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Pyrrhon – What Passes for Survival

What Passes for Survival
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 03 September 2017, 5:56 AM

Experimental/Extreme/Avant-Garde/Technical Death quartet PYRRHON (pronounced “peer-on”) formed in New York City, USA, in 2008, after a chance meeting on a subway. “What Passes for Survival” is their third full-length release, on Willowtip Records. From their Facebook page, there are two quotes that they use to describe their music…“commercially unviable sound” and “difficult riffs played poorly since 2008.” There is never anything wrong with a little humor in the musical world. They present nine new tracks here, one a trilogy. So let’s get to the album! “The Happy Victim’s Creed” is the first song. It’s a veritable flurry of barraging Death Metal, tumultuous and overbearing. The technical elements are strong, as they play with meters with nimble fingers and a disregard for convention. The vocals use a combination of deep growls and higher shrieks to relay the message “he chants the happy victim’s creed…let distraction succor me and polish all my edges down…’till I am smooth and blank as stone to better fill my given role.”

“The Invisible Hand Holds a Whip” is a shorter affair, but no less intense. There is a little more structure here but it’s still pretty deranged. Rich in anger and resistance, it echoes the lyrical themes of how our lives seem pre-planned and us having to do things in a pre-approved way. “Goat Mockery Ritual” is a pungent track that discusses religious themes, particularly the dressed robes of priests and pastors and what really lies behind them is not what they outwardly represent. Though at times you feel like you might need to be a mathematician to follow the meter, keep listening for the connections because they are there, but presented in a different way. “Tennessee” has to have some personal meaning…a place visited or a place where someone stayed for a while. It talks about the scars earned there and how they have given strength. It’s also the first track that isn’t as intense sonically, though no less meaningful. Some of the architecture of the song is almost a free flowing improvisational style. It requires the listener’s full attention to regard as more than arbitrary at times. But emotionally the impact is immediate.

“Trash Talk Landfill” starts with the spoken words “life is like a sewer…what you get out of it is what you put into it.” Incensed bursts of instrumental chaos combine with violent vocal passages in a pulverizing song that crushes the life out of you. The next three tracks are a mini-trilogy of sorts called “The Unraveling.” Three short movements totally just over five minutes  are “Hegemony of Grasping Fears, Free at Last, and Live from the Fresh Corpse.” The three movements are impossibly fast and thick with sound, with heavy discord and vocals spoken faster than you can comprehend, so combustible it leaves behind a trail of flames from the blackened scorched earth. The themes discuss the loss of dreams and consequences of breaking free from conformity. “Empty Tenement Spirit” is the twelve-minute closing song. “The dead end jobs and the chronic aches…the food that sallows and the jokes from the gallows…the cry choked air and the fat cloaked bones…the poisons to love and the leaders to hate…the grey lives endured with purposeless grace.” The social commentary here is just gold, supported by the bitter and enraged bleakness of the song. The biting sterility drags on mercilessly, reminding you of the prolonged chill of your everyday existence, repeating ad nauseam.

Don’t look for warm and fuzzy music or conventional song structures in this release, but do as most Metalheads do and keep an open mind about something uniquely twisted and individual. They paint landscapes of alternating anarchy and reflective lyrics which are intelligently crafted and thought provoking. I found myself marveling at the process I must have taken to create this kind of music. Though not for the faint at heart, the discord is powerful and the story telling insightful. It’s also a ferocious display of technical Metal that you will need some quiet time for afterwards!

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

1. The Happy Victim’s Creed
2. The Invisible Hand Holds a Whip
3. Goat Mockery Ritual
4. Tennessee
5. Trash Talk Landfill
6. The Unraveling: Hegemony of Grasping Fears
7. The Unraveling: Free at Last
8. The Unraveling: Live from the Fresh Corpse
9. Empty Tenement Spirit
Doug Moore – Vocals
Dylan DiLella – Guitars
Erik Malave – Bass
Steve Schwegler – Drums
Record Label: Willowtip Records


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Edited 05 December 2022

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