Pig Destroyer’s Book Burner is ugly, abrasive, and entirely unpleasant. Of course, because grindcore insists on exactly those qualities as its defining characteristics, those adjectives lack any weight as criticism. Heavy metal has no desire to be beautiful, no need for acceptance. Metal wants your scorn and only accepts the solidarity of the likewise scorned and unloved. It doesn’t aspire to beauty, but has its own boutique sense of quality and discernment. As a genre, it also serves as its own qualifier: If a metal fan is pleased, they put their pinky and index fingers in the air, screw up their face, and shout, “Metal!”
Book Burner is defiantly hideous and if you love it, you love it for its ugliness or not at all. Pig Destroyer embraces the unpleasant with a tremendous attention to detail. The guitar work morphs between thunderous, churning chord progressions and lighting-speed scale runs, often halting one musical idea to launch into some counterintuitive split-second reverse that jerks the listener into a sort of aural whiplash. The new album is the very definition of grindcore. Which is to say it employs time signatures that are at the limit of human capacity. One has to wonder how men wound tight enough to maintain these rhythms can manage to do anything at a normal pace. The guitars are so thickly distorted and high in the mix that they sound serrated, and the vocals shouted so loud that the lyrics are nearly obscured.
Book Burner comes packaged with a short story by vocalist J.R. Hayes that details the album’s central story about a dystopian near-future where a televangelist rises to the U.S. presidency and instates a theocratic tyranny where freedom of expression is violently suppressed. The text was a wise inclusion since the narrative thrust of the album would be absolutely impossible to decipher, though it’s a little difficult to take seriously as a moral rebuke coming from artists who glory in the imagery of death and dismemberment. It’s perfectly legitimate that the members of Pig Destroyer should fear censorship and the loss of civil liberties, but can savagery in art ever be an effective antidote to a savage world?