The Mother Of Virtues

Written by: MST on 02/06/2014 00:30:28

Having written what I thought was the best release of 2011 in "An Excellent Servant But a Terrible Master", New York avant-garde/hypertechnical death metal squad Pyrrhon were tasked with the impossible when they set out to write the follow-up to that amazing debut album. "The Mother Of Virtues", their sophomore album which was released this year, may have taken a while to write, but with the complexity of the music within taken into account that really shouldn't surprise anyone. The band consists of only four people and only a single guitarist, which makes me wonder how this music could possibly sound anything like the record in a live setting. But we'll get to that when Pyrrhon get their behinds to Europe. For now, let's see what this new record is like.

The core idea is pretty much unchanged as we approach this record. From the very first seconds of opening track "The Oracle of Nassau", the overwhelming technicality is what jumps at you. Thankfully we're not talking Brain Drill-esque meaningless technical wankery, but the hypertechnical compositions can be quite difficult to wrap your mind around even after numerous listens. At times the band even venture out into complete improvisation, making the record even more of a challenge to keep track of. The other side of Pyrrhon's sound is the incredibly creepy soundscapes that follow when the band slow things down. Vocalist Doug Moore's lyrics are an important part of invoking these images of urban decay, conspiracies and Orwellian dystopia that are integral to the draw of Pyrrhon's music. The vocals mostly consist of high pitched shouts bordering on screams, but there are also plenty of growls to be heard. When befitting the sound the vocals have effects added to them to create that little extra dose of disturbing darkness.

There are a few things that separate this record from the debut. First of all, whether due to improved technical skills or a desire to venture out into weirder and more technically demanding territories, the technical delivery has been bumped up hugely. Where the debut had sections of weirdness going on but a core of reasonably decipherable riffs and compositions, "The Mother Of Virtues" is hypertechnical almost throughout. Obviously you could argue that the record is then just more of a challenge for the listener, but I've personally found the record a bit too much of a challenge to keep up with, thus rendering it less enjoyable. Most of the tracks on the album are good on their own once you get past the boundary of actually understanding what's going on, but all in all the album doesn't feel like a single entity from start to finish. It even starts out weird with 90 seconds of extremely technical play and blasting drums, and then goes directly into a long section of slow and ominous in "White Flag"; it doesn't feel like the record flows naturally, and I just don't think it all adds up as it should.

When I say it all doesn't add up, I'm comparing the record to its predecessor. "The Mother Of Virtues" is an enjoyable album, and it's impressive as hell, but listening through the whole thing doesn't quite surprise as much in the song writing and storytelling departments as it does in the technical department. The best parts of the album as far as this writer is concerned are the tracks that sound more like the first album: disturbing, with technical weirdness adding a sense of confusion in the storytelling, yet enough structure to keep it all together. As such, the verdict of this review should come with a sort of disclaimer: I might just not have been able to follow the evolution of Pyrrhon's sound. But then again, there must be others that feel the same way. In any case, "The Mother Of Virtues" is worthy of at least a few listens for those who like their music hypertechnical, weird and disturbing.

Download: Balkanized, Sleeper Agent, Invisible Injury
For The Fans Of: Ulcerate, Gorguts, Artificial Brain
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Release date 28.03.2014
Relapse Records

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