Review: “Head Cage” by Pig Destroyer

The sixth album from grindcore legends Pig Destroyer dropped a short while ago and we’ve been having too much fun with it to out it down for a review. The Alexandria Virginia five piece have been around a long time and recorded this with influences of Slayer, Dark Angel, The Melvins and Brutal Truth. It’s the first album to feature bassist John Jarvis’s talents.

“Tunnel Under The Tracks” starts “Head Cage” is a 1940’s style warning about hearing impairment during an 81 second tension building siren alarm sound. The album then starts a proper with an explosion of full on grindcore, blast beats and lacerating vocal barks tearing through the mix of “Dark Train” in a 71 second onslaught of relentless pursuit of faster and harder playing. “Army of Cops” keeps the pace and energy but brings a more groove orientated riffage and slightly less vitriolic vocals. It’s still a punch in the face but it’s not followed by the kick in the nuts of the first track. If it appeared as a track from one of Phil Anselmo’s many project bands, Pantera fans would take note. “Circle River” keeps up the energy with some hardcore punk attitude with JR Hayles vocals easing up as the track closes. It’s amazing to think that he and guitarist Scott Hull have been in this band since 1997 and still bring it to the table with a modern relevence.

“The Torcher Fields” has a slow Crowbar esq start with menacing sludge metal riffage and a punchy opening verse before suddenly exploding into full on high paced grindcore with a generous helping of blast beats for a chorus bridge. Dropping the pace one notch into something with crossover thrash leanings is something of a surprise but works really well. Again the Pantera esq groove to close is a nostalgic and tasteful touch. “Terminal Itch” ups the pace once more with lead flushes after the grindcore opening salvo. Hayles drops down into a gutteral range and delivers some of the most bone crushing vocals on the album in places. “Concrete Beast” picks up that Crowbar groove while Kat Katz of Agoraphobic Nosebleed fame delivers a vocal cameo of joy! She also appears on “Terminal Itch” but her presence is felt more on this cut.

“The Adventures of Jason and Jr” sees guest vocals from Jason Hodges and is much more of grindcore onslaught. As with the other material, Will Putney brings the production mastery, the drum sound is amazingly good and the guitar tone is spot on, while everything is perfectly balanced in the mix. “Mt. Skull” grinds out a 97 second frenetically paced smash and grab. In a twelve track album with a seven minute closer that clocks in at fractionally over 30 minutes, there are going to be some short, sharp, shocks. “Trap Door Man” is another one that takes that same approach but has a more groove hardcore riffage style as it blast through like a tornado in a corn field. “Anything you say could be a landmine”. Damn right.

“The Last Song” features a guest vocal from Dylan Walker of Full of Hell fame. It’s Jazzy bassline from John Jarvis soon makes way for the bands pile driver delivery at breakneck speed. “House of Snakes” is a 7 minute and 7 second track that you never thought a band like this one could create. How can a band whose staple material is sub 2 minutes keep your attention for so long? Surprisingly easily. Using a returning main riff and buried speech samples, Scott Hull builds around Hayles lyrics his riffage in impressive style, creating movements with the song while keeping things flowing all the time. It’s epic and powerful. Pig Destroyer have produced a stunningly good album in “Head Cage”. Through interweaving tales of fear, depression, violence, loathing and the human condition the band have dropped an anvil heavy body blow on the World. The musicianship is second to none and the sheer vocal range on show is phenomenal. Does it get much better than this? Not much! [9/10]

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