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Bring me the heads of Pig Destroyer - 58%

gasmask_colostomy, April 6th, 2019

Calling Pig Destroyer grindcore these days is as fraught with difficulty as trying to recharge your new smartphone with the charger of an older model - those two things just aren’t compatible any more. Since Carcass and Repulsion back in the day, grindcore has spliced punk energy and attitude with extreme metal speed and violence, creating chaotic, angry music to accompany the act of punching a series of irregular holes through the drywall in your home, using only your fist and face. Head Cage could still be described as chaotic and angry, but in the six years since Book Burner more has been done to modernize the sound and the pace has notably slowed. To put another perspective on things, John Jarvis is the Washington group’s first bona fide bass player to appear on an album. Have Pig Destroyer grown up?

The overriding themes of Head Cage seem to be abstract rage and palm-muted chugging. For a random sample of abstract rage, see this excerpt from ‘The Concrete Beast’: “The concrete beast / Has devoured the land / Vandalize the rubble / Crooked catwalk.” Poetic, huh? Sometimes the two elements collide wonderfully together, as in ‘Circle River’, which lurches off with a muscular riff before arriving at the bouncy gang vocal chorus. However, fans of grindcore should note that Bring Me the Horizon is a valid reference for the thickened guitar tone and strongly rhythmic drumming. A few crazier moments stand out, such as the swiftly changing death metal riffing of ‘Mt. Skull’ and blast frenzy of ‘Terminal Itch’, but the shift seems transparent in the numbers - no song lasts less than a minute and the majority head over two.

Though the songs have grown longer and slower, something distinctly by-the-numbers plagues the 32 minutes of Head Cage, since the more mature range of pace and dabbling with other genres is not accompanied by any advance in playing techniques or development of distinctive features. Pig Destroyer have left grind behind and - despite Head Cage not being a poor effort - haven’t arrived anywhere else particular yet.

Originally written for Metalegion #4 -

Breaking! Pig Destroyer finally sells out & now plays metalcore!! - 19%

GuardAwakening, January 12th, 2019

Perhaps there is content to be heard on this album that others can get enjoyment out of, but for me I squander for it. Anything and everything that made Pig Destroyer a ridiculous, absurd and extreme (and thus highly enjoyable) band is stripped away throughout this record, its finished runtime leaves me feeling disappointed almost to the feeling of disgust. The more I listen to Head Cage and every time a track passes and leads onto the next it where I am left to realize further and further that I've been listening to a grind album that has been so commercially polished to where its reduced to a accessible metalcore product. This more-accessible sound might be the band's doing, because I don't at all want to believe Relapse had a say in what PD's music should sound like within hopes of getting this band to start playing Warped Tour anytime... because God, I hope not!

Relapse had worked with the band throughout most of their career, and even Pig's heaviest hitters (Prowler in the Yard and Phantomb Limb) were released through the label. I find it utmost hard to believe that this disaster is the label's fault, but just because the label doesn't control your musical direction doesn't mean you didn't sell out. The definition of selling out can refer to any and every sort of action done in the effort to prioritize your music/art as a product instead of a naturally created work. And that is which is what music should be; the sound of a band should be natural chemistry between the group of musicians and the moment you force a style or sound that didn't occur through that chemistry - especially when the forced sound is a trend-ridden riff style (which this album is full of) - I am convinced to call you a sellout.

The worst parts of the riffs to be heard on this album range from near-djent range at times ("The Adventures of Jason and JR") to buttrock-esque at other times ("Circle River"). It is by-the-book crap. Had any other band made this album it would've just been declared mediocre or not very good, but being as Pig Destroyer made this album it makes me cringe. Pig were a band that I singlehandedly declared the lords of off-the-wall extreme underground music. Now, it hurts me inside to take that trophy away from them after hearing this album.

This album sounds like a grindcore band trying way too hard to branch out to being accessible and man is it embarrassing. There are parts that sound like mid 2000s metalcore, while there are parts that are reminiscent of Botch and Deadguy, then there's other parts where the hardcore punk influences shines (which are the best and most tolerable moments to be heard) and then there's other parts that sound like a groovy radio rock band with a guy screaming over it. The latter is by far the worst moments on here. Focusing on the drumming is another thing that comes off as odd to me too because hearing a Pig Destroyer album where the percussion is doing anything other than blast beats (which comprises a huge chunk of this record) also doesn't feel right.

