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An Excellent Servant But A Terrible Master (2011) , 7/10
The Mother of Virtues (2014) , 8/10
What Passes For Survival (2017), 6.5/10

Pyrrhon emerged in New York's death-metal scene with the EP Fever Kingdoms (2009). Their first album, An Excellent Servant But A Terrible Master (Selfmadegod, 2011), marked a bold and awkward twist in the history of the genre. In terms of variety and complexity, it dwarfed the progressive classics by Gorguts and Ulcerate. Doug Moore indulges in continuous changes of vocal registers. Dylan DiLella unleashes an impressive repertory of illegitimate guitar ideas. The drums assail every note as if it were a matter of life and death. The seven-minute New Parasite is emblematic not so much for grotesquely anthemic vocal refrain but for the instrumental minute and a half that starts it, and that lays the foundation for the skronky guitar pyrotechnics of the middle section. The dialogue between Moore's two voices blossoms in the frantic, gasping Glossolalian, decapitated by a grating, relentless guitar break. The dialogue fares less well in Correcting A Mistake, the gargantuan and the psychotic never fully integrated by the music. The growling voice duels with booming bass and wild guitar in Idiot Circles, a song as slow as the genre allows. The eight-minute A Terrible Master, the album's zenith of pathos, begins at maximum blast speed and maximum emotional intensity, but it seems to lose steam along the way and soon borders on midtempo melodrama, only to be drift into a coda of Hendrix-ian guitar distortion. A clean solo guitar break occurs in Gamma Knife, and it only helps to fully appreciate the rampaging furor that wipes it away. The hear blastbeat-heavy grindcore of the traditional kind one has to wait past the un-grind guitar effects of The Architect Confesses. The mayhem reaches a degree of folly, as well as of theatre-like dynamics, in the eight-minute Flesh Isolation Chamber, that plunges from chaotic noise into psychotic quiet (distorted vocals and tenuous strumming) while still building up tension. Throughout the album drummer Alex Cohen and bassist Erik Malave compile a catalog of impossible rhythms.

Heavy metal has rarely been as dynamic, narrative, cinematic and cohesive as The Mother of Virtues (Relapse, 2014) is. Each piece is an intense, life-threatening experience. The relatively conventional grindcore of opener The Oracle Of Nassau is misleading. The nine-minute White Flag is a mini-fantasia drenched in gothic overtones, opening at a funereal doom-y pace, flavored with psychedelic spaced-out guitar tones, torn apart by a burst of distorted vocals, and, after the ritual "grinding", hypnotized in an oneiric pause before the final beastly growl. The eight-minute Eternity In A Breath is another venture into doom-metal with visceral energy; and halfway the music stops and the guitar emulates a piano with a few laconic notes; but then the booming procession-like rhythm restarts and the vocals become elongate desperate cries from hell. The balance of power between Dylan DiLella's guitar noise and Doug Moore's hoarse shout peaks in the infernally epic ten-minute bacchanal of The Mother Of Virtues, one of the genre's masterpieces. All jagged and thorny, the instrumental score of Sleeper Agent sets the stage for a split-personality show by the vocalist. Balkanized is their idea of acrobatic rock'n'roll, an orgy at high speed of odd tempos, guitar squeaks and vocal shrieks (that gets even more savage when it slows down). The scaffolding of Implant Fever creaks and shakes dangerously, with every element pushed to the limit and the vocalist shifting among different psychotic personas. Invisible Injury dumps seven more minutes of extenuating psychological violence, showing little respect for form and tradition (with a three-minute instrumental coda which is a delight of anti-mood music). The band assimilates lessons that come from as far as DNA, Slint, Captain Beefheart, and Laughing Hyenas. DiLella is a new master of atonality, worthy of the classics of the new wave and of free jazz. The rhythm section (drummer Alex Cohen and bassist Erik Malave) is the bastard child of an earthquake and a drunk mammoth.

Meanwhile, Pyrrhon's vocalist Doug Moore and bassist Erik Malave helped drummer Steve Schwegler, based in Philadelphia, to resurrect an old project, Seputus, finally documented on the album Man Does Not Give (2016).

What Passes For Survival (Throatruiner, 2017), the first album with new drummer Steve Schwegler, is not as creative as its predecessor but no less adventurous. It opens with the melodic growling of The Happy Victim's Creed and Dylan DiLella's frenzied solos, as if to introduce the two pillars of their music. However, the only piece that will stick to this manifesto is The Unraveling, a brief three-part composition whose high-energy riffs, screams and blastbeats become a burning magma. Instead, the best of the record is stylistically elusive: The Invisible Hand Holds A Whip is all atonal, pounding fever and choral grandeur; Dylan DiLella's guitar work in the hellish melodrama Goat Mockery Ritual invites comparisons with no less than Deep Purple (including his best solo in this album); and Tennessee, which begins with a distant agonizing call over Dylan DiLella's funereal bluesy chords and then explodes in an instrumental jam buried in DiLella's extremely tortured noise and finally emits chaotic vocals and more DiLella mayhem like a spinning machine-gun, is basically an eight-minute prog-rock suite. Alas, the lengthy epic closer this time disappoints: the twelve-minute Empty Tenement Spirit indulges in a slow bluesy passage that is not particularly exciting and (worse) in a meandering coda that feels a bit childish.

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