Pyrrhon – An Excellent Slave But A Terrible Master

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An Excellent Slave But A Terrible Master
New York’s Pyrrhon first came to my attention through the ‘NYC Sucks Vol. 1‘ compilation released by the MetalSucks team last year, with the track ‘King of All Tears’. It was a furious blast through three minutes twentyseven seconds of frenetic tech-death metal, with a nice technical sheen that wasn’t too over the top. When they self-released ‘An Excellent Slave but a Terrible Master’ earlier this year, I was quick to pick it up from their Bandcamp page, but for some reason, I continually pushed it aside as the number of new releases began to catch up. Having recently been acquired by Polish label Selfmadegod, the time was right to get a taste of the first Pyrrhon full-length. Why did I leave it so long?

Obviously there’s a lot of tech-death stuff floating around, and some more razzle dazzle than others. Pyrrhon are flashy but not in a kind of attention-starved child fashion. They’re not ashamed to show off their wizardry and indeed their influences – there’s some substantial Gorguts influence here, more than a dash of Suffocation, and the band admit to being in thrall to Deathspell Omega – but nor are they afraid to even out the mix and throw in some nice ideas. Heck, some ideas? How about lots of tricks and nuances, old and occasionally new. The gang vocals in ‘New Parasite’ you’re more likely to see in hardcore than in any form of death metal, but it works pretty well, though brief within the context of the songs.

The album reveals itself more and more as it goes on, continuing down the path of mind-buggery but again, without alienating the listener. The bass intro at the beginning of ‘Correcting a Mistake’ is a nice touch, showcasing bassist Erik Malave’s ridiculous ability and preparing you for the riff that follows it about thirty seconds in. That song provides one of the few mosh-out moments, with quite a few riffs in there to make you bang your head, despite still being batshit crazy at the same time.
Guitarist Dylan DeLilla is equally enchanting, providing a tiptop performance throughout. Yeah, there’s plenty of squeals and pinch harmonics coming out of the guitar at various points on the album, but they’re done to serve the numerous riffs on display, and not just as mindless buggery – ‘Idiot Circles’ a fine example with a mosh-friendly riff. His solos are just incredible as well, like Fredrik Thordenthal getting sucked slowly through a vortex at times. Wonderfully psychedelic and quite otherworldly in their feel, almost as if you’re drifting in and out of consciousness. Not at all reverting to form, but it works staggeringly well. Drummer Alex Cohen is nothing if not imperious, from one drummer to another. He blasts, fills, rolls, pushes and pulls with absolute precision.
Lyrically, ‘An Excellent Slave’ is one of the finest you’ll see all year, a credit to vocalist Doug Moore. One look at the album’s lyrics makes you realise we’re not dealing with fantasy realms or mere obsessions with death, gore, etc. From the outset, ‘An Excellent Slave…’ paints a picture of despondence with the modern world, with city life. ‘New Parasite’ is seemingly brought to you, the listener, from the gutters, the sewers of NYC. Take the opening lines, for example:
‘The subway tunnels sigh
Damp air rushing up through oiled grates
Drawn from phlegmy pools
That fester beneath the streets’
One of the greatest tracks on the album is ‘Flesh Isolation Chamber’, a near eight-and-a-half minute monster. It begins with a by now fairly typical speedy riff with an atmospheric, spacey and altogether stripped down section, slowed down altogether, leaving a feeling of aural weightlessness. Moore’s vocals here are slightly cleaner – by which I mean, his lyrics can be heard – and here he delivers yet more intriguing words when he scowls ‘which is worse/always being watched/or never being seen?
An Excellent Slave…’ is certainly a technical death metal record per se, but it doesn’t entirely rely on guitar noodlery or constant blastbeats to get it by. Yes, riffs are tight, taut and damn complex but not in such a suffocating way that it becomes one great big salad. The balance is just about right. It’s not a perfect album by any means – I had to listen to it several times to convey what I wanted to in this review, because it’s not exactly memorable or catchy, and as such it needs a lot of close attention to fully appreciate what Pyrrhon are out to do. However, we’re only talking about a debut effort here, and already I’d put these guys in the same modern day bracket as Ulcerate, Origin, Necrophagist, etc. Seriously, go out and purchase this record. I hightly recommend that you do.
This was available as a name-your-price download before Selfmadegod signed Pyrrhon up. Now you can only stream two of the tracks – ‘Idiot Circles’ and ‘The Architect Confesses (Spittlestrand Hair)’. It’s a shame the income is no longer directed entirely towards Pyrrhon’s coffers, despite the fact they entirely financed the original recording, but now they’re signed up, hopefully they’re on the road to relative stardom. And with music as challenging and as thought-provoking as it is heavy, you wouldn’t bet against it.
Peter Clegg

Review: Drugs of Faith – Corroded

Drugs of Faith


Corroded’ is the debut album by Virginia’s Drugs of Faith, and seeks to do exactly that by fizzling away the divider that parts grindcore, hardcore punk and rock. Clocking in at around 26 minutes, ‘Corroded’ sets out to show that grind need not be all about speed, and indeed this is a diversive fourteen tracks that do not disappoint.

Those 26 minutes blitz past but as I’ve just said, not necessarily about speed. Surely, its starts off like a firecracker on ‘Greyed Out’, but soon the hardcore and alt-influences are blending in and it makes for a real treat. The slightly slower pace and shouted vocals, as opposed to screamed/growled, give this record a distinct identity, and the socio-political lyrics are not lost in the mix as can happen with many a grind record.

As excellent as this record is, it all too often straddles the fine line dividing hardcore and grindcore. It wants to make the jump across to grind but just when they increase the pace, they jump right back to the other side. They do this supremely well at times (such as on ‘Giveaway), while at others, it just seems a little half-hearted, like they’re cursed with indecision. Maybe that’s just my own personal taste. I actually almost love the fact their toying with my head in this way, but sometimes, I just want a clear choice.

And for those impatient people like me, it’s not until the album reaches its climax that ‘Corroded’ really does make that leap full on into grind territory, and then it takes Pig Destroyer’s J.R. Hayes to show up on ‘Lingers’ and unleash his harsh vocals all over the track, just to up the intensity. This spills over into closer ‘The Age of Reason’, which absolutely explodes with critical blasts and screams at all the right points, before booming right back into breakdown territory.

Nonetheless, this is a corker of a record and really deserves to be played out loud. It possesses a sound which fits somewhere between 90’s Napalm Death, Fugazi and a lot more besides. And if that doesn’t intrigue you…well…fudge it. You can’t please everyone.

Peter Clegg