Boasting one of the best names in rock music, Newcastle’s Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs have delivered their fourth album, in advance of a UK and European tour. Viscerals is uncompromising but familiar: simple sledgehammer riffs; the Devil’s Interval; lumbering beats; and dark lyrics, soaked in reverb and delivered like battle cries… Comparisons with Black Sabbath, Killing Joke and Soundgarden are inevitable.
Lead track Reducer is propulsive and compelling. Just as it starts to work its way under your skin the tempo slows, and a repeated refrain takes over (“ego kills everything”) as the whole thing grinds slowly to a halt. Actually ‘grinding’ is a good verb to use for Viscerals: second track Rubbernecker starts slow, ends slow, but has a sluggish middle section.
The Sabbath comparisons similarities are less interesting than the differences. Yes, the riffs are used as a blunt instrument to bludgeon you into submission but there are no conventional solos. Instead, while you are cowering on the floor, a second guitar is brought into slice through the cacophony like a scalpel, its leading edge sharpened with feedback. The other big difference is the lyrics: Ozzy has a unique voice, but lyrically he’s only ever been a couple of notches above Naughty Schoolboy. Conversely, Pigs x7’s vocalist Matt Baty has a less refined voice than Ozzy (he’s a bit Lemmy-ish) but more articulate.
This is most obvious on Blood and Butter, a monologue, in which a vegan appears to decline the meat dishes offered up by a demented Geordie Maître d’. Set against a minimal noisescape of drums and feedback, it’s performance poetry in the mould of Tom Waits.
There are many glimpses of lyrical excellence buried under the guitars: the Kiss-like Crazy In Blood seems to be an anti-war anthem “we might die trying, dancing instead of flying”; the excellent New Body is possibly about personal freedoms, or maybe therapy. Its early wail of “I need thicker skin” evolves into a defiant “I don’t need a thing” until the words give way to feedback-drenched riffing; World Crust picks up the pace to remind us that “man is meat”.
The album tailed off for me after this. The album’s press release states that the band entered the studio before they’d written 80% of the album. That is a dangerous boast when your album includes a 9-minute song, Halloween Bolson, that displays none of the fun or cleverness of the preceding tracks (the dictionary definition of a Bolson by the way is a ‘desert valley’. It’s difficult to know if this is the meaning that was intended).
I’m curious about how an album like this is consumed. I don’t imagine anyone putting this on at home to relax or absorb the messaging. So, this is a band that clearly has Something-To-Say but has chosen a medium that makes it hard to say clearly. However, Pigs x7 must be a ferocious prospect live and I’m excited to see them on tour this year.
Viscerals is out on 3rd April, via Rocket Recordings