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This is the full album stream for Pyrrhon's An Excellent Servant but a Terrible Master, out soon on Selfmadegod.

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Pyrrhon's - An Excellent Servant but a Terrible Master [full album stream]

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I've been listening to An Excellent Servant for about half a year now. The record entered my inbox in February, when Pyrrhon self-released it digitally. Now Selfmadegod is giving it physical form. This is appropriate, since the music is both mental and physical in a way only death metal can deliver. I'm thinking of beautiful grotesqueries like later Gorguts - a huge influence here - Morbid Angel '93 -'98, early Willowtip catalogue, and Nader Sadek's record from this year. I'm thinking of words like "gelatinous" and "viscera". And I'm thinking of New York.

Thematically and sonically, Pyrrhon capture a New York neurosis that I first observed in Darren Aronofsky's Pi and that I last heard in Krallice (first record only; subsequent Krallice records have gotten more "heady", moving the geographical association at least to upstate New York) and Meek Is Murder. The elements of this neurosis are twists, turns, numbers, dirt, tunnels, grit, and rats. Given the ubiquity of the Internet as the primary source of input for many, I'm wary now of seeking regional associations for music. But when a record begins

The subway tunnels sigh
Damp air rushing up through oiled grates
Drawn from phlegmy pools
That fester beneath the streets

it serves notice that is not typical metal. In fact, just reading the lyrics is, unlike typical metal, productive. The words make grammatical and substantive sense, and so get neurons firing. This is as good a description of our digital existence as any:

Let's hoard grains of sand
And worship junk data
Let's build a palace of static
And lose ourselves inside
Let’s march around and around and around again

(You can read the record's lyrics here.)

The music follows suit, with a dizzying complexity that suggests today's Deathspell Omega gone death metal. (Tellingly, the first two tags on Pyrrhon's Bandcamp are "death metal" and "deathspell omega".) Ulcerate are also plowing these grounds, though Pyrrhon have more colors. (Admittedly, the colors are those of urban scars: stained walls, concrete, ash.) The Gorguts influence looms large, yet the exposition feels different: outward in addition to inward, unafraid to drop atmospheric, slow, un-death-metal like in "Flesh Isolation Chamber".

But is it death metal if it doesn't growl and windmill headbang? Is it black metal if it doesn't have blastbeats and tremolo picking? Some see metal as a set of rules; some see it as a way to break rules. Pyrrhon are the latter. (If you lived in a New York apartment, you, too, would want to "break down the walls", to cite another NYC band.) They haven't broken all the rules yet, but they've started to break some already. That's exciting.

— Cosmo Lee

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The End

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