One of the biggest problems with being an established band is that you are often not allowed to experiment, even for a noble cause. This is the case with the band's recent release (though not latest recording) Mass & Volume. The two song EP was originally laid down on the last day of their recording sessions for 2007's Phantom Limb, their third full-length at the time. However, following the release of 2008's Natasha EP and the eventual departure of drummer Brian Harvey, this product of extra time and resources had never seen the light of day. That is, until Pat Egan from Relapse Records passed away unexpectedly on February 18th, 2013. The two song recording was finally placed on Bandcamp as a digital only offering with the intentions of proceeds from all sales being donated to the college fund of Pat's daughter. Of course, this didn't stop critics and narrow-minded fans from either praising and trashing this release, spanning from a crushing experience to the typical "it's not Pig Destroyer as I know them there for it sucks" mentality. But does this release actually stand as that big a waste of your time, or is this actually quite the solid bizarro world style experience?

First up is the title track "Mass & Volume", which is just a slow churning powerhouse of crushing riffs and cold, helpless environments. Haunting notes and effects are utilized to set up a very grim atmosphere along the lines of a seventies Italian Horror flick. The tension builds as held guitar notes play over the growing richer material, leaving a bleak and unsettling world in its wake minutes in, allowing the sky to crumble down around you and leave only the blackest of darkness as far as the mental eye can see. Distorted harsh shouting kicks in around eight minutes, taking its time against the wide open passages that have a subtle hint of psychedelic early Doom influence thrown into the Novembers Doom grade creeping pace. Come eleven minutes, you're met with a small increase in speed, attempting to hammer into your skull for a good minute, but just not quite leaving that lasting a mark before heading into more droning elements and additional noise like a television in the background and other electronics as we're sent back to before the shouting began.

"Mass & Volume" is superbly executed as far as pacing goes, taking its time to build itself up as this tremendous, almost monolithic appreciation for dismal, post-apocalyptic landscapes that leave your spirit broken. Unfortunately the pay off about half way through doesn't live up to the awe-inspiring lead time and dramatic conclusion, leaving you scrambling for bludgeoning punishment for a good minute, minute and a half before thrown into "Red Tar". While not as slow and hopeless, a Doom Metal presence can still be felt in the mid-tempo chorus and tight chugging of the main verses. But, by the four minute mark, you are handed more of a Sludge Metal piece that turns into a Southern Rock ballad for a while, just with heavier distortions and rougher vocals instead of clean singing. Sadly, the bite of the song itself is about as dull as the halfway mark on the previous track, not having nearly enough strength behind it to have you as engrossed as its predecessor.

In October of 2014, Relapse Records made the once digital only Mass & Volume available in other formats. While still available in the previous manner [at the time of writing this article], you can now pick up a copy on compact disc, as well as on vinyl. Nothing really seems to have changed between the initial 2013 run and the 2014 version other than how you can listen to it. Unfortunately I cannot comment as to whether or not any funds acquired from the sale of the new hard copies, or further sales through Bandcamp are still being donated, only because I don't know. Even on the official Bandcamp page for Pig Destroyer there is no mention of it anymore, which leads one to assume that the charitable aspect of Mass & Volume has come to a close. Even with that said, it's just great to finally have this on physical media, and if that was your big hang up with grabbing this last year, then you have no more excuses not to take this EP into consideration.

Mass & Volume definitely isn't your traditional Pig Destroyer album, and that's perfectly fine for those able to pull their heads out of their asses long enough to realize just what came from that extra recording time. Instead of a furious Grindcore laced assault, we find the band slowing to a crawl, presenting an experimental epic that spoils you before heading into the second not-so-grand offering. It's an absolute shame this EP took so long to finally be released, and even further that the only reason we have been given the opportunity to hear it is due to a passing in the Relapse Records family. But, at least some good will come out of it. Well, at least it did, as I haven't seen anything about if any percentage of proceeds from the 2014 versions will go to Pat Egan's daughter's college education. Whether you picked this up digitally already or happened to miss out the first time around, Mass & Volume is something worth checking out on any format just to see what the band can do outside of their comfort zone which, as a way to not waste a day's recording time, speaks well for the group's overall talent.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.