38 Counts of Battery
Pig Destroyer achieved the nigh-unthinkable on early career compilation 38 Counts of Battery: it's a discography record that easily stands on its own as a contained album experience. That's largely because the first 18 of the eponymous 38 tracks come from Pig Destroyer's debut album Explosion in Ward 6. When you tack on an extra 20 songs corralled from the band's various splits and demos it still feels seamless and coherent. Even with all that, 38 Counts of Battery still comes in at a hair under 40 minutes (a tad long maybe), which keeps everything listenably concise. Despite being culled from disparate sources, the production remains largely uniform. Pig Destroyer's trademark heavy and overblown sound feels seamless and coherent.
Scott Hull probably ranks as the single best grindcore songsmith active right now. Every song is anchored in a distinctive hook. Every riff serves a purpose to advance the theme. Pig Destroyer's choice covers of The Melvins, Carcass and Dark Angel are a nice summation of the various influences that have driven Pig Destroyer creatively (add in covers of The Dwarves, Stooges and Helmet from Painter of Dead Girls and everything the band has done suddenly snaps into perfect focus). So 38 Counts is a wonderful peak behind the Great and Powerful Oz's curtain, letting you see how he grew and experimented as a songwriter, leading up to the perfection that is Prowler in the Yard.
38 Counts also represents vocalist J.R. Hayes' larval stage before he'd explode from the cocoon as a venomous, carrion-yellow butterfly on Prowler as one of the most intelligent and evocative lyricists in grindcore. Songs like "Yellow Line Transfer" and "Unwitting Valentine" are early examples of his obsession with obsession, stalking, toxic relationships and aloof, casually violent women. Others, the warped pro-choice savagery of "Treblinka," show Hayes being far more political than maybe we've come to expect from him.
I always enjoy when compilations include explanatory liner notes to fill in a band's history or illuminate where they're coming from musically, and that's lacking here. However, 38 Counts of Battery is so astonishingly coherent despite being Frankensteined together that it's easy to forget it even is a compilation. Instead, it just serves as another great album in Pig Destroyer's legendary career.