The uniquely named heavy psych band Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs dropped a new album, Viscerals, in May 2020. Now, they’re finally getting to tour it, accompanied by the black-humoured bard of Newcastle, Richard Dawson.
“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig” declared George Bernard Shaw. “You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” True to form, Pigsx7’s pulverising third album has confirmed that they’re no band to be messed with. In the seven years since the Newcastle-based quintet’s inception, the powerful primal charge at their heart has been amplified far beyond the realms of their original vision. Viscerals represents a leap forward in confidence, adventure and sheer intensity even from their 2018 breakthrough King Of Cowards. Incisive in its riff-driven attack, infectiously catchy in its songcraft and more intrepid than ever in its experimental approach, Viscerals is the sound of a leaner, more vicious kind of pig.
Whilst the fearsome opener ‘Reducer’s battle cry “Ego kills everything” brings a philosophical bent to its Sabbathian abjection, elsewhere ‘Rubbernecker’ may be the most melodious song this band has yet attempted, redolent of the debauched swagger of Jane’s Addiction. Meanwhile the sinister sound-collage of ‘Blood And Butter’ delves into jarring abstraction anew, ‘New Body’ countenances a bracing Melvins-and-Sonic-Youth demolition derby and – perhaps most memorably of all – the perverse banger ‘Crazy In Blood’ marries My Bloody Valentine-ish guitar curlicues in its verses to a raise-your-fists chorus worthy of Twisted Sister or Turbonegro.
The band see their live shows as therapy through noise. “When the music’s so loud that you can’t think about anything else, all those niggling troubles just go”, bassist Johnny Hedley told The Guardian in a recent interview. “Whether we’re thrashing about or playing something slow and droney, the variety of expression mirrors how you feel internally.” And it’s the same deal for their audiences who, buying wholly into the band’s gritty eccentricity, frequently wear pig masks and clamber onto the stage as singer Matt Batty, stripped to his shorts, howls in porcine ecstasy.
Richard Dawson may not seem like the most likely act you’d find supporting this hedonistic bunch, and yet his latest project with Finnish experimental metal band Circle says otherwise. Henki, their forthcoming album (dropping 21 November), deals with special plants throughout history, making it the greatest flora-themed hypno-folk-metal record you’ll hear this year. At Albert Hall though, we’re guessing we’ll hear more of Dawson’s solo stuff, which, while very different from Pigsx7’s music, more than matches its eccentricity and experimentalism.
Dawson became the least likely critical success story of 2017 with his off-the-wall folk record Peasant – a dense kaleidoscope of 6th century character studies set in the kingdom of Bryneich, known today as Dawson’s native North-East. A creative handbrake turn came with his 2019 album, 2020 – a contemporary, state-of-the-nation address to a country increasingly ill at ease with itself. Staggering from avant-folk to noise rock to lo-fi indie, it was released just prior to the pandemic, but its underlying themes of anxiety, the nation’s collective psychic crisis and a gradual slide into dystopia spoke presciently to the country’s disarray.
For all of its bleakness, though, there’s a life-affirming, all-in-it-together warmth to Richard Dawson’s music, and to his live shows, too. On stage, his heartfelt, communicative presence makes his music feel like a sanctuary – another take, I suppose, on Pigsx7’s therapy through noise. Both acts under one magnificent roof – at Albert Hall on 23 November – is going to make for some night.