I wrote The Guide to Getting into Anaal Nathrakh for Vice

Photo courtesy of Metal Blade

Photo courtesy of Metal Blade

The latest installment in Vice music vertical Noisey’s “The Guide to Getting into” is up and its author is…Me.

Here’s the article.

I still can’t believe that this actually happened. First, Anaal Nathrakh is one of my top five favorite bands and has been so for almost a decade. That I got to share my passion for a band that has had such a profound impact on my musical tastes (and get paid doing so) is nothing short of surreal.

Second, huge professional milestone. The largest since I started to publish my metal reviews on Metal Injection last summer. Vice is the first major mainstream news source that I’ve freelanced for and that means a lot to me.

With luck, this is a sign of things to come. I’d like to explore more writing opportunities this year and we’ll just have to see what happens. If you’re a journalism-type and like what you see, don’t hesitate to reach out.

A halt on my Disney reviews

Nov 7 update: Disney lifted the ban on the Los Angeles Times after several other major outlets and individuals, including the New York Times and CNN’s Jake Tapper, stood in solidarity with the Los Angeles Times. With the ban lifted, this article is somewhat a moot point, since I assume all critics will resume attending press screenings. As for me, my schedule is packed and reviews of the Disney releases mentioned below aren’t a high priority. We’ll see.

Regardless, it warms my heart to see so many major news organizations and reporters show support for the Los Angeles Times.

It’s become something of a tradition for me to review the latest Marvel films and television shows. I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and even though I get paid nothing to review them (either financially or in exposure) it’s still something that I’ve enjoyed doing.

I’m going to halt my reviews for the time being, though. It’s right to stand in solidarity with the Los Angeles Times since Disney has banned the news organization from its press screenings. The ramifications of Disney’s action are apparent and have been well articulated by several journalists at publications ranging from the Washington Post to The A.V. Club.

It’s laughable to compare my blog to any of these publications. I’m well aware that my readership numbers are an infinitesimal fraction of any of the aforementioned news organizations or those of any comparably established film critic. This website is essentially a glorified portfolio.

Still, I can’t see any reason to exert creative effort or write anything that could be construed as free advertising for Disney. Unless they issue a formal apology to the Los Angeles Times and rescind the ban, it’s clear that Disney does not care about freedom of the press.

If I’m going to write for free which all of the non-Metal Injection articles on this website are I’d rather write about releases that are published by businesses that aren’t so nakedly hostile to honest, important journalism.

So, no review of “Thor: Ragnarok” or Netflix’s upcoming “The Punisher.”

Thanks for reading.

I interviewed Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray

New music. Staying strong as the band’s big Three Zero approaches. And it’s Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray, so, The ’90s.


I had a wonderful time interviewing Mark, who was just as magnanimous and kind off camera as he was during the interview. Big shoutout to the Ventura County Star for making it happen.


Check out the video here.

I’m a contributor at Metal Injection now

So, that happened.

Pop culture critique — especially heavy metal record reviewing — has always been one of my major passions and one of the main things that motivated me to get into journalism in the first place. I’ve sought to monetize my pop culture writing for quite some time but have always struggled to create the all-important industry connections that would make that possible.

So, I created this website. I figured that if I couldn’t make the connections, I’d consistently churn out high quality content until the powers that be were forced to acknowledge me.

I’ve sunk an enormous amount of personal time into this blog, and the work has been emotionally grueling at times. I find this kind of writing to be cathartic and an enjoyable creative challenge (and forcing myself to discover interesting new music is a definite positive), but when you regularly spend your weekends writing meticulous thousand-plus word reviews and publishing them to complete radio silence, it really, really starts to wear you down. I don’t mean to suggest that this makes me special or “better” than anyone else, just that it feels great to finally see nine months of seemingly thankless work pay off.

On that note, I’m ecstatic to begin working with Metal Injection. Getting paid to write this stuff goes a long way to legitimize my work, which I’m incredibly thankful for. But beyond that (and more importantly), I’m especially excited because Metal Injection is one of the genre’s leading voices and commands a significant following.

Marketing is not my strong suit, and I can count the number of times I received feedback for my self-published reviews on both hands. Having a platform that will publish and promote my work is infinitely important, and a fantastic professional milestone for me.

While I’m currently on a month-long “trial” period with the publication, Metal Injection’s reviews editor quite liked my material and given that I’m set up with a few major metal record labels’ promo releases, I’m confident that I’ll be here for the duration.

Going forward, most of my heavy metal record reviews will be published on Metal Injection. I’ll obviously be posting the links to them here, though the actual content will be on Metal Injection’s website. I’ll still publish non metal review articles on this website, though I’ll obviously want to channel a good portion of my creative energy into reviews for the publication to ensure that … Y’know, they’re good and stuff. I’ve kept to a three posts per month standard quite well and I plan on maintaining that. Jury is still out on exactly how many Metal Injection reviews I’ll be writing per month, though I’d guestimate it’ll usually be two.

Anyway, like I said, fantastic professional milestone. I look forward to working with Metal Injection and I hope you look forward to reading my reviews that will be regularly appearing on the website.

