Pig Destroyer’s legendary Phantom Limb was the album that introduced me to grindcore. Why did I pick that album as my first impression over any other grindcore record? Simply because it was the first one that became accessible to me. I had looked these guys up on Spirit of Metal prior to getting this $5 CD, so I already knew that they were one of the leading bands in the genre. The reason why I haven’t (and probably will never) write a review on Phantom Limb is because I’ll get so sucked into telling you about my personal experiences when listening to it when I should be focusing more on the album itself and its pros and cons. Like every other grindcore fan out there, I grew annoyed with the wait for a new album from these extremely unique and (surprisingly) creative swine grinders. Of course, since I’m not WAY into grindcore like some of you are, this is literally the most hype I’ve ever seen preceding a grindcore album’s release. Well, duh, it’s fucking Pig Destroyer! That alone explains why, but now the metalhead community truly knows why the people that got advanced promo copies of this album were so damn excited.
This is not an instance where I’m going to compare Book Burner with its predecessor, Phantom Limb (although I’m probably going to end up doing that anyway, but I’ll try not to). What we know as generic grindcore has been getting less and less common over the years. Several grindcore behemoths like Fuck the Facts, Cephalic Carnage, Napalm Death, and Agoraphobic Nosebleed have been taking on more groundbreaking directions. These directions that are being taken are either directions that absolutely NO ONE has ever gone before or directions that have been minimally explored. Pig Destroyer’s sound has always been strongly influenced by Brutal Truth, which makes sense because the evidence of breakdown-like sections became present in Terrifyer. In Book Burner, Pig Destroyer take on a COMPLETELY different direction of their own, which only sets them apart even more than they already were from the majority of grindcore.
What is grindcore known for? Those drawn-out sections consisting of fast blast beat drumming and tremolo picked guitars. Ever since Terrifyer, Pig Destroyer has had less of that in every album. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that they’re implementing death metal into their music, but there are definitely some new elements present in Book Burner. One thing that I would actually consider to be a new element is the fact that they have a different drummer in this album. Seriously, a new drummer? I’ve said time and time again how mind-blowing the drumming on Phantom Limb is, and that I can’t wait to hear the drumming on the new Pig Destroyer record, and now they have a different drummer? Because this band has always lacked a bass player, the drums and guitars have a much higher role as the driving force in the band in order to make up for it. Here’s how I feel that they pulled it off in Phantom Limb: the guitar distortion was just right so that it had plenty of loud crunch, but still had an intense lower-end, and the drums…well…the drums. The blast beats on Phantom Limb are undeniably brutal. They’re tight, they’re loud, the kick drums pound you into the dirt, and the drummer’s efficient method of playing all made it so that there wasn’t even a NEED for a fucking bassist!
Now we have a drummer that has a whole different way of doing things. After looking up this guy’s musical background, I have a much better understanding about where he’s coming from and why he does the things that he does on Book Burner. Along with being the drummer for one of the biggest death grind bands ever, Misery Index, this guy has also been in various death metal and death grind bands, and a stoner metal band that released an EP in 2009. So obviously, since this guy doesn’t have as much of a pure grindcore background as Pig Destroyer’s previous drummer. But to be honest, I love the drumming on Misery Index’s records, so this can’t be THAT bad, right? Well, to some people, it is, and although I wouldn’t say that myself, I will admit that this guy’s style just doesn’t fit Pig Destroyer’s music as much. The extremely fortunate thing is that it all works out in the end; the new drummer’s more creative and death metal-based style has laid out fresh grounds for the rest of the band to build on top of and to evolve their sound. I just miss those extremely chaotic blast beats from Terrifyer and Phantom Limb.
Because the drumming has taken on a new direction, the rest of the band has done a fantastic job at evolving their sound along with it to make everything match up. Since the amount of blasting in the drums have gone down, the amount of open-chorded shredding in the guitars has taken a decrease as well. Woe and behold, the two vocalists from Agoraphobic Nosebleed are back as guest vocalists! Remember those tracks from Terrifyer that practically gave Agoraphobic Nosebleed their big break? Well it looks like they’re back for more, with Katherine Katz being featured on Eve and The Bug, and Richard Johnson appearing on The Underground Man. Along with that, the new drummer bridged a gap between Pig Destroyer and Misery Index, therefore bringing Misery Index vocalist Jason Netherton to do guest vocals on The Diplomat. I’m not a big fan of the two vocalists from Agoraphobic Nosebleed (especially Katherine), but they do give Pig Destroyer’s sound an interesting twist that I wouldn’t want to have left out.
The sound production of the album is much cleaner and more refined than any of their previous releases. Of course, this was because of Pig Destroyer’s highly-acclaimed status that followed the release of Phantom Limb. But even with this more refined sound, Pig Destroyer defy the odds and STILL manage to create a chaotic and atmospheric wall of sound that leaps out of your stereo and rips your face apart. The answer to the big question is no, Book Burner (in my opinion) is not as good as Phantom Limb, but it is in NO way an album worth turning down. This is one of the most enjoyable grindcore records I’ve ever heard and it should be present in every metalhead’s collection. I would give Book Burner a score of 15/20 (which is one of the highest scores I’ve ever given a grindcore record).