Thursday 19 November 2020

Pig Destroyer - The Octagonal Stairway (2020)

Country: USA
Style: Grindcore
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 28 Aug 2020
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Variety is the spice of life, I say, not that you hadn't figured out by looking at what I review here. I've listened to a lot of quieter music lately, relatively speaking, prog rock and post-rock and the elegant end of symphonic metal. I felt like a shift into high gear, even further than yesterday's Virus album gave me. So here's Pig Destroyer.

I like grindcore and not only because I was there early-ish trying to fathom out what the heck this new extreme genre was in 1988. Let's just say that my gig list that year started with a-ha and Gypsy Queen, progressed through Rick Wakeman to Metallica and ended up with an indoor festival headlined by a Carcass fresh from their first album release. It was Intense Degree who blew me away on that day (well, them and Paradise Lost, still in their demo days) and I started tuning into John Peel as well as Tommy Vance.

That said, I also know that grindcore is a relatively limited genre and so it's a periodic thing for me. I like getting my system cleaned out by a good grindcore album, but then I'll dive back into traditional genres that are more varied. So, my wishlist here was for something intense enough to really clean my clock after midnight. And, well, I don't think this really delivered, at least on that front.

Sure, it's loud and it's fast and it's heavy, but all grindcore is those things. This is slower than I really expected it to be, with the opening trio of songs a lot closer to later Napalm Death than early. Yeah, I hear punky vocals rather than death growls from J. R. Hayes, but I wanted a blur of speed and I didn't get that, except for about a minute of the opening title track.

This is a truck on a hill without brakes, which is heavy and powerful and destructive, but it isn't close to a rocketship. What's more, these three songs, the others being The Cavalry and Cameraman, total a skimpy ten minutes between them. The final track is longer than that on its own and it isn't remotely like this.

That's because the second half of this 25 minute EP isn't grindcore in the slightest. It comes from the experimental end of industrial, full of static and samples, something I might expect on an old album from Nurse with Wound or Current 93. News Channel 6 is an abrasive intro to Head Cage and they're a mere teaser to Sound Walker, the eleven minute epic that closes this EP out with an industrial drone. Igor Cavalera apparently guests on this one and I wouldn't have recognised that in a hundred years. I couldn't even tell you if he's guesting on drums or vocals or synths or what.

I should praise Pig Destroyer for surprising me. This isn't anything I expected from them and, frankly, it sounds like this is really a split EP with someone else. What's really odd is that the first half plays a lot closer to what I was aiming for, but the second half is what will stay with me. Those slow grindcore songs are decent but they didn't blow me away, though Cameraman is growing on me. Sound Walker, while it's not remotely for everyone, is a piece of music that grabbed my attention and refused to let go. That's a good thing.

And, having sought this out for a whirlwind of energy that I didn't find, I now find myself wondering if there's anything else like Sound Walker in Pig Destroyer's back catalogue. This isn't remotely what I remember from them early on, but they've kept busy since their formation in 1997 and I see an album a couple of years ago named Head Cage, even though there isn't a song of that title on it (though there is here). Maybe that tells me something. Maybe not. I should find out.

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