This review was written by: Sniper Dan
In a genre that is often associated with incessant pig squealing and sometimes unintelligent writing, both musically and lyrically, grindcore legends Pig Destroyer‘s highly anticipated fifth full length release, Book Burner, is a welcome break. Not to suggest that there is a single second of idleness on this record, except of course in the rests written into the guitar parts by Scott Hull, a founding member of both Pig Destroyer and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. His technical yet still groovy riffs feature rests throughout and even they are loaded with the tension and savagery that fills this album. Washington DC’s Pig Destroyer have not released a full length album since 2007’s critically acclaimed Phantom Limb. Their rabid fan base and critics alike have created a ton of hype for this release. The guys in Pig Destroyer have certainly lived up to it. With 19 songs in the space of 31 minutes, the tracks range from the swift bludgeoning of “The Underground Man” to the damn near flirt with doom on “Permanent Funeral.” Along the way Hull manages to get in a vast array of styles into the riffs running from thrash to black metal to hardcore, but he never loses the essence of what makes good grindcore: never lingering for too long on any one thing to keep it swift, brutal and fresh. While the jumping of time signatures and tempos can keep the newly acquainted guessing when to head bang at times, the stretches of soon-to-be classic neck snapping riffs that lie between will ensure that you will keep listening to it until you know every rest and tempo shift.
The longtime search to replace former drummer Brian Harvey ended in 2011 when Adam Jarvis, also of Misery Index, joined Pig Destroyer. This is Jarvis’ first recording with Pig Destroyer and his addition certainly aids in “Book Burner” living up to its hype. He doesn’t simply ride the double bass throughout the entire recording either, but uses his entire kit to bring the mad rhythms to life. There is machine gun bass a plenty though, fear not! The track “The Diplomat” best reflects both of these aspects while the following track, “All Seeing Eye,” is a show of pure endurance as Jarvis blasts through a relentless, and no doubt breathless, 42 seconds of classic grindcore mayhem. Album closer “Permanent Funeral” shows that Pig Destroyer can really hold a groove and Jarvis carries it throughout the opening. I foresee many nights of head banging with a beer in my hand while this blares from my speakers. To be honest, just about every song on Book Burner oozes with the trademark head banging moshability of Pig Destroyer. I can’t wait to see “Iron Drunk” live because the pit for that song is going to be the most fun you can have wearing pants (unless you are that guy who takes off his pants in the mosh pit).
Pig Destroyer laughs at the conventional thinking that says to be brutal you must have lots of bass drops or at least a bassist of some sort. Pig Destroyer notoriously has no bassist yet that has never detracted from their sound in the slightest. What they do have is sample-man Blake Harrison. I understand that using words like “sampler” when listing band members is anathema to many metal heads out there, but the samples used throughout the album are well thought out and executed. The sample that stands out the most is on “The Bug.” The track opens with television legend Walter Cronkite reading an excerpt from Henry Miller’s Tropic Of Cancer. This is brilliant in many ways and I believe reflects the level of thought and inspiration that went into this album. To have an internationally known TV star reading from a famously banned book on an album titled Book Burner is indeed clever, especially in light of the lyrics on the album’s title track. The samples are not there simply to link the songs to create an album that never stops for 31 minutes, but to add layers to the dark atmosphere that drips from from this album.
The production value of Pig Destroyer’s discography seems to increase with each record, yet Book Burner has a bit more of a raw feeling to it. Frontman J.R. Hayes’ vocals are less processed but have a proper coating of violence and aggression that can easily take hold of the listener. Known as one of the better wordsmiths in the metal world, J.R. Hayes’ lyrics on Book Burner live up to his reputation. It is obvious that Hayes takes his literature seriously. His ability to set up the situations through the beginning of the songs and then end them with a forcible point is crucial to the shortened songs of grindcore. You can check out the lyric video to “Burning Palm” at the end of this post to see for yourself. This album also features several guest vocalists, most of whom come from the greater DC area. This includes Kat Katz, who is also in Agoraphobic Nosebleed and ex-Salome, on “Eve” and “The Bug” and Richard “The Grindfather” Johnson of Drugs Of Faith and Agoraphobic Nosebleed on “The Underground Man” and Jason Netherton of Misery Index on “The Diplomat.” It is also worth noting that the deluxe edition of the album includes a short story written by J.R. Hayes titled The Atheist which is a thrilling ride into a dystopian future where America is run by the Christian church which, in the story, is really more of a totalitarian regime. There is no direct tie in with the album, other than some name references and the same theme of distrusting and resisting organized religion. You can read the entire story over at Cvlt Nation here.
Pig Destroyer have been hailed as kings of grindcore with Scott Hull’s brutal-yet-somehow-catchy riffs, sometimes complex and sometimes direct song writing, and their well written lyrical content. Book Burner is yet another jewel on their crown. Pig Destroyer continues to be at the forefront of grindcore with this album that features performances by what can almost be called a who’s-who of grindcore today. The addition of drummer Adam Jarvis was a great move as he greatly contributes to the band, as does the dark sampling of Blake Harrison. The vocals of J.R. Hayes stand out as dirty and savage and the lyrics are a highlight of the album. D.C. is lucky to have a band this innovative and who produces such quality music with each release that they put out. Pig Destroyer has long been known to be a gateway band for those new to grindcore, and Book Burner may be more so than any of their previous albums. In fact every copy of the album should be clearly marked – Warning: Pig Destroyer’s Book Burner may lead to a serious grindcore addiction!
Video for “The Diplomat”
Lyric Video for “Burning Palm”
Listen to “Baltimore Strangler”
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