originally written by Chris McDonald
I have been anticipating this album virtually since the day Pig Destroyer’s last album, Terrifyer, hit the streets in 2004 and completely changed my perception of what grindcore could be. And sure enough, the Virginia trio (now a quartet) delivers in spectacular fashion. Pig Destroyer’s brilliantly wacky mix of grind, thrash, doom, and noise has already yielded two widely hailed modern grindcore classics; 2001’s Prowler In The Yard first saw the band beginning to seriously experiment with the classic grind sound of their roots, while the aforementioned Terrifyer was an absolutely vicious and extraordinary blend of several extensions and variations of the grind genre, topped off with some of the most intensely emotional and psychotic vocals and lyrics the scene had ever seen.
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wondering where the hell Pig Destroyer would go after Terrifyer, as following up such an amazing album that broke so much new ground would be a difficult task for even the most talented and established artists. Scott Hull and Co. have had three years to work on Phantom Limb–the question was, would it continue the ruthlessly progressive, trail-blazing tendencies of the band’s last two discs, or would it be more of a logical continuation of the niche sound the outfit adopted on their last album? As it turns out, the answer is definitely both. And a damned good thing too, for in case you couldn’t tell by the scoring, I find Phantom Limb to be an exceptional album and living proof that Pig Destroyer remain one of the most talented and inventive bands in any metal genre.
The songwriting on this album remains right at the sky-high caliber of Terrifyer and with a couple of notable changes from that release’s formula. Most immediately noticeable is the integration of chuggy, off-time breakdowns that could be straight out of your favorite mathcore album. The catchy and expertly played breakdown riffs in songs like the title track and the incredible “Heathen Temple” don’t sound the least bit contrived or forced and add a great new dimension and feel to the band’s sound. J.R. Hayes’ vocals have changed little in tone since the last album, but those who didn’t like all the vocal layering of that release will be pleased to know that the layering has been virtually erased here and Hayes’ voice sounds much more natural this time around. His lyrics are still as morbid and ingenious as ever, for the most part a mix of the more abstract, metaphorical musings akin to Prowler In The Yard and the more specific storytelling vibe of Terrifyer. Brian Harvey’s drumming is more chaotic and forceful than its ever been, while Scott Hull continues to deliver some of the most creative and compelling riffs you’ll hear anywhere.
The album itself can be divided into two main segments. The first seven songs are all savage, blistering grind tracks that serve perfectly to get the blood flowing yet still retain the depth and individuality that‘s always set Pig Destroyer apart, while most of the album’s longer and more varied compositions are stacked on the second half of the disc. The various influences of the band are seamlessly integrated on some of these songs and more individually distinct on others. Cuts like “Jupiter’s Eye” and “Lesser Animal“ are chock-full of the primal punk/grind feel that’s always been the base of the band‘s sound, while songs like “Thought Crime Spree” and “Loathsome” play more like full-on thrash with the tempo and intensity increased. “The Girl In The Slayer Jacket” is perhaps the best showcase of Pig Destroyer’s experimental genius; a disturbing and volatile song full of bizarre and techy riffing, odd guitar effects, and more humongous, odd-time slow-downs. In the end, there’s really not a song on here that didn’t blow me away.
I couldn’t be more happy to give this album a perfect score, as Phantom Limb is truly a phenomenal album that more than lives up to the band’s already legendary name and will surely make great waves in the metal scene in years to come. The songwriting is perhaps the best of the band‘s career, musicianship is stellar as always, and the production is suitably loud, punchy, and caustic. I will say that there were a couple of times, particularly during blasting segments, where things sounded a little muddled and the drums were somewhat hard to really pick out. However, this is such a small problem that I‘m not even going to reflect it in my score, as it really didn‘t affect how much I enjoyed this release, which was a hell of a lot. And while I’m not sure this will convert those who lost interest in the band after Terrifyer, I am sure that anyone who likes their modern metal extreme and intelligent will find plenty to love in this album. Pig Destroyer have officially transcended the limitations of the grindcore realm and can now be considered one of the top bands in all walks of extreme music (if they weren’t already). Definitely the best release so far this year. Three masterpieces in a row, guys…can we make it four?