Sometimes you just need a straight banger to get through the day. Sure, Portal’s winding, insanity-inducing escapades are valuable and enjoyable in their own way, but it’s not necessarily music to punch a hole in the wall to. Thankfully, Pestilent Reign is here to bring us all the neck-snapping, gut-churning brutality we could want with their debut record Pyres. Hailing from Germany, the band have released a smattering of EPs over the past few years, with the last of which, 2016’s The Zealot, catching my attention. Mixing the groovy tech death of Dying Fetus, Dyscarnate, and Psycroptic with brutal elements that smack of Defeated Sanity, Pestilent Reign aren’t exactly swimming in uncharted waters. However, the melodic bent to their music allows it to breathe some fresh life into a saturated subgenre, and stamp out some ground of their own.
Opener “Martyr” kicks off the record with an Alex Jones vocal sample that makes me angry immediately for multiple reasons. This is the point, I think, as the music kicks in with all the death metal fury one could wish for, increased in speed to 1,000mph. This is some fast-paced stuff, with very little breathing room left for sonic expansion. The performances on this track are incredibly tight, with the guitars and drums playing off of one another with focus and attention to detail. From the first blazing riff, the band’s intent is explicit: Pulverization. There is little subtlety here, as each track on this record presents a set phasers to OBLITERATE mentality. The mixture of technical and brutal elements in the band’s sound is most readily apparent through the vocal delivery, which jumps between raspy growl and the piggiest of “breeeee” intonations. If “Martyr” suits your fancy, “You Will Kneel in Piss and Blood”, “Ouroboros”, and “Cleanse the Flesh” will give you a hefty helping of the same. But the record isn’t exactly a one-note slam fest. The record diverts from this formula in “Saviour”, “Zealot”, and “Gutter’s Filth”, which is where the record really begins to shine. Without losing a drop of their intensity, Pestilent Reign begin incorporating melodic elements into their compositions that make these otherwise brutal tracks insanely catchy. It’s difficult to balance melody and discord in a record like this, and Pestilent Reign pull it off with charisma and skill. There is a definite and exciting future for this band, particularly when they incorporate soaring melodic passages into the otherwise warp-speed hyper-violence of the rest of the record.
Pyres is a good example of meat and potatoes done right. While the majority of the record offers little in the way of surprise, the music here is very solid for its subgenre. The instrumentation and performances are all excellent, the samples are fantastic, and the production allows the listener to focus on the best elements of the music at any given moment. The thing that sets this album apart from the brutal tech death pack is its incorporation of catchy, effective melody into its songwriting. This element catches the ear in a way that many brutal and technical death metal bands do not, and that alone is worthy of commendation. If you are looking for something radical and different, Pyres probably isn’t for you. It’s record made by obvious fans of these subgenres for fans of these subgenres. But if you enjoy the slamming side of death metal, I strongly encourage you to give this a spin. It won’t revolutionize your conception of the music, but it will most certainly entertain you. Which, frankly, is just about all I want from my brutal fare. If you like your metal relentlessly fast and all kinds of brutal, you’ve found a good companion for your next punch dance session. A promising debut from a band capable of great things.
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Pyres is out now on major streaming services through Rising Nemesis Records and is available for purchase at the label’s Bandcamp page.