[24 October 2004]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
For some, grindcore is a bit of an acquired taste, but for many others, it’s so difficult to get into, it hardly seems worth the effort. The trouble is, this is one genre that is very tough for a young band to create an instantly identifiable sound. Some bands over the past decade or so have managed to do just that, carving their own discernible niche, such as grind pioneers Napalm Death, Rhode Island’s Daughters (who boast one of the best drummers in hard music, period), The Locust, who dared to bring keyboards into the grindcore mix in 1997, and at the top of the heap, The Dillinger Escape Plan, who have managed to fuse sounds from all over the musical map, while remaining faithful to the grind sound. In 2004, it’s now gotten to the point where a band like Dillinger has taken the genre as far ahead as it’s ever been; so far, in fact, that several of the year’s other grind releases sound merely ordinary by comparison.
Thankfully, one band who refuses to be left behind is Virgina’s Pig Destroyer. Lauded by many as one of the finest extreme bands to come around the pike in the last five years, the trio’s primary calling card is the fact that they are a band without a bass player, just guitarist/producer Scott Hull, vocalist/lyricist J.R. Hayes, and drummer John Evans. With Hull’s powerful riffs that fused both hardcore and metal influences, the trio made a splash with their 2001 album, Prowler in the Yard, which combined the chaotic, cacophonous characteristics of grind with a real sense of theatricality that would make Alice Cooper proud. If the music wasn’t enough to unsettle listeners, the lyrical content, which bordered on truly demented, was sure to.
As unrelenting and noisy as grindcore can sound at times, it can be one of the most musically complex forms of heavy music, emphasized by just how long it took Pig Destroyer to assemble their follow-up. Painstakingly recorded over the past two years, Terrifyer is the end result, and for fans of the first album, the long wait was indeed worth it. Possessing the same traits that made Prowler in the Yard such an eye-opener, the band takes everything to another level on Terrifyer, as the album comes as a special two-disc set, featuring the full album on one disc, and a bonus DVD audio track on the other.
The album portion itself is very strong, as the trio are just as loud and shocking as before, but here they seem to be channeling the furious, focused intensity of Slayer’s immortal thrash opus Reign in Blood. Careening along at a frantic 32 minutes, Terrifyer‘s whopping 21 tracks slash and pummel, at often phenomenal speeds, as Hayes screams at the top of his lungs, spouting fabulously macabre verses, such as, “The tape across your mouth say more than your words ever could.” Musically, the quick songs begin and end so quickly, it’s best enjoyed as a full, half hour experience instead of singling out specific tracks. That said, there are a handful of songs that stand out, as the frenzied grind speed is interspersed with some great moments of old-school thrash metal, such as on the terrific “Towering Flesh”, where Hull displays his guitar prowess on the song’s nimble opening riff, and the thunderous breakdown a minute and a half later. Elsewhere, “Gravedancer” is a great midtempo tune that is interrupted by a disturbing, spoken word interlude, while “Terrifyer” and “Boy Constrictor” feature dominating performances by Evans, alternating from plodding and pensive, to pounding and menacing, his drumming on the latter track greatly resembling Slayer great Dave Lombardo.
The real fun starts, however, when you pop in the bonus DVD, which features the 32 minute, experimental piece of rock theater “Natasha”. Mixed superbly in 5.1 surround sound (and also presented in simpler two-channel stereo), the composition is a complete departure for Pig Destroyer, as Hayes tells a convincingly creepy, supernatural story (which happens to be prefaced by an extensive introduction in the CD booklet). The musical accompaniment, meanwhile, is much slower, as Hull and Evans provide an absolutely monolithic backdrop to Hayes’s story, interrupted every so often by mellower, melodic moments. As opposed to Fantomas’s great Delirium Cordia from earlier this year, “Natasha” eschews all the sonic insanity in favor of a more slow-burning tone, evoking the classic doom metal of ‘80s greats Candlemass.
Terrifyer is superbly produced by Hull, and its double-disc combination of violent grindcore and ominous doom make it a brilliantly unsettling listening experience. In a genre where true originality is getting harder and harder to come by, this album has Pig Destroyer cementing their status as one of the best, most creative, most deliciously creepy grind bands around.