Normally, I like to write about silly shit and partys and autotune, and things that allow me to be a dick, but this week I will open my heart and give you an irony free piece I wrote for another blog once. It’s an analysis of the lyrics of one of my favorite bands, Pig Destroyer, who I regard as up there with Shakespere in terms of lyrical prowess.
By the way, America is awesome, in case you asked..
Normally, at least once a year, sometimes twice, I find myself getting far too emotionally invested in some (usually European) chick, when she’s only lookin’ for the short game, and so I invariably end up getting myself hurt, and retreat to my dark room with a bottle of cheap ass vodka to stew for a couple of weeks in self pity. During these annual withdrawals, time and time again, I find myself always coming back to the same band: Pig Destroyer.
While I do too resort to the usual Emo jamz, favored by alt teens the world over, no one ever seems to quite as accurately hit the way I feel more so than the “Pornographers of Sound” and their unique brand of heartbreak Grindcore.
Me and a friend of mine who shares the fascination are now pretty much on museum curator terms with Pig Destroyer lyrics, in some cases being more familiar with them than the actual songs. So allow me to be your “curator” gentle reader, as i guide you into the downright creepy world of my favorite lyricist, J.R.Hayes.
Misogyny is in plentiful supply in the Male dominated world of metal. It may be the show girls and groupies in the “women as objects” world of bands like Motley Crue, wherein a girl is nothing more than a notch on your bed post, the Gothic “dark mistresses”, who fill up the fantasy metal realms, and most obviously, the countless “bitches and whores”, who get tortured and dismembered on a regular basis by Devourment and Cannibal Corpse. I’m no psychologist, but I’m going to put the consistent objectification and alienation of women down to fear of powerlessness, rage, and the general hopelessness of the average nerdy metal head with women. The empathy displayed generally ends at “you bitch why don’t you love me anymore”.
And so it’s refreshing that Pig Destroyer, singing almost entirely about girls, manage to never venture into misogyny, hatred, and objectification. All there is is sorrow, self hatred, and a kind of warped acceptance. There are still moments of rage, leading predictably to murder as we see in the doomy epic “Natasha”, but instead of bringing catharsis, like so many “I just killed my ex”, songs, it instead just causes more self hatred and weakness, ultimately leading to Natasha’s victory of sorts, as depicted metaphorically in the eerie supernatural ending:
“I’m surrounded by a thousand of her eyes bathing the tunnel in a strange green light,
the eyes show me pictures like ghostly television screens,
all her thrashing final struggles and her ravaged corpse serene,
the tunnel is closing behind me pressing me further and further down,
I’m being swallowed by her earth and consumed by her ground,
the end is moving into sight,
I gasp and I scream as I see her lovely mouth five times the size of me,
her lips curl into a grin around her crooked gnashing teeth,
I’m pulverized and devoured in the jaws of a girl seventeen”“Torture Ballad” perfectly highlights the general uselessness of rage, in a much more graphic and uncharacteristically straightforward prose, essentially acting out the fantasy of many guys, but with a reminder of the futility, essentially reducing it to petty selfishness:
“The tape across your mouth says more than your words ever could
You’re squirming and screaming as I tease your eyes with glowing needles crawl slug drag your shattered legs behind
I know no matter how much I hurt you she’ll always love you more than me…
…but all of this isn’t for the sake of her love, it’s for the sake of my jealousy.”
Of course, most of the time the scenario is never as generic as the old “killing my ex or her new guy”, ploy, instead often focusing on unrequited love expressed through strange metaphors, and often far too cryptic to be put down to a simple scenario analysis. In many instances the lyrics merely capture a mood, or just the vibe of a type of girl, who are, ultimately, depicted as just as human, flawed and vulnerable as the narrator. Some songs seem to contain merely a lyrical snapshot of a girl’s being, making point of view irrelevant (be it unrequited love, animosity, or simply casually observing, all of them work). Ultimately, it is the girl themselves who is the subject, as oppose to the narrator’s feelings, like so many other songs of this nature by other artists, where the girl is merely an object, a plot device. “Cheerleader Corpses” is a good example of this:
“Semen tastes like gunmetal she said smiling,
the arms of boys drowning in fire reaching for the rungs of my rib cage.
These pills I take in the witching hour.
I imagine I am swallowing you.”
Of course, it’s open to interpretation, and yours is just as valid as mine, but my point is that it serves to effectively portray a character, without really judging her, and bringing in any aspects of the narrator’s feelings, yet through the vivid metaphors, invoking all kinds of reactions in the reader. You know exactly who this person is, just from these four lines. It’s presented in a way that is almost completely objective, yet inspires a reaction, making it become instantly personal to the reader.
