Pyrrhon – Abscess Time (2020)REVIEW

Not only is it all slipping away but, you are partially to blame, and you can’t do anything about it. Your participation in your own systemic devaluation and devolution is directly tied to your indebtedness to the process, there is no escape from it lest you be vulnerable refuse on the fringe while likely dragging your kin along with. Watching your habitat, as vastly adaptive as you may be, chipped away by the careless and callous unthinking entirety of civilization will make an extremist of you. Doug Moore, vocalist of New York-based technical death metal quartet Pyrrhon, likens it to treading water in lieu of drowning; You know it, I know it, there there will be never be another shore of respite for humanity beyond ecological collapse. For all of the struggling you’re doing to keep up, to survive, there is no mistaking the world burning around you. The brutal throat stomp of absurdism should’ve hit by now. When it all collapses what will you have fought for? Will you have fought at all? In danger of painting themselves into a corner stylistically and crumbling into complete apocalyptic misery-core beyond their third album (‘What Passes For Survival‘, 2017) Pyrrhon embrace said danger, grip it as a branch to swing upon and find new heights for their mathcore and noise rock influenced style of technical death metal on ‘Abscess Time’.

Though they were not meek or merely average upon release of their ‘Fever Kingdoms‘ EP back in 2010 no doubt what Pyrrhon were doing with their math-metal influenced technical death metal attack wasn’t unheard of at the time, nor was it fully developed. Within the space of a year they’d swapped out their original bassist and found their core sound, one that’d embrace the frenetic energy of mathcore and the erratic noisome wrack of noise rock without losing their love of technical post-‘Obscura’ death metal. ‘An Excellent Slave But a Terrible Master‘ (2011) was not a wild mainstream hit but would become part of the larger conversation on tech-death that year alongside meaningful entries from Ulcerate, Flourishing, Baring Teeth and Gigan. It’d been spark enough for Pyrrhon to push their sound further along the ferocious “extreme art-metal” angle suggested by their debut with a second full-length (‘The Mother of Virtues‘, 2014) which’d serve as the strongest point of definition for the band, blending modern avant-garde/technical death metal standards with what I’d considered Coalesce and ‘American Nervoso‘ influenced atonal rhythms. It was an artful high for the project that they’d soon temper and restructure into what I consider a “better yet devolved” state with ‘What Passes For Survival’; It was very much a follow-up and iteration of aesthetic and tonal range that’d incorporated slower, more memorable pieces into their atonal psychotic luminance, dimming the experience while making it more listenable. Since it was their most popular release to date, where are we headed next?

More. Fifteen minutes more, slower, faster, broader vocal range, noisier, but actually not any more frenetic than expected. If I could accuse ‘Abscess Time’ of one thing it’d be fully exploring the extremes of their range as a unit without losing sight of their vital sub-genre demographic keywords. Stylistically speaking this is all very expected but no less of a thrill in motion, if anything the fourth time around finds Pyrrhon balancing what made their previous two records notable while riding the line between unlovable extreme noise rock and avant-death metal. No pairing of pieces illustrates this better than the nearly 9 minute “The Cost of Living” juxtaposed with “The Lean Years” where the former is everything belabored and ruinous from ‘What Passes For Survival’ amplified and the latter remind us that this is still a pinch-squealing, blast-capable technical death metal band from sewer crocodile-riding, Classic Trek sound effects-swirling Hell. Is that better? I’ve certainly felt so since the first listen though I’d probably still consider ‘The Mother of Virtues’ the most “important” contribution from Pyrrhon their expansion beyond that point is no less (or more) exciting. Where ‘Abscess Time’ fits in the New York band’s discography hardly matters in the moment and what should be most striking in the throes of its ecstatic furioso is the earlier suggestion of a more performative ‘thrill in motion’ as each musician becomes more capably involved with their collective apparatus. It is Moore who undoubtedly shines more than usual this time around. Gargling deeper and more often, rasping to the point of burst veins, and honestly probably neglecting his sizable death metal roar for the sake of hysterics half the time. The layering of Moore‘s vocals are most easily appreciated on “Another Day in Paradise”, at the same time bridging the gap between old Converge and say, Afterbirth‘s deeper bulge. With increased capability and iteration comes too-effective misery, too-distraught collapse and an all too damning hour-long full listen.

