The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019, #23: Pig Destroyer, Book Burner
MetalSucks recently polled nearly 180 prominent metal musicians and industry insiders to determine The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019! (You can read all about the voters and the methodology behind the poll here.) Over the next few weeks, we’ll be counting down the entire list, one entry per day.
The countdown continues today with Book Burner (Relapse Records), the 2012 release by Pig Destroyer!
Book Burner was instantly recognizable as a masterpiece upon its release, but the power of its flame has only intensified in the seven years since.
A lot of that, obviously, has to do with the music; Pig Destroyer aimed to writer songs that were shorter and more vicious than the ones on their previous offering, Phantom Limb, and they succeeded in spades. Scott Hull, a man who has been writing incredible, adrenaline-inducing riffs for two decades, outdid himself here, offering up some of his strongest work to date. Furthermore, Book Burner was the band’s first album with their then-new drummer, Adam Jarvis (Misery Index), whose performance lends the band a more muscular sound without sacrificing any of its explosiveness; it’s like someone gave a wolf rabies, speed, and steroids. If vitriolic catharsis and an excuse to mosh like you were trying to break your own body are what you seek, Book Burner has that in spades.
A lot of the album’s ongoing ability to ensnare and obsess also has to do with the lyrics of frontman J.R. Hayes. On the title track, for example, Hayes draws inspiration from, and updates, Julius Caesar’s famous assertion that “Men freely believe what they wish”:
“My book disproves your book. My facts have been checked more closely. And nobody cares. We see what we want to see. Fiction Non-Fiction. Spilling from the same T.V.”
Hayes might as well have as included a #FAKENEWS hashtag. Hayes’ lyrics are often open to interpretation, but there are moments like this consistently throughout Book Burner — on tracks like “The American’s Head” (“The front page says the news is dead”), “The Diplomat” (“Colder than cold war/ Enemies without uniforms”), and “Machiavellian” (“I wonder, am I still a traitor if i pick the winning side?”) — where to say the vocalist had his finger on the cultural and political pulse of the world would be a vast understatement. Even vividly described moments of desperation, sado-masochism, and drug dependency, on tracks like “White Lady,” “The Bug,” and “Dirty Knife,” seem painfully of-the-moment. Hayes’ portrayal of barely-pre-apocalyptic society teetering on the edge of its ultimate cataclysm does not feel the least bit fantastical.
Pig Destroyer have always been about blurring the line between so-called “high” and “low” art, and in this regard, Book Burner may represent the pinnacle of their achievements. It is an invigorating, addictive, pant-shitter of a nightmare in musical form, something so frenzied and seedy that it’s almost hard to believe it’s also so fiercely intelligent. But that’s what makes it so very, very special. Regardless of what happens next in the world, Pig Destroyer’s Book Burner will endure.
The 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010 – 2019