2016 Albums of the Year list

So there’s been plenty of talk about how 2016 was bad. Plenty of reason for that, I suppose, but it was an immensely enjoyable year for me. Graduated from college, interned at the Los Angeles Times and now I’m working full time as a journalist in SoCal. I’m pretty happy.

Also the music was really good.

Smooth transition.

OK, so the accuracy and usefulness of “Best Of” lists is dubious at best, as generally-cool-person-who-I-hope-to-talk-to-one-day Fenriz said in a recent Vice interview, but damn if they aren’t fun to occasionally write. I discovered more incredible new music this year than the last several combined and if at least one reader enjoys something off this list then I’ll consider my work paid off.


10) The Black Queen – Fever Daydream (synthpop)

“Ice to Never” is best song of the year.

I can’t stress that enough. It’s not an example of a perfect pop song. It IS the perfect pop song and single-handedly worth the price of admission. It’s a testament to “Fever Daydream’s” quality that the single doesn’t completely overshadow the rest of the record. Pop, synthpop, ambient, electronica, whatever you want to call it, this is the album of the year for all of those genres.

When it works (the vast majority of the time), such as on “Secret Scream,” “The End is Where we Begin” or the aforementioned single, it’s an incredible rush. This goes without saying, but Greg Pucatio is one of modern music’s best vocalists: His frantic screaming is well known in The Dillinger Escape Plan, but his softer side is no less enjoyable and makes for some of the best vocal highlights of the year on “Fever Daydream.”

As I noted in my review, the album is far from perfect, but the highs are so memorable that “Fever Daydream” edges out more consistent records to earn a spot on the list.

9) Ulcerate – Shrines of Paralysis (death metal)

It’s not inventive or groundbreaking, just another slab of top-tier death metal. This is Ulcerate’s finest work, which is saying quite a lot considering the band’s impeccable discography.

“Shrines of Paralysis” uncompromisingly direct death metal at its finest. Technical, without the pretensions associated with techdeath, brutal, but not repetitive or dully straightforward like brutal or slam death metal.

For more proof, check out my review of the record. Or just buy it, because you definitely won’t be disappointed.

Put plainly, it’s really, really good and yet more proof that Ulcerate is one of the best bands producing death metal today.

8) Oathbreaker – Rheia (black metal, post-metal)

I’m sorry: Like everyone else, I’m gonna make the comparison to Deafheaven.

Oathbreaker is better than Deafheaven. “Rheia” is better than “Sunbather” and “New Bermuda” combined. Imagine all the hyperbolic claim Deafheaven wrongly receives. Now, imagine if it was all actually accurate. Apply it to Oathbreaker and it pretty much is.

That aside, Oathbreaker is one of the best female-fronted metal bands currently on the scene and … No, just one of the best bands producing this kind of post (ish) black metal in general. “Second Son of R” has been lauded as one of the year’s best metal tracks for good reason but the rest of the hour-long album is nearly as enjoyable. No small feat.

This is one of those albums that needs to be listened to with headphones in a quiet place. The patience will be rewarded.

7) Every Time I Die – Low Teens (metalcore)

If your disdain for Every Time I Die stems from Warped Tour, the band’s genre or their (relative) mainstream success, you’re an idiot.

“Low Teens” is even better than 2014’s “From Parts Unknown” — one of that year’s best albums — and a generally fantastic 40-something minutes of metalcore. No weak moments, but plenty of highlights that are still fresh months after the record’s release. The chorus near the end of “Awful Lot” is one of my favorite musical moments of the year, while the frenzied “The Coin Has a Say” is also generally fantastic. The band also flexes its melodic muscles on “Two Summers” and “It Remembers,” excellent pop-flirting tracks that offer much-needed breathers and stave off fatigue.

Few metal records are this accessible, diverse and repeatable. I expect to continue jamming to this one long into 2017.

6) Vektor – Terminal Redux (thrash metal, progressive metal)

I dislike the vast majority of thrash, but good lord, this album is fantastic. It’s appearing on many “Best Of” lists, many of which cite it as 2016’s strongest metal album. Haughty talk, but merely one listen gives those arguments plenty of credence.

Super fast, technical, plenty of shred, raspy screams. All of the expected thrash elements are here (plus a good dose of prog) but it’s so downright expansive, it grasps your attention for the entirety of its massive 73 minute runtime. That’s an amazing accomplishment for any record, especially one as consistently fast and uncompromising as “Terminal Redux.” This album is likely to become as essential to underground thrash as “Master of Puppets” and “Peace Sells” are to the mainstream side of the genre. Wow.

5) Wormrot – Voices (grindcore)

Something is deeply wrong with this album.

Yeah, yeah. Grindcore. Cold, misanthropic and violent. It’s all of those things, sure. But it’s the sheer emptiness that perturbs me: “Voices” is an unnervingly nihilistic record. Disturbingly so.
I haven’t been this unsettled by an album since I first listened to Anaal Nathrakh way back in high school. Of course, it’s all the more wonderful for that.

Pig Destroyer, Nails, pick your leading grindcore band; they’re fantastic and deserve all the acclaim they receive, but most of them have a polished, clean-cut sheen. OK, I know that’s not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you picture grind, but the point is that you generally know what you’re going to get when you listen to one of those bands’ records.

