Monday, September 30, 2013

Good Reads: A Man Chooses; a Slave Obeys

 The book: Sewer, Gas & Electric by Matt Ruff

Matt Ruff’s Public Works Trilogy is many things. It’s a screwball near-future sci-fi freakout about looney pacifist eco-warriors trying to preserve endangered species against the onslaught of unchecked industrialization. It’s the tale of a racist computer’s final solution. It’s the story of a vicious mutant land shark on the rampage through the sewers, streets and Cub Scout hiking trails of an unsuspecting city. It’s also the life story of a nigh-immortal Civil War veteran who just refuses to die. But most of all Sewer, Gas & Electric is a pretty brutal takedown of Ayn Rand, who appears as a holographic head in a hurricane lamp. With Objectivism currently enjoying an undeserved renaissance among political leaders who should probably know better, it’s as good a time as any for Rand’s flawed thinking, sloppy suppositions and blatant hypocrisy to get a well deserved literary smack down as thinly veiled avatars of Rand’s own creations skewer her philosophy by injecting sloppy, random humanity into her clear cut worldview.  Mercifully, there are no 60 page speeches to slog through.

A representative passage:
“Jesus,” Joan said, as John Galt gave the novel’s closing benediction and traced a dollar sign in the space above the desolate earth. She laughed, and shut the book, and spent a moment studying the portrait on the back cover. “Who is this woman?”
“Well?” said Archie. “How was it?”
“Pinch me if I missed a punchline somewhere,” Joan said, “but this book is not intended as a spoof, correct? It’s not an incredibly understated parody?”
Archie shook his head.  “Rand’s an ex-Russki, pre-glasnost, and they don’t kid much. They’re not much into understatement, either. … When she says, ’And I mean it’ in the afterword, you can bet money she means it.”
“Jesus …so it really is then…”
“Really is what?”
“The anti-Communist Manifesto,” Joan said. “Das Kapital for capitalists, with chase scenes and heavy petting…”

The album: Withering Strands of Hope by Benumb


For all of grind's political sloganeering about the mechanisms of power being turned on the poor and the disenfranchised, nobody zeroed in on the economic concerns of the working class better than Benumb. Like some lame political functionary once said, "It's the economy, stupid." The California grind-violence collective had a financial reporter’s eye for the way the changing 21st Century economy was filling Wal-Mart’s shelves with cheap crap to buy at the expense of American jobs being shipped out to third world shitholes where impoverished populations would work for pennies on the dollar without the protection of labor laws or workers’ unions. Since the Clinton administration, free trade has meant many blue collar middle class families were free to watch their jobs get traded to Asia and South America. Benumb gave voice to their angst.

A representative song: “WTO: Disintegration of the Working Class”

Workers of the world unite!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

G&P Review: Who's My Saviour

Who’s My Saviour
Wall of Sickness
7 Degrees

Discussing the difference between surprise and suspense, Alfred Hitchcock said suspense is telling the audience a bomb under the table will go off in five minutes and then watching ordinary people obliviously talk about baseball. He could just as easily put on the opening sequence from Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. It’s an unbroken tracking shot that follows a car with a bomb hidden in its trunk as it wends its way through narrow Mexican streets filled with tourists and revelers on its way to the American border. After building up the excruciating tension, that the bomb explodes off screen may be the most jarring part of the shot.
A bomb will go off at the end of Wall of Sickness.
In fact, the first three songs are united by a rhythmic metallic clanking that sounds almost like a detonator ticking away in a car trunk. Who’s My Saviour savor that tension while flirting with restraint. The German trio’s prior album, Glasgow Smile, was a hallucinogenic thrill ride of off kilter riffing and concussive artistry, pushing grindcore’s dynamics and sneaking in sly melodies without ever sacrificing the headlong rush that makes it work. If there’s an album that truly embodies the trope of the overlooked masterpiece, Glasgow Smile was it.
But latest EP Wall of Sickness toys with you by playing things relatively straight at first, casually building up the little layers that make their songs interdimensional portals of sonic wonder and mystery.  “Intro” is all queasy seasick riffing at Quaalude speeds over a sample of Massachusetts Rep. Michael Capuano ripping into a panel of bank presidents who came hat in hand to Congress looking for a bailout. From the outset, Wall of Sickness is a fraught record that oozes the malaise of our current economic implosion. The first few songs are fast-fingered grind rushes that still drip with technical acumen in service of surgical strikes at the heart of a faltering society. These are also some of Who’s My Saviour’s most tuneful efforts; “Hemingway” and “This World Belongs to Us” practically beg for the sing along treatment. “Pillbox” slithers with a slimy sleaze before the song is devoured by a colony of army ants on the warpath.
But there’s a bomb at the end of this EP. The fuse gets lit somewhere around sixth song “Niere Kopf” as the wonted angularity and ambition start bleeding through Who’s My Saviour’s pores. The preceding five tracks were only intended to tenderize your mind to let their multidimensional daggers slide in all the more easily. The exuberant songwriting explosion bombs out of final track “Weedeater,” which builds a wall of stoner drone feedback into cyclopean citadels of circular riff insanity every bit as obsessive as the finest moments of “Shizo” or “When Magic Turns into Black Plague” on Glasgow Smile.
After my first listen to Wall of Sickness, I was disappointed. I thought Who’s My Saviour had sacrificed the quintessence that made them special. That changed a dozen listens later (all in the same afternoon, on endless repeat, I must add). Turns out I was too busy listening to the baseball discussion and not paying nearly enough attention to that bomb under the table.

