PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Pig Destroyer Craft One of the Year's Stand-out Metal Albums with 'Head Cage'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Pig Destroyer are strange and brutal on their most contemporary work to date, Head Cage.

Head Cage
Pig Destroyer


7 September 2018

Listening to Pig Destroyer is like watching a wild animal caught in a trap. Violent thrashing and growling aside, the two seem to share anxiety about the closeness of death. This passionate fatalism has defined the grindcore legends' sound from their early days as a band in Alexandria, Virginia. Now, having been a band for 20 years and growing to a five-piece, Pig Destroyer looks to go in a new direction. Exploring beyond the genre boundaries that they helped define in the midst of the tumultuous social storm of modern America, they have crafted one of this year's standout metal works with their new album Head Cage.

It goes without saying that the sound of this album is ferocious. The ability of Pig Destroyer to consistently introduce and shed riffs and drum patterns induces the effect of a sonic whiplash so violent that it feels like the band is trying to tear the listener's head clean off. Complete with a listening disclaimer and howling electronics, "Tunnel Under the Tracks" generates a screeching tension before bursting into the discordant chords of "Dark Train" and the caustic tongue of J.R. Hayes takes aim.

Known for his perverse and affecting expression, Hayes' lyrics on Head Cage are a portrait of a degenerate American wasteland. From stories of the macabre on "House of Snakes", the railing criticisms of police brutality on "Army of Cops", and twisted semi-poetic distortions of "Concrete Beast" this record is further proof of Hayes' lyrical ability. And although his scathing political calls are a welcome change for the band, it's his gruesome imagery like that of "Terminal Itch" (A tingling of the face / Became an itch that none could take / Now the girls decompose / With their pretty skulls exposed) that linger after a track ends.

As a group, Pig Destroyer have managed to further evolve their hard-to-pin-down sound without sounding out of context with the rest of their discography. Guitarist Scott Hull reports actively trying to avoid 4/4 time signatures and blast beats as much as they could in the recording process to keep themselves at least an arm's length from their comfort zone. The added elements contribute an extra layer of madness like the weird, crackling electronics and ominous samples of laughter and screaming on tracks like "Circle River" and "Army of Cops". Perhaps most encouraging is the fact that the band can still deliver a battering breakdown like that of "The Torture Fields" while dabbling into genre territories of sludge and post-metal with their most experimental song to date, "House of Snakes".

What's daring about Head Cage is that Pig Destroyer have chosen to travel in a new direction situated within a genre that contains fans who are notoriously averse to change. Their socially transgressive lyrics and musically daring effort may lose the group some listeners. But reinvention after reinvention they have proven themselves to be a metal group who perhaps even enjoys tormenting their fans and who assuredly are afraid of no one. It is more within their style to illicit fear anyway.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.