All of this excess is exciting for the first several spins of “Abscess Time”, the theme is well represented with an unhinged and broken mind slapped to shit by capitalism, the unending futility of the daily grind, and the sensation of working harder and never getting “ahead”. The argument for what this record does to get ahead comes in shorter, sharper bursts of meaning such as “Overwinding”, which is essentially a spoken word performance set to dual-guitar noise and jazz-grinding trepidation. The nigh comical yet deeply profound exclamation of “…And they dock ya!” grew in poignancy the more I’d thought about it though the piece largely serves to segue into “Human Capital”, a more direct examination of the core ‘messaging’ of the album. Pairing this with the edited speech from Network (1976) in “Another Day in Paradise” should be enough to connect the absurdist’s dysthymia conveyed with causality from the perspective of Pyrrhon. The true and most meaningful end to this affair comes with the dystopian recind of “Solastalgia” where Moore‘s voice is an atmospheric instrument more than a mouthpiece for statement. Yet ‘Abscess Time’ keeps on grinding, bumper-to-bumper with a bassline and a scream as “State of Nature” is solid but maybe too much by the time it shows up. Hell, even if you didn’t find the full hour damning the double LP version includes an extra track “Eternity” that fills the entirety of Side D. Excess reaction to an excessive damnation felt under the heel of oppression and deteriorating habitat is perhaps an entirely ‘right’ choice to fit the tone of the album but, that doesn’t make it any more palatable as music.

What does ultimately make ‘Abscess Time’ a fully palatable experiential extreme metal album comes by way of standout tracks emphasized by warmed-yet-frantically clangorous render by way of Colin Marston’s Menegroth studio whose emphasis on dynamic stability and avoidance of indulgent obscuration consistently makes for solid sharply engineered recordings. The mathcore/noise rock heartbeat of Pyrrhon is well understood, given Albini-sized room to breathe with plenty of gorgeous details adorning an otherwise unnerving and insane form of technical death removed from standard imitative norms. ‘Abscess Time’ will undoubtedly survive as the ‘best’ Pyrrhon record ’til the next due to their maintained professional relationships, each allowing the same folks to improve upon their last collaboration and this extends right down to the album artist Caroline Harrison whose personal oeuvre and aesthetic malleability has improved wildly since their first collaboration on the illustration for ‘Fever Kingdoms’ back in 2010. All progress is charted, graphed, and witnessed with some ecstatic appreciation for the path tread this last decade — Consistency is the right descriptor for Pyrrhon‘s continued able advancement and this despite the scatter-brained and violently ruptured character of their music.

There isn’t a Pyrrhon release I wouldn’t recommend not only because they’ve the potential for mind-expansion towards auld mathcore, noise rock phrasing, and the unsettling expanse of underground technical death metal’s most listenable avant-garde but also because they are undoubtedly the most polished and “accessible” summation of so many things purposefully guided towards fitting themes that are not self-obsessed or blandly destructive. ‘Abscess Time’ doesn’t appear meant to demolish the willing participant but to push the listener towards their limit for what binds them, to at least cause the beast to writhe in response to stimulus. The gears are not yet falling off of the apparatus, though, and there is yet potential for Pyrrhon to stumble upon deeper paradigm in the future. As such I can likewise recommend ‘Abscess Time’ as a veritable drug to enhance and unhinged the seizures of defiance unto some greater action or purpose. Or… you might just find it to be a thrilling avant-tech death record with fine n’ spasmodic performances and that’d be just as valid a reason to recommend it heartily.

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Artist Pyrrhon
Type Full-length
Released June 26, 2020
BUY & LISTEN on Willowtip Records’ Bandcamp! Pyrrhon on Facebook
Genre Experimental Death Metal,
Mathcore/Noise Rock

“And they dock ya!” 4.25/5.0

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