[Full disclosure: 7 Degrees sent me a download.]

Monday, September 23, 2013

Good Reads: Higher Forms of Pornography

 The book: Tours of the Black Clock by Steve Erickson

Banning Jainlight, a frighteningly large half-Indian teen on a Pennsylvania farm, murders his brothers in 1930s after being made the butt of an exceptionally cruel joke. On the run in Europe at the outbreak of World War II, Jainlight eventually becomes Adolf Hitler’s personal pornographer, crafting supremely perverse tales of sex and sadism for the 20th Century’s most evil personality in an alternate reality where the war never ends, dragging on in a futile stalemate for decades. Eventually even history's greatest villain becomes an afterthought, a doddering old man in a secret hole, half forgotten and the half that is remembered more myth than man. As Hitler slips into his dotage, he clings to Jainlight’s stories and the haunting heroine, the victim of his lust, becomes the dictator's great love. The tales become so compelling they bleed into reality as Jainlight plots to break the soul of history’s greatest monster in an act of vengeance that can only be forestalled by a confused young mother’s love. Erickson’s novel is bleak, nihilistic and violent as Jainlight’s degenerate scribblings collide with a hallucinogenic reality and the only possibility for redemption he may ever unknowingly achieve.

A representative passage:
Big is the violence in me.
It has a sound, the slosh of Henry’s brains when I take his head in my hands. I suppose in the last moment before his ears run with the pulp of membrane and blood he understands that I know. The scream from him, well, it’s not much of a scream, really. A bit of a yelp. It cuts off mid-pain. If I were a bit more selfpossessed in this moment I’d prolong it a bit, to make sure he knows that I know. To make sure there’s not a misunderstanding. I drop him from my hands and he crumples to the floor. Oral looks at the heap of Henry there in the moonlight and the expression in his eyes is very satisfying to me. He looks from Henry to me, his eyes wide as dollars, and he bolts for the door. I catch him long before he gets there. He’s screaming so as to be heard clear across the valley, but the sound of it just can’t travel fast enough to make any difference.

The album: Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope by Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Erickson’s writing is twisted and perverse without being trite or stereotypically horrific. It sounds like something that could have come out of Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s early output, particularly when Carl Schultz was adding his cerebrally twisted vision to the caustic mix. There was nothing like early ANb, who managed to shock and confound without giving in to cheap gore. There was always an undercurrent of social criticism that lent a pointed edge to the band’s misanthropy, which too many of their contemporaries missed. Like Erickson, Agoraphobic Nosebleed know that the real horrors hit close to home.

