Few albums have been more anticipated this year than the return of All Pigs Must Die. Much has been made over the years of the group’s pedigree – Kevin Baker, Ben Koller, Matt Woods, Adam Wentworth and now Brian Izzi boast some of the best names in metal and hardcore among their curricula vitae – and, with each release, All Pigs Must Die has grown all the more challenging. Their combination of crust punk’s most ragged strands, extreme music’s most booming guitars and the sort of hostility that is aberrant even in a scene where aggressive themes are the norm has drawn the attention the band richly deserves.
When the band debuted in 2010, the term ‘supergroup’ got floated about a bit, even if the results were tentatively solid. With “God Is War” in 2011, APMD set itself apart thematically as well as with a fury fans today know intimately, However, you might be forgiven if you were distracted by the confrontational art of “God Is War,” which instead presented more than a few complicated tales, including apostasy with the unfolding of colonialism (“Third World Genocide“), child soldiers (“Pulverization“) and the illicit arms trade (“Death Dealer“). Momentum only built by 2013’s “Nothing Violates This Nature.” At this point APMD evolved lyrically into what can best be heard as a strong death metal influence. The imagery on “Nothing…” went from heavily topical to nihilistic and gruesome. The music’s heaviness matched this approach. The slight swerve did not detract fans from following APMD to its newest stage.
“Hostage Animal” has been about four years in the making and marks a significant departure for the band. Its violent style, which has been compared over time to Slayer, Morbid Angel and even punk/noise legends The Jesus Lizard, is moving into a territory where APMD uses hardcore, thrash and speed as a base for a devilish sound in which it finds few peers. Its songwriting sees a similar kind of growth. The two paths it cut – “God is War“‘s sociopolitical commentary and “Nothing“‘s all-out anti-religion brutality – merge on the forthcoming album. Again, APMD has only a few worthy contemporaries in this regard.
The title track starts the recording off with breakneck speed and power. Kevin Baker’s ferocious vocals from the jump are a refresher on why his style has been likened to prime (read: Scratch Acid-era) David Yow. His command of the mic on “A Caustic Vision” and into “Meditation of Violence” is spellbinding in just how searing Baker is. Lyrically, APMD intersect a few themes, but the standouts are Adam Wentworth and newcomer Brian Izzi, whose guitar work on the opening trio and then the rolling “Slave Morality” are the stuff of nightmares. The riffs are ceaseless as Wentworth and Izzi vary from much faster chords into a war chorus of tonality. And the results are gripping at every second.
Also turning in a blistering performance, and deserving a lot of credit for the power of “Hostage Animal” are drummer Ben Koller (Converge) and bassist Matt Woods (Bloodhorse). If you are familiar with those acts, perhaps one of the most underappreciated aspects was the respective contributions of Woods and Koller, who are gifted in ways few in heavy music are in terms of their ability to bring out the best in a song’s foundations. They stun on “End Without End,” where Koller lights the rhythm and Woods pairs up with the guitars and Baker’s vociferous delivery. They also manage to shift their playing as “Hostage Animal” evolves. Hear a sturdily punk track like “Blood Wet Teeth” and a song like “Cruelty Incarnate,” with its elements of sludge pouring into thrash and you get a real sense of how APMD’s bass and drums anchor the release.
“Hostage Animal” closes with the record’s most fascinating entry, “Heathen Reign.” Not only is it noteworthy for its lyrics (which you will just have to listen to – no spoilers), but it slightly variegates the bludgeoning you get in the first nine tracks into a pensive conclusion. It even leaves you wondering if this may just be where the next release picks up. It, like previous selections, is potent with APMD’s militancy. Best of all, APMD made the wait well worth it.