Pig Destroyer are not for the timid or tenuous, the sensitive or squeamish. That’s true of all grindcore, but Pig Destroyer’s cleaver-sharp, precisely honed deathgrind throttles harder than most, destroying not with an all-out, crude bombing assault, but with the timing and acumen of a trained assassin. They’ll hit you with everything they’ve got, and you might not entirely understand exactly what that everything is the first time around, but their fierce combination of harsh riffs, inhuman beat spatters and throat-shredding moans ensure a listening experience not to be forgotten, no matter how fast or how cacophonous.
Said high-speed cacophony has been through several permutations in the last decade, from the relentless power-grind of 2001’s Prowler In the Yard to the noisy, claustrophobic atmosphere of 2004’s Terrifyer, and finally the amphetamine death metal of 2007’s Phantom Limb. Their latest, Book Burner, scales back some of the progressions of the past two albums, instead yielding a more conventional 32 minutes of grindcore with frequent detours through the ugly churn of death metal and occasional groove.
Spitting out these 32 minutes took longer than usual for the Washington, D.C.-based band, a new batch of songs producing little chemistry in the rehearsal space, and the ejection of longtime drummer Brian Harvey causing a bit of a setback. The addition of new drummer Adam Jarvis provided the mojo they needed, but even after recording at guitarist Scott Hull’s home studio, months of meticulous mixing further pushing back an album whose release date stood on a perpetual horizon.
To reduce Book Burner to a five-years-for-32-minutes argument is sort of pointless, however, when those 32 minutes are some of the tightest in the group’s catalog. A more traditional grindcore album only when held up against Pig Destroyer’s previous two albums, Book Burner moves in brief, incendiary snapshots, the majority of songs spanning less than two minutes apiece, and each one of them operating not so much in verse-chorus-verse structure as a progressive tug-of-war between lightning-fast grindcore explosions and burly death grooves. “The American’s Head” only spans 50 seconds, but it packs a pretty full array into that abbreviated package, opening as an almost unintelligible hummingbird buzz before easing into a menacing rollick just after 15 seconds.
As usual, Scott Hull’s guitar riffs drive these songs, deftly transitioning from a hardcore power-chord bludgeon to a technical fretwork inferno, and vocalist J.R. Hayes is as harrowing a frontman as a psychopath with a megaphone and a shovel. The addition of new drummer Adam Jarvis gives these songs an extra boost, however, his skills running an almost superhuman range between the militant swing in “The Diplomat,” the blast-pummel of “Machiavellian” and the suspenseful breaks of “Baltimore Strangler.” Taken together, along with noise/sample operator Blake Harrison, Book Burner reveals Pig Destroyer as one of the most musically astounding combos in metal.
To a certain degree, Book Burner is a distillation of Pig Destroyer’s sound into a reduced, more potent brand. It’s more than 100 proof — that’s for sure. Yet, interestingly, they’ve never sounded quite so complex as they do now. One of the most extreme metal bands in the game, Pig Destroyer once again pushes those limits just a little bit further.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.