A representative song: “Unwashed Cock”

This is as far as I come ever
Most everything’s nonsense now
Confusion has replaced amusement
More worthless wonders of the world to confuse our libido
I need to sleep not feel
I’m not there, not here
An unwashed cock at a point in time and space where pussy is your asshole and the hurt is acute

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Namesake Series: “Cleptocracy”

I’ve been re-reading Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli’s brilliant and prescient DMZ comics lately. It makes me think a lot about the conditions that could lead to a second American civil war. A war-weary public feel like they’re about to be railroaded into yet another military intervention in the Middle East without any clear understanding of the goal or strategic necessity. Whackaloons are talking about secession because they lost a democratic election. Congress is so broke that it can’t even come together to accomplish the most basic requirements of governing. There’s something in the air that Brian Wood could see coming nearly a decade ago. People left, right and center have this vague, undefined feeling that forces just out of sight and beyond their control have taken over the levers of power, a quiet coup by the kleptocracy.
Astute grinders sensed it coming as well. Texas libertarians Kill the Client dedicated a whole album to the concept way back in 2008.

Freedom-loving Ron Paul aficionado Champ Morgan launches a revolutionary diatribe, exhorting people to rise up against the plutocrats who have used their wealth and influence to tilt the economic playing field against Joe Sixpack who’s just trying to cover a mortgage and keep the kids in school. It’s the frustrated cry of the bewildered workaday office drone who never got a fair shake. Kill the Client aren’t calling for a huge societal upheaval. They just want the rules to be square for everyone.

Hailing from the opposite end of the political spectrum, Jan Frederickx and crew appropriated the language of Karl Marx when they called out the kleptocrats on Agathocles’ 2010 effort This is Not a Threat, It’s a Promise. Frederickx exhorts “Comrades of all nations [to] kick back capitalist domination.”
Two bands with almost diametrically opposed political ideologies keyed in on the same sense of frustration with the way the modern economy is unforgivably gamed to the benefit of the already rich. Same diagnosis but different prescriptions. However, it gives you the sense that maybe something is brewing among the disaffected masses of wage slaves who lack the clout to force their elected representatives to act in their constituents’ interest. So maybe next time somebody warns you about a redneck uprising in Helena, Montana, you better pay attention.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Good Reads: Double Live Gonzo

The book: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 by Hunter S. Thompson
  Hunter Thompson disrupted the very idea of journalism. For all his faults (and they were legion, both personal and professional), he’s a towering figure whose influence, utility and repeatability are still being parsed four decades after he did his best work. Unfortunately, his legacy seems to blaze brightest among the cadre who reduce Thompson’s evocative prose to the level of cheap snark, imitating his antics more than his insights. Thompson may have been the kind of reporter who drove editors and subjects alike to heavy medication, but for all of his sins, the man truly had a grasp on the tenor of his times. Probably not as widely read as his other Fear and Loathing effort, Campaign Trail ’72, I’d argue, is by far the more important and the better representation of what Thompson was actually like as a journalist. Rather than hiding behind tales of screwball antics and exuberant drug use, here Thompson chronicles the drudgery and orchestration of the campaign trail grind as he tagged along with Richard Nixon challenger George McGovern, a genuinely decent man running for office in the most indecent of times. If Richard Nixon had not existed, Hunter Thompson would have had to invent him. There could be no greater foil for Thompson to riff on his favorite topics of venality, corruption and narcissism in the political universe. Collecting Thompson’s various reports for Rolling Stone after Nixon crushed McGovern, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 is not just an elegy for one man’s presidential aspirations but for a nation that was so terrified and twisted that it would reelect a man as petty and grasping as Richard Milhous Nixon. There’s a pall that hangs over the book decades later, a sense of disbelief at the kind of moral bankruptcy that could shock even the soul of one of America’s greatest cynics.

A representative passage:

