ig Destroyer is a classic metal name like Slayer or Napalm Death—so ludicrous that it's bad-ass. The name, whose beta version was "Cop Killer," is perfect for the music, arguably the finest grindcore in recent years. Over albums Prowler in the Yard and Terrifyer, and compilations 38 Counts of Battery and Painter of Dead Girls, Pig Destroyer has built a name to drop by metalheads and hipsters alike. Imagine your face exploding; then imagine it exploding in 20 one-minute bursts. That's Pig Destroyer's impact, and it comes from the same instrumentation as the White Stripes—guitar, drums, vocals.
But the band runs deeper than body blows. Grindcore's traditional themes are politics and gore, which make sense given the music's basis in the absurd—cramming as much noise into as little time as possible. Frontman J.R. Hayes started out doing political lyrics, but shifted towards extremely personal territory. Now his lyrics read like poetry: "Got no use for psychiatry / I can talk to the voices in my head for free / Mood swings like an axe into those around me / My tongue is a double agent."
Pig Destroyer's sound isn't so predictable, either. While its foundation is death metal and thrash, electronic effects and movie samples hover uneasily above. Not only did Terrifyer mix up tempos and tones, it came with "Natasha," a 37-minute DVD audio track in 5.1 surround sound. Scott Hull, the band's guitarist and knob-twiddler, aptly described "Natasha" as an "audio film." It was a heady trip through electronic ambience and strange singing, and presaged new directions for grindcore's sonic nihilism.
Phantom Limb doesn't take up that promise, though. It's a back-to-basics affair, dropping the clean tones and conceptual threads of previous albums. The only real diversion is the hidden track, which sounds like a phone left off the hook, with an old country song in the background and crickets chirping eerily. Riffs dominate here. The pile-driving breakdowns in "Loathsome" recall Pantera; the malevolent swing of "Heathen Temple" evokes Godflesh circa Pure. "The Machete Twins" spits cutting runs like a tattoo gun, while the title track chews up landscape like an angry lawnmower. And "Thought Crime Spree"? Slayer hasn't written anything as ripping in years.
Speaking of which, Hayes delivers his most devastating line ever in "Girl in the Slayer Jacket": "Her eyes had been dead since she was five / She just hadn't disposed of her body." "Alexandria" captures the local anxiety surrounding the DC sniper killings: "Strange tension in the harbor tonight / I watch the rich girls down on Duke St. pass me by / Now the nausea's in my guts and I'm wrestling with doubt / The kind you get when your heroes sell you out." With breathtaking artwork by John Dyer Baizley, Phantom Limb is dense, vibrant, and above all, ass-kicking.