Pig Destroyer

Head Cage

Written by: RUB on 14/09/2018 14:25:33

I have long admired grindcore as a genre. I find the fact that instruments can be played so fast and so fiercely, while, for the most part, still producing coherence and sense in in complex and demanding song structures very impressive, although it is definitely not for the faint-of-heart. But it is also a trade hard to perfect; will an album consisting of anywhere between 10 and 40 tracks be able to stand out, or will the first track sound too similar with the second or the last? That is really the trick of the trade: that the songs, not to mention the album as a whole, should be able to standout and not only be about admiring how intensely and fast the songs are played. And this is where Pig Destroyer springs to mind — a band which has long been known as one of the main torchbearers of modern grindcore. Having existed for more than 20 years, and produced 6 full-length albums, they are back now with their latest outing, “Head Cage”.

Clocking in at slightly more than 30 minutes, the 12-track album spares little time messing around. After a short, but rather eerie-sounding intro, the carnage begins with “Dark Train”, a full-blown, neck-breaking 1 minute and 11 seconds which sets the pace for the rest of the record. But already on the next track, “Army of Cops”, the constant grinding soundscape is mixed with more groove and in fact even some melodic elements. To my knowledge, this technique is not entirely new to Pig Destroyer, but perhaps they have taken things to the next level with this record, which might mean losing some fans in the process, while probably also earning them some new ones.

Music like grindcore, in my opinion, demands variation in both tempo and structure in order to be successful. Otherwise it’s likely to suffer the consequences of sounding tedious and monotonous, as though it were only played that fast for the sake of sheer extremity. It ought not only to be a barrage of blastbeats and crunchy riffs all blended together, as otherwise the songs become that much harder to distinguish from one another. With “Head Cage”, Pig Destroyer seems to have taken this into consideration, however. The songs vary a lot in tempo and alacrity, but on many of the tracks it has come at the expense of the grind element. Take “Circle River”, for example. This song is best compared to the likes of Every Time I Die or even Cancer Bats — which isn’t a bad thing in my book, mind you. By incorporating incorporated more melody and groove into the onslaught, the band has made a more hardcore punk-sounding song. This is both a good and a bad thing; for this reason, “Head Cage” can’t be labeled a sole grindcore album, but when there are songs like that present, the likes of the following “The Torture Fields” and “Terminal Itch” stand out as so much fiercer, being more in the vein of full-blown grindcore carnage.

Pig Destroyer has indeed incorporated more elements from the melodic hardcore genre on several of the songs, but it’s definitely not comparable with the melodic hardcore genre as such. These are exactly only elements, and one should still be able to hear that the group is very much remains a dark and extreme band. But it would nonetheless seem that they have evolved a bit for “Head Cage”. The latter half of the album contains the most bangers in my book, and this is still where Pig Destroyer truly shines. With the trio of “Mt. Skull”, “Trap Door Man” and “The Adventures of Jason and Jr.”, Pig Destroyer sounds very familiar: chaotic grindcore, but still with plenty of edge to make a lasting impression.

Before the album finishes off, we’re treated to “The Last Song”, which, ironically, actually isn’t the last song. It also contains some melodic elements, but is definitely still grindcore at its heart with its short, fast and precise expression. The actual last song is “House of Snakes”, a mastodon in the context of grindcore, clocking in at more than 7 minutes and ending the album by showing that the band actually knows how to write slower and more progressive tracks as well. And as such, it perhaps serves as the ‘hidden gem’, or maybe even the biggest surprise of the album, even though I wouldn’t call its style grindcore per se.

With “Head Cage”, Pig Destroyer thus moves slightly away from the grindcore genre, as they venture into a more melodic-minded and groove-oriented direction. As mentioned before, it comes at the expense of some of the grind elements, but a band should be allowed to evolve. And when it’s still possible to hear that it’s a grindcore band at heart, I think the new nuances in the band’s signature sound work very well. This is no new “Terrifyer”, and has indeed split the waters of the group’s fanbase, but my verdict is still very much positive. I just hope that on future records, Pig Destroyer will still remember their grindcore origins, because as they show on “Head Cage”, they still have plenty of aggression and chaos to go around.

Download: Mt. Skull, The Torture Fields, Trap Door Man, The Adventures of Jason and Jr., The Last Song
For the fans of: Aborted, Brutal Truth, Every Time I Die, Full of Hell, Nails, Napalm Death
Listen: Facebook

Release date 07.09.2018
Relapse Records

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