Pyrrhon’s maniacal death metal convulsions destroy reality on manic ‘What Passes for Survival’

Over the past decade, death metal has gotten kind of weird in sections. Bands have been taking the brutality and disgusting blends created by the pioneers of the genre and turned it something that seems to have originated in deep space. Perhaps it has infected the entire bloodstream, because as things go on, we get more and more artists twisting the music to obscene levels.

One of the groups that have been in on this run the past several years are Brooklyn-based beasts Pyrrhon, who have done their fair share to shake the body to its core and leave only strange scraps behind. The band has returned with their mind-liquifying third record “What Passes for Survival,” released on Willowtip Records and Throatruiner Records, two places where their challenging art is right at home. The follow-up to 2014’s “The Mother of Virtues,” the band tackles abuse, the soul-grinding workforce, and even ridiculous war bros who go to stupid lengths to prove their truth. Essentially, you get a lot of dark dashed with some light, and holding that all together is some of the most intricate, busy, soul-bruising death metal alive on Earth. The band—vocalist Doug Moore, guitarist Dylan DiLella, bassist Erik Malave, and drummer Steve Schwegler—punish your senses and insert their own warped reality into their art, resulting in one of the strangest death metal records you’re bound to hear.

The record starts with a noise burst before the band chews you up and spits you out on “The Happy Victim’s Creed.” Here, they lambaste the mindless drones in the workforce as growls mix with shrieks, guitars drill into your skull, and the band sets a path to devastation. “Make me the servant I was born to be!” Moore howls as the track reaches its end. “The Invisible Hand Holds a Whip” is deranged and furious, as Moore’s voice hits monstrous chaos, and the guitars go on an exploration mission. Strange effects coat the growls, while the noises pile up, and Moore wails, “Our number’s up, we all got to pay!” “Goat Mockery Ritual” is a poke at those dudes (let’s face it, it’s almost all dudes) who cry about the metal scene and go a little overboard proving their kvltness. “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing you saps that ‘observe the dress code’ shall be the whole of the law,” Moore howls sarcastically, as the band backs him with twisting punishment, guitars that swing into space, and a slow-mauling finish. “Tennessee” turns things serious again, as the song focuses on a friend who suffered abuse while incarcerated. Ominous bass tones start the song, as the dizzying, sprawling damage sinks its teeth, and the punishment fits the theme of the song. The shrieks unleashed remind of Mike Patton at his most unhinged, as the song hammers home the torment and injustice served.

“Trash Talk Landfill” opens with satirist/musician Tom Lehrer’s 1959 line that, “Life is like a sewer, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.” It’s a hilarious line, but then the track becomes unglued, as the band grinds away, and the growls blister the ribcage. Part of the playing is rubbery as fuck, as the soloing goes nuts and confounds reality, the pace crunches, and the back end is packed with death-style lunacy. That leads nicely into the three-part “The Unraveling” triptych, with the whole thing cemented together nicely, and the only real way to keep the parts separate is to follow the track listing. “Hegemony of Grasping Fears” is the first part, unleashing total insanity, as everything hits the fan. The tempo is crunchy and mathy, reminding a bit of Dillinger Escape Plan, and that all bleeds into the second portion, “Free at Last.” “This is a first-hand account of a culture committing suicide,” Moore cries, as this middle section is disorienting and peels the paint off the walls, while the last bit, “Live From the Fresh Corpse,” is more straight-forward … when considering what preceded it. We’re back into a death march, with terrifying growls and an assault that ends abruptly. “Empty” closes the record, a 12:03 pounder that brings soupy guitars, coarse growls, and a thick haze. The pace calms some in the middle, letting the humidity in, but then we’re back into bludgeoning death that drops a million hammers. The band slips into a free-form section where they noodle in outer space. Then we’re back to slowly meted out torture, vocals scraping skin, and the band delivering a final beating.

Pyrrhon remain disinterested in doing things the conventional way, as “What Passes for Survival” proves repeatedly. Their brand of death is not here for brutality’s sake; it’s here to push your brain and alter what you expect from heavy music. Their style, as it’s always been, likely won’t be everyone’s tastes, but for those who are aligned, Pyrrhon have more concoctions to destroy your perception of reality.

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