When I think of a name like All Pigs Must Die, I think of a band that might be lacking in subtlety. It’s all in the name sometimes, and that’s a name that, to me, is very upfront and relentless. And indeed, the Boston hardcore supergroup is upfront and relentless. Oh, and pissed. So much so, in fact, that their self-defined genre on their Facebook page is ‘HATE’. Regardless, my passing familiarity with this band did not prepare me for the onslaught that I endured while listening to Hostage Animal, or for the parts of the album that broke away from hardcore tropes and weren’t afraid to be a little different. Let’s get right into it, just as the album does.
The opening track (also the title track) is a pummeling manifesto of rage; the very first thing you hear is an impenetrable wall of drum blast beats provided by Ben Koller (Converge, Mutoid Man, everything else) and heavy, vaguely sludgy guitars from Brian Izzi (Trap Them, a favorite of mine) and Adam Wentworth (Bloodhorse). Vocals provided by Kevin Baker (The Hope Conspiracy) explode out with no warning, taking us to peak hardcore aggression less than five seconds into Hostage Animal. Immediately, I am into this! I appreciate when hardcore-influenced metal bands don’t waste much time and get right to the meat. It sends a tickle to the reptilian part of my brain, and gets me moving with energy.
Seeing as this is a hardcore joint, track lengths run the gamut from average three-minute affairs to flashes of noise that barely break the one-minute mark, if at all. Following the title track, there’s two just like that called “A Caustic Vision” and “Meditation of Violence”, both of which are solid, with bouncy rhythm sections and fiery vocals. Songs like these aren’t what shines brightest on Hostage Animal, though. “Slave Morality” is a five-minute crossover treat that takes the time to build up tension before releasing it in ways that most of the other tracks don’t. A bluesy Black Sabbath guitar solo (remember the intro of Sabbath‘s song “Black Sabbath” from their eponymous first album) creates the first set piece. It’s moody and fills the space established by the cavernous and eerie intro very well. This track gives its best sludge- and doom metal impersonations with simple, but catchy and heavy leads, providing a good backdrop for Baker’s savage screams.
Another longer track, “End Without End”, retains the patience and restraint shown by “Slave Morality”, the last half of the song being a forlorn guitar-centered segment. Both of these songs fall in the middle of the album and expertly break up the faster, more extreme beginning and end into digestible parts, in addition to making the middle the sweetest part, like an angry Tootsie Roll Pop. Great choice on the band’s part! As much as I appreciate to-the-point approaches with this type of music, these relative slow-burners are capable of being more rewarding, as is the case with Hostage Animal. The back half of the album, as mentioned above, sees speed and seething hate take over once more with tracks like “Blood Wet Teeth” and “The Whip”.
My only straightforward complaint about this album is one that I have with nearly all albums of this flavor: the bass is hard to hear. I often struggled to hear the low-end at all, and I tried hard. I get it: with vocals as in-your-face as they are here, guitars that vary from basic punk melodies to death metal-esque riffing, and drums that ceaselessly pound like a jackhammer, it’s no wonder it gets buried in the mix. Matt Woods (also from Bloodhorse) doesn’t get much time to shine, but from what is audible, he plays the role well, hugging the rhythm and thickening up the sound. This is best heard on the chunky intro of “Heathen Reign”, the final track and another favorite of mine.
A very solid effort from All Pigs Must Die, a band just as apt to overwhelm with unparalleled aggression as it is with slower, more thoughtful and emotive heaviness. This makes Hostage Animal a multifaceted beast, and one of my favorite hardcore releases this year. Fans of the genre will eat up the nihilism and rage like it’s cereal, while the diverse songwriting might attract others that want some variance instead of the one-trick sound that permeates the genre. Much like Dead Cross from earlier this year, this is another supergroup that utilizes its members well (aside from the bass not reaching full potential, an issue I also had with Dead Cross when I reviewed it), which is a big deal. If you take talented musicians away from already successful bands for a project like this, it’s best to make it worth their – and our – while. All Pigs Must Die achieved that, and more.
Notable Tracks: “Hostage Animal”, “Slave Morality”, “Heathen Reign”
FFO: Trap Them, Nails, Black Breath