It has long been accepted that horror films are popular because they resonate with us at a very primal level. We like to be scared but we also like to do it in a risk free environment. You go into the cinema, the film starts and (baring any insanely unlikely catastrophes) you walk out safely at the end. All of the rush and none of the risks. There are some films however that are so raw that they move beyond this. “The Texas chainsaw massacre” is one of them. A film with surprisingly little blood, but it’s relentless visceral nihilism crawls in through your eyes and leaves a stain on your mind and soul that never comes out. This is a very round about way of letting you into this week’s album and what you need to expect. If the grindcore genre is horror cinema then “terrifyer” is it’s “Texas chainsaw massacre” and everything that entails.
Grindcore is an acquired taste. The bastard child of crust punk and metal, it is loud, violent and fast. Really fast. It is extreme music and is not for everyone. It does fall into two very distinct camps, horrendously bad and insanely good with no in between. There is no such thing as mediocre grindcore. “Terrifyer” is insanely good. Pig destroyer are one of the bands that arrived in the mid nineties, early naughties that gave the genre a second lease of life. Along with bands like nasum, they changed the focus of the music away from speed. Don’t get me wrong they are still ludicrously fast but when the godfathers of the genre Napalm Death have a song that is only a few seconds long on their debut album there is only so far you can push it. Instead the focus shifted to atmosphere. Playing fast requires a lot of practice. Playing fast and with technicality requires skill. Playing fast with technicality and create atmosphere in a song that is under two minutes long is a talent that not many possess.
‘Terrifyer’ is like being attacked by someone with a pick axe and at the same time like being inside the mind of the person wielding it. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes it is a claustrophobic adrenaline rush of an album that can at times make you want to crawl out of your own skin. It clings to you like bad air long after it is finished. It is feted, feral and genuinely disturbing. The horror film comparison isn’t just a (slightly clumsy) analogy, “terrifyer” is as the name says terrifying. The ferocity of this album is down to two people. Drummer Brian Harvey and grindcore guitar genius Scott Hull.
There are times when listening to this album that you stop and wonder if the people playing are actually human. Brian Harvey’s performance on “Terrifyer” is just out of this world. All death metal and grind drummers have to be fairly impressive, but there is a slightly feral and raw sound with Brian Harvey’s drumming that stops it sounding like a drum machine. If animal from the muppets was introduced to grindcore then I don’t think that it would sound a million miles away from the drumming on this album.
Scott Hull is one of those musicians who is synonymous with a genre. As well as Pig Destroyer he is also the guitarist/brains behind the insanely good Agoraphobic Nosebleed and served a stint in the notorious band Anal C*nt (if nothing else will get you into grindcore you have to admit that the band names are amazing). The first thing to bare in mind when you hear “terrifyer” is that there is no bassist. This is all Scott Hull’s guitar and it sounds huge. Production trickery aside he makes a monstrous sound. He also throws out more stunning guitar riffs in minute long blasts than some guitarists can manage over a whole album. From manic shredding to hardcore breakdowns it’s all here. It just happens to be playing at warp speed and sounds like a building coming down around you. Above all of this is the demented roar and deeply disturbing lyrics of J.R Hayes.
It’s quite hard to talk about lyrics in music like this because unless you’re tuned into it from the get go it’s naturally assumed that you won’t understand any of it. One of my favourite bands of all time is the sludge legends Iron Monkey. I have been listening to then for over a decade and even now I can’t tell you what vocalist Johnny Morrow is going on about but it doesn’t change my opinion that he was one of the best vocalists to ever pick up a mic. J.R Hayes can also throw down with the best of them. His delivery is more of a hardcore punk style than the usual death metal grunts that you normally have In grindcore. Instead he spits and screams out the lyrics as if he hasn’t got enough time to get the thoughts out of his head. It’s raw, frantic and adds a vulnerability that’s not often seen in extreme metal. There is another element that he brings that you really, really need to check out. After you’ve read this go online and read the lyrics to ‘terrifyer’. They are miniature psychological breakdowns and snippets of the serial killer mind. They are short stories about obsession, longing, hopelessness and violence. Stories of love that have gone horribly, tragically wrong. Which leads us on very nicely to “Natasha”.
If you want to experience “terrifyer” in full then you need to listen to its sister piece “Natasha”. “Natasha” was released as a bonus track on the album and later as a separate EP. It is the metaphorical yin to the main album yang. If “terrifyer” is “Texas chainsaw massacre” then “Natasha” is the original Japanese version of “ring”. The album is just over thirty minutes,the single “Natasha” track is a shade under forty. It is a long, hard road out of hell that tells the story of “terrifyer” and it’s protagonist Natasha. The main album is a frantic attack but “natasha” ties you up and then proceeds to take her time with you. It is doom metal full of atmosphere and Titan sized guitar riffs. It is hard work but sometimes the best things are. Even if you only hear it once it will give you more of an idea of the nightmare that is “terrifyer”.
So there you have it. It’s not for everyone but I hope you give it a go. If you like it then it is worth checking out “book burner” by Pig Destroyer. It is another monstrous blast of grind but the concept is about a future America where the Christian far right have taken over the country, persecute anyone who isn’t the same race or religion and are lead by a charismatic TV personality who becomes president. Just FYI this was released in 2012. Join me next time on the 9th of February (ish) where I will be writing about the equally dark and painfully English Brit rock album “England made me” by Black Box Recorder.