This post originally appeared on the 10th Dentist blog on Saturday, March 20th, 2021.
It may be easy to misconstrue any metal band out of Virginia as being ‘from Richmond’, and while the legacy of figures such as Dave Brockie and the piles of Tony Foresta’s cocaine loom large across the area, there is a lot more to my home state than just the obvious. You think an introduction like this would be saved for a list of ‘100 greatest underground groups from VA’, and not another hugely famous metal band. Well, that’s probably a good idea. I’ll keep it in mind.
Now from worst to best: PIG DESTROYER
Head Cage (2018):
Highly polished. Its Guitar Hero 3 accessible riffs and overly cast backing vocal line-up would’ve been the coolest shit in 2007.
Mass & Volume (2013):
The band’s previous forays into doom and ambience leaves Mass & Volume feeling lackluster. An incidental statement piece on the overuse of recreational drugs.
Explosions in Ward 6 (1998):
Low and not slow. Perversity and gore run rampant on Pig Destroyer’s 1998 debut. A quintessential grindcore album that set the stage for Pig Destroyer’s later experimentation and cinéma de l’abstrait approach.
Every long dragging minute is perfectly tailored in depth and depravity.
Book Burner (2012):
The creation of Book Burner should’ve been viewed as the omen to what would eventually lead to Head Cage in 2018. The classic line up would shatter, with drummer Bryan Harvey being kicked out of the band after a falling out over disinterest in shorter, grind material. Harvey was briefly replaced by David Witte of Municipal Waste before Witte had to quit due to injury and other obligations. Pig Destroyer finally landed Adam Jarvis as their new drummer, much to Book Burner’s benefit.
Tracks like Baltimore Strangler are a good example of an edited, clicky drum sound that is prevalent on Book Burner, and would the basis of their next studio album Head Cage in 2018. While Scott Hull’s work in Agoraphobic Nosebleed both as a guitarist and drum machine programmer is incredible, the drum machine tonality of the Jarvis’s work on this album can at times feel like a damper on the brutal powerhouse work he puts into this album. Slight so-called ‘errors’ are human, and a more organic approach would have benefited the song writing on this album greatly.
The Octagonal Stairway (2020):
A strong return to form while also exploring more atmospheric sound territory à la 2008’s Natasha. Heavy low end mixing and the swirling guitar riffs we’ve come to expect from Scott Hull. Its lack of group vocals and features allow Octagonal Stairway’s artistic direction and depth come through, making this feel worthy grindcore. This album leaves the dumb party metal back with their VA neighbors Municipal Waste.
Don’t be fooled into getting any digital copy that doesn’t come with the Japanese bonus-tracks (there’s a lot of connections to Japan on this blog, isn’t there?). Terrifyer is the logical progression from 2001’s Prowler in The Yard. Bigger riffs, longer songs, and more groove oriented material. Don’t get me wrong, this is one of their best albums in all sorts of ways. On the other hand, it’s lack of artistic intentions with the album cover (as determined by a 2019 interview with Kerrang!) are disappointing. While the final image may be shocking and its composition otherwise pleasing, it takes an overdose of privilege to look past the callous attitude toward the well being of women.
An argument can almost always be made for artistic intent backed by a bigger dialogue within the piece or the work of an artist over their career. But Pig Destroyer and frontman JR Hayes offer no such dialogue, no such explanation. When asked in a Kerrang! interview whether the figure is connected to anything more, Hayes says “she is whoever you want her to be.” At this point, it would be in bad faith to retroactively piece together a dialogue from abstraction.
Phantom Limb (2007):
Unlike Head Cage, this album was actually released in 2007 and doesn’t quite sound like it. Phantom Limb ultimately continues along the path of Terrifyer, though with more syncopation and breakdowns than thrash metal guitar solos. The lyrical and atmospheric content seems to give the listener a more grounded world to explore within the album, and closing soundscape ‘Hidden’ brings the album to a deathly quite end.
Prowler in The Yard (2001):
If you were to only ever hear one Pig Destroyer album, make it Prowler in The Yard. Fast, angular, and intense on many fronts, Prowler’s excursions into the atmospheric helped pave the way for the band’s later sonic cinematic efforts. The album was recorded in drummer Brian Harvey’s basement on 4-track, which makes the engineering of the original album even more impressive given the distinguishable instrumentation and artistic direction within the production itself. Get yourself a good pair of headphones and enjoy every abrasive moment that Prowler in The Yard has to offer.