Probot (Southern Lord Records)

Joe Carducci, author of Rock and the Pop Narcotic, built his literary ziggurat on a somewhat heretical foundation: If you want Heavy in your music, your drummer better have cinder-block hands and a superhuman sense of swing. Carducci's belief in the drummer may not be catholic with the metalheads who normally revere guitarists, vocalists or even the bassist (hail, Lemmy!) before considering the drummer, but Catholics don't make good metal bands anyway.

Probot, Dave Grohl's joint venture with a dozen of the more infamous voices in metal, should be the acid test for Carducci's theory. Forget your feelings about Grohl's other bands/projects and just consider his ability to jackhammer beats: Yeah, that's right, he's frickin' awesome. He makes four/four hurt in the back of your throat, and when he goes for the off-time stuff, your heart resets itself to synch up with his snare-paw. He's a beast, pure and simple. And since Dave plays drums (and most other instruments, too) on every song, Probot should be all killer and no filler, if Carducci is correct. C'mon, how can you go wrong with Dave Grohl and Tom G. Warrior?

Sorry, Carducci: Probot has its moments, sure, but it's not the all-out metal conquest it could have been. The aforementioned Warrior cut, "Big Sky," sounds like a limp late-era Prong throwaway, all synthy and soft in the middle. "Dichtosaurus," with Snake (of Voivod), sounds a little too alt-rock and not enough thrash-rock. Power-drumming is not enough to drag these down to the darkness of the Lee Dorrian-sung "Ice Cold Man," or "Access Babylon," which is spit with gritty vitriol by C.O.C.'s Mike Dean. What's the difference? Guitarist Kim Thayil adds true menace to Dorrian's "grimmvokations" on the former, and Dean and Grohl benefit from the protean Crossover burr of Bubba Dupree's rasping guitar (that's Bubba Dupree of the legendary Void, son; he, too, is awesome). And they all cower under the bloody knuckles of Wino's "The Emerald Law," the best cut on the album.

Sure, let the drummer have some every now and then; just get him a hot guitarist and solid four-stringer, too. That's the lesson in Probot.