For many a year a bands’ “extremity” was defined by how offensive their lyrics were, how unintelligible their vocals were, how fast they could play, and for how long. But, as Tiago Moreira sagely commented in his review of the excellent Artificial Brain album Labyrinth Constellation these are finally different and special days for Death Metal. Death Metal lives in Interesting Times.
With The Mother Of Virtues (Relapse), New York’s Pyrrhon have found a way to meld and then go beyond the warped, technical dissonance of Gorguts, Ulcerate, Portal and Deathspell Omega to create quite possibly the most extreme and impenetrable album to date. By anyone.
Five minutes into the album, and we’ve had a minute and a half Grind/Jazz obliteration at the hands of ‘The Oracle Of Nassau’, which is the last time Pyrrhon pay any attention to “traditional” structure or definable output, and the first three minutes of ‘White Flag’, which starts with an inoffensive bass dally before sweeping off in a riot of aggression and notes from all points of the guitar necks that slows down again to tail into sub-noise via discordant jangles. And that’s just the beginning of an extraordinary album that forces re-evaluation of what can be achieved in the name of extreme music. Boundaries aren’t just pushed, they are non-existent. I don’t like, know, or get jazz, but this is surely what the most fucked-up jazz can only dream of sounding like.
The Mother Of Virtues doesn’t just challenge what is “extreme”, but calls into question whether some of what is produced is actually even music. It certainly shouldn’t be called songs. And is all the better for it.
Completely and utterly impenetrable, and not in the way Krallice or AEvangelist are, and exceptional with it. I don’t “get it”, but I don’t think I’m supposed to. I don’t think the point is to understand what I now imagine the soundtrack of a complete and devastating neural implosion to sound like. I think the point is to be challenged by it.
The technique of all involved is incredible as Pyrrhon deconstruct frictional technical death metal and brokenly put it back together in a consciously unnatural way as only the bass and drums retain any semblance of what we are used to, underpinning and holding everything just about together throughout tracks like the Ved Buens Ende tinged ‘Eternity In A Breath’ as if the rhythm section of a different, more “normal” band, but by the midpoint of ‘Invisible Injury’ both have detached themselves from each other, as the Underworld spills out from all parts of the band into pure extreme free-form.
The Mother Of Virtues will never be an easy listen, will never be comfortable, will always be disorientating and doesn’t so much teeter on the razors edge of insanity and genius as hurl itself from one end of the spectrum to the other and back again. But it will always be an extraordinary album.