There’s no doubting or debating it at this point. Pyrrhon are among the most creative, chaotic, and thoroughly intense bands in extreme music. Their pedigree is unblemished and unassailable. Over three full-length records and a host of EPs, the band has created their own thoroughly unique sonic gospel, blending technical and dissonant death metal with free jazz-infused avant-garde quirks that are never anything short of thoroughly engaging and infinitely interesting, even if each new record takes a multitude of listens to fully unpack. Their music has always straddled the line between esoteric and immediate, and never more clearly than in their fourth full-length offering Abscess Time. I’ll cut right to the chase: This record is a maddening, perplexing, and ultimately rewarding statement by a band at the peak of their compositional and performative powers, unleashed into a world embroiled in chaos. It’s everything I needed a Pyrrhon record to be in the year from hell.
If you’re somehow still unfamiliar with Pyrrhon’s work prepare your body, because you’re in for a wild ride. Delivering scalding hot blasts of high-octane weirdo death metal in the vain of Imperial Triumphant and Gorguts combined with a heavy dose of the jazzy trappings found in the music of bands like Atheist or Cynic, Pyrrhon’s records are labyrinthine odysseys that take a significant amount of quality time to fully parse and process. But Pyrrhon avoid the typical pitfalls that many bands of their particular ilk all-too-often fall prey to by making their compositions consistently menacing in tone and performance. There’s a violent, sinister edge to Pyrrhon’s particular brand of dissonant chaos, and Abscess Time may be their most ferocious and genuinely repulsive release yet.
Take the album’s opener and title track as proof of the above assertion. Militant drums slowly introduce an absolutely filthy, clock-like bass line and patently ugly guitar gyrations, paving the way for vocalist Doug Moore’s utterly wretched screams and growls to fill the remaining space with an unholy roar. It’s the latter part that captivates most immediately in “Abscess Time”, as Moore delivers his lyrics with an unfiltered, unadulterated disgust that adds righteous fervor to a track that feels like it’s about to jump the sonic tracks at any moment. But as is customary with Pyrrhon’s music, the chaos is held together by a rhythmic consistency that is both accessible and entrancing, utilizing relatively straightforward bass and drum work to undergird the seething maelstrom riding high in the mix. We can thank metal mastermind Colin Marston for that, as his engineering of this record is uniformly superb, adding emphasis exactly where it needs to be.
Abscess Time would be a solid album if it stuck with the above formula for its duration, but Pyrrhon have too many good ideas to stay static. “Down at Liberty Ashes” introduces itself through a sample from Taxi Driver, setting the tone for an audio assault to the senses that unleashes the band’s raw death metal with a similar intensity to their previous release What Passes for Survival while incorporating the primal oddness of passages from Imperial Triumphant’s Vile Luxury. It reeks of urban decay and impending violence, which is only compounded by the batshit insanity of subsequent track “Teuchnikskreis”, which serves up a one-minute slab of blast-heavy brutality that easily rivals the work of Afterbirth in sheer muscle. Moore flexes his vocal range here to extreme degrees, going low into brutal death metal gurgle territory with effortless ease, capping off a sequence of tracks that firmly establishes that the band is working at the top of their game.
The first three tracks of the record are certainly punishing, but records that maintain this level of compositional strangeness and sonic intensity have a penchant for getting stale as they progress. Pyrrhon counter this sensory overload with “The Lean Years”, which is one of the album’s longest and in some respects its most diverse tracks. In exact opposite fashion to the uncompromisingly brutal “Teuchnikskreis”, this track moderates and varies its tempo with regularity, switching between breakneck speed and an almost doom-like dirge with all the effectiveness we’ve come to expect from Pyrrhon. Generally in Abscess Time, the band sticks the landing on longer compositions, with both “The Cost of Living” and blistering finale “Rat King Lifecycle” clocking in at over eight minutes and serving as two album highlights. But with all their effectiveness at the long game, the band are also unafraid of more straightforward slabs of death metal, with fifth track “Another Day In Paradise” serving up a hot plate of riffs that are as memorable and hard-hitting as any in the band’s career. It’s this diversity that makes Abscess Time consistently enjoyable and engaging throughout its nearly hour-long runtime.
In more ways than one, Abscess Time displays the band operating at an alarmingly high level of excellence. The instrumental performances in particular are simply superb, with guitarist Dylan DiLella in particular bringing nothing short of absolute fire to every track on the record. His dissonant, complex riffs are complemented to perfection by Steve Schwegler’s manic drum work, which keeps the albums more chaotic melodic lines grounded and stable. Erik Malave’s bass gets more than its fair share of time in the sun as well, with he and DiLella forming a dynamic duo in the improvisational freak fest that is “Overwinding” and the meandering “Soastalgia”, which allow both musicians free reign to churn out some of their wildest work to date. As a unit, the band has never sounded simultaneously tighter yet more loose, creating a performative cohesion that rivals anything I’ve heard this year.
Pyrrhon have firmly established themselves as a colossal presence in the musical space they occupy through consistently excellent and adventurous songwriting and increasingly strong technical proficiency as musicians. Abscess Time, if nothing else, serves as further proof of their continued mastery of their craft. It’s a record that clearly displays the band’s ability to balance intense compositional focus with improvisation, culminating in a collection of songs that feels simultaneously propulsive and wild. It’s a combination that few bands in the extreme metal world pull off with this level of skill, and at least a dozen listens in I’m still wrapping my head around it. But if you give it the time and space it demands, Abscess Time will undoubtedly reveal itself to be one of the most complex, interesting, and thoroughly entertaining releases you’ll hear this year. It’s another instant classic from one of the most talented and adventurous bands in extreme music.
Abscess Time drops June 26th via Willowtip Records, and is available for pre-order on Bandcamp.