It’s alarming how much our society in America has changed in the past few years. And mostly not in a good way. The bullshit quotient is an alarmingly high level, and there is so much noise out there that it’s nearly impossible to concentrate or even calm down for a second because everything is burning.
Here to drop a tanker full of fuel on the fire come grind masters Pig Destroyer and their long-awaited sixth record “Head Cage,” an album that comes six years after their last release “Book Burner” and thrusts them into a volatile world that practically matches their sonic vitriol. It’s actually a relief to have this band back in our grasp now, during these times, though this record isn’t some sort of reaction to that necessarily. Well, parts are. It’s just that their jackhammering sound feels about as right as ever, as they continue to expand their grind base toward thrash, death, and noise, something they hinted at last time around but really nail on this 12-track, 33-minute beast. The band—vocalist/lyricist JR Hayes, guitarist Scott Hull, bassist/vocalist John Jarvis, noise/sample master Blake Harrison, and drummer Adam Jarvis—sound more at home as their borders expand, and while it took me a few stabs to fully get this record, it’s become one that has really resonated. Plus, it just full-on bulldozes.
“The Tunnel Under the Track” is a quick intro cut that sets old-timey music with warnings about the dangerous noises you’re about to hear, like something right out of “Fallout,” and then we’re into “Dark Train” and its storming assault. It’s total grind ferocity, which will make long-time fans happy, and then it’s into “Army of Cops,” featuring vocals from “The Grindfather” Richard Johnson of Agoraphobic Nosebleed. This is a pointed, molten assault lyrically, digging partially back into issues that inspired the band’s name in the first place. “Tell me, where does it stop? This tower of law, this army of cops?” Johnson wails before delivering the dagger of, “Why would god create something so weak unless he wanted us to suffer?” “Circle River” has electro-charged guitars chewing away, as the pace chugs and batters, the vocals shred, and everything drowns out in noise. “The Torture Fields” is a healthy burst of grind terror, with the delivery a blinding fury, and the band thrashing away, leaving no bones unbroken. “Terminal Itch” is a fucking jackhammer, with the vocals spat out (Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Kat Katz wails away on this one), riffs swirling, and you getting entangled in the gears and wholly crushed.
“Concrete Beast” has riffs swaggering, Kat lighting everything on fire with her savage wails, and the pace playing games with your mind. Later on, raw shouts and a thrashing assault brings the song to its end. “The Adventures of Jason and JR” is sung partially by band friend Jason Hodges and contains a narrative that is absolutely ridiculous, which is why it’s fun. I guess we don’t often call Pig Destroyer songs fun. Anyway, this one is (Hayes terms it his stoner comedy), but it’s also a death stomp the entire time, with the track ending in blistering chaos. Then we’re back to the blackness with “Mt. Skull,” a furious, speedy cut that has Hayes looking back on the place he grew up and realizing everyone is gone. “Everyone on Mt. Skull is dead, everyone I love,” Hayes cries as the song breathes its last. “Trap Door Man” blasts by in no time, with the band unloading chaos, as raspy howls and mangling playing shred up muscles and veins. “The Last Song” gets back to groove and sludge, as thick bass lines, spacey noise (Full of Hell’s Dylan Walker guests here), and junkyard barks comprise this bruiser that deals a sweltering dose of violence. Closer “House of Snakes” is the longest track, clocking in at 7:08, and its guitar bleed in reminds of the opening strains of Metallica’s “Blackened.” Voice samples strike as the song takes on a humid, swampy feel, with Hayes’ cries piercing any sense of calm. The track has a few pace changes that continue to give the song a new face while, later on, the band steers forcefully into hardcore-style terrain, outright crushing you, pushing every last drop of breath from your lungs. The assault continues to deliver as a stinging noise bed rises up and sweeps the song to its grave.
Pig Destroyer were made for these times, and “Head Cage” smothers fully and provides no chance at clean air or submission. It’s a beating that lasts until every fragment of its target is obliterated, making for a really satisfying, yet bruising experience. This is a heavy, uncompromising record that might take some time to sink in, but once it does, you’re finished.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/TheRealPigDestroyer/
To buy the album, go here: https://store.relapse.com/
For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords/