Pig Destroyer – Phantom Limb

Pig Destroyer
Phantom Limb

I’ve been following Pig Destroyer since I first heard their side of a split 7″ with Orchid way back in 1998. They are one of the fastest bands with an actual human drummer that I’ve ever heard. Over the last decade they’ve cranked out a number of significant albums, crucial to any fan of grindcore’s blistering tempos and unforgiving blast. Sharing members with Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Pig Destroyer sounds like an only slightly slower version of that band without sacrificing any of the intensity or energy that propelled ANb to greatness. Although I count myself among a legion of diehard fans, I’ve never felt that Pig Destroyer fully lived up to my lofty expectations until now. I blame myself for having ridiculously high standards when it comes to grindcore, but when it’s done right it can be acutely effective.

To say that Phantom Limb is by far the best Pig Destroyer album to date would be an understatement. Not only does it fulfill that position, but it’s also one of the best grindcore records I’ve ever heard. The band sets the bar way fucking high on this one. They take all of the speed and ferocity of previous records but throw in some heavy grooving riffs ala Pantera circa Vulgar Display of Power. “Rotten Yellow” might be one of the best openers on a metal album this decade, ranking alongside such greats as Converge’s “Concubine” and High On Fire’s “Devilution.” In less than two minutes, the band executes a series of technical riffs only to pile drive it into the ground with a crushing breakdown near the end. On the opposite end of the album, the closer is a hidden track comprised of chirping crickets and the distant sound of a country tune. In between these poles the band wrings out heavy grooves on “Loathsome” and “Lesser Animal” while packing in dense chunks of grade A grind on “Deathtripper” and “Though Crime Spree.” The pinnacle of Phantom Limb is arguably “Heathen Temple” though. It starts out forcing a fast-as-fuck riff down your throat and then at the 2:33 mark it punches you in the gut with the album’s most effective riff, a riff so “catchy” that Pig Destroyer only gives us a brief glimpse into its power before it’s over.

My single reservation with totally praising Pig Destroyer has always been the lyrics. J.R. Hayes has often been championed for writing some of the best lyrics in the grindcore genre. At first glance the lyrics seem lofty and intelligent, but they lack the over-the-top power of typically offensive anthems like Slayer’s “Angel of Death” or “Jesus Saves” (or any songs by Scott Hull’s former band, Anal Cunt, which are pretty much known only for being offensive) by occasionally veering too close to the usual Victory Records “we hate girls, they’re all evil and deserve to die” bro-core, replacing overtly offensive language with slightly more subversive and dare I say it “emo” lyrics that echo those same sentiments only presented in a generally indistinguishable manner. This is a small complaint in light of my awareness that there is actually a band called Violence Against Feminist Cunts whose album art is littered with caricatures of women being raped. Add to that Scott Hull’s own admission that most of the offensive nature of the band’s lyrics is purposefully tongue-in-cheek. None of this will detract grindcore fans from enjoying the album I’m sure, but this is my soapbox to stand on concerning all aspects of the album so it would be remiss of me not to address it.

Pig Destroyer has nonetheless created a masterpiece of fear-inducing metallic grind. Phantom Limb is a hodgepodge of ripping anthems, mid-tempo riffing, and an overall testament to the power that metal can still have. With so many bands out there vying for attention along with the splintering of metal into countless genres all espousing different thoughts on their idea of purity versus stagnancy, it can be a daunting task to assign relevance to one album without an immediate backlash. SunnO))) having an (un)envious amount of attention paid to them in a genre where that is generally looked upon with distrust is the best example. It created a small backlash, as if having a wider audience made their work somehow less relevant. This year the spotlight is on Pig Destroyer. The only question now is how they’ll follow this one.