Instrumental music makes more room for the listener by opening up the palette—there are no lyrics that cue the listener how to feel. Whether this is true of extreme metal and the frequently unintelligible lyrics is arguable, though the titles and style of vocal delivery gives a pretty solid idea of what’s being communicated. This same openness can make describing or quantifying instrumental music difficult—a bit like translating poetry. Something inevitably gets lost.
Some bands are, by their very nature, divisive. These bands are often idiosyncratic in their approach and tend to generate strong opinions; in short, you love ‘em or hate ‘em. Pryapisme, who have delivered another madcap romp with their new album, Diabolicus Felinae Pandemonium, are one of those bands.
To be sure, the Italian instrumentalists live up to their name, keeping the blood pumping and the listener in a constant state of arousal. However, this is only metal in the strictest sense of the term. There are heavily distorted guitars and manic blast beats to be sure, though these elements are mixed with a heavy electronic element that is what many listeners will hear as the band’s driving force, as well as elements of world music, classical music and good old-fashioned weirdness.
Many contemporary bands mix elements of different genres. Take, for example, The Algorithm, whose work is a mix of electronic and metal. But in the music of The Algorithim these elements are blended fairly seamlessly, whereas Pryapisme does exactly the opposite. Some metal here, some electronic there, a frenzied horn passage over here. It has the feeling of one of Mike Patton’s non-Faith No More projects, such as Mr. Bungle or Fantômas, though Pryapisme keeps it riffier and more remote, losing some of the sweeping melodies but retaining the carefully composed feel of an album like The Director’s Cut. These guys are not fellow Italians Ennio Morricone or Piero Umiliani (both of whom Patton claims influence from), despite invoking a soundtrack vibe at times with some noirish overtones. You’re not going to walk away humming Pryapisme.
Still, considering the band as composers more than as a rock band may be a helpful way to process what they’re doing. The strength of Diabolicus Felinae Pandemonium lies in its tricky arrangements, which jerk the listener from genre-to-genre in a listenable way. Their previous album, Hyperblast Super Collider, at times bordered on novelty. Not just because it relied more heavily on 8-bit electronics, but because the genre transitions were so abrupt that a listener could be forgiven for thinking that there was a satirical element. That’s not the case here, as a harmonic consistency runs through the tracks as they bounce from style to style making Diabolicus a stronger effort overall. So much so that when a busy signal (when was the last time you heard one of those?) pops up at the end of “La Boetie Stochastic Process,” it takes a moment to process what it is, as the music leads perfectly to the moment. It’s easy to imagine this album being arranged for orchestra, and the precision of the composition and playing makes it easy to imagine.
The album is best experienced as a whole, and no one track jumps out as particularly strong or weak. Even the 13-minute closer “Totipotence D’un Erg” is no more or less epic than any other track. There’s just more of it. This is not a bad thing, but this combined with the instrumental nature renders it difficult to identify any standout tracks. If this all sounds appealing, Diabolicus is absolutely worth listening to. It is a highly creative album and not something that will be encountered every day. But it will likely appeal to a certain type of listener only, while driving others away by the end of the first couple of tracks.