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Without the bad, we wouldn't know the good. Without great music, bad music might seem good, or even great. Its with this train of thought that I think Pig Destroyer exist. With their recent effort, Book Burner, Pig Destroyer have produced such mind boggling mediocrity that it just highlights how amazing their second album Prowler in the Yard is and how awful their current album is.
The decline has been pretty sharp since the band followed up their masterpiece with the overly produced and neutered album Terrifyer. While Terrifyer was anything but good, it retained some strain of style and one or two good riffs from Hull. Phantom Limb stumbled in, with it's flavor of the week cover art, songs of ponderous length, and one too many breakdowns that seemed to put the nail in the coffin for Pig Destroyer. With the announcement of another try at the whole "grindcore thing," people like me gained some hope that Pig Destroyer might be able to tap into whatever they had that made Prowler... so powerful.
With a hefty amount of time to work back to their glory, Pig Destroyer have done an impressive job in making one of the year's most inoffensive, sterile, and extremely marketable releases. Book Burner represents most of what I hate in metal. Sterile production, click track perfect drumming a'la robots like Derek Roddey, inane lyrical matter/song titles and guitar riffs that do nothing for me. Relapse, as well as Century Media, Metal Blade, and others, have made their agenda to revolve around this brand of meat and potatoes metal gussied up in surgical production, lack of character, current fads and marketability. Well Book Burner's no different. Some super lame cover art, dumber name, 3,000 different ways to pre-order the album, a slew of guests, and a new drummer spells ca$h I'm sure, but does it spell good music?No.
"The Diplomat," a 3 minute cookie cutter track presented as the album's first single as well as one of the first glimpses into the album's sound offers nothing new. Spending most of its time hovering around a stock chugga chugga guitar line, midtempo drumming and of course breakdown sections, "The Diplomat" is almost as bad as the video made for it (something I'd rather not talk about here).
As for the rest of the album, it's a sprinkle of what Misery Index's been doing since 2006 with a pinch of Terrifyer, and a bottle or two of Ambien. Jarvis, the new man behind the kit, of course made his name playing as a clock for Misery Index, so the sterility in that department isn't surprising. What is surprising is that the best vocals on the album come from Kat of Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Salome fame on "Eve" and Richard Johnson of Enemy Soil/Drugs of Faith fame on "The Underground Man." Between these two guests, there's more emotion, vitriol, and a pulse than the rest of the band. This is particularly alarming as Pig Destroyer have always operated best in filth, depravity, and twisted thoughts. Yet they've become as harmless as Mastadon or whoever's the big cheese nowadays.
As for the riffs, most lay in between "alright" and "sure." As I write this, the generic-ness surrounding this album is so stupefying that I really can't find words to describe how little of an impact and forgettable most of the tracks are here. The only one standing out for me is "Permanent Funeral" as Hull gives an interesting treatment to a very Destruction-esque riff and makes it work for nearly 4 minutes. While the song should be 2, this might've been the one song that made me look at the track list out of joy rather than malice.
Is it unfair to compare this to Prowler in the Yard, or anything else for that matter? I don't think so, but if I did, the overwhelming lack of character here makes it feel like a different band, a band I wouldn't give two shits about.
So while people, press releases, reviewers and media outlets will continue to call Hull a guitar genius, Hayes " the poet laureate of extreme metal," Harrison a master of atmosphere and Jarvis "the pinnacle of inhuman drumming" Pig Destroyer have effectively created one of the most memorably mediocre albums in extreme metal.
To quote another band that went down the drain, "don't believe the hype."
****On a side note, the biggest offense here, without a doubt, are the bonus cover songs. Pig Destroyer's never been good at covering songs. Their "Burning of Sodom" cover might be okay, but as for their treatment of the Dwarves, the Melivins, The Stooges, Carcass, and whatever else has always been pretty lackluster. But to take rough cut punk classics like Black Flag's "Depression" and play with that fucking sterile robot Jarvis is a complete mockery. The guitars lack any kind of punch and the band rides Hayes's vocals as he does a surprisingly great job ripping things up (especially on that "Wolf's Blood" cover). This is real bad shit here and it'd do your mind best to avoid it or else some of your favorite punk classics might leave a bad taste in your mouth the next time you hear them.
It's also worth mentioning that the people who seem to like this are more in the realm of metal rather than grindcore. So gauge your expectations based on that as well.
Originally written for http://perpetualstrifemusic.blogspot.com/