Pivotal grindcore foursome Pig Destroyer released their last album, Phantom Limb, in 2007. Following the troubling masterpiece that was 2004’s Terrifyer, the full-length showed growth in the increased attention to atmosphere thanks to adding noise/sample specialist Blake Harrison to the lineup alongside founders Scott Hull (guitar; also of Agoraphobic Nosebleed) and vocalist J.R. Hayes and drummer Brian Harvey. That addition fit well with Pig Destroyer‘s attack, which was just as much about the underlying psychological violence in the songs and in Hayes‘ lyrics as much as it was about any sonic pummel, and Phantom Limb, though not as outwardly biting as Terrifyer before it, was massively well received.
That was five years ago. In 2012, Pig Destroyer‘s Book Burner reads like a victory lap taken while wearing the skins of all who would oppose them. Their fourth album for Relapse and fifth overall, the tradeoff between cuts like “Totaled” (an endgame highlight at 0:43) and the alternately twisting/twisted chug of the earlier “The Diplomat” gives a sense of the four-piece’s sonic breadth. Having replaced Harvey with Adam Jarvis (Misery Index), they’ve given no ground where they haven’t meant to, but Pig Destroyer do more with the 1:46 of “Iron Drunk” than most bands do on a whole record, the way one track plays into the next on the 19-song release being no less thought out than any of the music actually contained within them.
Hype throughout the years for Pig Destroyer has been massive, whether it was the unchecked violence of 2001’s Prowler in the Yard or the cinematic scope of 2008’s 37-minute Natasha EP — a single track that, actually released as a second disc with Terrifyer, is nonetheless longer than any Pig Destroyer full-length — and Book Burner isn’t like to change that. Nonetheless, the sense of mood and atmosphere they bring to a still-frenetic track like “Valley of the Geysers” speaks to exactly how they got to be the most important grind band since Napalm Death and the Henry Miller quote they use to open “The Bug” is given a disturbing context by the building malevolence behind it.
Make no mistake, this is violent music. It always has been. The difference between Pig Destroyer and a lot of other violent music, however, is the difference between Hannibal Lecter and Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Pig Destroyer maintain that psychopathic sense of calm, as though the storm they create is effecting everything around but their own collective cerebellum. The blasting pummel of “Kamikaze Heart” and “King of Clubs” gives way to the many-faced groove of “Permanent Funeral” — a culminating mid-paced breakdown rhythm that seems to suggest Meshuggah should be ashamed of themselves — to end Book Burner with a final blow as efficient at a sprawling 4:16 as the title-track had been at 41 seconds.
They’ve matured over the course of their 15 years, as one would hope they would, but Pig Destroyer continue to pursue rarely-trod avenues of psychic trauma, tapping into primal insecurities on Book Burner as few acts can. Longtime fans will delight — if that can be the right word — in the brutality of opener “Sis” (an immediate highlight, and not only for the “dangerously angry one minute, rockin’ and rollin’ the next” sample that starts it) and the subsequent “The American’s Head,” and those who either caught on after the success of Phantom Limb or are yet inexperienced with them will find these songs a visceral listen like no other.Alexandria, grindcore, Pig Destroyer, Pig Destroyer Book Burner, Relapse Records, Virginia