Another great example of this is “Blonde Prostitute”, which through it’s cryptic nature, is more effectively able to capture the essence of the subject:
“The vomit on your lips
tastes like the sex of a twin sister
I can hear your stomach knot
As another threshold is reached
And crossed imagination is the key
So destroy with the nails
Repair with the tongue and repeat
It only hurts if you look
I am a velvet corpse kneeling before you
And for a split second
Your eyes were lambs
As my fingers slipped around your neck
On the way to heaven “
Take it and make it your own…
Of course, if you’re an unsympathetic male who lacks imagination, you may just think of many of Haye’s lyrics “oh, he’s singing about a slut who fucks guys over”. On a very basic level you could be right, if that’s how you get the most meaning from it, then cool, whatever. Sometimes that is pretty clearly what Hayes is writing about, but he always takes it deeper and more rounded than “sluts are bad”, and he never resorts to misogyny and snap judgments.
Another common theme, as I mentioned, is unrequited love. These songs bring more subjectivity into the mix, obviously, and are slightly less open to interpretation, as the intent is clear, however they still remain deeply personal to anyone reading them, as those feelings are something most people can relate to. The subject of the songs is usually depicted transcending the “snapshot of a girl” type of vibe from the earlier songs i mentioned, growing into a grotesque, supernatural, all consuming tulpa. As always with Haye’s lyrics, this is sublimely portrayed with intense metaphorical description. The best example of one of the “Unrequited Love” songs, and potentially Pig Destroyer’s best song, is “Towering Flesh”:
“She’s got heroin embraces
that I still need to be in
I force myself to loathe her
so I can fall for her again
Her lips are wet with venom
her posture’s serpentine
she’ll touch my arm and
flowers grow there
poisonous and obscene.”
In the extremely oversubscribed field of unrequited love songs, I am yet to find one that captures the lethargic pain and hopelessness in the same way as “Towering Flesh”. Although Hayes has penned many other equally commendable attempts, most of which I would go as far as to hold in the same regard as Shakespeare. Yeah, that’s right, I just compared a Grindcore band to Shakespeare…sue me. Just check out “Lost Cause”, “Trojan Whore”, and the incredibly messed up “Starbelly” (“The other day i masturbated to pictures of you at your birthday party”) for an incredibly dark, yet unnervingly accurate portrayal of heartbreak.
Another distinct flavor of Haye’s style, are the songs about being in a relationship. Even then, the tone remains pessimistic and bleak, with a general sense of regarding himself as severely below her, as clearly seen in “Verminess”:
“When she touches me it’s like a rodent sifting through garbage but it’s better than just rotting away
when she kisses me her lips are like chalk beneath empty socket eyes
compassion takes too much effort
I suppose the dead honeybees suckle withered flowers ’cause they don’t know what else to do”…or else containing a pessimistic glance to the future, in which all good things must end. The nagging feeling that despite how perfect everything seems now, and how much it feels like nothing will ever pierce your euphoria, you know that it will all eventually crumble.
These lyrics have even gone as far as to effect the way I think in my own personal life. Ever since having got so into Pig Destroyer, I find that whenever I am sharing a moment with a girl I have genuine serious feelings for, be it chilling at a festival or meandering through a city, I always think back to songs like “Hyperviolet”, and try and subdue the knowledge that the seemingly picturesque thing I have at the moment will no doubt, sooner or later, fade away.
“Traced in a wet sand her name in perfect cursive. A love letter to the crescent moon.
By tomorrow it will be gone I told her. There is no tomorrow she said.
I can feel her in a bikini of coiled snakes dancing into the hiss of the wind.
Postcards from a paradise in flames. She used to be so right. So right about everything.”I’ve actually even found that a great test of whether or not i really like someone, as oppose to just see them as a casual fling, is whether I start applying Pig Destroyer lyrics to them, as creepy as that may sound. A girl mentions that she’s going out to some club to probably get wasted, and suddenly “Pretty in Casts”, flashes through my head. Find myself hanging out with two playfully apathetic hot chicks, “The Machete Twins” flickers into my conscience. Hanging around with nothing to do, waiting for your cute friend to call me like she said she would, “Gravedancer” is suddenly the theme.
Hayes is obviously not a misogynist, even though many people interpret him that way. He is fascinated with women, in the most humanizing and respectful way possible, and focuses on the little details, imperfections, that define a girl, and form the tapestry with which you fall in love. This is what makes Pig Destroyer so sincere and romantic, as oppose to just the generalizing and one sided jealousy displayed by other songwriters. Of course there is obvious negativity and sorrow throughout Haye’s work, but this is just part of the canvas of life, and he in no way blames anyone, least of all whoever the object of his affections may be, for the situations that lead to such melancholy expression.
“This is disgusting, it’s pornography
No, no, no. This is beautiful,
this is art.”
– J.R. Hayes