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Innovation and efficiency are not necessarily opposing concepts, but often times they can seem that way given how often experiments can go awry. Of course, any kind of experiment tends to begin with a hypothesis that is then subjected to a test, and where music is concerned this is suggested either in the title or the lyrics accompanying the work. Pig Destroyer, a band that is not known for any level of moderation in their craft, decided to conduct a little laboratory episode by doing a complete 180 from the extreme brevity of mostly sub-minute grindcore to the long and winding journey with few turns that is drone/doom, culminating in the pure advent of oddity that is "Natasha". While the title itself is fairly open-ended, the tale contained in the lyrics is an extremely vivid and horrific one, drawing forth imagery that isn't too far outside the Lovecraft-oriented subjects often visited by metal bands. But as with any concept, the risk of the story getting lost in the musical translation is always present, and J.R. Hayes and his crew have been hit or miss in the past in this regard.
The theme of this little terrifying fable runs along the lines of a cliché case of karma coming back to bite a murderer, quite literally once it reaches its conclusion. When simply reading the lyric sheet, the impact of the words hits with about the same level as a well realized 20th century free verse poem, hitting all the right buttons with establishing the setting and the emotions of the characters to inspire a sense of dread and fatalism. Unfortunately, as is largely the case with their standard grindcore songs, this song has a hard time avoiding the pitfall of exaggerating the conventional style they are playing in to the point of becoming comical at a few key points. This is most evident during the atmospheric sections where Hayes' whispered vocals are difficult to comprehend, in spite of the crispness and clarity of the production. In a work such as this, words play an intricate role in making sense of what is going on musically, and the atmospheric aesthetic is literally played up to the point that the vocals almost disappear in the depth of the keyboards, though the vocal delivery isn't terribly convincing: be it when whispered, spoken loudly, or shouted at full intensity.
The so-called sludge sections, which are limited in content but not so in length, lack the excessive emphasis on atmosphere, but more than make up for it in monotony. There are 4 distinctive riffs that make appearances at various points, all of them extremely dry and plain even by the standards of an elongated number out of Nadja or Sunn O))), and accompanied by a drum beat that listens like an extended fill at 1/4 impulse power. The comparison to the aforementioned bands is naturally a bit tenuous, since both possess an organic nature to their production and a necessary rawness that this song lacks. Indeed, in spite of the very obvious attempt at discord and terror realized in the doom style, this comes off as pretty mechanical. The high point of the song is the light, mystical ambient keyboard section before the final onslaught of droning sludge where a taste of serenity is introduced amid the disquiet. It's a small token in a song that clocks in nearly 40 minutes, but it hangs on for several minutes and could have served as a spellbinding intro or interlude to a funeral doom album of some note.
While this ranks as one of the better releases to come out of Pig Destroyer's rather uneven career thus far, it isn't terribly compelling in its musical attributes. One can't help but wonder how much better this story would have been served if some other band had gotten hold of it and turned it into a song cycle or concept based EP. Alas, the strawberry jelly colored mess dripping from the babe's chin on the album cover is more of a trip than the musical contents, good story or not, and Pig Destroyer would be better served by sticking to what they know.
I am a huge fan of Pig Destroyer. I love everything that this band has put out, minus Phantom Limb. When I bought Terrifyer, I was disappointed that my copy did not include the half-hour plus track, Natasha. When I was browsing through my local record store's shelves of CD's, Natasha immediately caught my eye. I was unaware that they were releasing it on it's own, and I was overcome with excitement. I rushed home with it, ran into my room, closed the blinds, turned off the lights, and put it in.
The reason I took the time to set the stage for this song, is because it is a dark work of art onto itself. The song starts with the ambient sounds of a quiet park, with birds chirping and bells in the distance. Whispers of a teenage love gone wrong add an ominous feeling of despair to this slow build up.
Eventually, the guitars kick in. And when they kick in, it's like a ton of bricks falling right on your head. The feedback carries on constantly, ringing over the crushing drums and extremely slowed down grind riffs. The feedback creates layers upon itself, obscuring the continued whispered vocals, telling a delightfully macabre story as only Pig Destroyer knows how to tell it.
The vocal style is very similar to that on "Gravedancer," which is understandable since this was originally released with Terrifyer. The vocal delivery works, allowing the listener to comprehend the lyrics on his own, even though I found it enjoyable to read along while listening. The music follows the mood of the lyrics, with the intensity going up as the story turns violent. The song itself has varying moods throughout its movements, and effectively creates a mental image of the horrifying visuals that the lyrics portray.
While listening, I noticed several recycled samples from earlier in the "Terrifyer" album. At first I almost felt cheated, like they couldn't bother to change the samples for this song. However, upon several listens, it hit me; "Terrifyer" is merely a lead-up to the brilliance that is "Natasha." I thoroughly enjoyed that album, but it seems like mere filler in comparison with what this composition achieves. I really hope that the band puts out more work in the same vein as this, but unfortunately, they seem to be moving in a worse direction. Maybe they'll get out of their mediocre deathgrind phase and start putting out more real grindcore, and, better yet, some tasty grind-doom like this.