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I would rather not write anything about the 1972 presidential campaign at this time. On Tuesday, November 7th, I will get out of bed long enough to go down to the polling place and vote for George McGovern. Afterwards, I will drive back to the house, lock the front door, get back in bed, and watch television as long as necessary. It will probably be a while before The Angst lifts—but whenever it happens I will get out of bed again and start writing the mean, cold-blooded bummer that I was not quite ready for today. Until then, I think Tom Benton’s “re-elect the president” poster (above) says everything that needs to be said right now about this malignant election. In any other year I might be tempted to embellish the Death’s Head with a few angry flashes of my own. But not in 1972. At least not in the sullen numbness of these final hours before the deal goes down—because words are no longer important at this stage of the campaign; all the best ones were said a long time ago, and all the right ideas were bouncing around the public long before Labor Day.
That is the one grim truth of this election mostly to come back to haunt us: The options were clearly defined, and all the major candidates except Nixon were publicly grilled, by experts who demanded to know exactly where they stood on every issue from Gun Control and Abortion to the Ad Valorem Tax. By mid-September both candidates had staked out their own separate turfs, and if not everybody could tell you what each candidate stood for specifically, almost everyone likely to vote in November  understood that Richard Nixon and George McGovern were two very different men: not only in the context of politics, but also in their personalities, temperaments, guiding principles, and even their basic lifestyles….
There is almost a Yin/Yang clarity in the difference between the two men, a contrast so stark that it would be hard to find  any two better models in the national politics arena for the legendary duality--the congenital Split Personality and polarized instincts—that almost everybody except Americans has long since taken for granted as the key to our National Character. This was not what Richard Nixon had in mind when he said, last August, that the 1972 presidential election would offer voters “the clearest choice of this century.” But on a level he will never understand he was probably right…and it is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal, and incurably violent side of the American character almost every other country in world has learned to fear and despise. Our Barbie doll president, with his Barbie doll wife and his box-full of Barbie doll children is also America’s answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde. He speaks to the Werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string-warts, on nights when the moon comes too close….

The album: De Anarkistiske An(n)aler by Parlamentarisk Sodomi

There’s lots of bullshit “political” posturing in grind. Most of it means attacking “the system” in the vaguest of terms, particularly since favorite punching bags Reagan and Thatcher fucked off the scene. It relies on the comfort of familiar slogans that make the chanters feel superior and the audience righteously indignant but results in very little real world action. Hunter Thompson was a man who blistered his enemies by name, excoriating their every flaw. Papirmollen may be his musical heir, flaying his favorite target, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, mercilessly in his Parlamentarisk Sodomi persona. Though Stoltenberg may be laughably too liberal to ever play more than  a fringe role in American politics, Parlamentarisk Sodomi still ravages the man personally and politically whenever the opportunity presents itself.

A representative song: “Klaebukranikene (de Anarkistiske An(n)aler)”

If there’s a song that combines Parlamentarisk Sodomi’s disdain for politics and kinky sense of humor, it’s the 10 minute, multipart grind epic “Klaebukranikene (de Anarkistiske An(n)aler).”  Allegedly taken from a 19th Century book that chronicles the laws of politics and sex--perpetually linked in the mind of authoritarians everywhere and therefore to be controlled--the song is a Ferris wheel of antic energy and political pathology that perfectly sums up the clownishness of modern politics. It’s the sort of song Thompson would have been rocking while eviscerating the Obama administration for its many faults, hypocrisies and reversals if he’d managed to slip into a wormhole connecting to the early 21st Century. When the grinding gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

G&P Review: Wake

Handshake Inc. /7 Degrees

On albums like Leeches, Wake have proven themselves to be past masters of the grindcore gallop: smushing all of their brutalizing songs together into one spiked-bat wallop. But with False, the Canadians are letting things air out a bit more. There’s a defined space between songs and the tunes themselves seem to breathe a little easier. While that means False may not have that same bull charge rush you’re used to from grind, it shows Wake have supreme confidence in their work and their faith and your attention are rewarded by a pack of precision crafted grind tunes.
There’s attention to detail at every level of False, and Wake have delivered genuine songs as a result. The album sounds a bit like Heartwork stripped of its suffocating melodicism and rewritten with Circle of Dead Children’s brutal songwriting economy. Bolstering that impression, Wake’s cynicism is seethed in a Jeff Walker sneer, making their declamations almost discernible. That’s all to False’s benefit, but the real triumph is the way every song has a distinct personality. Musical natural disaster “Vacant” battens down under windswept guitars and pounding hail drumming before succumbing to the wildfire inferno of “Smolder.” Later in the album, “Bleak” is all hedgehog prickle as the guitars spike and keen like a defensive layer of spines. Each of the 11 songs boasts little moments like that to separate them from their kin.
Great grindcore albums thrive on being roller coasters of screaming adrenaline that drag you face first through 20 minutes of whipsaw insanity. Wake have sacrificed some of that aggression with False, but the tradeoff is a throwback to an era when grind bands had the chops to bust out songs with strong enough hooks to stand on their own. That Wake managed that feat 11 times in a row in less than 20 minutes is nothing short of remarkable.

[Full disclosure: the band sent me a download.]

