A title as abstract and angular as the music within
Pig Destroyer have long been championed as one of the best bands to spearhead the grindcore and powerviolence sound they have become known for. Formed in 1997 by Scott Hull (Agoraphobic Nosebleed, AxCx) on guitar and frontman/vocalist J.R. Hayes, who have been the only two constant members since their inception, Pig Destroyer got off to a prominent start, releasing splits with legendary post-metal bands like Isis, or the extremely influential screamo pioneers Orchid, before the release of two of the most critically acclaimed grindcore albums of all time, Prowler In The Yard (2001), and Terrifyer (2004).
More recently, Pig Destroyer have gone through their fair share of drummers and bassists, as well as dropping the newest of a long-running series of promotional videos, including songs from their previous release, 2018’s Headcage. Released through Relapse, Pig Destroyer (a name that means exactly what you think it means) have gone all in on their latest EP, The Octagonal Stairway, not compromising on their unrelenting, yet trademark, brutal music.
To begin, the opening title track is genuinely terrifying. Those accustomed and knowledgable to Pig Destroyer will know how their opening songs are usually pretty unsettling, whether an ambient soundscape or a text-to-speech generated monologue about licking eyeballs as if they were sugar cubes (amazing, right?). The almost immediate blast-beats, dissonant chugs and accompanying pinch harmonics highlight and punctuate Pig Destroyer’s true grind nature, caked in a pristine production sheen; it’s almost too perfect. The storm really sets in as subtle waves of J.R.’s deeply reverberated vocals fade in and out of the void until the end, trailing with a good minute or so of synth noise.
This aforementioned noisy synth is prominent throughout the EP, transitioning not only between songs, but sections of each song, as per se the following track, “The Cavalry.” This song actually features a thrash/mosh section about halfway through, contrasted by the blisteringly fast and technical passages of drum and guitar work, reminding the listener that in defiance of grind tradition, Pig Destroyer actually know how to play their instruments well. Something important to mention is the very brief and surprising sample of Enter Shikari’s hit single “Sorry You’re Not A Winner,” which closes out the song.
The track “Cameraman” is the most straightforward of the first-half of the EP. It somewhat fixates on a main guitar riff, dispersing and branching into various faster sections, sprinkled with, again, a high-pitched synth pad sound comparable to Converge’s Jane Doe (2001), flavoring highly dissonant metallic hardcore with curiously enough, a theremin. More importantly, don’t click away just yet to find which songs off Jane Doe have theremin in it (hint: “Fault and Fracture” is one of them), because Pig Destroyer become fully dedicated to the cause of weird electronic noise on the second half of the EP.
Yes, from the brief audio collage “News Channel 6,” onward, Pig Destroyer go full on … experimental noise? To expand, yes, the last 14 minutes are three dark ambient/noise/electronic tracks that sample voice snippets, synthesizers, white noise and everything in between. The biggest influences and sonic comparison here would have to be noise and industrial legends Throbbing Gristle, Tago Mago-era CAN, clipping. and Whitehouse (who Pig Destroyer have frequently cited as being fans of). Honestly, there is not much to delve into on the latter half of the album aside from the fact that this is not Pig Destroyer’s first venture into this territory, flirting with it on their 2018 release, with the aid of Full of Hell’s Dylan Walker.
Albeit, this is surely a distinct and non-lackluster direction to go into, as not many grindcore bands have flirted with electronic and synthesizer music since the mid 2000’s days of true cybergrind, a la The Locust and Genghis Tron, who have both recently announced reunions, as well as contemporary bands such as Crisis Sigil, THECHEESEBURGERPICNIC and Pacmanthemovie (#cybergrindrevival2020). Nonetheless, Pig Destroyer have certainly put something of note out with 2020’s The Octagonal Stairway, breaking new ground for Pig Destroyer and heavy music in general.