• Pig Destroyer – Head Cage (Relapse Records) Album Review

    Pig Destroyer – Head Cage
    Released by: Relapse Records
    Released on: September 7th, 2018.
    Purchase From Amazon

    Pig Destroyer haven’t put out an album since 2012’s Book Burner (2013’s Mass And Volume doesn’t count as a full length album!), leaving fans of the Alexandria, VA act in a bit of a void. Well, good things come to those who wait, as 2018 sees the release of their long awaited follow up to Book Burner, that being Head Cage (named after a medieval torture device!), being released via Relapse Records. Head Cage was recorded by guitarist Scott Hull at Visceral Sound Studios in Bethesda, Maryland. Will Putnet handled the mixing and mastering.

    The album opens with Tunnel Under The Tracks (1:21) starts off the album with some deceptively mellow music to put you at ease. A woman with a British accent then warns that ‘we will not be held responsible’ for any hearing impairment of damage resulting from listening to this record. What sounds like a high pitched air raid siren goes off, there’s indiscernible screaming in the background, the tempo builds and them, after a quick bit of voice work about the dark, we blast into Dark Train (1:11) – and yeah, it’s a new Pig Destroyer album after all. No mercy, no rest, no weakness… just a blasting sonic attack on the senses that’s over before you really know how to react to it.

    From there, the stand out track in my opinion, Army Of Cops (3:18). This one rages against exactly what you’d expect it to given the band’s name and the title of the song. Guest vocals from Richard “Grindfather” Johnson from Agoraphobic Nosebleed (maybe not so surprising as AN and PxDx share a band member in the form of Scott Hull) help to set it apart a bit, but this is seriously intense stuff with a great breakdown, mixing hardcore and grindcore and thrash and just mixing it all up in one fucking ugly, beautiful mess of a track. John Jarvis' bass playing really shines here.

    Is that Ash saying ‘suck on this’ in the sample that opens up Circle River (2:45)? Sure sounds like him. Anyway, this one doesn’t change the band’s sound at all but it does showcase their intensity and their aggression in a big way. Like most of their stuff, it’s short, intense and it doesn’t mess around. Scott Hull’s guitar playing here is huge. It’s always huge but here it’s just bestial, laying riff over riff and combining with John Jarvis’ bass work to create a mammoth sound.

    It segues quite nicely into the next track, The Torture Fields (2:55), wherein JR Hayes’ vocals sound even more obscene, perverse, guttural and insane than usual. It’s very over the top even by the band’s pretty insane standards. Terminal Itch (1:13), the shortest track on the record, sees Adam Jarvis’ drum work overpower pretty much everything else the rest of the band is doing here – which is considerable as there’s a lot of depth to the playing on this one. The drums are just that tight.

    Concrete Beast (3:21) is another stand out track, and it features Kat Katz from, also from Agoraphobic Nosebleed, helping out on the vocals. Her delivery is just as crazed as you’d expect if you’re familiar with her work on AN’s discography and it makes for an interesting contrast with Hayes’ already insane delivery. The track is almost doomy in spots. Still as fast and intense and unrelenting as you’d expect from Pig Destroyer but it has a darker tone to it. This track is completely berserk.

    The Adventures Of Jason And JR (2:12) is actually pretty humorous as it tells a bizarre story involving Dick Cheney, an assassination, a lesbian commando team, an Illuminati secret base and cow tongue tacos but if you never read the lyrics you’d never know it because musically, it’s reasonably terrifying. It’s a full blast attack in typical Pig Destroyer style but yeah, lyrically it’s… goofy.

    Mt. Skull (1:37), which is a great title for a grindcore song, is the fastest track on the album and the lyrics are almost indecipherable, at least on first listen. Give it a few tries and it starts to sink in. It’s also fantastic – completely unrelenting. Trap Door Man (1:15), which is another one of Pig Destroyer’s rather short songs, is closer to a traditional hardcore song with some blast beats overtop of it than you might expect but it works really well. It’s also probably the catchiest song on the record if Pig Destroyer songs can be catchy (and they can).

    The Last Song (2:40), which is not the last song on the album ironically enough, features some guest vocals from Dylan Walker of Full Of Hell fame. This track also sees the band’s noise guy, Blake Harrison, more upfront in the recording as it features all sorts of weird sonic trickery and distortions in the mix, giving it a genuinely eerie vibe. Of course, the guitar/bass/drum combo kicks in and bulldozes the listener soon enough but Harrison’s work remains a really important part of this song. His work is really important part of the band in general but sometimes it gets a bit buried in the insanity – not so here.

    House Of Snakes (7:07) closes out the album, and in fact it takes up about twenty percent of its running time, and in fact, after Hidden from 2007’s Phantom Limb, it seems that it’s the longest track they’ve ever recorded. This is absolutely pure Pig Destroyer though, even if it is delivered at a slower, more brooding pace than much of their content. Again, Harrison’s sampling and ‘noise’ work helps to create a darker tone to some already seriously dark content wherein Hayes rages vocally from the point of view of a detective trying to solve a lengthy murder case wherein six victims were killed over sixty-years. It’s weirder than that though, as before it’s over we’re dealing with the basement in the titular House Of Snakes which, maybe not so surprisingly, is full of… snakes. With red diamonds on their backs, to be precise. Amazingly enough, the band keeps up the intensity from start to finish, delivering one break down around the five minute mark where things get sludgy and slower, but otherwise just basically pummeling the shit out of your ears for the entirety of the song.

    Six years was a long time to wait but Head Cage was worth it. It’s a nasty, snarling behemoth of an album mixing grindcore traditions with hardcore and punk stylings and a whole lot of gritty thrash elements delivering twelve songs in under thirty-three minutes. And it’s extremely solid stuff. It’s fast, it’s tight, it’s intense and it’s fantastic.

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. David H's Avatar
      David H -
      Nice review! I have this preordered from Amazon. I have to admit that I wasn't that impressed with the first single (was that Army of Cops?)- it was good but reminded me too much of, maybe, Slipknot? Also Book Burner I thought was a step down from Phantom Limb, so my expectations were a little low for this, but your review gives me hope! Looking forward to checking it out.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      I liked this one a lot better than Book Burner - but Army Of Cops is on of my favorite tracks on the album so your mileage may vary!
    1. David H's Avatar
      David H -
      Really liked Head Cage. Consistent, great riffs from beginning to end. I thought JR might have been a little off but musically much better than Book Burner. Army of Cops was better when I heard it in context, but my favorite might have been the next track Circle River. Two thumbs up!
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Agreed, it's pretty great.