It’s a waste of time trying to explain the appeal of grindcore to you—or anyone, for that matter. You get it or you don’t. You’re reading because you’re part of the former. I guess you could be reading this because you’re part of the latter and you just want a reason to leave a snide comment for attention. I can’t speak to the efficacy of that second one because I have hobbies and a social life. Anyhow, Pig Destroyer are a grindcore band. Actually, they’re the grindcore band—yes, better than even Napalm Death. See, PxDx did something ND didn’t or couldn’t: they answered the valuable question, “What if Jeffrey Dahmer were in a band but had the attention span of a fucking moth?” PxDx makes music that delights in being the worst humanity has to offer. So let’s get into the half-dozen grotesqueries they’ve unleashed over the last quarter century.
6. Explosions in Ward 6 (1998)
PxDx’s debut is the essence of grind. The hard stuff, the pure white. 18 songs in 19 minutes. None of that bullshit like catchy riffing or a standard beat or clear production. This is the band at its most unhinged, for better or worse—mostly the latter if you’re into composition or structure or whatever. If you like tumult as your basis for songwriting and Tyler Durden-endorsed lyricism from vocalist J.R. Hayes like “Perhaps self-sabotage is high evolution,” this one’s for you.
Play it again: “Flesh Upon Gear,” maybe….? If you can tell these apart (with the sludgy “Pixie” being the exception), then hit repeat on that one.
Skip it: There’s no intro, so pick one to skip.
5. Head Cage (2018)
If you’re looking to get into Pig Destroyer, start here. Grindcore purists might yell about blasphemies like occasionally intelligible vocals (!) and professional production (!!), things that make “Head Cage” an inviting record and, thus, not worth your time. A seven-minute song with actual structure and memorable riffs? Fuck outta here! We want 28-second chaotic noise! Ignore the purists. This is PxDx’s version of a gateway drug—the way into the hard stuff. It’s also their most political work, with Hayes trading transgressive vignettes for pithy social commentary like, “The clever ways I’ve devised / For dodging confrontation / How I play devil’s advocate / If I want a second opinion.” Despite guitarist Scott Hull’s snappy riffing and sorta-straightforward song compositions, “Head” isn’t watered-down Pig Destroyer. Instead, this top-five album suggests an alternate reality where the grind quintet evolved into a pretty good groove metal band. Take that how you will.
Play it again: “Circle River”
Skip it: “Tunnel Under the Tracks,” a noisecore intro that sets the proper tone, but is nonetheless unnecessary.
4. Prowler in the Yard (2001)
“Prowler” is the band’s most gruesome work, mostly thanks to its cover that snuff film enthusiasts would swoon over. Despite being a superb grindcore record, you’ll need patience for this one, because a handful of songs go past three minutes. “But my ADHD can’t handle that!” you whine. Deal with it. PxDx made an album with actual production values—so, “Explosions” but without the recorded-in-someone’s-colon aesthetic. Here, you’re able to enjoy and/or be punished by the insanity within. Hull and former drummer Brian Harvey make it easier with inventive playing throughout. And while Hayes was still developing as both vocalist and lyricist, “Eyes like cracked egg shells, empty as life” is as striking a line as anything he’s written. As for whether to go for the original or the remixed and remastered version—that depends on whether or not you’re a poser.
Play it again: “Sheet Metal Girl”
Skip it: “Jennifer” for sure. Despite having some arresting prose (“Vanilla ice cream smeared across her double chin like a money shot”), it’s an unnecessary intro read in a robot voice.
3. Phantom Limb (2007)
This was the first Pig Destroyer album to get critical acclaim from Pitchfork. Set that icky fact aside, though. “Phantom Limb” is an excellent grind album. It’s here where they started to play with groove metal riffage and something approaching a chorus. Meanwhile, Hayes’ vocals are psychotically rabid, and he gets to the heart of it in a handful of words: “I don’t have any scars / Only dormant wounds / That crack like fault lines.” Indeed, Hayes’ characters have a looser grip on reality than a QAnon follower. Be careful quoting Hayes’ career-best writing, though: “Your legs look so sexy out of context” works as a stunningly demented poetry submission, but less so as a pickup line.
Play it again: “Thought Crime Spree”
Skip it: “[Untitled Track]”
2. Book Burner (2012)
After “Phantom Limb’s” law-breaking critical success—grindcore isn’t supposed to be liked or covered by normies — Pig Destroyer went back to the grind (sorry) for their outstanding fifth record, “Book Burner.” 19 songs in 32 minutes—in other words: the way it should be. This might be a reaction to the reaction (how meta!), but it was the correct one. Hayes again proved he’s one of the best writers in extreme music, with “Book” featuring several of his best story songs, including one about a serial killer who’s really hands-on, and another about the best brother in history who breaks his sister out of a mental institution. Hull’s best-sounding-demo-ever production is the clearest of the band’s career to this point, making it easy to pick out every aspect of the madness. This is the premier grindcore record of the 2010s, and you’ll only disagree because you haven’t heard it.
Play it again: “Eve”
Skip it: “Totaled”
1. Terrifyer (2004)
PxDx’s finest full-length is perfectly named, and includes Hayes’ most tortured performances. He sounds like his entire body is on fire. When I’m on fire, I’m just yelling for help and rolling around on the ground like an idiot; this dude is reciting beautifully fucked up flash fiction. Hayes filled “Terrifyer” with enough obsession and self-loathing to make Travis Bickle cringe: “When she touches me / It’s like a rodent sifting through garbage / But it’s better than just rotting away.” Additionally, this is PxDx’s first record with clear production. It’s also the first one where the songs don’t all sound alike. There’s, like, actual arrangement to them (with minimal rule-breaking) and neat riffing throughout. It’s almost as if actual compositions make for an engaging listen. What a concept.
Play it again: “Towering Flesh,” featuring some truly unsettling clean guitar, as well as a deeply distressing guitar solo.
Skip it: “Intro” (Notice a pattern?)