Monday, September 9, 2013

Good Reads: Intergalactic Planetary, Planetary Intergalactic

The book: “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon” by Phillip K. Dick

Phillip K. Dick briefly left off looking for the voice of god in interstellar beams of light for this 1980 short story about long distance space travel. Setting off on a 10 year space voyage, the ship’s 60 passengers have all been placed in suspended animation. All except Victor Kemmings, whose stasis system has malfunctioned. He can’t feel his body and he faces the prospect of 10 years trapped in his own brain with no escape and no company. The story begins with Kemmings’ increasing sense of panic as he realizes he may spend the next decade conscious and alone with only the ship for company. The ship dredges up Kemmings’ memories in an attempt to create a diverting hallucination that will fill the empty years but each memory only causes the passenger more grief, a reminder of the guilt and failure he’s fleeing on earth.

A representative passage:
The ship understood it. The ship had been carefully monitoring Victor Kemmings’ brain wave patterns, and the ship knew that something had gone wrong. The wave-forms showed agitation and pain. I must get him out of this feed-circuit or I will kill him, the ship decided. Where does the flaw lie? it asked itself. Worry dormant in the man; underlying anxieties. Perhaps if I intensify the signal. I will use the same source, but amp up the charge. What has happened is that massive subliminal insecurities have taken possession of him; the fault is not mine, but lies, instead in his psychological makeup.

The album: Night Sky Transform by Dephosphorus

Night Sky Transform captures that awesome sense of wonder and terror that exists when you  contemplate the black places between the stars and the cosmic insignificance of the blue ball that’s hurtling us through space. Dephosphorus are wide eyed cosmonauts stepping away from the cradle of gravity to float free in the icy reaches of space. Their music alternates between awe at the spinning arms of the Milky Way coruscating out the window and the creeping horror over what we may find when we arrive.

A representative song: “Uncharted”

Ninety percent of uncharted territory
Leads to unconceivable paths to none and whole

I didn’t need any pre-existing theories and methods
I just plunged
All it took was no fear
As I collapsed and rose again into the void
And rose again into the void
Into the void

Rolled back to the dense origin of all
Then to the epoch before
Show now fear
As your rise from insignificance and become  universe-tall

A race enslaved by its own deeds
Starbreed nevertheless
Tricked, betrayed
Measuring the void

Rolled back to the dense origin of all
Then to the epoch before
Show now fear
As you rise from insiginificance and become universe-tall

Show now fear
As you plunge into the void
Then to the epoch before

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fear, Emptiness, Despair: Ranking the Work of Napalm Death Mk. 3

Napalm Death fans generally fall into two categories. There are those perceptive individuals among us who believe their finest moment was Scum, particularly Side A (aka, those who are RIGHT) and untrustworthy mountebanks who argue the band’s best representation was From Enslavement to Obliteration (aka everyone else who is WRONG).  But endlessly debating the relative merits of two albums (especially since we’ve already established the correct answer is Scum Side A) kinda ignores the fact that the band has recorded a dozen other albums since.
The quintet of Mark “Barney” Greenway, Shane Embury, Mitch Harris, Jesse Pintado and Danny Herrera—in various juxtapositions over two decades—took their predecessors’ grind and alloyed it with spine of death metal crunch and crust punk apocalypse, forging a  new middle path that was often delivered in the same indecipherable gibberish language that the cast of The Red Riding Trilogy tried to pass off as English. And whatever you might think about the legitimacy of Napalm Death Mk. 3, that’s an assload of material worth consideration and closer scrutiny. So let’s rank the work of the lineup that has defined Napalm Death for past two decades.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Packaged Rebellion: When Presentation Enhances the Album Experience

Insert tired fucking cliché about books and covers [HERE]. Well worn bromides of questionable veracity aside, a good cover and an innovative package in the hands of a clever designer can actually enhance the album experience. While album art and packaging are meant to convey quickly what a record’s about (“Hey, this has Ed Repka zombies on the cover; it must be the new Taylor Swift album,” said nobody ever), the designs can actually take music and elevate it by providing another entryway into the art. A good visual and a design that invites close study and an extra minute of thought can even elevate albums that were otherwise forgettable failures.
Here are five albums that stepped up the game on the visual side. 

