Reviews

Pig Destroyer - Mass & Volume EP

RELAPSE 2014

In 2006, when Pig Destroyer recorded “Mass & Volume” and “Red Tar”—two songs that didn’t make it onto their astounding 2007 album Phantom Limb—they had no way of knowing those songs would one day become a memorial to a dead friend. But following the passing of Relapse Records staffer Pat Egan in 2013, the progressive grindcore outfit bundled those two orphaned tracks as the Mass & Volume EP, sold it digitally, and donated the proceeds to Egan’s family. A year and a half later, Mass & Volume is seeing the light of day as an official, physical release. As a gesture of kindness to a departed comrade—Pig Destroyer have been a cornerstone of Relapse’s roster since their 2000 split with Isis—it’s beautiful. As a doom-ridden detour from the group’s typical blitzkrieg of dense, hyper-literate grind, it’s downright ugly.

Unlike the frantic Phantom Limb—or Book Burner, Pig Destroyer’s intervening album—Mass & Volume is slow. As in, glacier-dragging-a-fallen-planetoid slow. In that sense, it draws from the dour, down-tuned slither of doom metal, but it’s a far cry from either the antediluvian groove of Pentagram or the antiheroic songcraft of recent outfits like Lycus and Pallbearer. The EP’s first song, “Mass & Volume”, is clearly the sound of a grind band unhinging its jaw to accommodate the proportions of doom; most Pig Destroyer tracks do their duty in under three minutes, while “Mass & Volume” weighs in at over 19. When Pig Destroyer decides to play doom, however, it’s best to assume it won’t go unexamined. All the requisite components are there: hovering feedback, threatening riffs, and chasms of pregnant space. But frontman J. R. Hayes unfurls his unintelligible tongue as if it’s the red carpet to hell, a far more alien delivery than most doom bands, and guitarist Scott Hull is just as apt to let his instrument drone, disintegrate, and ultimately eat its own tail as he is to actually summon a chord.

“Red Tar” is only three times as long as your average Pig Destroyer song, but those six and a half minutes are milked of every conceivable ounce of sludge. Here the EP finally resembles a Pig Destroyer 45 played on 33, plain and simple, with none of the compositional mutation on display in “Mass & Volume”. It’s the perfect complement; tighter and more coherent—inasmuch as Hayes and Hull’s mutual assured deconstruction could ever be called coherent—the song creeps from plateau to plateau, leaving a trail of viscera in its wake. “Grief crawls in the shadow of time/ Try to keep in mind/ It’s all finite,” Hayes grunts in existential agony. Instead of seeming like some noble savage, he’s a trapped animal, snarling and soon to be gutted.

The fact that “Mass & Volume” and “Red Tar” were amputated from the final version of Phantom Limb lends the two songs their own sick humor and grotesque gravity—qualities that, not coincidentally, Pig Destroyer specialize in. It’s left to the listener’s imagination to guess how appropriate the EP might be as a tribute to Egan. That shouldn’t matter, of course; a good EP is a good EP, and Mass & Volume fits that bill. Yet the circumstances surrounding any piece of music are not separable from the experience of hearing it, and that’s how it should be. Pig Destroyer has long trafficked in the absurdism of mortality, the profundity of body-horror, and the contortion of metal tropes themselves. There’s a perverse soulfulness at the core of their music, though, and in slowing their berserk onslaught to a vulnerable slither, Hayes and crew have turned Mass & Volume into something heart-stoppingly sorrowful. Pig Destroyer, poignant? The notion isn’t as strange—nor, as the EP demonstrates, as forced—as one might think. Mass & Volume barely moves, but it’s definitely moving.

Jason Heller


   

Aeons of Ashes - Shutdown

Noiseheadrecords

Release: 19 September 2014

Founded in 2013 and featuring members of featuring ex-members of renowned Austrian metal acts TRASHCANNED, EPSILON and DESICCATED. After creating quite a buzz with their very first live shows, their debut album "Shutdown" is now about to spread a fresh approach of Modern Melodic Death Metal all over the world.

