Let me just start by getting all the pig-related puns out of my system – I hambly apologize in advance. Boy, do these boys like to ham it up. The really do deliver a crackling good album. It’s quite an imporkant bit of music for the industry. I’m not going to lambast them for their efforts. Alright that last one was not entirely of the pig persuasion, but as Mr. Orwell said, some animals are more equal than others.
Now, on to the meat and potatoes of the review. Boargazm‘s The Aporkalypse is a concept album, a ballsy and maybe dangerous move, but one that works if only for the sheer lunacy of it. Here’s a quick rundown of the story: The year is 2086, Earth is under attack by the pig people from Planet Zorg. The Pig-lord General Barbatus slaughters millions of people in mere hours. The humans have no choice but to submit to slavery or die. Unbeknownst to them, the pig people have been to earth before. There is hope though, in the form of The Pig Whisperers: rebel fighters who want to liberate the humans. They go and see the oracle, who sends them back in time a hundred years earlier – to the era of mullets, big hair, guitar solos and cocaine binges – to alert the world of the looming and ham-pending (apologies, I don’t know how that one slipped in, honestly) Aporkalypse.
I will be quick to admit that I am by no means a fan of pig-squeals or any music with the “core” suffix (the Boargazm Facebook page lists their music as “Swinecore”), which this album has in spades. I think pig-squealing is silly, most probably a joke gone too far. I am however a fan of melody, grooves and a sense of fun, which this album also has in spades and I am happy to see these lads have their tongues firmly implanted in their cheeks. Boargazm is the brainchild of well-known musician and South African Air Guitar champion Heine van der Walt, who is responsible for a number of metal projects such as FUCK and Rhütz – in addition to being an accomplished jazz musician and multi-instrumentalist. This shows in this album, and what I really like about it is the fact that the songs are well thought out and have a true sense of musicality to them.
To my pleasant surprise, the hardcore/metalcore elements aren’t forced and the songs don’t rely on annoying screams and blast beats to carry them. They instead opt for some plain old lekker riffs, with some thrashy bits thrown in for good measure. There is a good balance between heaviness and melody, and you can even occasionally distinguish some words. Very occasionally. The vocals however never overshadow or impede the instruments, and mostly accompany the riffs in an amiable, buddy cop kind of way. All in all, it is a fine line between homage and ridicule, with some parts more infectious than the swine flu. The album is a concept, a story, so I will take you through it one rasher of bacon at a time.
The intro track is entitled “Onslaught” and that’s exactly what it is; a barrage of machine-gun drum attacks, and panic filled screams proclaiming that indeed, “the pigs are coming”. It sets the manic and deranged pace for the album, and like the rest of the tracks, makes no apologies. “Barbatus” follows in which The Pig-Lord has descended and destruction is imminent. What strikes me about this song initially is the surprisingly melodic solo that hits about a third in, along with a grooving, bassy riff that really gets your head swaying. It’s an indication of the groove to come, and as one of the ‘catchier’ songs on the album, is probably the best indication of the album’s overall sound.
The battle is on in “Ground Zero” and the pigs have decimated millions. After some war-like sound effects and an expansive opening riff, we again have pig squeals and grunts buddying up with the riffs and drum beat, ensuring many a head bobbing. This track also has another wicked solo that’s not just 7-string sweep-picking wankery. The starting riff of “Blood Feast” has some serious off-beat groove to it. It’s basic enough to headbang to like mad, but with enough variation to not get boring. It’s one of the shortest tracks too, at just over 2 minutes.
Now here’s where the melody comes in. “Power Struggle” is a short instrumental of tremolo picking in a somber key – it gets you ready to start moshing again for the next track. “The Pig Whisperers” tells the tale of the rebels fighting for the humans. Staccato, punchy riffs again accompany grunts in a seriously mean killbeat. It changes tempo for a chaotic solo, falls back into the main riff and (just like Van Gogh) goes mad before it dies in a frenzy. Owing to that addictive main riff and insanity, it’s one of my favourite tracks.
The opening riff and accompanying tapping in “A Great War” would not be out of place somewhere on an Arch Enemy style song and it descends to yet another groove, goes a bit chromatic, sinister and finally explodes with squeals intensifying. “Intermission” is another melodic instrumental track. It’s somber, reverb and delay infused guitars, really are an intermission for your ears before the madness starts again. Not the most technical of solos, but then again it’s not supposed to be. “Tide of Echoes”, is a bit more madcap and not ideally my cup of tea. It brings some more ‘core’ elements than most of the songs, but still has that groove. There are many more tempo changes thrown in as well. Halfway through it descends into even more chaos with the solo. Like the album, it’s almost thrashy at times, as if the metronome was kicked off the table in fury, but it echoes the insanity of the song and the album.
At this point, I’m starting to feel like the tracks are melding into one another, but “Manifesto” does have another body-slamming riff, pinch harmonics and all. Any additional commentary would just be repeating myself. “Lust”, starts off fast-paced and again, more like a traditional hardcore song. One of the few with blastbeat-like drumming, but it doesn’t last too long and shies away from becoming too annoying. There are some serious double bass attacks and Kerry King style disharmonic string murder in the solo. One thing that does bother me slightly though is that the guitar tones differ somewhat in the solo. It closes with a thumping main riff and that staple of 80’s tunes, a fade-out. “The Oracle” is purely strange, electronic warbles and drones with a drum-machine beat. It’s ominous and dreadful sound echoes the ending of the album, but also forebodes the next chapter in the Boargazm saga.
As someone who usually shuns this style of music, I must say I’ve been drawn into it quite unexpectedly by Boargazm. I knew from the start this was not going to be the style I gravitate towards, but that’s why I chose to review it. I thought it would give a fresh perspective. What made me decide on the spot, was when I saw GWAR listed as one of their influences. I knew immediately these guys don’t take themselves too seriously – unlike most ‘core’ or death metal bands. I enjoyed it, but I am still going back to listening to some Helloween after this. But, as my Afrikaans brethren say; “meng jou met die semels, dan vreet die varke jou”.