Pig Destroyer
Head Cage


4.0
excellent

Review

by Channing Freeman STAFF
September 7th, 2018 | 95 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Discarding the chainsaw for a hacksaw.

I’ll always have a soft spot for my fellow Virginians in Pig Destroyer. There is nothing quite like going to the “Local Favorites” section of a record store and seeing their albums side-by-side with pageninetynine’s Document #8 and Pygmy Lush’s Bitter River. It sort of softens the blow of Patton Oswalt’s famous “Sterling, VA” standup bit, wherein he bemoans an identity-less wasteland in which he was mired in musical ignorance only ten minutes away from “fuckin’ Fugazi and Minor Threat and Bad Brains, but I didn’t know about any of that because I was in Sterling, Virginia.”

Sterling is a lot different now, and if you believe some people, Pig Destroyer is a lot different too. People would say that a band this heavy didn’t need a bass player. Well, they’ve got one now. People would talk about JR Hayes discarding a broken microphone and screaming loudly enough to still be heard over amplified instruments. Well, that shit has negative effects on your vocals. And people would say that Blake Harrison – the dude who finds those samples that last for two seconds before certain songs – serves a pointless role in the band. That one is a little harder to refute, but I have always appreciated his ear for disturbing samples, and the first track on Head Cage is the first time that I’ve wished he would dial it back a little. It starts off well enough, with disarmingly charming music and a voice-over warning about what you’re about to hear, but the harsh feedback that follows goes on for a bit too long before we get to the actual business of a Pig Destroyer album.

But first, here’s another thing: my favorite Pig Destroyer album, Phantom Limb, was apparently extremely difficult to make and almost broke apart the band. It was all because former drummer Brian Harvey didn’t want to play at a blistering pace anymore, so the band was forced to write longer, more structured songs that didn’t end after 45 seconds. They ended up being extremely good at it, but it led to the back-to-basics Book Burner that subsequently disappointed a fanbase that had grown larger after the acclaim of Phantom Limb. Head Cage is successful because it marries those two approaches. The songs, in general, are a little slower and sludgier, but almost half of them are under two minutes long. Economical songwriting has long been a PD staple, and because they were so skilled at making every second of those short songs count, there is rarely any time wasted when they stretch things out to three or four minutes.

After the rare wasted space of “Tunnel Under the Tracks”, the pick scrape of “Dark Train” starts the record with a bang. It’s punchy and short, barely extending past a minute. It is classic Pig Destroyer, and it is followed by “Army of Cops”, which is perhaps the least classic-sounding track here. Reception to this lead single, which features guest vocals by Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Richard Johnson, was mixed, but the song’s relatively straightforward metal sound and structure is a breath of fresh air from PD’s usual breakneck speed and chaos. It is a little strange to hear JR Hayes’s sneering vocals at the end of the song, though. It is almost as if he is trying to substitute attitude for vocal power, and I’m not sure that sound works for him. Overall, I’m not bothered by the new, somewhat tamer sound of his harsh vocals, but I can understand why they, along with the slower sound, might make some think that PD has lost their edge.

However, all the things that I love about Pig Destroyer are still present. Scott Hull relies a little too much on palm muting (he always has, but the pace was so frenetic that it wasn’t too noticeable), but he still pulls out some excellent riffs in songs like “Terminal Itch”, “Circle River”, and seven-minute closer “House of Snakes”. The drum sound is a bit weak, but Adam Jarvis plays extremely well, and it is especially thrilling to hear him lock into a groove with brother John Jarvis on the bass. These added elements form a backbone that, along with guest vocals on several tracks, make up for some of the raw power that Hayes has lost in his voice. And his lyrics are still some of the most unique out there, albeit not disturbing like they were on Terrifyer and Prowler in the Yard. “The Adventures of Jason and JR” is silly, but every other song on the album has great lines that are now more easily understandable to boot. Pig Destroyer may have switched from a chainsaw that cuts quickly to a hacksaw that takes a bit longer, but they’re still creating phantom limbs, and the blood and viscera are still present.



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user ratings (118)
Chart.
3.3
great
other reviews of this album
ThyCrossAwaits (3.5)
The head cage is what keeps you from digging this....



Comments:Add a Comment 
speakonthat
September 7th 2018


4 Comments


Welcome back Channing, always good to see you and always a pleasure to read your reviews. Well written, as usual, and I pretty much agree with you. Definitely an improvement from Book Burner and makes me remember why I've loved this band for years. Good stuff.

Skash
September 7th 2018


7 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Oh boy...



Great review tho

TheNotrap
September 7th 2018


9168 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Album is a massive jam

Digging: Pig Destroyer - Head Cage

Doctuses
September 7th 2018


1822 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I guess you can count me as one of the ones who thinks theyve lost their edge

Rowhaus
September 7th 2018


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

will listen tonight

Digging: Toby Driver - They Are the Shield

Kompys2000
September 7th 2018


1531 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I feel like a 3 is simultaneously too generous and not generous enough for this.

Digging: Bird Streets - Bird Streets

bloc
September 7th 2018


51830 Comments


Heard this today and ended up not digging it after all

Digging: Blahzay Blahzay - Blah Blah Blah

BigPleb
September 7th 2018


54531 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fun album.

bgillesp
September 7th 2018


5862 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

my first Pig Destroyer experience and I thought it was pretty good. Def need to check their classics

GhostB1rd
September 7th 2018


1227 Comments


lol fucking doubt it

FearThyEvil
September 7th 2018


16436 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is really doing nothing for me at all.

Darius
September 8th 2018


17574 Comments


Fuck yea another Chan review
It's great too

Iamthe Nightstars
September 8th 2018


2725 Comments


I mean, it's decent hardcore but their grind stuff was more fun.

DrGonzo1937
Contributing Reviewer
September 8th 2018


14687 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

From what I gather, there's a division in the fanbase these days? This is my introduction to these guys and I think it's really great.

JayEnder
September 8th 2018


2225 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I really love these guys but this album just did not rip as hard as I thought it would... They are all capable of so much more. JR’s voice is fucking shot. I did like the closer to this alot tho, makes me wish they made more long songs

Digging: The Story So Far - Proper Dose

Kompys2000
September 8th 2018


1531 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah House of Snakes is damn solid, really ends the album on a high note

ChaoticVortex
September 8th 2018


657 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Puzzeled by the low average because I'm enjoying the hell out of this record. It's a slower, groovier Pig Destroyer but man are the grooves hit hard. The production and the flow of the songs are miles better than Book Burner, House of Snakes is one of the best tracks they've written in a long time. Too bad JR's voice lost a lot of flame (time is a bitch).

DDDeftoneDDD
September 8th 2018


2037 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Nobody likes our direction

Yet we don't turn around

Could it be, that secretly

We like being kept down?

GET ON YOUR KNEES. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO

Digging: Gaerea - Unsettling Whispers

Tunaboy45
September 8th 2018


16564 Comments


I'm really digging this more hardcore direction

Digging: IDLES - Joy as an Act of Resistance

botb
September 8th 2018


11867 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Somewhere between a 2.5 and a 3 for me. Production is weird, had a lot of slow sludgy riffs but not a lot of variation between them. But when this goes in it really goes in, it just seems like those “holy shit” moments have long passed this band



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