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Thursday 25 June 2020

Reviews: Pyrrhon, On Atlas' Shoulders, Glasswork, Draemora (Paul S, Paul H, Bob Matt)

Pyrrhon: Abscess Time (Willowtip Records) [Paul Scoble]

Pyrrhon have been making challenging music together since 2008. I say ‘Challenging’ as this is a far more experimental form of Death Metal than most Death Metal fans are used to. The four Brooklyn natives are on to their fourth album with Abscess Time, in a style that rides the line between complex and chaotic. As I alluded to before this is a very experimental type of Death Metal, there is a similarity with Gorguts more difficult work, and when I say this I am thinking more of Gorguts album Obscura rather than the slightly easier to get along with material like that on Coloured Sand.

Pyrrhon are clearly quite happy to challenge their audience, at times seeming to be deliberately obtuse; however, if you give this album a few listens it will open itself up to you and become easier to digest, but giving it time is essential. Rhythmically the album feels like a huge lurching monster, all the rhythms feel slightly off kilter, time signatures change abruptly, moving from slow stagger to blasting fast in the blink of an eye. Initially this feels off putting, but with time you start to get your head around the strange timings, and it becomes more accessible. A good example of this is the track The Cost Of Living, which opens in a slow and brooding manner, it’s minimal, lurching and dissonant, but slowly builds and adds complexity, by the end the track is fast and chaotic and brilliantly savage.

There is just as much difficult experimentalism in the riffs as well. Ultra technical, highly complex riffs that feel as if they are constantly changing (this is an album that will not let you settle). There is a style of playing that uses the tremolo bar to detune chords as they are being played, something that I am first aware of hearing on Gorguts Obscura, and a style that has also been used by Imperial Triumphant to great effect. This is very apparent in the title track Abscess Time, which opens the album, no note or chord is held without somehow messing with the pitch. This coupled with the lurching, constantly changing tempo gives the track a feeling of constant flux, and stops the listener from settling, or relaxing with the music.

The vocals are very good as well, vocalist Doug Moore uses two different styles on this album. The main voice is closer to hardcore than death metal, it’s a higher register scream that cuts through the chaotic music very effectively. The other voice is an ultra guttural, very low register voice that is pretty close to pig squealing. There are also some really effective atonal guitar solos on offer here as well. The Lean Years features a very good dissonant solo, and the guitar on the track Another Day In Paradise is pretty much an atonal guitar solo all through that song, which reminded me a little of crazy experimentalists Psyopus.

Abscess Time is a very challenging album. It’s meant to be difficult, if you are after simple blast beats then you should look elsewhere. This is extreme metal treated as an art form, it’s not about comforting people with styles they have heard before, if you want that then there are plenty of Death metal bands who are continually releasing the same album. However, if you are looking for something that is creative and demanding, then this is a great place to be challenged. If you are willing to put in the effort, you will get a lot out of this, just don’t expect anything simple or easy. 8/10

On Atlas’ Shoulders: Invictus (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

Invictus is the debut release from German outfit On Atlas’ Shoulders. The band formed in 2018 and play a style of epic heavy metal that will please some and be completely irrelevant to others. Bombastic riffs, soaring harmonies, interspersed with acoustic, almost folk segments on paper make for interesting listening. At 54 minutes it’s too long, and the songs are at times a little disjointed. Searching For The Blue is case in point; a track that labours through various styles, swaying from ballad to anthem, using slow paced harmonies but never reaches where it needs to get to. There’s the pedestrian A Lion’s Heart, which contrasts with the dramatic way in which the album opens with Legend Pt. I, a fiery start which sadly doesn’t continue through the whole album.

On Atlas' Shoulders seem in need of direction. I’m not sure that epic metal is that easy to pull off. There needs to be a gravitas that isn’t yet present within the compositions or the song structures. To put it politely, some of this music is just boring. It’s not beyond redemption. There is some solid guitar work, the duel guitars of Björn Anders and Ben Chadwick work well together and the youngest member of the band, Leo Pick is a solid drummer. I’m unconvinced by the vocals of Marius Bönish; he certainly has a range which fits with the band’s music but there are moments of struggle. Invictus has flashes of genuine promise and the band have gone for the big hit early. There is still some way to go. 5/10

Glasswork: Metabole (Self Released) [Bob Shoesmith]

Glasswork are a four piece from Malaga in Spain who operate in a kind of slightly surreal area of soft floaty jazz/Prog, in fact so soft and floaty you almost imagine the introduction of Whale song at the next turn of the winding tracks. Right off the bat I should also add that if you are not a great flute or sax fan within your Prog, this may not be the album for you either, as their appearance feature heavily. Not the aggressive, agricultural flute of say Jethro Tull but the lull you to sleep type of pan pipe flute. Glasswork are very difficult to categorise, they are, without doubt, 100% Prog but the tracks have long flute laden musical passages that float along and then swiftly change directions like a dragonfly over a stream, to other musical ideas and back again.

Musically Glasswork veer from the ‘fairly’ commercial A Song For Grace where they have recruited Jesus Sanchez to produce a gentle ballad reminiscent of Bread with a twist of Tull in the bridges to the downright weirdness of Zierra which is (and I’m being as literal as I can be here) 1 minute 4 seconds of sound effects that appear to be someone fiddling with an organ next to an open fire…in a restaurant…very random. They also swing within tracks between some styles that could be closest compared to acid jazz tinged, swing timings, to soft floaty balladry such as in the stand out track Solitude. Then, I glance at their bio and they describe their influences as Black Sabbath (!) Tool and Iron Butterfly, but that is very misleading, none of those styles appear within a country mile of this album. The one consistent of each track is their inconsistency. 

I am aware that twisting and turning of ideas and moving timings and direction around is what Proggers are prone do, but as a body of work the flitting about between ideas and styles becomes quite unsettling. There are a lot of soulful moments within the tracks such as the Procol Harem-esque start to For Everyone And No One before sliding off into the angular timings and style of Steve Hillage or Frank Zappa, a bit of up tempo rock lite and then back round again to something else. It all becomes quite a complex listen, if you listen all the way through.

For me, when Glasswork are inhabiting their genteel, ethereal, moody, emotive song writing areas, they are a blissed out, soporific and a beautiful listen (yes, even with the rather ubiquitous flute & sax bits) but they don’t last long enough for me and when they go all experimental and crudely stitch together tapestries of ideas around them, they lose me a bit. I do know Prog fans who love their non-linear musical journeys with eclectic interludes and alternative pathways so I would definitely recommend them to give Glasswork a go, but not essential listening for me. 7/10

Draemora: Awakening (Ultra Nast Records) [Matt Bladen]

Awakening is the debut EP from Pittsburgh heavies Draemora and it starts off well with some thunderous heaviness, thick grooves and a harsh croak that reminds me of French extreme kings Gojira. Now this band are probably the primary influence on Draemora their melodies climb very high on tracks such as Guilt, they also bring those low end rumbles on Dead Inside while Reckoning has a very propulsive thrash/blackened edge. The EP is about frontman/guitarist/engineer/mixer Terry Jenkins' struggles with drugs and alcohol and these hardships have been channeled into this very aggressive music that does have melody, you can feel the ferociousness on the final two tracks Reckoning and Legion Of Scum which are the heaviest on the album and the two that don't feature clean vocals which are unfortunately a very big deterrent for my enjoyment of this record, on Guilt especially any emotion trying to be conveyed is dissipated quite quickly when the flat cleans try to carry the weight of the lyrics. At five songs there's a lot to like here but those vocals stop it from reaching the next level for me. 5/10    

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