Pyrrhon - An Excellent Servant But a Terrible Master
Self Release
8 songs (45:00)
Release year: 2011
Reviewed by Charles
Surprise of the month
By now it is old hat to complain about over-saturation in the world of technical death metal. But boredom with the widdlier ends of the genre shouldn’t obscure the creative avenues that have some potential. There is an ancestral line running through Gorguts on to Ulcerate and Gigan (and possibly, I would argue, having its genesis in the obscene rhythms and tones of Morbid Angel’s Blessed are the Sick) that seeks to use technically advanced musicianship not as an ends in itself, but as a means of producing sounds that are alien, disorientating, sometimes hallucinatory.

Whilst they don't fit into it entirely (plenty of moments here suggest more mainstream modern death metal roots), Pyrrhon draw deeply on this tradition. In fact, An Excellent Servant but a Terrible Master explores and develops the ground laid by Ulcerate’s Everything Is Fire, which that band abandoned for the brooding epics of this year’s Destroyers of All. For this sometimes phenomenal album revels in spiralling, unanchored riffing that, for all its oppressive heaviness, often seems to glide in an almost improvisatory fashion. To this end it’s particularly helped by the remarkable work of Dylan DiLella, whose lead guitar contributions seem to have a vocabulary all of their own, adopting the ‘horrible noise’ approach to soloing pioneered by Trey Azagthoth, as reinterpreted in the style of garbled jazz fusion histrionics.

Take, for example, Glossolalian or New Parasite. Both are endowed with labyrinthine tongue-twister riffs, delivered in a perfectly sculpted death metal guitar tone that gives every note the snorting, slobbering character of a salivating rottweiler. Tracks are infested with sudden dropouts into drifting ambiance which are then plunged rapidly into swooshing metal once again, making it difficult to get a handle on anything regular. Exemplary is The Architect Confesses, which shadow-boxes through a confusing array of rhythmic changes before dissembling into a splendidly unhinged fusion solo. On the other hand, it does often fall frequently into down-tempo chug grooves, which could offend some sensibilities. But the thing that makes those things lame when other bands do them is their rigidity- like the band has locked into something very staid and comfortable- which is almost never the case here. For this is an album about destabilising flourishes- like the vertiginous introduction to Idiot Circles, or the abovementioned "wooooooaaaaaummmmmmmmmmmmchgchgchgchgtktktk" solos that so illuminate the band's sound. Only occasionally, as with the atmospheric and brooding Flesh Isolation Chamber do the band exhibit a dark restraint.

So then, Pyrrhon have a singular take on technical death metal which does enough to make this an album worth listening to. It throws out some genuinely energising ideas, though there is one self-evident caveat: those who have never enjoyed the more virtuosic directions death metal has taken in recent years will probably hate this even more than they hate all the bands they hate already. But for anyone else, the album is available digitally for a fee of your choosing, so get on with it.

Killing Songs :
New Parasite, The Architect Confesses (Spittlestrand hair), A Terrible Master
Charles quoted 87 / 100
Other albums by Pyrrhon that we have reviewed:
Pyrrhon - Abscess Time reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Pyrrhon - What Passes for Survival reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Pyrrhon - The Mother of Virtues reviewed by Charles and quoted 88 / 100
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