Album Review: Pyrrhon’s Abscess Time

by S. Winters

When all is corruption, no act is obscene.

Pyrrhon, an avant-garde death metal four-piece based out of Brooklyn, play music which is pretty much the polar opposite of “easy listening”. Even seasoned extreme metal listeners find their highly experimental and abrasive sound difficult to digest. The band have released an album every three years beginning in 2011, and each one has received increasingly positive feedback. Abscess Time is Pyrrhon’s latest endeavor, and to say it does not disappoint would be an understatement. The record sounds punchy and delicious, but its composition and performances are downright filthy. Vocalist Doug Moore’s exceptional lyrics tackle class struggle in a tastefully articulate yet visceral fashion. In fact, they are equally as essential to understanding Abscess Time as the music itself. Caroline Harrison’s artwork is an excellent visual accompaniment to the colorful sonic environment of Abscess Time. Expect this album to place highly on many 2020 album-of-the-year lists—this thing is as artistic as it is deranged.

Pyrrhon – Abscess Time (Willowtip Records, 2020)

As we’ve learned to expect from Pyrrhon, Abscess Time features endlessly creative and technically impressive playing from the band’s three instrumentalists. Bassist Erik Malave, who also played in Imperial Triumphant for a few years, shines in a way many bassists can only dream of. His complex but restrained bass work does not compete for attention, although its lines are sharply distinct from the guitars. Erik’s tone is laudable, as well, and the bass’s placement in the mix expertly achieves the balance between audible and overpowering. For that, we can thank Colin Marston, who handles recording, mixing and mastering on this album. Dylan DiLella’s guitar playing on Abscess Time can only be appropriately described as unhinged. This album is packed with fresh melodies and choppy grooves, along with a ton of feedback and other uncanny sounds difficult to believe came from a guitar. Dylan’s play style takes obvious influence from the groundbreaking dissonance of Gorguts, although Pyrrhon is hardly a Gorguts clone. Drummer Steve Schwegler is just as bursting with creativity as his two string-playing bandmates. Abscess Time finds Steve standing head and shoulders above most other death metal drummers, specifically because of his grasp of timing and dynamics. He has an excellent ear for where his touch should be a bit lighter, or where a brief blast beat should be incorporated just so. Cymbal variations and adept tom work elevate Steve’s playing to new heights.

Doug Moore has been Pyrrhon’s vocalist since their first demo back in 2009, so fans have had the pleasure of hearing his vocal skills improve over the course of the band’s existence. On Abscess Time, Doug expertly utilizes a pained high scream as his primary vocal tone. Interspersed throughout the album, he also employs a beefy traditional death metal growl, a sewer-like indiscernible gurgle, and a straining spoken-word yell. Doug’s vocal performance on Abscess Time is a dream come true for extreme metal listeners—it’s impassioned, hard-hitting, and grotesque. However, his vocals wouldn’t pack as hard of a punch if the words he shrieks weren’t so eloquently written and topically relevant.

Doug’s lyrics make it clear that Abscess Time is an album for the downtrodden, for the marginalized, for the working-class people of the world. You won’t find a more sobering yet immediately relatable depiction of global capitalism in music. “Down at Liberty Ashes” discusses the unsafe and unfulfilling work environments in which so many find themselves. This track also addresses our society’s inculcated mythology of one’s ability to consent to participation in the wage system. “If those flunkies get bodied by garbage or wheel, well, this business got costs, ya know? And hey, they all had a choice […] The work’s grisly, but the profit’s tidy, and they chose those mangled hands over prison.” Doug’s words are impactful in and of themselves, but his insane delivery empowers them even further. “The Cost of Living” details the oppressive rent system and the engineered anxiety many folks face today due to housing insecurity. “Once we made our home in the trees: lived innocent, vicious, free […] Then the land’s lords made their offer: bondage or slaughter […] For the landless and luckless are such easy meat.” Each of Abscess Time’s tracks approaches capitalism from a different angle, and Doug doesn’t need to use political jargon to paint a vivid picture. It cannot be stressed enough that a careful reading of Abscess Time’s lyric booklet is vital to gaining a complete appreciation for the album as a cohesive work. You will be glad you spent the time.

Abscess Time, the fourth studio album from Brooklyn unorthodox death metal quartet Pyrrhon, could not have landed at a more appropriate time. Per the global pandemic, unemployment and homelessness have skyrocketed, and only those in the upper echelons of society feel truly safe. During the last few months, around 5.4 million Americans have lost their health insurance, a result of our for-profit healthcare system. Extreme wealth disparity in America continues to grow—three men own more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans combined. At the behest of the state, police officers routinely abuse and murder innocent people, and much of the American public ignores or justifies it. It is amidst these and countless other pressing social and economic issues that Abscess Time raises its fist in solidarity. It spits in the face of oppressive structures in a manner most obscene; but like Doug screeches on the title track, “When all is corruption, no act is obscene.” Abscess Time is a triumph in every way imaginable.

Abscess Time released through Willowtip Records on June 26th, 2020. Stream and purchase it on CD and 12” vinyl here.