Let’s get something straight from the outset. Don’t bother with this review if you think Metallica are good, but Slayer are a bit scary. This album is brutal. This is as hard and heavy as it gets. If you’re an adventurous listener or you like your metal extreme and violently frenetic, then read on. If not…skip this one!
This is the fifth album from the Virginian four piece grindcore outfit. Their last was the critically acclaimed Phantom Limb released in 2007 so the band have had five years to hone their sound. In that time they’ve replaced drummer Brian Harvey with Adam Jarvis…and what an addition he is….but more on that later.
Y’know the great thing about this band? They’ve always been a bit “loose”. Perfectionism doesn’t seem to be part of their musical vocabulary. Instrumentally and production-wise they’ve always maintained an air of realism, eschewing studio polish and show off virtuosity, which is very much reflective of their punk roots. Close your eyes while listening and you can easily imagine you’re at a live gig.
Book Burner is a little different. The production still has a wonderfully dirty and raw vibe to it… which to me sounds fucking fantastic! I’m sick to death of over compressed drums, absolutely perfect solos and endless edits by producers hacking and slashing at the audio files like mad butchers until they come up with something that sounds nothing like the original performance. “Oh but it sounds professional”. Big deal. It sounds sterile and machine like. Many metal (and non-metal) bands suffer from this affliction these days. It’s been going on since Robert “Mutt” Lange turned Def Leppard’s Pyromania into something almost totally artificial that the band couldn’t hope to recreate as a unit….and that was in 1983.
Anyways the overall sound is most cool. The guitars are filthily distorted (no solos now, this is grindcore…naughty), the vocals are spine tinglingly shrieked and gutturally vomited at you in equal measures, and the drumming is frantic and precise. This may have you hardened grind freaks yawning a bit, but here’s the thing. The band have added a whole other dimension to their sound. Rather than play straight ahead grindcore, they’ve obviously been taking in a fair bit of the likes of The Dillinger Escape Plan or Meshuggah. Besides the blinding speed of the material, there’s also some mind-bendlingly complex rhythmic structures, that absolutely floored me on the first listen. The addition of Adam Jarvis on drums has been a masterstroke. This guy can seriously play. I mean… he’s up there with Flo Monier (Cryptopsy), Derek Roddy (Hate Eternal) or George Kollias (Nile). High praise indeed, but it’s most deserved, not only does he play with frightening speed, the rhythmic shifts and unexpected tempo and timing changes are executed with seemingly consummate ease!
Though Jarvis is undoubtedly the hero of the record, the rest of the band stack up very well. 19 songs in 30 minutes. That’s what this album consists of. As such, the band fit a hell of a lot into each track. Most musical phrases only go for a few seconds before a new and unexpected change is applied. This is perfect music for those with very short attention spans! Half the time, I could barely call the guitar parts riffs, they’re almost like fills, linking one brutal piece of heaviness with the next. I call them rifflets! These short and complex rifflets join forces with the amazing drumming and intense screams to create a work that is bloody impressive. Pig Destroyer have tightened up since Phantom Limb and taken their sound to new and unprecedented level. They’ve almost invented a new metal genre (like we need any more)….Math-grind.
Of course being grindcore there are some equally funny/macabre samples, the most disturbing being a fractured and distorted recording of a reading from Henry Miller’s Tropic Of Cancer at the beginning of the track “The Bug”…
“This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty . . . what you will. I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse …” brrrr….the text doesn’t do it justice. The sample is chilling.
This album is an absolutely face-melting piece of frenetic insanity. If there’s one complaint it’s that, despite its quick-change approach, it all sounds a bit the same after a while…but that’s the nature of the beast that is grindcore (or math-grind, seeing as I just coined the term.) It’s difficult to describe the kind of visceral thrill Book Burner provides. I can only term it as….controlled chaos. Highly recommended!!