Label: Relapse Records
Pig Destroyer is a band known for its love of extremes and for most people it’s their grindcore material that first comes to mind – but it’s no secret that Pig Destroyer has dabbled in its fair share of doom and drone in the past.
Their EP and lone track “Natasha” is their most prominent example of this: a doom/ambient 37-minute epic that goes through several phrases in the story of Natasha, a dead girl who devours her lover and murderer as the earth when he returns to her hidden grave in the woods. The track goes through movements of field recordings with leafs being shuffled and birds chirping; while others feature simple yet absolutely crushing chugs and J.R. Hayes’ inhuman suffering roars. The track was a thing of beauty and murder at the same time.
With “Natasha” and tracks like Pixie and Starbelly, as well as covers of the legendary Melvins (Oven on “38 Counts Of Battery” and Claude on the Melvins tribute compilation “We Reach: The Music of the Melvins”), we had evidence of Pig Destroyer’s love for all things slow and heavy as much as the fast and furious. Now, we have another piece to add to the collection.
“Mass & Volume” was written during the recording of “Phantom Limb” (yes, Brian Harvey on drums) and according to the band wasn’t intended to see the light of day, but due to (unfortunate) circumstances, it has. It was released yesterday in tribute of Relapse Records dedicated Director of Sales Pat Egan, who sadly passed away last month due to pneumonia. A sampler compilation named Patlapse had already been released by the label to raise funds, but Pig Destroyer joined the cause by releasing this unheard two-track EP… and what a treat.
The first track Mass & Volume is a 19-minute monster and opens with some nice ambience – not dissimilar to that of Scott Hull’s “Requiem” project. However, this feels a lot more natural – the throbbing feedback and reverb of bass grows, retreats and repeats into a nice wall of sound. The straightfoward guitar feedback wanders in and out at various strengths as strings groan onwards – the whole phase is simply delicate and is not something you’d expect from Pig Destroyer at all.
Then drums, bass and guitar come in, but not in the grindcore fashion. Like the build-ups in “Natasha” and their other doom tracks, Pig Destroyer execute the perfect doom style of interjecting drum licks and the hammering down-strums of guitar chords – never feeling planned or contrived but a natural progression. A gong and what sounds like a didgeridoo makes an appearance too, which works, and then J.R. Hayes comes in. His vocals here makes me forget of the bearded and friendly-looking guy who fronts the band, but instead makes me think of a gagged convict in a high-security prison who looks like Charlie Bronson, but promises (with gagged snarls) of an apocalypse. By then, the sludge/doom riffs are in a steady swing, just creating a luscious vibe.
There’s some sort of sample of a man ranting too, but being too low in the mix of the rumbling bass, the soaring choir-like vocals and the guitar feedback to make it out what’s being said clearly. The thick drums however really grab your attention during the last five or so minutes as the band begins to slow it down for the outro. Brian Harvey (if it wasn’t obvious already) had a talent for playing the drums so slowly (and scarce) yet making them so hard-hitting and unforgettable. However, the track eventually becomes void of all instruments apart from those choir vocals and warped keys see the track out.
Red Tar is a more straightfoward affair with an instant bombardment of sludgy riffs and drums that eventually drop into chugs as Hayes’s ferocious vocals opens with “In the moment of truth I stuck with the lie / Got lost in the smoke / Became a slave to a weak mind”. While the instrumentation of this track isn’t as varying or creative as Mass, it’s still enough to satisfy any sludge/doom fan. In exchange of that sacrifice, the lyrics and vocals take the forefront here: Hayes is clearer yet still maintains that inhuman and rabid sound, which works well with lyrics like “Overdosed on cynicism / Swept under and drowned / Lured by a siren / I ran my ship aground”. The last verse almost feels like the swansong of the beast that spits forward on the track and brings the EP to a pretty slow, emotional end, where Harvey eventually ends up drumming solo.
Needless to stay, it’s a hard-hitter, and any fans who felt disappointed by the recent full-length “Bookburner” should surely find something to love on this EP. “Mass & Volume” is simply a solid reminder of how fluently Pig Destroyer can sway from being fast to slow while keeping it equally heavy all the time. If there was ever a complaint to make about this EP, it’s that its not currently available on a physical format. If you enjoy PD at their slowest, then you will most certainly enjoy this.
So with all this in mind, it’s worthwhile donating your money in exchange of a great EP and the knowledge that you’re helping a family out. You can stream and purchase “Mass & Volume” via the Patlapse bandcamp here.
Favourite tracks: Both.