelot and shit. If you sing odes to Camelot, you might be able to get down with this record. Do you hear a little bit of Don Dokken in the vocals?

In summation, competent, good power metal band. If you like that Symphony X-type stuff, you might be able to get down with this. But if I bought this in a store, I would get 10 seconds in, and throw it completely out the window, ‘cause this shit doesn’t fly with me.
Conquest of Steel page


Rotten Sound Cursed
The drumming is just savage. It’s totally brutal. It’s Rotten Sound; it’s just what they sound like. [It’s as if] like they want to kill you; what a grindcore band should sound like. I think they’re setting themselves up as—ever since Miesko died—kind of the successors to Nasum, you know what I mean? I think that’s pretty legitimate. I think there’s something a little more primal about Rotten Sound than Nasum. Nasum’s a little more mathematical, you know?

This is produced a little dirtier than Cycles, which was a good album, but I think my favorite was Exit. That record is just fucking—I mean, all their records are brutal, Murderworks is brutal—but the guitar sound on Exit is the best time that they’ve gotten it. It’s always the same kind of guitar sound that they go for, but that’s the record where I think they nailed, and it’s also the last record with Kai on drums, and he’s a pretty sick drummer. But, I mean, everybody knows Rotten Sound is awesome, and there’s no reason to print “Rotten Sound is awesome”; everybody knows that.

They’re doing their thing. It’s just brutal grindcore. Production’s good, they’re changing up the tempos a little more maybe than I’m used to them doing, but it works. Violent, pissed. Keijo looks like a big, brutal dude that screams at you, and you’re like, “Yeah, dude, you’re the man!” But I also know these guys personally.
Order from Relapse Records


Grave Burial Ground
I mean, that’s just straight-up Swedish death metal in your face, right there. That could be Entombed or Dismember or Carnage—total Swedish death metal. Did I mention that it was Swedish? I mean, come on. So, yeah, this totally rules. We’re 2:20 in—I’m totally on board. This is great. Where’s the Unleashed horn? I wanna drink out of the Unleashed horn.

So they’re just showing the barest hints of melody here. You know who would’ve fucking loved this band is Six Feet Under fans, because this is the kind of death metal that’s like, the drummer’s not off doing all kinds of crazy, esoteric things. It’s just brutal and it’s to the point, and it’s got a groove. It would appeal to death metal fans that like that sort of thing. This is kind of the difference between American death metal and European death metal, like when you think about how Suffocation stacks up against a band like this. That more stuttering, blast beat-oriented death metal; you know, Cannibal Corpse death metal.

You know, everybody loves Entombed. If you don’t love Entombed, there’s something probably wrong with you. I used to listen to a lot of Dismember; not so much anymore. But yeah, I don’t listen to this kinda death metal often. It’s good. It’s no frills. I like to believe that these guys just eat meat, drink beer, play metal, and that’s all they know how to do. Like they’re basically just troglodytes. They’re like that caveman metal. I don’t know the Swedish equivalent of, say, Madball, something like that: “This is hardcore brutality!”
Regain Records


Anaal Nathrakh Passion
I’ve heard this band before. Their first album’s really brutal. The Codex Necro, I think is what it’s called. But then I think I got the one after that, and it had some vocal parts that were really off-putting to me. Y’know, he’s screaming, and all of a sudden he’s like, “Aaah.” But this dude totally writes some brutal riffs. The guitar player’s super talented. I think he writes all the music.

Yeah, see, it’s brutal and it’s creative as shit, but some of those vocals just don’t sit well with me. I’m really picky about that sort of stuff. And it’s not even what he’s doing is bad; it just doesn’t appeal to me. In the metal scene today, that’s what people do. I guess there’s a few bands that I like, maybe, that do both, you know what I mean? Like Acid Bath, they do it where it’s like screaming vocals and then singing vocals, but for some reason the way they do it, it works for me. But most other bands, it’s like, you gotta do one or the other. Like, when I throw on an old Integrity record, I don’t sit there and go, “You know what this record needs? It needs some Michael Bolton vocals right here on this song. Just to mix it up a little bit.” No, it’s an Integrity record. He just yells and it’s cool.

Maybe it’s not the fact that it’s a clean vocal, it’s the fact that it’s got that British operatic style, you know what I’m saying? But it’s all just nitpicky shit. I mean, obviously this band has a lot of talent. They’re doing their thing. It’s all metally. Y’know, I understand why people don’t wanna scream all the time; they wanna change it up a little bit. I just think most of the time it sounds corny and it doesn’t sound extreme. If I’m listening to something that’s extreme, I want it to be extreme all the time. Isn’t that the point of extremity? To push it as far as you can to its logical conclusion? It’s almost like, I wish he would either scream all the time or do those other kinda vocals all the time. The two things together just doesn’t work for me. Imagine you’re listening to Carcass, Symphonies of Sickness, and here comes Jeff Walker with this dirty-ass riff, and you hear some guy go, “Aaaah, aaaah.” It’s like, “That’s not cool. It’s Symphonies of Sickness, dog.”

