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The brand of musicians and people attracted to grindcore have rarely been ones to care much about what others think of them. In spite of that, Washington-based grindlings Pig Destroyer have been an object of love and affection from press and fans alike. Whether it’s for their surprisingly technical approach to the style’s trademark fury, their provocative lyrics or beyond-the-call ambitions, Pig Destroyer have long been a go-to act when demonstration is needed to show what grindcore is potentially capable of. With a five year break since their last full-length (2007’s “Phantom Limb), it’s been about bloody time that we have something new from these guys. With consideration that “Prowler in the Yard” and “Phantom Limb” are among my favourite grind records, it’s more than a little disappointing that “Book Burner” is what it is; a fairly monotonous ‘more of the same’ type album that doesn’t seem to offer much more to the band’s career than what came before it. The trademark tech-aggression and ferocity is indeed here, but I’m not sensing the clever songwriting and dynamic that made some of their past work so remarkable.
“Book Burner” follows a proud grind tradition- that is, the breaking up of music into short, bite-sized tracks. The 19 tracks here consist of 32 minutes, although for the sake of approaching “Book Burner” as an album, the entire thing feels like a single, flowing chunk of aggressive music. Each track floods seamlessly into the next, and unless you’re paying heed to the track numbers as they whiz by, it’s conceivable that you won’t even notice a break between songs. For all purposes, this is one of the best things about “Book Burner”; although there are few ‘recurring themes’ to give it the semblance of a half-hour epic, the furious momentum brokers no surrender once it’s fired up. Save for a few ambivalently successful voice samples, there’s little pause in the string of thrashy riffs and punkish rhythms. At little over half an hour, the album ends before the formula thin.
Pig Destroyer’s greatest strength remains their razor-sharp performance, and this is something that hasn’t lost any of its bite during the band’s studio silence. For one, “Book Burner” enjoys one of the angriest-sounding guitar tones I’ve heard in recent memory. It’s got the richness of tone that Meshuggah sports, but it’s filtered through a much more frantic style of riffing. Generally, Scott Hull’s guitar work alternates between a barrage of furious noise and more structured riffs, the likes of which I could imagine hearing in a raw-produced thrash record. The addition of Adam Jarvis is a fitting one; the new drummer brings an appropriate attack of blastbeats and manic permafills that riles up an added whirlwind while keeping the technical edge of the music refined and precise.
Of course, performance standards only take a band so far, especially when the compositions themselves aren’t so interesting. This is certainly the case with “Book Burner”, an album that seems to suffer a tragic case of déjà vu. Although it’s clear that the band intended to create a record that emphasized anger over anything else, “Book Burner” is essentially an artillery barrage of the same few elements, over and over and over again. The handful of tracks that amount to conceivable ‘full song lengths’ (the single “The Diplomat” included) are forgettable on their own, instead blurring facelessly into the rest of the album. Frankly, as much as the initial impact seems to nail exactly what Pig Destroyer were aiming for, it’s the repeated listens that show the album’s flaws. It doesn’t take long for the album’s style to become familiar, but even when it does, there isn’t much of a memorable nature to speak of here.
Pig Destroyer haven’t given up on their core values, but for whatever reason, the album lacks the dynamic and lasting appeal of alot of their earlier material. There is some chaotic fun to be had here, but the shock value is sadly short lasted. The initial burstfire energy may be worth the price of admission alone, but “Book Burner” won’t be one to admire on the long haul.