10 Microreviews

So here’s the plan:

Recently, reading an article on another site we’ll call… Grapefruits Impossible to Perceive With Your Eyes, I came to the worrying conclusion, stolen from said site, that perhaps music criticism is nearly unnecessary in the era of the internet. After all, if you want to judge an artist’s music, you just find it on a site and listen for yourself– you don’t need a critic to spare you the financial risk of shelling out for a record you’ll end up hating.

Then it hit me: what you DO need from critics is enough of a nudge to know what to check out in the first place: becuase that’s the other side of the double-edged sword of the internet: while you can check out whatever you want, there’s roughly a billion more things to check out.

You need less of a critic, and more of a Herald– one who points you in the right direction and THEN lets you do your own judging.


Here then, in tiny/ sound byte/ on-the-go form is what boils down to psychedelic ad copy– for you to quickly decide if even investigating an album will be worth your time.

Here are a series of shamanistic near-haiku: brief, transient as sand, ephemeral as tea leaves in the bottom of a pint. The visions of one specific seer, to guide your purchases and/or illegal downloads.

Who says the incredible, chaotic, undetermined, endless and eternal can’t find niches in a consumerist, material-driven, commodity-based, filthy-lucre society?

So here, then, are your “blasts of leaden verse about leaden riffs, the nitroglycerin shrieks of advertising,” in concentrated (i.e., psychically mainlinable) form.

1) Summon the Crows, One More For the Gallows:

Very Southern Lord, very Disfear/ Kvertllak/ Nails, but with more snappy songwriting/ usually sounds like a Metallica cassette b-side, i.e., NWOBHM, but without clean singing/ “Trojan Whore” has a great riff at 2:15….

It’s a detuned, slightly more modern version of every band Metallica covered on The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited, and Garage, Inc.— Budgie, Misfits, Diamond Head, Sweet Savage, and most obviously Discharge.

Brief songs, and the whole album’s 25 minutes….

“Beasts of the Night” starts so much like “The More I See” you’d almost mistake it for that. But don’t mistake the riffs baby. And not “doom” riffs, not Sabbath, but punk/ thrash riffs, downpicked over a groovy 4/4 beat….


2 and 3) King Giant, Southern Darkness and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight’s Movin’ On:

Southern rockish, Monster Magnet lite; although “TWatCHofK” get some originality credit: I’ve never actually heard the musical term for song sections said during the song before– and during “Not What You Know” we get a scream of “Bridge!!” right before, that’s right– the bridge.

King Giant’s “Mississippi River” sounds like Tom Waits on sludge and is worth getting in and of itself.



4) Dark Angel, Darkness Descends:

The live version included here of “Perish in Flames” is awesome– at around 1:00 a second guitar suddenly enters on the left channel, and whether it was intentional or not, it sounds great, as does the longer version of the song. The whole album reminds you what true speed is– there’s a genuine sense of velocity, one that blast beats can’t adequately convey; 27 years later, listening to Dark Angel still makes me think, “Fuck, they are fast.” And unlike blastibeaty black metal, the vocals here try to keep up with the velocity of the drums, too fast here to even actually sing, they must just speak rudely…. it slows down temporarily, but only to accentuate the speed when it inevitably returns….


5) Wormrot, Dirge: 

“Puckish,” not threatening (unlike say Rotten Sound or Phobia), Wormrot are the most together garage band ever, and they fire at you strangely satisfying grindcore in standard tuning: there’s a “clean,” live, direct sound, one buzzsaw-like, and it makes Wormrot sound like Agnostic Front on the Joker’s Smilex toxin… highlight is “Principle of Puppet Warfare,” but if you like one, you’ll like all. They’re really just movements of a long single song. It’s almost (more so than other grindcore) thrash metal (which makes sense, seeing as it came from hardcore/punk) gone completely off the rails, coming apart at the seams, like they’ve gotten going to fast to slow down and they’ve lost control. Except they never quite do. And despite the velocity and screaming, they sound like they’re having fun.


6) Cauldron, Burning Fortune

A cruder, lumbering, crusty, heavier Dokken– whoever writes the riffs loves that fifth-chord-to-flatted-sixth thing that George Lynch does in every other Dokken song (see: “In My Dreams,” “Alone Again,” and “Breaking the Chains”)– I didn’t realize that this single type of riff could nearly instantly take me back to watching VHS tapes of Headbanger’s Ball in 1987. Track “Rapid City” is Dokken + Motörhead….

