Puig Destroyer started out as something of a joke (their name alludes to American grindcore act Pig Destroyer) among a few baseball-loving musicians, including Riley Breckenridge and Ian Miller of the Productive Outs podcast, but they’ve now morphed into a real if virtual hardcore punk band that performs loud, fast, short songs about baseball topics – including one song I can honestly claim to have inspired, “Umpshow.” Their first full-length album, Puig Destroyer, includes twenty songs, none over 2:06, with the best song titles anyone’s produced since Seth Putnam died, including “Three True Outcomes,” “Trumbomb,” and the entirely truthful “No One Cares About Your Fantasy Team.” This kind of post-hardcore isn’t for everyone – I’ve seen them described as grindcore, but Puig Destroyer isn’t in Napalm Death territory – with blast beats, shouted vocals, and heavy bass lines, but it’s tightly produced and you can hear the strong musicianship underlying the jokes about sabermetrics and ligament reconstruction surgery. The album is available for preorder for $7 now through that link, and you get an immediate download of the song “Mike Trout.” (Full disclosure: I’ve met Ian, been on the Productive Outs podcast, and received a digital review copy of the album.)
* Meanwhile, longtime hardcore stalwarts Sick of It All are about to release The Last Act of Defiance, their first album in four years, one that shows a band in steep decline. Not only are the fourteen tracks generic and tired, but the song “2061” sees the group espousing 9/11 conspiracy-theory nonsense, claiming that the U.S. government is hiding the “truth” about the attacks until confidential documents are made public in the year of the song’s title. That kind of “truther” bullshit is an intelligence test, and Sick of It All just failed.
* In Flames’ newest album, Siren Charms, continues in the vein of their more recent work, where they try to straddle the space between their melodic death metal roots and more radio-friendly American metalcore, which produces a very unsatisfying end result. In Flames’ signature twin guitar leads are present all over the album, but aren’t front and center on enough tracks for fans of their work or, in my case, fans of that particular brand of extreme-metal riffing.
* FKA twigs (née Tahliah Debrett Barnett) might suffocate under the weight of all of the positive reviews of her debut album LP1, including a nomination for this year’s Mercury Prize. While Barnett shows beauty in her emotional, restrained style of singing, I can’t add to the effusive plaudits thrown her way because the severely understated trip-hop style where she plies her musical trade strikes me as little more than background music. There’s almost nothing here to praise or critique; it’s barely music, an unstable foundation for Barnett’s impressive vocal acrobatics, unable to hold my attention for even the length of a song. She may very well win the Mercury Prize, which alt-J took home two years ago for An Awesome Wave, given the critical acclaim LP1 has received; I’m just not hearing what everyone else is.
* English hard-rock band Amplifier draws influence from about three decades of rock and metal, from the ’70s (notably Pink Floyd, with hints of Black Sabbath) to the ’90s (Nirvana, Soundgarden), but the result on their forthcoming album Mystoria is surprisingly tame. I certainly expected more experimentation based on their reviews and press clippings, but after the opening pair of tracks, we get some generic album-oriented rock tracks made marginally more interesting with heavy use of effects pedals. The instrumental opener, “Magic Carpet,” and second track, “Black Rainbow,” are the only standouts here, with the off-beat percussion line in the latter track giving it the experimental feel that the guitar riff lacks.