Shutdown“ offers a variety of different styles and song structures, but comes together as a well-rounded entity in the end. The album begins with a spheric piano intro and ends with the piano outro of „Remember My Name“, the track that was also used for the band’s official story video and might be inspired by bands like Lamb Of God.
Monocracy“ (03), released as a lyric video, provides obviously politically inspired lyrics over a catchy in-your-face tune, both brutal and melodic. „Punchfuck“ (04) seems to add some freshness to Devildriver song structures and sound. ClearlyGame of Thrones referenced „Winter Is Coming“ (06) comes out as a very dense, dark, almost desperate song, while „As I Turn The Page“ (07) is both haunting and catchy.
Silence Will Fall“ (08), maybe the most athmospheric tune, appears like a breathing space before the disturbing yet intoxicating „File“ (9) and „White Lies“ (10) which could be mistaken for an unreleased Dark Tranquillity anthem. All in all a very ambitious and technically well-produced debut album that definitely might earn Aeons Of Ashes an impressive mark on the international metal map.

HMC

Bandcontact:
www.facebook.com/AeonsOfAshes


   

Cavalera Conspiracy – Pandemonium

NAPALM RECORDS 2014

The American author Mark Twain once said “Familiarity breeds contempt – and children”.

It’s a nifty quote that could be applied to Max Cavalera who, along with brother Igor, head the list of pioneers of Brazilian death-edged thrash metal. Max Cavalera’s literal children, of course, ended up getting involved later, but his musical offspring would be the multitude of bands that he helped establish. Each one of those bands became outlets for Max’s preferred style of songwriting. Naturally, with so much similar material being pumped out, there stood a case for familiarity breeding contempt. Regardless, fans of his aggressive, tribal metal have stayed faithful and his records continue to sell in their hundreds of thousands.

There are no prizes for guessing the content of this third Cavalera Conspiracy album. However, if you’d expected clipped, rapid-fire verses paired with choruses repetitiously bellowing the track title then you’d be a winner. However, there are a few little tweaks in Pandemonium that might surprise. Firstly, the album has quite possibly the ugliest cover art I’ve ever come across. Within, the music is marked with an especially haranguing, bleak tone and the emphasis is on more thrash, less groove so expect this to clash heads with early Sepultura material. In the words of Max, “This one is almost grindcore. I was really a dictator in the studio with Igor. So every time he’d go into the groove, I’d be like “Fuck the groove! Go back to the fast shit!” As a consequence it’s inherently evil and is much a case of love by force.

Marc Rizzo puts in a shift, throwing out fizzed chugs and lightning riffs like confetti and Igor’s got a few ear-plosions in store for us with a gut-punching bass drum. ‘Banzai Kamikaze’, in particular, is a crushing power play with a viscous construction that keeps you on your toes. Other leading lights are the fist-pumping glory of ‘Apex Predator’ and ‘Insurrection’. These are two of the most virulent, callous, putrid tracks from the band to date, and the powerful, anthemic smack of ‘Not Losing The Edge’ is little short of glorious. With Converge’s Nate Newton grabbing the bass from Johnny Chow there’s a stomping backline to drive the album forward with real attack and, as a bonus, he’s employed to howl out the echoing, enigmatic words of ‘The Crucible’ – a track that explores the tale of the witches of Salem.

Elsewhere, it’s very much a case of business as usual with ‘Babylonian Pandemonium’, ‘Scum’ and ‘Father Of Hate’ (which, being heavily-accented, amusingly sounds more like ‘Fucker Of Hate’) resorting to type. There’s also the Neanderthal charm of ‘I, Barbarian’ and ‘Cramunhao’ to deal with. Both are distorted to within an inch of their life and the former even employs a jarring industrial edge that simply falls flat. It’s not long before the similarity between tracks does become tiresome and you do find yourself gasping for change. They eventually oblige, raising their heads for the closing tribal pots-and-pans tub-thumper ‘Porra’. Fans of Soulfly should know the script, but this also employs a curious Manu Chao-esque vocal rip and has a danceable latino vibe that it returns to between the messy, gruff sections of grumbling, dissolute thrash.

Pandemonium isn’t going to blow your mind. It is way too predictable for that, which is a shame when you consider the exciting hardcore edge that Blunt Force Trauma offered. Fans, however, will lap this offering up and they should. Amidst all the familiarity, it has enough grunt to kickstart a pit all of its own. Under this particular guise, Max, Igor and Marc do seem to produce their best work.

John Skibeat

 


   

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