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After the brilliance of the Ignis Creatio e.p., a decidedly doom-death affair that showcased a band with almost miraculous idiosyncrasies, Pyogenesis must have felt that the future of music lay in poppier, sillier realms, so they began shifting their style away from the darkness and toward the (artificial) light. Influenced, one assumes, by the mid-Nineties' epidemic of "alternative rock" but too indecisive to shed all trappings of death metal, Sweet X-Rated Nothings burst forth in all its malformed hideousness like a refugee from Dr. Moreau's island. Possibly it was a joke; possibly it was some sort of denunciation of the metal community. Whatever its intentions, this collection of songs can do little more than horrify and bewilder anyone familiar with the band's previous work.
Perhaps if The Humungus, the hockey-masked barbarian from the Mad Max sequel, commanded Soul Asylum to mimic a metal band and back him while he drunkenly roared and crooned, an approximation of this album could be made. At least that way there would be no dashed expectations. As it is, the listening experience is diminished all the more by what seems to be just achingly out of reach.
Indeed there are pleasant moments: shades of Katatonia, hints of Amorphis, twists of Type O-Negative; but enveloping everything is a coyness that immediately kills whatever mood would've been conjured. When the band sticks to clean vocals, tuneless as those vocals tend to be, songs can seem real and even listenable. But then the idiotically inflected monster voice ruins everything like the first-time drunk at the party, making it clear that Pyogenesis got lost somewhere between affectation and outright mockery. The songs "Masquerade" and "Through the Flame," which come close to working despite the nearly exclusive use of the monster voice, seem executed with a frivolity diametrically opposed to the nature of the musical ideas. Guitar leads are sometimes somber, sometimes soaring; riffing can be absolutely hypnotic. Kyuss or Paradise Lost could've used some of this material. Yet there it is again, that fatal goofiness that sends the hand after the remote control (or the keyboard). It's inexplicable and frustrating, especially when one of these melodies appears both genuine and captivating. The listener is left with fragments that are all the more pitiable for their abused potential.
Aside from everything else, the production on this album works for the performances. There's a loose, grungy feel; the guitars are messy when they riff, sharp when they take flight; the drums are clear and sometimes panoramic. The vocals, however, are entirely too loud, though they're probably beyond salvation in any dimension.
Pyogenesis would go on to make universally accessible music. Sweet X-Rated Nothings is the foul odor left in their wake. It's pop metal, but with too much pop to be metal and too much metal to be pop. Even the most misanthropic of sadistic mad scientists would lock this one away in the cellar.