You know that moment when somebody from the so-called ‘real world’ takes a vague interest in you, and you find yourself suddenly forced to justify yourself and your ludicrous tastes to a bona fide human being? Perhaps you are talking to someone at work and they ask about what you like, or god forbid a ‘normal’ of the opposite gender shows an interest.
You cringe inwardly as you watch their face fall in disappointment while you try and mumble something vaguely coherent about the fact that you like films where people get brutally killed a lot, or that you have a collection of what most people call toys, or that you read books that either have spaceships or trolls in them, but never books that have both trolls and spaceships together. Or that you paint tiny figurines and then make those tiny painted figurines play your friend’s painted tiny figurines. Or that you measure the success of an evening by how many new niche porn sites you have discovered and by how encrusted your sock is. Or, worst of all, that you like music that to the outsider sounds roughly akin to throwing a set of instruments down a fire escape while a man shouts a confused commentary of the event.
In the event you have to undertake this explanation, there can be few genres as difficult to justify to an actual human being than grindcore. After all, with hardcore you can talk breathlessly about things like ‘unity,’ death metal you can talk about musical dexterity, stoner fans have ‘the groove’ and the fact that Black Sabbath are still considered vaguely cool. Thrash fans have a reference point most people understand in Metallica. Even Power Metal fans could even mumble something about Tolkien while they wonder in amazement that someone is actually talking to them and they’re not even logged into World of Warcraft.
But grindcore? Music so chaotic it is barely comprehensible, vocalists obsessed with stalking and misery and rage, and song lengths so short that you couldn’t even put your drink down in a club before they’ve ended, let alone make it onto a dancefloor to do ‘a mosh’. Oh, and the bands have names like Pig Destroyer. Try explaining that to a ‘person’ and see how long they want to carry on talking to you.
It is this very sense of bewilderment, of course, that makes grindcore so appealing, and there are few bands as adept at engendering that self same bewilderment as Pig Destroyer, who for well over a decade now have honed a genre most associated with Napalm Death’s short sharp shocks in their own image. That image is one that harks back to the original Black Sabbath blueprint of ‘horror movie music,’ although where Sabbath were a reflection of the haunting ethos of seventies horror, Pig Destroyer are a day-glo modern slasher, replete with torture scenes, questionable gender politics and cartoonishly violent dénouements.
‘Book Burner’ is the new album by these masters of grim, and over the course of nineteen tracks Pig Destroyer take every brilliant thing they’ve ever done, do it all over again even faster and then spit it out at you in a blur of ludicrous dexterity before grinning maniacally and scaring the living bejeesus out of you. Owing much more to their brilliant ‘Terrifyer’ than the so-so ‘Phantom Limb,’ they seem to have realised that while ‘songs’ and that are all well and good, what we really want is the sense of being beaten around the face with a bag full of smashed crabs. The guitars are like daggers, raw stabs of perfect precision. The bass is all groove and low end, and the drums are as dizzyingly incomprehensible in their approach to time signatures and the general laws of physics.
But it is as ever the vocals of J.R.Hayes that make Pig Destroyer stand out from your average grind band, sounding as they do like the last howls of the criminally insane cult leader. You have no idea what he’s on about half the time, but you sense that that’s probably a good thing, since those bits and pieces you do get are like little windows into the mind of someone you should probably stay on the other side of the street from. In case the intensity of grindcore’s most entertainingly unhinged frontman weren’t enough, he’s also joined at various stages by Jason from Misery Index, as well as Richard and (*swoon*) Kat Katz from AgNos, who all do their best to fill your head with howls of insanity.
Over the course of its near 33 minutes, ‘Book Burner’ is unrelenting, unfathomable and unerringly entertaining. If you are looking for something to talk about with, y’know, people, then maybe not. But if it is catharsis from spending time in this unrelentingly horrible world you are after, look no further.