From the outset, on their krautrocky 2017 debut, Feed the Rats, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs established themselves as a major voice in the current psych-rock revival. The group tightened their jamming for King of Cowards, a record that sounded like an alternate timeline where Lemmy started Motörhead first and poached the members of Hawkwind to back him; the LP confirmed the dual-guitar team of Sam Grant and Adam Ian Sykes as the finest riffmeisters since Matt Pike, blending stoner rock, galloping metal and crushing psychedelia into a focused blast. Viscerals sharpens the band’s songwriting even further, trimming songs down to their most effective, grooving just long enough to hammer in the perfection of their riffs before moving on to the next crushing number.

“Reducer” launches out of the gate with a trad metal drum pattern that quickly explodes into a mid-tempo roar of psych-doom. As one guitar surges through a riff, another lets loose a shrieking lead that hangs over Matt Baty’s bullish vocals. “Ego kills everything,” he barks later in the song, though the philosophical is prefaced by the literal in his earlier screams of “I want air.” Running a breezy four-and-a-half minutes compared to the previous album’s six-minute opener, “Reducer” nonetheless shows off just how tight the band has become, swinging through numerous key and tempo changes, including a seismic, primal concrete sledge breakdown.

Elsewhere, the band keeps to these shortened lengths to make some churning numbers that could slot comfortably onto High on Fire records. “World Crust” boasts a trebly guitar riff that sounds like an early Venom riff slowed down from buzz saw noise to grinding roar. “Rubbernecker” is tar-pit sludge of the finest sort, all sticky riffs entwined with John-Michael Hedley’s sinewy bass. The latter element is perhaps the album’s most consistent surprise; Rocket Recordings albums tend to keep a consistently high level of audio fidelity despite the caterwauling heaviness of the average signee and what must be modest financial means, but the low end rarely sounded so prominent on one of their LPs. Grant and Sykes may be honing their guitars into their most bruising and straightforward sound yet, but Hedley adds small flourishes and contrapuntal touches that tie the band back to their looser roots.

Those roots come clearer to the foreground on a few tracks that run at the quasi-epic lengths that were common on King of Cowards. “New Body” stomps out of the gate with a descending riff that somehow slows down even further. Gradually, the guitars splinter off into sheets of noise closer to Sonic Youth than Black Sabbath, ending on a jagged note. “Halloween Bolson” is nine minutes of hell that runs through a galloping NWOBHM rhythm that erupts into a solo before sinking into one of the filthiest riffs on the album. Swapping jams for start-stop ferocity, the band manages to mutate their extended psych into angular groove. Of course, their psych bonafides are affirmed even on shorter tracks. “Blood and Butter” sounds like one of Hawkwind’s early live interludes where Michael Moorcock would read spacey passages of interstellar flight and utopian dreams, albeit swapped out for the social and body horror of someone like Ramsey Campbell. “We sit down at the table/ the social pressure cooker,” intones a voice like Ralph Ineson’s pious madman in The Witch, noting “On today’s menu/ The head chef is serving up poison made with the cheapest ingredients possible.”

The album’s title, naturally, applies both to the band’s preoccupation with the nastier minutiae of human flesh as well as the pummeling impact of these songs. Yet this is the group’s most accessible record yet, concise and ready-made for headbanging. Baty still sounds like a mad king waving a scepter from atop a pyramid of skulls, yet there is a newfound melodicism in his bark that meshes well with the tighter songwriting. On “Crazy in Blood,” for example, which his catchy vocal hooks sound closer in spirit to hair metal than the churning ooze of the guitars underneath. Closer “Hell’s Teeth” is almost danceable, adding a swinging boogie to what is otherwise crunching doom. Pigs x7 may have a goofy name, but they are getting ever more serious about their music, and amid a psychedelic scene filled with inventive noisemakers, they stand among the top of the heap for purveyors of skull-rattling, chrome-plated rock.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

The Time: The Time (Expanded Edition)

The Time’s groovy debut is still a tremendous party album, but this reissue feels frustrat…