Sound Bites: Pig Destroyer – The Octagonal Stairway
Anyone who knows me knows I love the grind…grindcore to be exact. The reason I love grind is mainly based on the sound itself, but it is Pig Destroyer I can thank for truly bringing me to the light. Pig Destroyer was formed in 1994 by consistent members, J.R. Hayes and Scott Hull. Hull also did a brief stint playing guitar for Anal Cunt and is the mastermind behind Agoraphobic Nosebleed, but I digress.
Pig Destroyer’s debut album, Prowler in the Yard, put them on the map, and is considered one of the best grindcore albums of all time. Its raw, blasting brutality, spewed by a trio of heavy-hitters, is a hard act to follow. Not surprisingly, then, it’s easy to judge other grindcore bands by this metric, including PD themselves. As bands move throughout time and their members get older, they often lose the edge and power they had in their younger days, and better production can be off-putting to some fans.
With this in mind, I was a bit apprehensive going in for a listen to their latest album, The Octagonal Stairway. I checked the song list first: six songs, most of which were over three minutes in length. As a point of reference, Prowler in the Yard comprises twenty-two songs, the majority of which are less than one minute in length. This is a hallmark of grindcore music, so already this wasn’t making a good impression.
Impressions of the song list be damned, I put my headphones in and hit play on the first song and title track, “The Octagonal Stairway”. It only took a few seconds to realize that I shouldn’t have been concerned as I was quickly assaulted by blast beats, Scott’s tight riffs, and J.R.’s strong, gritty vocals. Where the band started out as a three-piece that also included drums (Adam Jarvis since 2011), they are now five members strong, rounding out the act with Travis Stone on the bass, and Blake Harrison on electronics.
The electronics, which were added to the band’s sound in 2006, play a more prominent role now than they have in the past. The stark powerful assault of the band is now highlighted, and well I might add, by a distinct noisecore background. The last two songs, “Head Cage” and “Sound Walker”, are a dark, doomy, descent into a noisy maelstrom. The latter of the two, clocking in at over eleven minutes long, features Iggor Cavalera (of Sepultura and Cavalera Conspiracy fame), and suspends time, putting the listener into a holding pattern while drenching them in dread.
This album kicked my ass and brought me back to my teenage days of angst. Without a doubt, you can hear the band’s musical influences and practically taste the sound. It’s an album you can listen to a few times over, and never quite hear the same thing twice. You can pick up the digital copy for $7 on Bandcamp, or a physical + digital set for $10. So, go grab a copy as it’s definitely worth buying and will tide us all over until the band’s next full release.