If you're a Pig Destroyer fan like me and liked them for their impressive way at being extreme, you will be very disappointed with this record. But if you like accessible metalcore, then you'll without a doubt like this album. All and all, I have no faith in the band at this point and everything that they plan on doing after releasing this record. Only good thing I can say though is that it's a good thing they decided to finally sell out so far into their career, because it means they have over 20 years worth of amazing albums which I'll still cherish (which many more years than when most bands decide to do this bullshit).

Mostly plain but a few killer tracks. - 56%

MrMetalpants, January 1st, 2019
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Relapse Records

Pig Destroyer consists of many ups and downs through their career. Still Terrifyer tops my list of their albums and there's a decent drop to second place. The only album I can say I really don't like is Phantom Limb. They were on that leaning more death metal in song writing, like this most recent album. I would imagine a grind core leaning more death metal would benefit. See: Cattle Decapitation and how they were great then became one of the best death metal outfits working. However, Pig Destroyer does not benefit wholly from writing more death metal songs. This album does feature a great song or two but does not do it for me. There's no song in particular that I outright hate but my 6th listen and writing this was a bit of a chore.

The main problem with the writing is not so much monotony, because it really isn't that monotonous, but more that it's just not interesting. The only songs that really stick out are "Mt. Skull", "The Last Song", and "House of Snakes". Consequently, my favorite three tracks. The rest just have a really similar formula. That is in addition to the fact that I don't really enjoy the way the overall sound is. That's more of a personal preference, but it just made it a little harder to appreciate what is there. They either need to go full grind core like on half their albums or fully step away from that genre because the parts that still cling to the past while partially look to the future are the worst on the album.

The guitars have a few cool lead licks, like on "Mt. Skull" and "The Last Song". More of this might have offered some more variation and break the mold a bit. The rhythm section chugs and tremolos but never offers something fresh or unique to make you come back for more. There are some progressive time signatures on "Concrete Beast" that can be fun but there is not much more of it. The bass is highly audible through pretty much the whole ride, which is funny for a band that only five years ago added a bassist! It's pretty well played, too. It rumbles in the right amount so the speed can be felt but still enough to add heft to what is being played. Though not technically impressive, the bass makes "The Last Song" really pop. Disclaimer: It's not the last song. I don't really enjoy the vocals as much this time around. They are just a pitch that i get annoyed with easily, and it is mostly that sound. "The Adventures of Jason and Jr" offers some vocal variation, even though one is my my loathed megaphone effect. Kat (ex-Agoraphobic Nosebleed) brought some unique stylings to "Terminal Itch", but her contribution to "Concrete Beast" is felt more and given more of the spotlight. The drums do some great work and this is partly due to the nature of the writing not being strictly adherent to grind core. "Mt. Skull" has some great patterns and especially during the last third... So, you know, 30 seconds. Because Pig Destroyer!

Favorite tracks:
--The Last Song
--House of Snakes
--Mt. Skull

Technical skill: 67% Originality: 52% Song writing: 56% Production: 41% Accessibility: 78%

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.

Pig Destroyer - Head Cage - 90%

Orbitball, September 27th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, Digital, Relapse Records

Well, even though they're categorized as being grindcore, they don't have an overabundance of blast beating drum-wise. Sure with the opener you hear some intense Mick Harris (ex-Napalm Death, ex-Defecation) blasting, but it slows down. Most tracks have few real intense fast paced music, but I'd say that there isn't an overly technical album with crazy tempos. There are some tracks that have some, but most of them aren't overly-intense. They're more groove-laden death metal to me, not grindcore. It reflects some newer Napalm Death and some of the riffs reflect that of Nasum, et al. Nasum was definitely faster than these guys.

I think that the album is at least enjoyable to listen to though they do have some noise terror on a few intros to songs. The guitars are solid, thick and catchy. That's what separates this from being a "B-" rating on the previous review to an "A-" rating on mine. The music is wholly original but like I said they do show their influences on here. However, they have their own kind of groove/kick to their sound. That makes them seem to come into their own in the songwriting process. I have no experience with this band except for this one, though I just downloaded more of their music on what I could find via Spotify.

What sets this band apart from other grindcore acts are the diversity in style. They seem to blend with other genres not just one. These guys know how to BRING UP THE NOISE!!! But not all the time, they mainly flock to sounding death metal-ish rather than anything more extreme. You can disagree with me on this one but really from what I'm hearing there are only a few songs that go literally insane. Most of the time you have the vocals screaming with rhythm guitars flowing like a stream. They do some pretty darn good songwriting here and the riffs are really catchy. Even through this album like most grind records are 30 minutes long, you'll want to hear it multiple times!

