Newcastle’s Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs always seemed an unlikely “t-shirt band” for the bearded hipster tossers about town, but that is what they seem to have become in the last 18 months or so. A band that knock out songs that pair Black Sabbath riffs with Lemmy Kilmister hollering are, however, on the up and up and are potentially about to go stratospheric with Viscerals, their third album.
Let’s be upfront about this, though – there is no way Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs would be as popular as they are right now without the most ridiculous/most brilliant band moniker of recent times. It’s as if their nomenclature allowed the soul of the band to be devoured by trite centrist dads who dip in and out of BBC 6 Music “to see what’s going on”. This is not the band’s fault in any way shape or form – they seem an earnest and decent bunch of chaps – but there needs to be an awareness of the retro-comedy value they seem to bring to some “fans” who have no clue who Shrinebuilder or A Storm of Light are.
Their debut album, Feed the Rats, was a righteous half hour of Sabbath-worshipping heavy riffage spread across just three songs, whereas 2018’s breakthrough record, King of Cowards, was leaner and a little more direct (and not as good, in all honesty). With Viscerals, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs have refined their sound even further and are now less likely to wander off on into a psych-infused abyss, which is something of a shame.
“Reducer” kicks us off in quite brilliant fashion. It has all the hallmarks of a metal track written by algorithm. That may come across as a pejorative sentence but the intention is quite the opposite. Here is a band steeped in the aural aesthetics of a genre they clearly love, which twists and turns at all the right moments, drops to half time when you kind of expect it to, and relentlessly marches towards a satisfactory and repetitious end that drills itself down into an ever-decreasing spiral of torpidity. In four and a half minutes, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs present all of the sludge metal traits in one palatable wall of noise. Lovely stuff.
“Rubbernecker” comes next and is the album highlight, if not the highlight of the band’s career to date. Matt Baty’s voice sits perfectly over the slow pounding riffs and here is the point in the band’s trajectory to date where you finally feel they are stepping out from the long shadows of the bands they are in reverence to. This, finally, is the sound of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs in all its glorious mess and meandering mayhem, perhaps standing on the shoulders of giants but starting to feel less indebted to them.
The lyrics on “New Body” recall the degrees of out of body experience that true debauchery can bring as the out-of-control element is blamed on external forces that reside within. It’s one of the longest tracks on the album and allows the band to stretch and weave riffs which seem to be ever-so-slightly getting slower on each repetition, like the best work of Neurosis or Ufomammut.
There are some duffers on the album, although the highs more than make up for the record’s lows. “World Crust” is all empty bluster and posturing and sounds like Red Fang when they went completely off the boil a while back. “Crazy in Blood”, likewise, is early-80s hair metal in sound, with too much reverb on the guitars and vocals to sound as barbaric as you’d imagine the original intention was. The lag in the album is due in part to the production, which is too polished for a band trying to push a sludge sound; it’s neither sufficiently feral or entirely apathetic enough to convince the listener that the tracks are anything other than studio creations rather than the sounds generated from a heavy night on the intoxicants of your choosing. But perhaps the intention is to sweep up more 6 Music pseudo-metalheads – the ones who once saw Iron Maiden on the telly or walked past Slayer at the Reading Festival in 2006. Who knows?
Viscerals ends strongly with “Halloween Bolson” highlighting their love of doom, whereas final track “Hell’s Teeth” is a soft-rock party anthem; a weird bastard child of Mötley Crüe and Weedeater.
There is nothing out and out original on Viscerals, and in many ways that is the appeal. If you like down tuned sludge/doom then you’ll find plenty here to get your teeth into. If you’re a sludge/doom snob (and there are way too many of those about) then you’ll just carry on thinking of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs as a “fun Electric Wizard”, but there’s really not much wrong with that. Just don’t ask me to refer to them as Pigs x 7 when I have a word count to get to, okay?