Overall, Cauldron are Dokken with worse solos and better riffs; the vocals are about the same. [Note: a track from Cauldron’s previous album, “The Striker Strikes,” is the number 1 dumbest song of last year as well as the most fun.]


7) Lair of the Minotaur, The Ultimate Destroyer and Evil Power:

I know well the line straddling parody and… whatever else there is. This has gone over it. Not that it’s bad, but Evil Power is pretty much Dethklok. The Ultimate Destroyer, on the other hand, is awesome in its sheer disregard for reality.




8) Northless, Clandestine Abuse:

The best Crowbar disciple (or cenobite?  hierophant?); they’ve got an obvious sense of dynamics, while also maintaining the sonic equivalence to an enduring major depressive episode.




9) Graviton, Massless:

When listening to random new tunes (to reduce bias), before I could remember their name, Graviton was “that subatomic-particle band.” Seriously. Each song is named for one– a subatomic particle that is– and is a strange yet soothing combo of ambient, Swans-like, Alice in Chains-y, progressive noise. Like most innovative music, I didn’t like it at all at first, but it kept attracting me, and made me get my head around it, rather than it molding to what I wanted to hear. It’s the band for you if you’ve ever thought, “I love Intronaut, but they’re just not weird enough for me.”

“Anti-Mesons” sounds like Paul Oakenfold or DJ Tiësto, with a chorus like one of the chants from The Thin Red Line, and “Fermion” is distinctly Sonic Youth-y. Sludge finally meets up with indie rock. Overall, Massless is the best kind of music– unclassifiable, with a genre palate so wide you may as well not bother classifying it.


10) Indian, Guiltless:

“Benality” in particular– if Horseback is sludge on a black metal steed, then Indian (what a dumb name, though) is that same steed having his legs blown out from under him via cannon fire, and hurtling downhill, to fall to earth among the also-dead (but what a cool sound).

With the influx of sludgy bands, particularly on Relapse records (I still like Howl and Salome the best), it seems like bands are trying to out-heavy each other by slowing speed to a point where it’s nearly without time or meter all together (like Death metal kept trying to out-Satan, out-speed and out-gore each other)– and this to such an extent that the slowest/ most without meter, like Indian or Unearthly Trance, can end up sounding like the last five minutes of live songs that your favorite bands end their encore with–

You know, that last chord, usually open, just keeps being hit– “BONG! spacespacespace “BONG!” spacespacespacespace “BONGBONG… BONGBONGBONGBONG!!”  Guiltless sounds like that. Not that that’s not cool sometimes, it is.

I just keep wondering how they’ll encore.

Indian are anti-sludge/ anti-blackened sludge: not in that they don’t have “sludge” characteristics, but that they retain them while eschewing MUSICAL characteristics: a floating tempo –once charitably called “rubato,” like Unearthly Trance– and seemingly (unintentionally) serialist riffs, in that they seemingly have no home key– they’re not hummable at all, and it’s like they’re daring you to keep up with them: they’re so random as to seem intentionally so: or, as The Silence of the Lambs put it: “Like the elaborations of a bad liar.”


  1. I definitely agree; in an odd way the “internet problem” has only made it more urgent for “critics” to be more concise in their writing. It selectively eliminates excess verbiage. :)

    And there are certain writers whose opinion I trust, e.g., Cosmo, you, Ben Ratliff, and so on, who can show me alternate ways to perceive albums (and whom I regularly read), but I would probably also read *whatever* they wrote about, let alone albums I might want to hear.

    I figured the Summon The Crows would interest you: they’re like if Slayer were a D-beat band like Acephalix or All Pigs Must Die.

  2. I read that Citrus Fruit Not On View post too. While I agree the role of the music critic has changed to that of a nudger, I don’t think the death knell has been sounded for longer form album reviews. I like dipping into my favourite blogs for the pleasure of reading expressive prose about music. I enjoy the writing itself and love to chew over the tasty morsels of insight and information about my favoured – and new – musical forms as well as being nudged towards new bands I should be listening to.

    I think the micro reviews are fun but I hope that longer ramblings with an album as a focal point don’t become completely extinct. I like writing them if nothing else.

    Definitely need to have a listen to Summon The Crows though…

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