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Pig Destroyer – Book Burner

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First off: short tracks. This is a good sign. With one exception, every track on Book Burner clocks in shy of the three minute mark, several below two minutes and even one minute.

That’s not to say Pig Destroyer’s excursions into more sprawling territory haven’t been successful, even occasionally producing some of their best work. It’s just to say that even though this steakhouse makes great salads, it’s the dog’s bollocks when they make steaks.

The sprawl is absent from more than just song duration. This is the utterly elemental Pig Destroyer of Painter of Dead Girls and 38 Counts of Battery. Gone are the stacks of intertwining guitar and vocal layers, sounding instead very much like a live band, albeit a much better produced one than in their nascence. Scott Hull’s riffs lean toward his classic webs of excoriating complication tempered by hardcore breakdowns. JR Hayes sounds less like a demon and much more like the emotionally exhausted and fraught older gentleman whose interpersonal anger has evolved into a nasty worldview.

That worldview seems to be Hayes’ new lyrical preoccupation, replacing the stylized grindcore murder-ballad he helped perfect. It’s a neat hat trick that enables a band that’s always been more than just another gore-grind band to literally be more than a gore-grind band. But it seems like more than just a gimmick to distance themselves from a limiting sub-genre–Hayes and his bandmates have successfully drawn a through-line from a young man’s heartbreak to an older man’s crustiness by turning away from the horrors of explicitly violent imagery to focus on the horrors of the banal.

It’s hard to talk about lyrical themes with a vocally inscrutable band like Pig Destroyer. They’re perfectly aware of this fact and don’t hide behind it. That’s why the imagery, from the haunting album cover to abstractly evocative song titles like “The Diplomat”, “Valley of the Geysers”, and “The Underground Man” are so important in understanding the underlying story of a Pig Destroyer release. Though Book Burner is certainly no concept album, it’s clearly meant to be interpreted as a logical evolution for a band that cares about what they’re saying, even if they don’t opt to articulate it plainly.

In the end, it’s all there on the album cover, in that young girl’s eyes. She’s terrifying in her plainness. Is she alive or dead? Why are we even asking these questions about a drawing? Because her simple gaze haunts us, just as the simple attack of Pig Destroyer haunts, an assault at once uncomplicated and layered, effortlessly demanding your attention.

— Alee Karim

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Pig Destroyer – “Burning Palm”

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Preorder from Relapse (CD, LP, cassette, digital download)

Book Burner will be released by Relapse Records on October 22 in the US

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