By: James Rivers
Album Name: Abscess Time
Release Date: June 26, 2020
Genre: Technical Death Metal/Avant-Garde Metal/Noise Metal
Related Artists: Today Is the Day, Gorguts, Gorgoroth, Mr. Bungle, Celtic Frost, Neurosis, Car Bomb, Melvins
“Abscess Time” by Pyrrhon is the latest release from the New York based experimental/technical death metal band. It features many of the same traits and traditions of normal death metal but adds its own bizarre and mind-boggling take on it. It is a strong album from start to finish and will leave listeners fascinated by what they just heard.
The title track begins the album in dramatic fashion. As the guitars whine over slow and doomy drums, deep guttural vocals move from ear to ear. It’s almost like an old lawn mower slowly starting up after years in the garage. The track takes on a brooding and unnerving atmosphere that is sure to let anyone know that this isn’t a death metal album by the numbers. A frequent trait on this album that is unsettling and atmospheric appears on this track. The band gravitates towards these guitar harmonies and string bends that make the guitars squeal like they’re out-of-tune. These bizarre noises almost make the song sound like it’s coming apart at the seams. It is intense, dramatic, and nerve rattling. It is the perfect way to demonstrate what’s to come on the album.
This track is followed by the song, “Down At Liberty Ashes.” The song begins with an amusing sample before launching into a faster tempo than the first song. This feels more in line with traditional death metal but never comes across as just that. It always has this weird edge to it that makes it stand out. Some of the mathy elements of the band’s early days pop up here that are reminiscent of a song like “Sidewinder” by Today Is the Day. It is a similar brand of chaotic and I would not be surprised if Today Is the Day were an influence on the band. The song marches on through ever shifting heavy parts before ending with a really heavy/sludgy breakdown where the guitars sound like they’re irreparably out-of-tune. This track is every bit heavy and familiar as it is weird. It is a kind of creative genius that every band should strive for.
The first of three long epic tracks is “The Lean Years.” This song maintains the sludgy elements of the previous songs in a very headbangable way. It has some cool riff squeals that sound like something from Gorguts. The song effortlessly moves between mid-pace groove and mathy doom. This song in particular really makes the guitars feel less like a primary focus and more like a tool for atmosphere. The vocals on this track sound horrific in the best possible way. At one point, the guitars drop into the background with the vocals and drums up front in the mix. It creates this really unnerving sound and maintains the unsettling aspect of the album’s music thus far.
The song, “Another Day in Paradise,” starts off with one of the best samples I’ve ever heard. It’s taken from the 1970s satirical black comedy film, “Network.” It is perfectly cut off by a really cool drum fill to get the song going. The song maintains the sludgy/death aspect of their sound but it’s clear that they’re taking some notes from their mathcore roots. The gutturals on this song are disgustingly deep and never cease to steal attention when they pop up. The song feels very dense and frantic while miraculously feeling somewhat familiar for the death metal genre. The spaced out picking towards the end is delectably unpleasant and a perfect way to end such a bizarre song.
The second of the long tracks is “The Cost of Living.” This song begins with these ominous and dramatic guitars. The song adds to this creepy feeling when the vocals come in. The vocals are very raspy and ugly, in a similar vein to Gorgoroth’s Hat. The track inches along with a hypnotizing doom feel. In a way, this track lets you take a breath while still holding your breath for what comes next. Every once in a while, the track begins to pick up some steam but then quickly takes the foot off the pedal. The guitars here sound like they’re battling for real estate and it all ends when it moves into a fast, more traditional sounding death metal section. This song is like an immense atmosphere chasm on the album. It’s a hurdle to get past, but it makes for quite the memorable adventure.
What follows is the less serious track, “Overwinding.” This track is smothered with a humorous sample from the Tim Robbins film, “The Hudsucker Proxy.” While it is a bit more of a funny track, it still maintains its deathly serious technical skill and prowess. The track can best be described as tense and dense. It has a lot of busyness moving under the sample and has a real Avant-Garde/free form feel to it. It’s sort of all over the place in a good Avant-Garde way, like “Carry Stress in the Jaw” by Mr. Bungle.
Another creepy track from the album is “Solastalgia.” This song is very atmosphere heavy and feels very eerie. The vocals sound downright haunting here and the song really encapsulates the discomforting atmosphere of the album. The best comparison I could make is that it sounds like one of those atmospheric tracks Celtic Frost would do, such as “Danse Macabre” or “Tears in a Prophet’s Dream.”
This album also features some brief one-to-two-minute tracks sprinkled throughout the album. The first of these is “Teuchnikskreis” which has a more normal death metal sound with really deep gutturals. But it has the intensity of a hardcore song. Another of these brief tracks is “Human Capital.” This song has a sludgy mid-paced groove that almost sounds like Neurosis. This song also features traditional death metal elements, but it also changes tempos multiple times. Like Car Bomb, this makes it hard to headbang but always keeps you on the edge of your seat. These two tracks really help to keep the album feeling like a death metal album, but the band always throws a twist to keep things fresh. That way the album feels adventurous without being so far out in left field that nobody understands it. The last of these brief tracks is “Cornered Animal.” This track has a bone chilling scream to kick off the song and is groovy and fast. On this song, the band plays well with dynamics and the drums really compliment the vocals. The end of the song appropriately features deep panting and chaos to convey how a cornered animal might feel. It’s definitely a highlight of the album and calling it just an aggressive track understates every intricacy that goes into it.
One of the most intriguing songs on the album is “State of Nature.” This moves with a slow Melvins-esque groove. For the most part, this song does not rely on the guitars except for some feedback effects. This song is led by the bass, drums, and vocals. It’s surprisingly one of the most straightforward songs on the album despite some of its bizarre choices. As the screams lash out at the end, it reminds the listener that the album’s not over yet. This song does an effective job of building some tension and leaves the listener wondering what the hell will the last song sound like.
The final song is “Rat King Lifecycle.” This track displays a lot of the elements that characterize this album. One of the main things that’s true of the album that’s on full display here is that it always feels moving. The song never stagnates or stays in one place too long. Whether it’s weaving in and out of math sections, blast beats, or doom/sludge grooves, it feels focused in its restlessness. It’s chaotic and dense and features many of the elements that define this album’s sound. There’s a really cool section towards the end where the drums and vocals are the only things there and the guitars come in and emphasize particular parts. In the end, the guitars fade out while the drums reverberate, and the vocals hold on for dear life. The very final moments of this album almost sound like a plane plummeting down to earth. It is a brutal and captivating way to end one of the most ambitious death metal albums I’ve ever heard.
On this album, Pyrrhon displays their command of their instruments as well as their craft. These songs have a lot of moving parts and yet even at its weirdest, the band feels very much in control. This is a strong contender for album of the year and a truly unforgiving listening experience. This band oozes with creativity and evolution. Most bands would dream to have an album this daring and masterfully crafted. Abscess Time is one of those albums that will either be extremely important and influential to countless bands in the future or it will be a hidden gem that die-hard metalheads will gush over. Pyrrhon are clearly influenced by particular bands but do not sound like any of their influences. That is the mark of a truly great band.