Label: Relapse Records
Release Date: October 22, 2012
Five years have passed since Pig Destroyer assaulted the ears listeners with Phantom Limb. In that time the Richmond, Virginia band made up of guitarist/mastermind Scott Hull, vocalist J.R. Hayes, noise artist Blake Harrison have welcomed a new drummer Adam Jarvis, also of the Baltimore grindcore band Misery Index. After an extended lapse in time and the acquisition of a new drummer, expectations for the new album were guarded. Would this new album be a huge departure for the grindcore masters? Would new drummer Jarvis be able to fill the shoes of previous drummer Brian Harvey? Any questions or worries can be laid to rest with just one listen. Book Burner more than lives up to the excellent discography of Hull and crew.
The album comes in two flavors: single disk regular jewel case edition and the superior deluxe edition which comes accompanied with mini-cd E.P. Blind, Deaf and Bleeding and a short story by J.R. Hayes titled “The Atheist.” The E.P. is well worth the additional cost and contains seven classic punk rock tracks re-imagined by Pig Destroyer. The Hayes short story really sets the stage for Book Burner. Without spoiling the story, it tells the tale of a college professor struggling for survival in near future America that has been taken over by a corrupt Theocracy. While Book Burner doesn’t appear to be a concept album, the story does set the mood for the angry raw music to follow.
The rage born out of Book Burner is one that is blossomed from the futility of common man against a system that exists to keep him down. The album’s first track, “Sis”, tells the story of a character helping his sister escape from mental asylum. “American Head” details a reporter caught as a pawn between a terrorist organization and the American government. “The Diplomat” talks about the ever-increasing presence of corporate figures in international conflicts as the real puppet masters. All of this paints a grim picture of a citizenry that is victim to powers beyond their control. Such a grim subject matter needs an equally grim sound to accompany the rage. Scott Hulls music perfect compliments J.R. Hayes’ misanthropic lyrical stories. Adam Jarvis work on the drum kit is amazing and he is a natural fit for Pig Destroyer.
Although Blake Harrison’s performance on the album isn’t always apparent there is a cool “solo” of sorts he contributes to the song “The Bug.” Blake manages to fill the gaps where bass would normally fill. My one overall complaint would be the albums’ sound does not feel quite as full as it did on Phantom Limb. I never really missed not having bass on that album but a few times I did find Book Burner a little tinny sounding. But the overall song writing and performance on this album makes that such a minor complaint.
Even the guest spots on the album shine. Katherine Katz (formerly of Salome and currently of Agoraphobic Nosebleed) gives an amazing performance of the tracks “Eve” and “The Bug”. Richard “The Grindfather” Johnson lends his vocal assault to “The Underground Man.” Usually I don’t like guest appearances on albums because they often come off as gimmicky and make the performance of the songs live impossible to be recreated without the guest’s appearance, but here the performances of Johnson and Katz further the depth of the song. The tracks on which they perform have character that the two of them represent which give the songs deeper meaning. It is that kind of performance and production that make this album not only brutal but carefully nuanced.
Although the album is immediately accessible to new and old fans of Pig Destroyer alike, it is an album that demands closer inspection. Below the roiling surface of rage and righteous indignation is a calculating intellect that seeks to skewer the flaws of modern society. The music gets your head to banging but J.R. Hayes’ lyrics set that same head to thinking. As smart as it is furious, Book Burner is easily one of the best albums of 2012.
Stand out Tracks: “Sis”, “Baltimore Strangler”, “The Bug”, “Burning Palm”