By Gabe Commissaris
No chiropractor will be able to undo the damage done to your neck after you’ve experienced “Hostage Animal.” This underground Massachusetts grindcore/crust punk/sludge crossover act has really outdone themselves this time around. This is the third full-length effort by All Pigs Must Die (APMD) and it is by far their heaviest and most dynamic. Before this release, APMD sounded like any other band within this sub-genre, which is why they have avoided the spotlight. This may change, however; this time around they have managed to find a sound that works for them and have created a far more dynamic and memorable album than their previous efforts. If you like Nails, Trap Them, Converge or any other sludge/hardcore crossover band, then you will enjoy this album.
The first thing to note is that the music is extremely brutal. Listening to “Hostage Animal” is the equivalent to having a shotgun blast go off inches away from your head. The band’s slight lineup change and record label have a lot to do with this. “Hostage Animal” was once again produced by Southern Lord Records, masters at punishing your eardrums when it comes to producing hardcore and punk music. They really nailed it with this one. The sound is crisper and clearer than ever while still sounding menacing in nature. It’s not just the sound that has been pushed to a new magnitude, however. The songwriting sounds better than ever. There is a great mix of song types, which gives “Hostage Animal” enough variety to prevent it from sounding to similar to their previous efforts. There are tracks like “A Caustic Vision,” “Cruelty Incarnate” and “Moral Purge” — songs of pure aggression — and then there are tracks like “Slave Morality” and “Heathen Reign” which are slower, sludge-influenced songs. The latter are the high points of “Hostage Animal,” as this is where the APMD’s songwriting is at its strongest. You can tell that each member of the band is giving it all they’ve got on these songs.
The individual performances are all very well done. The guitarists dish out an onslaught of riffs and grooves that sound like they were recorded inside a steel factory. The addition of Trap Them guitarist Brian Izzi to the lineup was a smart move, as he is used to unleashing pure carnage. You can tell by the way the riffs and solos are structured that he is working his magic on this album. There are also plenty of melodies mixed in with the riff barrage, though not the light and relaxing kind you hear from bands like In Flames. These melodic sections make you feel as though you are experiencing unbearable agony. Many of these sections can be found on the slower and more dramatic tracks mentioned earlier. The drums mix well with the guitar work while also providing some very catchy fills and other memorable dynamics. This is actually one of the areas where APMD differs slightly from other bands within this sub-genre. You won’t hear much technicality within this kind of music, but this band is one of the few exceptions. Their drummer delivers some true beatdowns that the genre is known for, but at the same time he shows that he is more than just a grindcore drummer. My one criticism of the drums is that the snare and cymbals are so loud that it sometimes blocks out the double kick and can sound a little unbearable. The double kick is an essential component to any type of extreme metal music and should not take the backseat in any situation. As for the vocals, Kevin Baker sounds extremely pissed off at all times. With the APMD vocal style, he is able to deliver some truly menacing shouts while also being understandable. It’s good to be able to understand what the vocalist is saying, especially when the album’s lyrical themes are interesting. I can’t really critique the bass as there isn’t any point on the album that I can recall actually hearing the bass. The other instruments have such an overpowering force that the bass gets lost in the mix.
The tracks on “Hostage Animal” revolve around the concept of humanity’s cruelty towards its own species. Lyrical themes have to do with slavery, enforcement, revenge, fear, etc. The amount of sheer brutality and aggression found on “Hostage Animal” fits these themes well. Overall, this is a fantastic new effort by APMD that fans of hardcore and metal will rejoice to hear. If you can withstand the beatdown that is this album, then you may find yourself enjoying it as well.