Metal is a fairly incestuous genre of music, particularly within its more extreme margins. Band members jump from one project to the other with relative ease, and change styles seemingly at the drop of a hat. Super-groups pop up and dissipate regularly, new band members come and go between releases, and as a reviewer and lover of this music it can be a challenge to keep up with these changes. But sometimes this mixing and matching of styles and band members works so well that it feels that feels as if this newly formed assortment of musicians was the original idea all along, and New York’s Pyrolatrous are a perfect example of such a successful confluence. Mixing members of the now disbanded sludgelords HULL (Nicholas Palmirotto) and black metal wizards Krallice (Lev Weinstein), the band’s debut record Teneral is a fast, riff-filled rage fest that incorporates elements of black and death metal into a rich amalgam of memorable songs that rip through our unprepared ear holes like a dull knife. One would expect nothing less from line-up of this caliber, and they deliver.
From the first seconds of the album, it is clear that the band have come to punish more than astonish, which may come as a surprise to those familiar with the pedigree of each member. The opening feedback of “From Darkness Reigns Omnipotence” serves as a sort of palate cleanser before the oncoming crush, as Palmirotto’s razor-sharp guitars and Weinstein’s manic, rolling kit work introduce us very quickly to the band’s bent toward aggression, gliding through passage after passage of alternating tremolo/riff madness. Palmirotto’s vocals here hold to a wretched black metal delivery, which creates a constant aura of black metal menace, though this most certainly isn’t a black metal record in the traditional sense. More so than Krallice, Pyrolatrous amp up the death metal elements to their sound, creating a sonic texture that helms close to the pounding of Venenum. “Hallowed Ground of the Night” displays in equal measure the bands ability to balance these two sounds effortlessly, with riffs that bounce and cascade in a manner similar to Tribulation, though with a slightly nastier edge. This can be at least in part attributed to the production on the album, which is raucous and full of ear-splitting volume. However, this style of production fits the music quite well, allowing the excellent guitar work to ride center stage for the duration of the album, with Weinstein’s expert drum work following very closely behind. This higher register production style takes away slightly from the punchiness of the kit, but doesn’t impair the album in any significant way.
Heralding back to an earlier observation, given the track record of the members of the band, a bit more technical magic may have been expected. For the most part, Pyrolatrous’ performance and songwriting on Teneral show a remarkable level of restraint. While the music comes at the listener fast and hard almost exclusively, these songs are not overtly technical in their execution. The band instead opt for a more straightforward style of songwriting that works incredibly well. These songs feel cohesive and bludgeoning to a fault without ever feeling dull. This is due at least in part to some great track sequencing, which keeps these differing textures in the band’s sound from becoming too repetitive or uninteresting. “Eternal Realm” and “Soulless Disintegrator” are a great example of this, presenting two tracks that swap their principal emphasis from death metal to black metal with ease and logical progression. Such moments are found all over the record, which is a testament to the thoughtful and tactical approach the band took to this music.
While most of the songs on this record are not particularly long, the band excels when they allow themselves some breathing room. “Obeisance and Unrequited Adulation” clocks in at seven minutes, and lets its black metal delights unfold with more compositional room to work. The band don’t waste the extra space, moderating themselves in tempo and tone to create a memorable and excellent song that serves as one of the album’s highlights. “Beguile the Shimmering Moon” has a similar impact, allowing the band’s more textured tendencies to dominate the album’s standard hard-hitting passages. Overall, there is enough rich variety here to satisfy most fans of black and death metal, without feeling like the intensity of either is being sacrificed.
Pyrolatrous are not re-inventing the wheel with Teneral. Instead, they prove that they have a deep and thorough understanding of what the wheels is, how it moves, and what makes it work. This album is a sterling example of what happens when talented musicians from differing backgrounds come together with singular purpose and vision. Teneral is an absolute blast to listen to, and is one of the more thoroughly consistent and engaging blackened death metal records to be released this year. I only hope that this album is not a one-off between these two musicians, and that they continue to develop this sound into even braver territory. Recommended listening for fans of either subgenre.
Teneral will be released 10/20/2017 on Gilead Media. Listen to the band’s most recent offering, their self-titled EP, here.