Review: Pig Destroyer – Head Cage

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As has been covered here on the Toilet, this album’s first single, “Army of Cops”, dropped to mixed responses from long-time fans, many claiming the track is too nü for their ears so trü (sorry, not sorry). If this is yü, I have good nüs and bad nüs.

THE GOOD: Though it’s not as prominent as on Book Burner, the Piggy D. boys will still blast you into dizzying spasms.

THE BAD: A lot of moments on this album fucking groove, so get down. This, of course, is only bad news if you for some reason thought they were going to put out 38 Counts of Battery again.

After an appropriate noise/soundbite interlude (This IS Pig Destroyer, after all) tracks 2 and 3 exemplify the groove/blast dichotomy of Head Cage right off the bat . After “Dark Train” pummels you to the ground with ungodly BPMs and demented riffing, the band takes their time and savoring your torture with “Army of Cops”.

“Circle River”, another mostly blast-less grind-n-roll number, makes liberal use of gang vocals and shows off the band’s hardcore influence better than the EP of punk covers they put out alongside Book Burner.

After “The Torture Fields”, whose video is linked below this paragraph, “Terminal Itch” and “Concrete Beast” bring us back into the hyper-violent insanity that got me into this band when I first heard Terrifyer. Both of these songs welcome back vocalist Kat Katz (Agoraphobic Nosebleed, ex-Salome) who manages to show off the variety of her range in the short time she’s with us here. This culminates in her and JR holding together a satisfyingly harsh harmony.

Stepping outside of the track sequence for a moment, this album differs from anything they’ve put out before for a few reasons. The obvious: bass. John Jarvis brings a sort of cold metallic tone to the table which puts some of their slower riffs to the left side of the Godflesh/Swans spectrum. Making it even more industrial still is that Blake Harrison, their hype-man and noise-guy since Phantom Limb, seems to have more room to build textures on this album than ever before. Some of the atmosphere that this all takes place in reminds me of Tombs insofar as it rocks the fuck out in a way that feels more blue/gray as opposed to the red/black feeling of their pre-Blake work.

With exceptions in “Army of Cops” and “House of Snakes”, they are still committed to a non-repeating approach in which moments of riff follow each other and, once done, never return. There are still Twin Peaks samples.

After three more bangers, *Full of Hell noises intensify* as Dylan Walker contributes harsh electronics to “The Last Song”. This brings us to album-closer “House of Snakes”, a song just over seven minutes long with enough variety to deserve the length.

For its atmosphere, dynamics, texture, groove, brutality, misery, and fun, I give Head Cage by Pig Destroyer four and a half flaming toilets ov hell. 

Head Cage comes out on Relapse Records September 7th.

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