This is a great release that came out earlier this month and I enjoyed it immensely. They're in a sound of their own. A lot of variety in the tempos and the production quality was pretty good. Not your typical kind of grind act, but there are songs that reflect real grind, but they usually slow down tempo wise. The vocals are pretty much screaming all the time, no fluctuation there. But the guitars have that unique riffing style and the music is pretty well orchestrated. Worth every minute of your time! This album is available on Spotify so check them out before you buy the physical copy. I've already ordered my CD. Are you going to support the band and buy yours?

Face Melting, Head - 80%

Kringelorde, September 15th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Relapse Records

Alt Title: "Would Would God Create Something So Rad, Unless He Wanted Us To Mosh?"

Originally Written for Kringelorde Archives

So I've never been that balls deep into grindcore. Sorry, it's just a fact of life. I see why the genre is popular though. I'm always down for some mind numbing noise and speed, even if I usually don't stick around for a full LP. Piggy D was one of the few bands on my grind radar, however, mostly because albums like Prowler In The Yard and Terrifyer give me my daily dose of “I just need some fucking noise right now”. Lately however, the band's material has been pretty polarizing. Ever since Phantom Limb the fanbase seems to be split right down the middle with newer fans appreciating the more riff driven and experimental side of the band, and the other half, older fans, who want the old school grind they signed up for. I'm not exactly sure where I fall, as someone who really doesn't give much of a shit about grindcore in the first place, but I can tell that Piggy D isn't really trying to win anyone over on Head Cage... mostly cause they fucking nailed it and anyone with taste should dig it.

Head Cage is easily Piggy D's farthest step away from their grind roots (at least in terms of structure) since Phantom Limb. 12 tracks, song lengths ranging from 1 to 3 minutes each with a monster of a 7 minute track at the end. It's compact little album, but its length and structure pack a real hefty punch. Over it's 30 minute run time, Head Cage packs in Piggy D's most dense and riff filled songs to date. The most comparable thing to Head Cage might be Napalm Death's most recent material, ala Apex Predator or Utilitarian. Which is all the more amazing that Head Cage ends up packing such a wallop since this is Piggy D's first full project at this length and scale.

The album (and the band really) seem to be at their best when stuffing the songs full of riffs takes precedent over the noise. The songs themselves are quite eclectic, with the band pulling from death metal, crust punk, straight hardcore punk, a little sludge, and even some metalcore. It's a nice welcome change of pace in my opinion, as well as an opportunity to build on some of the more interesting styles seen on Phantom Limb. “Army of Cops” is a big stand out track sounding something more akin to Suicide Silence than a typical Piggy D track. But it works out all the better for it. Vocalist Hayes' absolutely vicious vocal delivery really takes center stage, while the crunchy riff drives the whole thing forward with moshy glee. “Circle River” also has a stand out appeal, whose thrashing punky riffing sounds like a face melting cross between Toxic Holocaust and Piggy D. I wasn't digging “The Torture Fields” as a single, but now it's sludgy crushing opening riff is a perfect pace breaker before launching into the more typical grind riff, then catching you off guard once again with more crunchy breakdowns. The only songs that really don't do anything for me are “Mt. Skull”, being a more typical grind affair, and thus kind of sticking out more on this album than the actually “experimental” tracks, and the closer “House of Snakes”. “House of Snakes” isn't a bad song or anything, it's just too long and probably could have lost a little weight, not really needing its 7 minute run time.

Production wise, the band has never sounded better. The addition of bassist John Jarvis was a wonderful decision. Not only is he a fantastic musician (see: “The Last Song”) but his bass adds a wonderful layer of weight to everything, adding to the overall intensity and fullness of the sound. I would be remiss to not also mention that lyrically, the band is absolute fire, at least most of the time. Some tracks definitely have that “insert brutal lyrics here” vibe that a lot of death metal can't help but have, but Head Cage has some really good lines. The final lines of “Army of Cops” being “why would God create something so weak unless he wanted it to suffer?” Is absolutely God Tier and the lyrics to “The Last Song” made me depressed upon impact.

Head Cage was a real fun time. I'm sure a lot of Pig Destroyer fans are pissed that they aren't “true grind” anymore and I understand that, but you just don't have a neck to headbang with if you say Head Cage isn't full of bangers. It's one of the strongest records in the band's discography, and I can't wait to see where they go next.