With What Passes for Survival, New York’s Pyrrhon inches further and further into alienating obscurity.
Since the release of their 2014, head-turning sophomore full-length, The Mother of Virtues, Pyrrhon have been on a steady path towards something truly unique and truly outré. Though the band have purveyed a weird take on “technical death metal” since 2009’s Fever Kingdoms, it wasn’t until the aforementioned full-length and the two EPs that followed, Growth Without End and Running Out of Skin, that the band’s true intent became clear; to create music so bizarre and frightening that only the morbidly curious, masochistic and mad would truly appreciate.
What Passes for Survival sits at the apex of this gradual evolution towards glorious inaccessibility. Avant-garde, experimental, batshit insane, all of these terms are applicable to What Passes for Survival but still do not accurately describe the madness housed within this 46-minute opus. Though the band’s sound has been rooted in death metal in the past, those roots have been violently uprooted on What Passes for Survival. Any semblance to death metal, technical or otherwise, is marred by an affinity for chaos, volatility and sonic ugliness.
The instrumentation is frantic, disfigured and full of nauseating rhythmic shifts and song structures. The occasional, “accessible” Gorgutsian lurch rears its ugly head at various moments during the record (the opening and closing riffs of “The Happy Victim’s Creed” for example) but are soon followed by a meticulously-crafted cacophony of malformed, six-stringed hell. The guitars conjure feverish bursts of dissonant, noisy riffs that squeal, slide and morph constantly without ever letting the listener breathe. The rhythm section deals damage of its own, crafting buzzing, complex bass lines that match the intensity of the guitar riffs, and drums that absolutely throttle.
“The Happy Victim’s Creed”, “The Invisible Hand Holds a Whip”, “Goat Mockery Ritual” and “Trash Talk Landfill” are all unrelenting in their sonic assaults. These bizarre and aurally punishing songs are dense and intense, with so many sonic twists and turns that it is impossible to pick them apart piece by piece upon first listen, or fifth listen for that matter. Tracks like “Tennessee” slow things to a crawl and purvey a strange sense of melody that isn’t quite as chaotic as some of the other cuts on the record, but is still unsettling and menacing.
“The Unraveling” Parts I-III are quick bursts of cacophonous, seemingly improvised instrumentation that act as a parody of grindcore. It is similar to that of John Zorn’s Naked City project, but far more abstract and difficult to process. The band then attempt to combine everything What Passes for Survival has to offer into one leviathanic composition on the closing, 12-minute “Empty Tenement Spirit”. Dizzying whirlwinds of aberrated rhythms and riffs bleed into haunting, melodic crawls, and further into hypnotically dissonant, doom-laden lurches that relentlessly pummel the listener into paste.
At the heart of all this madness is vocalist Doug Moore, whose wide range of vocal ability steals the show as much as the music itself. His array of animalistic squeals and barks, psychotic yells, screams and madman rambling are all utilized extensively throughout the record, adding a gratuitous amount of extra oddness and unpredictability to an already odd and unpredictable record.
What Passes for Survival is definitely not for everyone, and that’s where it gets its charm. It’s a wholly unique, complex and unnerving album that only a few will be able to stomach and comprehend. It’s like being trapped inside the mind of a truly insane individual and baring witness to what horrific things make them tic. Those who are able to survive its alienating strangeness will be drawn back to it again and again. Pyrrhon have a sound that is unheard of in heavy music, and one that is sure to get weirder and weirder with subsequent releases.
Release Date: August 11, 2017
Label: Willowtip Records/Throatruiner Records
Favorite Tracks: “The Happy Victim’s Creed”, “Goat Mockery Ritual” and “Tennessee”
For Fans Of: Gorguts, Gigan, Baring Teeth, Deathspell Omega, extremely weird shit.