I've always been a fan of Grind bands doing slow, doomy songs. I regard Napalm Death's frequent voyages into Swans-pilfering to some of their finest work ever, and regard Cephalic Carnage's "Halls of Amenti" and The Berzerker's "Farewell" to be the greatest thing both bands have ever done. When I heard about "Natasha", I was always keen to hear it, but due to it's ridiculous DVD/Surround Sound format, I could never lay my hands on it. So, when I heard they were re-releasing it as a CD, I was ecstatic! I couldn't believe it! Finally, I could get it! But would it live up to my hopes?
When the ambient noises fade in, it is genuinely creepy and lasts for a good few minutes, before BANG! Out of nowhere comes a huge sounding Godflesh-style riff, mixed with early Swans. The thudding riff just levels you, and the menacing drums just add more weight behind the force with which you fly out of your seat. About now, I'm expecting Micheal Gira to pop up and start crooning in his own unmistakable fashion, but instead we get some whispering and then shouting fro JR Hayes. Although, it's not what I expected, it's certainly great when i get used to it. Perhaps a bit too quiet for my liking, but nothing major. The multi-layering gives the whole thing a schizophrenic quality, and the whole thing sounds like a mentally-ill homeless man ranting. Then it all suddenly stops, and you're given a moment to recollect yourself, thanks to some calming swooshing, before BANG!
Once again, you are levelled as JR turns into full-fledging maniac, shouting and screaming at full volume over a riff which mutates and mutates changing notes every so often, until it's a completely different fucking beast. Then, the to-and-fro nature comes rearing it's head again, as we are treated to more ambience, this time with some strange backwards voices plaguing your mind. Then, it hangs on one note, for what seems an eternity, while samples of various, odd things can be vaguely heard in the background, until a thudding bass note comes in and shatters your pelvis. As this fades out, we begin to hear the remnants of a nice clean riff, glistening and shining out from the darkness, with more Swans worship, this time of later Swans with haunting Jarboe-esque vocals chilling you to the bone. It's nice to see a grindcore band who don't just rely on early Swans, as all the others do, because later Swans is a far greater and far more interesting beast than anything they did before Jarboe joined. Then, water starts to trickle, and I begin to need a pee. A strange voice can be heard, a perverted voice talking as if he is sexually harassing someone, threatening to rape them, all soundtracked by something out of a arthouse horror film. Then there's a riff which is unmistakably doom metal. but it's upbeat. Sounding like a mixture of Burzum, Isis and My Dying Bride, whilst being backed by angelic chants. when the vocals kick in, it's positively ethereal, with a gothic charm unseen before in this type of grindcore experimenting. When the whole thing turns more downbeat with dissonant notes that sound unpleasent to the ear, while JR starts to scream his fucking head off, it really is something to behold. JR's vocals on the next section, mutli-layered, varying from a rabid rabies-ridden dog, to a distorted Bill Steer-esque voice used by so many crap pornogrind bands, but it fucking WORKS. When it all fades out, there's even a slow fucking thrash riff in there, but it WORKS! The ambience seeps through once again, a chilling respite, but the samples which come through leave you bemused "What the fuck is that? What's happening?", before it all washes over you, in the loud hiss of rain and storms, like a more laidback, musique concrete Merzbow. The whole thing envelops you before it stops, and there's silence, nothing. You just don't know what to think. You really don't.
I can see why PD were reluctant to release this as a normal CD, it was developed and certainly suited for the DVD format, but the fact they had a hesitation about releasing this is unbelievable. This is the greatest thing PD have EVER done. Once again, the slow songs outstrip the mind-erasingly fast grind songs by far. Pig Destroyer are a great band, but on this, they've excelled themselves. I hope to fuck they do something else like this in the future. It also sounds like something that I'd love to see Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Hull's other, godly band, do. Actually describing it is hard to say, but imagine early Swans fighting later Swans, being covered by members of Godflesh, Isis, Earth and Merzbow. This doesn't do this justice at all, though. At first, I didn't think it would work. I thought "this will drag, they simply can't stretch this out for 37 minutes" but they have and it works. Astonishing.
With 'Natasha', Pig Destroyer decide to branch out into new territory in the doom metal area, as opposed to the manic grindcore they are so famous for perfecting. And, boy, do they conquer the hell out of doom with a 37 minute epic song.
The song starts off with some building field recordings, keyboards, and sound effects, culminating in a very nice, layered soundscape before the guitars begin their reign of terror. After the song starts picking up with the heavy, it breaks down into another soundscape before taking form in another heavy passage followed by yet another ambient passage, which is generally how the song moves with each passage of crushing doom and calm ambience changing in mood and intensity.
The guitars are fucking crushing. The grind-at-quarter-pace riffs they belt out are menacing, very heavy, and just plain evil at times (not to mention slow as a crippled turtle). They're just the right amount of gritty to add that extra crunch to their sound and they focus the atmosphere and intensity of each of the various "heavy passages" of the song.