Conversely, Wormrot’s “Voices,” is a twisted, macabre journey into true “what the fuck is happening” territory. The closest comparison is probably Insect Warfare’s grind cornerstone “World Extermination.” The vocals are similarly horrifying, the pacing is utterly relentless and both records are flat-out nihilistically grisly affairs. Wormrot’s sound is more measured, diverse and less prone to fatigue. All of this is shocking, given that “Voices” is actually a bit longer than Insect Warfare’s sole LP.

Really though, this record is in a league of its own. It’s terrifying, evil and hopelessly empty. It’s also one of the best grind albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to.

4) Anaal Nathrakh – The Whole of the Law (black metal, grindcore)

In my review of “The Whole of the Law,” I described Anaal Nathrakh as having the subtlety of a nuclear bomb and the intensity to match. I still think that’s the perfect descriptor. This is a monumental return to form for the extreme metal duo and undeniable proof that the undeniable heaviest band on the planet is still one of the genre’s best.

This must be what people that don’t listen to metal think all metal sounds like. In a good way, though. It’s oppressively loud, blisteringly fast and horribly violent. It’s the aural counterpart to your body being shredded to pieces by a horde of angry demons. “The Whole of the Law” grabs you by the balls while smashing your head to pieces, and every excruciating second of that is pure joy.

I immediately gave this album a perfect score when I reviewed it, only really criticizing the covers. They’ve aged well, though and have become some of my favorite tracks on the record.

Still, this record isn’t for everyone. If you’re not used to extreme metal this will probably sound like white noise. But if you can bear the chaos, this is quite the thrilling listen.

3) Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition (hip-hop)

“Atrocity Exhibition” has shattered my perceptions of what hip-hop can be.

N.W.A. and a sprinkling of Tyler the Creator and Wu-Tang Clan are about as much hip-hop as I can typically take. But this … This is how I first felt when first discovering that all extreme metal wasn’t obnoxious noise. It’s single-handedly made me excited to dive further into the genre.

The songs are unbelievably inventive and diverse, the lyrics are equally edgy and human, the featured artists are impactful and the trippy, drugged-up atmosphere is delightfully tense and unnerving.

I can’t critically review this album to my satisfaction because I have such limited experience with this kind of music. All I know is that I can’t stop spinning this record, even after literally dozens of listens and now I want to further explore the genre that it came from.

Years from now, maybe I’ll have more experience in the genre or maybe my initial impressions will have cooled off. I don’t know. Right now, I just want to listen to it again, tell all of my friends and continue finding new ways to appreciate the record.

If that’s not a sign of a masterpiece, I don’t know what is.

2) The Dillinger Escape Plan – Disassociation (metalcore, experimental)

I actually couldn’t listen to this album in full until two weeks after its release. It was just too emotionally taxing.

I grew up with this band, am firmly convinced they are, or were, I guess, the greatest live act of their time and I generally hold them in the same level of reverence that The Beatles enjoyed from older generations way back when.

So, I’m a bit biased. Thing is, “Disassociation” truly deserves all the acclaim it has received. The Dillinger Escape Plan has put out several (near) classic records but “Disassociation” is without a doubt the band’s finest work. It’s a mature, diverse — and yes, deeply emotional — record.

The raging heaviness of past tracks such as “Sunshine the Werewolf” and “Prancer” is largely absent but that’s not to say “Disassociation” is soft. There’s still plenty of frantic metalcore and nearly every track is excellent, but the album’s remarkable scope and complexity is what really sets the record in a league of its own. “Symptom of Terminal Illness,” “Nothing to Forget” and the jaw-dropping title track closer are some of the band’s quietest, most deeply personal works and easily among the best songs in the band’s discography.

This is a majestic swansong from heavy metal’s apex performers. Thank you.

1) Chthe’ilist – Le Dernier Crépuscule (death metal)

Was it ever even a question that this would be the album of the year?

Shockingly, yes. The last 12 months have been jam-packed with remarkable music and half of the albums on this list could’ve easily topped a “Best Of” list almost any other year.

That said, “Le Dernier Crépuscule” is the best of the best. Every unearthly roar, the inexplicabely groovy guitar lines, the grueling atmosphere, it all blends together to create one of the most forbidding soundtracks to the arcane I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. The only real comparison would be Demilich’s metal cornerstone “Nespithe.” I never thought I’d hear another record that could match Demilich’s alien soundscape, but “Le Dernier Crépuscule” has managed the impossible. It’s hardly an imitation, though. As I wrote in January: It’s one of metal’s most inventive, exciting and downright terrifying outputs in years and an incredible starting point for the band.

I also said that the record was an early contender for album of the year. Well, it is.

It doesn’t get better than this.

I’m blogging now

Hi there.

I plan on sharing many of the more substantial news pieces I pen for the Ventura County Star (and wherever I may work in the future) on this blog. I’ve also been itching to publish more pop culture critiques (namely music/gaming/film reviews and whatnot) and this will be a great vehicle to motivate me to produce content outside of the 9-5 at least somewhat consistently.

Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy the words.