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The Destroyer Has Been Destroyed - 50%

Lord_Of_Diamonds, December 15th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Relapse Records

"Head Cage". The album is supposedly named after a medieval torture device.

For seasoned fans of Pig Destroyer, this album is indeed a torture device.

If you're like me and enjoy reading the track lengths on grindcore albums just to see how short the songs can get, you will have read this album's track lengths and realize that they've pretty much abandoned the microsong element (there's not a track shorter than a minute, and the final song, House of Snakes, is 7 minutes long. When you're working with grindcore, that's the length of an entire episode of Game of Thrones). But the abandonment of the microsong trait is the least of the worries you should have about this album.

The production. My GOD, it's terrible. Pig Destroyer has gotten saddled with yet another lazy-ass metal producer who just brickwalled the entire thing. At first listen, I was so sure it was brickwalled that I actually put one of the tracks into an audio editor and guess what? Everything had been neatly cut off at 0 dB. No clipping. Everything else had been amplified tenfold, leaving no room for dynamics and effectively turning everything into a gigantic wall of sound. I was right about the brickwall. You have to listen to the thing at super-low volume to comprehend what the other instruments are doing (and that's no way to listen to grindcore!) Whenever Adam Jarvis starts blast-beating, you can't even tell what chords the guitars are playing because of the mastering. His kit is turned up WAY too loud in the mix. Or is that even his kit? The damned thing sounds more like a drum machine than the drums on the remaster of "Prowler in the Yard". The kick drum has obviously been triggered and beat-corrected (see the tracks "Dark Train" and "Terminal Itch"), and everything else has been compressed down to where each hit sounds like little more than a click. The snare drum literally sounds like a compressed version of someone beating on a cardboard box. I swear, with the amount of time that went into making these drums sound like cardboard boxes, they could roll 4 or 5 dB off them and they'd still be perfectly audible. And turn up the overheads while you're at it. I can barely hear the cymbals.

How about the bass? The band added a bassist for this album. But, because the mastering smashes everything together, you can't hear the bass a lot of the time! You just sense its presence! And when you do hear it, all you hear is the mid tones. I feel like most of the time, they just put so much fuzz on it that all you could hear is the mid tones. Sounds like a big fart. There is one exception to the bass business: the bass solo at the beginning of "The Last Song". When you hear the bass on its own, it sounds amazing. But... put it into this mix, and it becomes either inaudible, annoying, or unnecessary. Emphasis on unnecessary, because Scott Hull's riffs are written for guitars so low-tuned that they essentially mirror the bass's normal range. What happened to the days when they could write kick-ass songs in E standard? Not to mention the fact that Hull cranked the low end on his guitar tone...

And the vocals? Don't even get me STARTED on the vocals. J.R. Hayes's voice is dead as a doornail. To paraphrase Monty Python, it is an ex-voice. His voice is so laughably weak that they obviously had to put a waveshaper on it to turn it into something that remotely resembles a scream. He pulls off a few death growls on "Terminal Itch" that sound okay, but that's probably mostly because of the waveshaper. A mysterious backup vocalist shows up for "Concrete Beast", and does an amazing job until J.R. takes over, when you can't help but double over with laughter. Same thing on "The Adventures of Jason and J.R.", when the backup vocalist transforms into something that resembles a 13-year-old screaming at his mommy. Could it be this Jason of which the title speaks? Whoever he is, he's not much better of a vocalist than J.R.

If it weren't for the production and vocals, though, this would be a great album. Pig Destroyer's arrangements remain as chaotic as ever, and I noticed that they took something of a lyrical turn as well. The lyrics are easier to understand as far as meanings go, but still very poetic at the same time. "Why would God create something so weak unless he wanted it to suffer?" J.R. moans at the end of "Army of Cops". The hilarious lyrics of "The Adventures of Jason & J.R." paint a surreal scene that would feel right at home in The Big Lebowski. Scott Hull remains a genius of the riff as always, from what little I can understand of his work on this album. Some dissonant chords here, some brutal palm-muted chugging there. Sometimes I wonder how he can continue to write these great guitar parts 20 years into the band's career. He even puts a little bit of a Metallica nod in the intro to "House of Snakes". Speaking of intros, this album's intro is possibly Pig Destroyer's greatest intro since "Jennifer". A light jazz piece leads into a voiceover: "We will not be held responsible for any hearing impairments or damage caused to you from excessive exposure to this sound!" The voiceover then gives way to about a minute of Nine Inch Nails-style industrial noise before the first song begins.

Again, though, the production and the vocals totally ruin any element of this album that might be enjoyable. I feel like the sound that they tried to go for on this album was "heavy as possible, everything else be damned". Indeed, they accomplished their goal as far as heavy goes. The album's heavy factor is almost incomparable. But the philosophy of production that they employed simply did not work. Grindcore is supposed to be raw. Look at "Prowler in the Yard". Hard clipping ran rampant on that album, but did they give a shit? No. And it still sounded kick-ass (even if the guitar sidechaining thing was a bit annoying). When you really think about it, Pig Destroyer sounds even worse when they're overproduced than when they're underproduced. They still remain a great band, though. They haven't lost one iota of their heaviness over the years, unlike some other bands. The only thing they need now to make them perfect again is a new vocalist and raw production.