The drums are nothing exceptional, but they work very well with the song, doing their job pushing the song forward, keeping steady and brutal rhythms.
Hayes' vocals are executed quite nicely, ranging from melancholy singing and spoken word to psychotic shrieks and bellows, always fitting the varying moods of the song, the soft sung or spoken vocals for the more ambient-focused parts of the songs and the shrill, piercing screams for the most intense of guitar-driven moments.
Lyrically, the song is fairly odd. It starts off describing some girl that the narrator was in love with and his loving experiences with her. He then murders her, feels horrifically guilty about it, and hallucinates about some tree made of flesh eating him alive, or, in other words, committing suicide out of horrid remorse for killing his love.
Finally, the ambience is actually fairly brilliant. The foundation is usually some distorted field recordings with manipulated noises and sound effects swirling around it while keyboards are slowly introduced with some very rich textures, all of it coming together to form some truly dark, yet very beautiful, soundscapes.
Pig Destroyer have effectively proven that they can leave their ridiculous, but no less impressive, onslaught of spastic, face-ripping grindcore roots in favor of slow, atmospheric music and totally kick ass at it. 'Natasha' is a highly recommended piece of art, and nay-sayers should be ignored, because this is some genuinely high quality ambient doom metal.
They still need a damn bassist though to fill in that low end, but with material of this quality, who fucking cares?!
Natasha was originally released on 5.1 DVD audio formats as the bonus disc of Pig Destroyer’s 2004 album Terrifyer. 2008 sees the song being released as a standalone ep and it makes sense because the song is basically a 37 minute behemoth with the band experimenting with a sludge/doom/electronic sound with no trace of the grind that they are famous for.
The song basically goes through a series of moods and is broken up by electronic/ ambient interludes that pop up after every heavy bit. The riffs go from Pure era Godflesh to grind riffs played at a snail’s pace to gentle and quiet clean guitar parts that sound like something Mouth of the Architect would do with a melancholic female vocal chant in the background.
There is a long interlude in the middle with more ambient sounds and atmosphere building and even keyboards before the song once again slowly starts to build momentum. In fact the second half of the song is quite intense and when the band lock in to an Eyehategod styled riff at the 28 minute mark, you know Natasha is deadly serious and naysayers should leave the room.
Lyrically, Natasha is a Poe-esque tale of unrequited love, murder and guilt and like most Pig Destroyer songs the lyrics are of a high quality. Overall, I’m not sure if this is a direction the band will continue to go in. I’m sure a 37 minute sludge doom song would appeal to the band as being ironic and it is but while ironic, it is also very good. This is a song that flows and goes through a variety of moods, some intensely claustrophobic and some calm and gentle.
The band has really pulled off something a bit special with Natasha and while its appeal to their original fan base might be limited, it really is a great song and release for fans of sludge/ doom and stoner.
Originally written for http://www.kvltsite.com
Considering that the average Pig Destroyer song is no longer than a minute, "Natasha" almost seems to be written for the sake of irony. 37 minutes is an awful long time, and even for a drone doom song this can be considered overkill. However this is not a drone doom song, in fact I wouldn't even call it a sludge metal song for that matter despite what has been said.
Let's get down to brass tacks; there's maybe three riffs in the entirety of the song and the riffs themselves are quite unremarkable being of the usual "atmospheric sludge" style which basically means they've pilfered a riff from 'Panopticon' or 'Oceanic'. Now it is quite possible to make a few riffs last a long time through song writing and dynamics, but this thrown right out the window with the structure of "Natasha". Unlike the bands they are desperately attempting to ape, Pig Destroyer have forgotten how to make a song build towards an actual climax; a first riff plays out for ten minutes only be followed up by ten minutes of ambient keyboards and minor feedback until the next two riffs come along and a supposedly eerie section leads the song out. The fact that the riffs in of themself are impeccably similar only further downplays the dynamics significantly, making "Natasha" an exercise in patience that even Jesus would shun.
Lyrically the song actually interested me since clearly there was fuck all going in the riff department; it's a kooky horror story and there are one or two delicious analogies that are effective in imagery. Of course this is wasted thanks to Hayes being incoherent regardless of whether it's his usual bark or his whispery vocals that previously appeared on tracks such as "Loathsome". I can understand the whispery vocals being buried in the mix and perhaps contributing to the atmosphere but it comes at the cost of one of the few redeeming features of the entire song.
Despite their approach and intention however the production is the final stake through the heart for this track. It's far too well produced for what it I assume they're aiming to achieve. When the feedback sounds clean, you know you're doing something wrong. Everything crunches through without being messy like a scalpel; if you're going to play sludge you've gotta play like you're trying to saw a hippopotamus in half with a rusty bread knife.
When all is said and done though, it's admirable that Pig Destroyer have attempted the polar opposite to what they usually play but it just so happens that "Natasha" is, to put it bluntly, mind-numbingly boring shit.