Review Summary: A functional album that serves as a decent starting point for a band that would later go on to achieve so much more.
When I hear the band name ‘Pig Destroyer’ these days, I flinch. It may be an internal flinch, but I feel it; it’s as if my brain stops functioning for a second so it can catch its’ breath. It’s nothing to do with the band name, although ‘Pig Destroyer’ is an extremely evocative set of words. It’s not even to do with the music, or the elements that combine to create it. It’s the sound. A sense of foreboding washes over me at the very mention of a band I have been listening to for years. Paradoxical, maybe, but when a band compresses a sound as intense, vile, and obdurate as this in the perfected manner that Pig Destroyer have, it’s like containing a lion in a glass jar. Now, after fifteen years, Pig Destroyer are still letting the lion run rampant, and there seems to be no hint of the creature becoming drowsy, nor any chance of the jar shattering. In looking back at their first LP, Explosions In Ward 6
, listeners become aware not only of the fact Pig Destroyer sound as forceful and extreme as they do now, but also of how refined their sound has since become. This is not your dictionary definition of refinement, however; this is a careful, deliberate finesse to a sound that seems completely devoid of such things. This album is the start of a legacy that would go on to become one of the most influential in the history of grind, and, being the starting point for the band, it is a raw, brutal and depraved experience that serves to remind listeners exactly who Pig Destroyer are, and where they came from.
One of the most noteworthy things about Pig Destroyer that has remained consistent for the majority of their discography is vocalist J.R. Hayes’ use of shouts and screams as opposed to the more traditional grind techniques of pig squeals and low growls. This is present throughout Explosions In Ward 6
, and much like the rest of the band’s releases, it affords the music a sound that feels more rooted in hardcore punk than metal. Occasionally, on such songs as ‘My Fellow Vermin’ and ‘Endgame’, guttural vocals are implemented, but only to serve as the crushing final blow to a section of the song, usually assisted by Scott Hull’s frantic, highly distorted guitar riffs. The sound throughout the album is one of complete annihilation, with bitterness and anger pervading the lyrics and vocal delivery, the relentless blast beats of the drums, and the hysterical changes in tempo. The use of multi-layered vocals, which can be heard throughout the album, notably on track ‘Flesh Upon Gear’, serves to create an interesting but somewhat uncharacteristic grind sound, overlapping screams and growls as the music thunders along. It’s pleasant to note that there are also slower tracks on the release, in the same vein as tracks found on later albums. ‘Pixie’ is an almost six minute long exercise in sound manipulation, beginning as a typical Pig Destroyer track, albeit with a slower tempo. Before long, though, the guitars become less pronounced and the sound of the instruments is replaced with that of a slowly rising feedback whine, reminiscent of intro/ outro tracks ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Piss Angel’ from Prowler In The Yard
. Hayes continues to yelp over the sound, and the effect is one of utter despair, until the music is re-introduced with a far groovier rhythm underscoring it this time. It’s inventive, but the abrupt fade-out end renders it a little anticlimactic, and for a band that is essentially all about the climax, this is somewhat underwhelming.
The typical things to say in a review such as this as regards whether one should listen or not is ‘if you’re a fan of the band’s later material, you’ll probably appreciate this’, and this is probably a fair summation for listeners. For non-initiates, though, the answer is a little more complex. The thing that makes Pig Destroyer’s later releases so popular amongst listeners is the variety to the sound. This sounds somewhat contradictory, especially given the fact that Pig Destroyer produce a genre of music notorious for lack of variety, but these aren’t eclectic shifts in sound or even in tone. These are subtly-implemented shifts in the characteristics of the music. The brutish, overwhelming barrage of instrumental and vocal mayhem that sprays the inside of listener’s ears with bile could be replaced at the next minute with an equally heavy, but decidedly different sound that moseys along rather than sprints at breakneck speed. Moseys with a groovier bassline, a more harmonious vocal approach, or a more melodic riff. These elusive switches between ‘similar, but different’ set Pig Destroyer apart musically, as they demonstrate an intelligence in their sound and structuring, even when the songs themselves are well under a minute long, allowing listeners to experience a spectrum of differently-orchestrated rage in a short space of time. Unfortunately, this is a quality that is lacking from Explosions In Ward 6
somewhat. There are still flashes of this twisted intelligence here and there, but for the most part, the release feels standard; mired in a formula that the band would later transcend. It’s as crushing a journey as any other release taken from Pig Destroyer’s catalogue, but it doesn’t assault the listener in as perversely beauteous a way, and that is something we have since come to expect from this outfit.