Discordance Axis
The Inalienable Dreamless 

Hydra Head

The Inalienable Dreamless looks like no other album before or since. Jon Chang’s meticulous design ensured that Discordance Axis’ final album would stand out from all of their peers and competitors (even if it did get grindcore’s defining moment mistakenly exiled to the DVD section of many retailers). Most obviously, The Inalienable Dreamless came packaged in a DVD case, which gave a wider, more cinematic aspect ratio to the wrap around horizon and seascape the band chose for the art. If most album art was in a TV aspect, Discordance Axis had jumped to wide screen. The colors and imagery gave no hint to The Inalienable Dreamless’ content and the illegible logo, tiny script for the album title and lack of even song titles and a bar code on the packaging ensured the album would be an enticing mystery for those brave enough to peek inside. And inside, fans would find a larger than usual booklet that was laid out to look like a journal, just one more personal touch that made The Inalienable Dreamless the endlessly fascinating musical landmark it remains today.

The Contaminated Void

Coldworker’s music vacillates between inoffensively forgettable to insultingly unlistenable. But the one thing Anders Jakobsson’s post-Nasum project got perfect was the art for debut album The Contaminated Void.  Relapse’s resident visual maestro Orion Landau crafted a clever booklet for the album that includes clear cellophane overlays that alter the art a page at the time, concealing and revealing the Breugellian horror behind, framing and then exposing the hellish slasher film revelry. Coldworker never deviated much from the well worn themes of death, decay, betrayal and misery and even then weren’t album to elevate their material beyond the legions of similarly minded metallers, but the booklet art is enough to keep you coming back periodically to experience The Contaminated Void against the backdrop of such a striking package. Relapse has to be applauded for cracking open its wallet for such a visually inventive presentation. It’s just a shame it wasn’t in service of a better album.

Creation is Crucifixion
Child as Audience
Hactivist Media

Child as Audience is many things: Creation is Crucifixion’s best sounding effort, a didactic lesson in critical theory by a droning, monotone lecturer and a whole Anarchist’s Cookbook full of practical cultural and technological subversion suggestions. Against all of that, the three songs, which were some of Creation is Crucifixion’s best, can understandably get lost. At the center of the unassuming brown cardboard box, a nod back to the brown paper bags used to sell dirty magazines in the bad old days, is an inch think multilingual book that lays out the Creation is Crucifixion manifesto on education, liberty and authoritarianism. Child as Audience is intent on subverting the methods used to indoctrinate children, instead turning them into opportunities to learn the principles of radical anarchism. Creation is Crucifixion provide one means for subverting indoctrination by detailing instructions for reverse engineering old Nintendo Gameboy cartridges to create games that teach children the joys of of their own sexual development while reinforcing the message that authority figures can never be trusted. That’s a hell of a lot to cram into a package that contains less than 15 minutes of music.

Graf Orlock
Vitriol Records

Graf Orlock’s creative packaging is so legendary it probably deserves a post of its own from the face-hugger CD-holder of Destination Time Tomorrow to the multiple foldout fronts of Destination Time Today. The attention to detail they put into their offerings is meticulous and a large part of the band’s charm. But the cinephile grinders absolutely outdid themselves with the stunning Doombox. The 2011 release not only included the band’s entire discography to date, but the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle folded out into a giant ass boombox to hold your precious filmcore records. The whole concept is deliberately over the top but it also perfectly encapsulates Graf Orlock’s passion for film and their go for broke approach to music and presentation. It’s that kind of time and budget killing vision that lets you know Graf Orlock view their music as something more serious than a revenue stream.

Pig Destroyer
Book Burner

However disappointing Book Burner might have been musically, the packaging, especially for those of us who shelled out for the two CD digipack, does admirably reflect Pig Destroyer’s lyrical themes and ambitions. The book-bound digipack, which includes J.R. Hayes’ short story “The Atheist,” feels like a tome in your hands. It's like a samizdat missive from the dystopian world of Hayes’ imagination and that does help reinforce the themes Pig Destroyer were trying to build on Book Burner. Now none of that redeems flaccid music, a stale concept and a trite, poorly written short story, but it does show some forethought and an eye toward worldbuilding. The term concept album gets tossed out too casually for every wanking prog band that slaps together a handful tunes about calculus, but Book Burner at least tried to create a complete packing from the art to the presentation to the music that established multiple entry points into their blighted landscape. It was ultimately a failure, but it was a failure that took a chance.