A lot of this is genuinely extreme. It’s better than 99% of the bands out there, I would say. Talented band. Not my deal, though. But I see what they’re going for.
Candlelight Records | Order here


Amebix Redux
I have to confess, I don’t really know much about this band. I know they’re a big crusty punk band. Wow, it’s a pretty cool riff, but it just sounds so old. It sounds like something that you would’ve heard in ’80, ’82. I can just expect Dave Mustaine to start singing. Kinda sounds like they let Lemmy come in and just ramble. I mean, this is pretty cool. Whatever. Yeah, let me say this first track, there’s a certain energy lacking. It almost feels like they should be playing this song three or four times faster than they are. They’re doing a little noise interlude at the end of the first song which is pretty cool, actually. It’s pretty well done.

Sounds like Killing Joke a little bit. If I was a fan of this band, I feel like I could get pretty stoked about this. It’s well put-together, it sounds really good, the production’s good, the guitar sounds great. There’s a lot of really noisy, minimalist guitar, which is cool. The Killing Joke vibe in this song is pretty neat. I wonder if they’ve had a Killing Joke vibe in the past. There’s another interesting thing about hearing a band like this, that is a classic band: I’m not really familiar with them, but I know this was a big influence on Neurosis, and you can hear that too, you know? You know how old Neurosis has that kind of brutal industrial feel to it, even though it’s not industrial music. Or old Swans: plodding, beat-you-over-the-head music. I like that this band obviously has got their own sound. Yeah, this is cool shit.
Profane Existence


Exhumed All Guts, No Glory
See, again, like with Rotten Sound, I’m kinda biased because they’re label mates. And everybody loves Exhumed.

[Matt Harvey] throws some grind bits in there. Listen to how tasteful that lead is. It’s so tasteful! It’s definitely a good-quality lead, but we were talking about how it sounds like a clean Alex Skolnick lead as opposed to, like, a Rick Rozz lead or something like that—a whammy bar nightmare—or the god of the whammy bar, Kerry King. The drummer’s on point. There’s a good mix—you can really hear the bass really well, which is pretty unusual, I think, for death metal records. The guitar’s got some bite, the riffs are quality riffs. I mean, it’s been a while since I’ve spun an Exhumed record. I’ve heard most of their records, I would think. But remember the old split with Hemdale? That’s a classic.

But I think this is as good as any Exhumed record I’ve heard. But this more of the death metal I guess that I would respond to than Anaal Nathrakh stuff. This record doesn’t have time for any of that cheese stuff. It knows why you’re there, you know? You’re there because you want to see heads crushed. You don’t throw on extreme metal and, like, “Man, if I could just get my Dismember and my Peter Gabriel on at the same time, that would be so amazing!” No, you just want Assück to just grind your skull into dust; just bore a hole straight to the middle of your soul and take a giant shit in it.

Basically, if you throw a metal record on and you make the Billy Idol face, then it’s good. So yeah, this is a little more up tempo than the Grave album, and that was more down tempo, groovy, caveman-ish. This is more frenzied, cannibal-eat-your-brain type of death metal.
Order from Relapse Records

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Great Falls Fontanelle
This is kind of interesting, because I think these guys are from the northwest, Washington state, Portland, Oregon area, is that correct? And one of the seminal bands from that area is Unwound. They were kinda like a noisy—they were on Kill Rock Stars. These guys kind of remind me of Unwound. I like the noisiness of it. The guitar playing’s very mean spirited, the chord selection is meant to be grating. People who dig Kiss It Goodbye, something like that, would maybe get down with this. Vocals are OK. Yeah, it’s alright. I hope that they change the tempo.
Order at Paradigms Records


Bloody Phoenix Death To Everyone
I think this is their “Multinational Corporations,” you know what I’m sayin’? You know what the vocals kind of make me think of? The Brujeria record, Matando Güeros. This [next song] is a little more what I was expecting, just all-out blasting with the crust riffs. Just really, really simple meathead riffs, almost barely riffs. It’s like, you know when it’s really, really dirty, crusty grindcore that somehow manages to avoid all of the metal overtones, you know? Like, you can tell they’ve never listened to a Pantera record in their entire life. You can tell that there’s almost a specific effort not to have any metal parts. This is definitely punk grind. And obviously you gotta give the dude props for being in Excruciating Terror, which is just, like, one of the all-time brutal grindcore [bands]. I mean, the real grind heads know about Expression of Pain. I was talking to Chris from Magrudergrind about that record. The grindheads know.

So, yeah, brutal grindcore. What are you gonna do?
Order from Obscene Extreme | 625 Thrash


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