In a particularly furious burst of grindcore, Book Burner, Pig Destroyer’s first album since 2007, opens with “Sis,” a densely compacted tune about a woman escaping from a mental institution. Fleeing the scene in her brother’s car, she “grins from ear to ear like a death’s head” as the volatile effects of refusing her medication overtake her mind. Front-man/lyricist JR Hayes imagined the character as a broader exploration of “people manifesting their true self — even if it’s horrible.”
“Sis” introduces the notions of escape and resilience that recur throughout Book Burner’s lyrical landscape. But the song also functions as a fitting analogy for the band’s entire body of work, which delves unflinchingly into realms of psychosis and sexually charged violence.
Another year, another torrential downpour of albums across our desks. As always, we encountered way too much amazing music, from Meshuggah to The Mars Volta, Converge, Killer Mike, P.O.S, and many more.
From its modest roots as a basement mail-order operation to its status as one of the premier independent metal labels, Relapse Records has carved a niche as purveyor of distortion-heavy talent. In addition to a few ALARM favorites from Pig Destroyer, Liberteer, and Primate, this year saw noteworthy releases from DyingFetus, Baroness, Horseback, Locrian, Serpentine Path, and many others.
After five years of relative inertia, Pig Destroyer — flaring up like an incurable Amazonian virus — is back on the books with Book Burner, a 19-track installation of furious, “misanthropic” grindcore that is as violent as it is relentless. Recorded at guitarist Scott Hull’s Visceral Sound Studios, the album hearkens back to Prowler in the Yard with a raw, live sound that waylays studio artifice for aggression.
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To appreciate Trap Them‘s new album, Darker Handcraft, it helps to start with the Filth Rations EP from 2010. Trap Them has consistently charged its hardcore side into a collision with metal that refuses to get dragged down in grime.
The four songs on Filth Rations give as sure a sign as ever that the band’s craft and tightness can always match its sheer impatience. The third track, “Dead Fathers Wading In The Bodygrounds,” keeps up a gimpy, stumbling trudge as the drums gradually thud harder, and vocalist Ryan McKenney bellows himself up to a pitch that invokes scalding tears and unforgivable injuries. There’s a sense that Trap Them is in a desperate frenzy to repeatedly overload their songs, lest a single McKenney roar or screech of feedback from the guitar go unused. Even the cramped handwriting of the lyrics in the EP’s liner notes looks more like a dozen rows of snaggled teeth than a sequence of words.
In retrospect, it’s as if the band that made Filth Rations was gearing up to achieve a height of directness and focus. Darker Handcraft is a plenty accurate introduction to Trap Them; it once again captures a sonic force that’s both furiously commanding and remains bitterly hurt no matter how feverishly it tries to expiate its demons. This time, though, that force resolutely says, “Look, one fucking thing at a time.”
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On stage, a costumed septet prepares to unleash a serious sonic force that belies its members’ festooned bodies. An all-male horned frontline of three saxophonists and a trumpeter is adorned in women’s clothing, a red cape, and a spiky foam wig, belting out furious riffs that weave back and forth atop a syncopated, polymetered math-metal foundation.
The trumpeter unleashes a harrowing scream, and the music darts to a quick brass motif reminiscent of The Green Hornet before the all-male rhythm section — a bassist in a dress, a guitarist in a lab coat, and a drummer in a tank top — pounds out down-tuned accompaniment as the saxophones create one giant, unwieldy power chord. After a rapid-fire call and response and a prolonged groove, the horns switch to a somber harmony, which transitions to one final math-rock breakdown.