We covered this album during last week's edition of Fresh Meat Friday...but Pyrrhon is far too significant of a band to gloss over with such egregious brevity. As such, our very own gibbously non-euclidean amalgamation--aka Loveloth the Omniscient--took the reins. Hence: enjoy this expanded review! - Ed.
Written by: Loveloth
Three years ago, a more impressionable, less jaded Loveloth scoured the plains of the Interwebz in search of new, exciting music. One faithful day, I was doing the usual, which translated to me religiously reading Angry Metal Guy. Anyhow, here I am scrolling through and chillin' until I see this insane album cover. It features a mangled dog snarling, whose paw got stuck in a rusty iron trap. The beast has multiple wounds and is clearly malnourished. The surrounding area looks nice though as it's filled with leaves, but the dog and washed out color palette evokes a feeling of discomfort. Needless to say, my interest was piqued and one quick glance later I see the title. Pyrrhon, What Passes For Survival. The two r's in the band name were weird, sure, but I was not prepared what was to come.
You see, there is this guy named Kronos who writes for AMG, and he is known for his hot takes and penchant for the most extreme forms of metal. What I absolutely love about his style, apart from his vast vocabulary and superb phrasing, is how convincing his points always were. Sure, I would disagree with him, but his hot takes never felt cheap and that is pretty rare these days. But now: back to the epic, overlong intro.
As I was reading, I started getting hyped due to Kronos' rarely seen enthusiasm--and the 5.0 score at the bottom sealed the deal. I was so ready for this, except I wasn't, like at all. The opener “Happy Victim's Creed” kicked my ass. A jagged maelstrom of riffs, spastic, seemingly arrhythmic drumming, inhuman gurgling, wild noisy bursts: all these things were new to me back then, and I wasn't sure if I genuinely liked this type of music or if I was just liking how off-kilter and underground it was. Up to that point Pyrrhon were the single most extreme thing I ever heard and with each revisitation of What Passes For Survival my fascination and appreciation of it grew. Eventually I started wondering: “How the hell are they gonna follow this up?”
Well my friends, the answer is finally here as we shall attempt to dissect the beast that is Abscess Time, Pyrrhon's latest album.
Before we jump in, a disclaimer, especially for those new to the band. The lyrics. They contain, get this, socio-political commentary. For some this is a terrifying notion, but not for me and especially not in this case. For my two cents, Pyrrhon feature some of the best lyrical content in the whole metal genre. High words for sure, but ones I have no issue stating. The reason behind it is their vocalist Doug Moore. Whatever he tackles, there is always a great attention to detail and the aforementioned commentary never comes off as preachy. Pair this with a vast vocabulary, varied narrative approaches, add a healthy, unpretentious dose of cynicism, stir all of that on a low flame for 15 minutes, and voila: 'tis a hit! Allow me to demonstrate with this lovely passage on “Human Capital”:
“Become your best self
Persist to produce, deny yourself rest
Maintain, by false health be blessed
For every pain repressed, a palliative caress
Keeps you by wealth possessed
Laboring for change, straining to impress.”
This is why a lyric sheet should be mandatory when tackling these guys, which brings us to my next point of interest: vocals. Unlike most burp and gurgle aficionados out there, Moore doesn't dwell in one register for too long. He instead jumps between practically every vocal form you can think of. While the examples of his skills are plentiful, the likes of “The Lean Years” and “State Of Nature” particularly stood out. On the latter, you can almost taste the vitriol in his voice and it only gets more intense as we approach the climax. There, we are greeted with two vocal tracks: one with screaming and the other with loud breaths which mirror the song's main pulse. The trick is choosing what to focus upon, because of course the song has polyrhythms covered by off-beat china smacks. It's such a brief moment too, but this is what I am all about.
I am also all about that bass, and boy, do we got it. The band's long-time collaborator and eternally busy Colin Marston once again handled the production values and the end result is another wonderfully defined, crisp and rich-sounding record that the genre oh so desperately lacks. Wonderful stuff but I still haven't touched upon the main thing, the instrumentation.
Like Ulcerate's most recent masterpiece, Abscess Time ends up being the quartet's least hostile record thus far due to a larger emphasis on space. It also sees them expanding upon their noise rock influences and are on average playing a tad slower. This is because of the aforementioned space but more importantly it comes down to the number of longer-lasting songs. While none pass the ten minute mark like on most of their previous output, five of them here pass the five minute one. The outcome? Almost 57 minutes of aural chaos, which makes Abscess Time their longest album to date and you feel it.
While no track is outrightly bad, a few are underwhelming, mostly the shorter, most grindcore-influenced ones. It comes down to how they affect the record's flow. Both “Teuchnikskreis” and “Overwinding” feel out of place, and the transitions between them and surrounding tracks is always rough. I am also not a fan of audio excerpts they use from time to time, but luckily there aren't that many of them here. Oh, and the opener isn't anything too exciting as well, but the lads make up for it with slappers like “Down At Liberty Ashes,” “The Lean Years,” and “The Cost Of Living." Here, the band is at their peak yet are still able to show restraint which helps to accentuate the bleak atmosphere they created.
A large part of this is due to Malave's sublime bass work. What I love about his approach is how unflashy it is. Yes, it's technically proficient, like every player in Pyrrhon. But him and the rest of the band never veer into vapid instrumental wanking like so many nowadays. The New Yorkers instead use the jagged edges of dissonance and time manipulation as a tool to portray the ugly truths of our society, and there is nothing more terrifying than that, especially with lyrics as potent and graphic as Moore's.
I spent many hours with Abscess Time and while it's not their best work yet, I would say it's their most varied and the best album to get you started. I will say this though. In the three years that passed since What Passes For Survival, I spent A LOT of time exploring music, and in that time I came only across a handful of bands that matched or even came close to Pyrrhon's levels of musicianship. When it comes to forward-thinking death metal, New York is the best place to keep an eye on right now. In a time of rehashes, remakes, reboots and reworks seeping into every facet of the entertainment industry and influencing every art form it touches, it's refreshing to see something so unrestrained, alien and unapologetic. That, my friends, is why bands like Pyrrhon, Ingurgitating Oblivion and Afterbirth are so important. They reinvigorate that what is stale and the only way we all move is if we move forward. And with new Imperial Triumphant and Artificial Brain looming on the horizon, I couldn't be happier with where death metal is heading.
Pyrrhon - Abscess Time was released June 26th, 2020 from Willowtip Records
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!