DARK + SCARY Pigboat intentionally obscure themselves.
Pigboat are not nu metal, or speed metal, or death metal, or glam metal, or any of the other metals, really. They're just old-fashioned heavy metal, the kind played by Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, and like those bands Pigboat have a feel for the dramatic (and the slightly silly).
Riding their nautical theme, they release this week Float, a full-length follow up to 2006's Nothing's Ever Finished EP. It's 13 songs of crunching guitars, smashed cymbals, throaty bass, and sometimes-screamed vocals, and though there's some dark material here, you never feel like these guys really mean it when they sing things like "the simple fact that you exist/Makes me want to harvest your soul."
Guitarist/vocalist Mark Belanger, bassist Ed Porter, and drummer Brian Chaloux are long-time scene veterans and for good reason. They are entertainers as much as they are musicians (Porter runs the label they're on, the Entertainment Experiment) and their brand of metal never manages to be dour or self-indulgent. It's big and loud and worthy to bang out a "Snowblind" cover at the finish.
Good metal is about the grinding chord progressions and soaring vocals, sure, but there's got to be something to get excited about. "Cowboys, I think" opens with a fairly standard drum and bass quiet, with the guitar coming in like it's just testing the water. But it enters properly with a woo-hoo, Blur "Song #2" kind of bang that kicks you in the pants. And Belanger has an interesting twist of gritting out each verse from the back of his throat, then singing the same lines again, but with twice the volume and emotion.
Their 11-minute "...And the Wings of the Eagle Are Brown" (what smart metal band would be caught dead without a 10-minute-plus tune late in the album?) doesn't forget to give us a touch of melody here and there to break up potential monotony, and features at least three noticeable movements before it finishes with a hard-charging burn. Twisted Roots bassist Mark Lennon contributes stand-up bass.
You'll find other Geno's regulars elsewhere, lending the album a community feel that again belies a sentiment like: "My candy dish is filled with razor blades" (from the otherwise non-sensical "I Wouldn't Have Spent that Year in College").
Honestly, I'm not sure anyone's better than this three-piece at song naming. Rather than just bite the chorus, they pick names that are fitting for each song, adding meaning instead of parroting. They have a Christmas-themed song called "Ho Ho Whatever." The instrumental song two is called "Never Say Terence." And a song featuring nicely constructed nautical sounds by Wally (he's going by just one name now, I guess) at his Wallyworld studios is called "The Less than Successful Shakedown Cruise of the U.S.S. Pfeifle."
How do I feel about being the namesake for a boat where "it's only a matter of time before the structure explodes"? Well, I'm flattered, of course, though they could be referring to former J. Crew CEO Jeff Pfeifle. It's hard to say.
It's easy, however, to sit with this disc. Pigboat are smart without making you work too hard to appreciate it. And who doesn't want to find out what a song called "Chicken Little Vs. Snidely Whiplash (Kissinaminit)" sounds like?
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pigboat with Cryptic Overcast + Ghost Hunter | at Geno's, in Portland | April 25