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An Excellent Servant But A Terrible Master - 83%

KonradKantor, April 26th, 2012

Adaptation is something that all musicians need to learn in order to survive, and if there's one side of metal that has been seriously lagging behind its counterparts in recent years, it's death metal. The music world is, in the truest sense of the word, Darwinian; and death metal has been high on the endangered species list for quite some time now. Nevertheless, just as all hope was thought to be lost, fucking Pyrrhon comes along and changes my opinion on just about everything...

An Excellent Servant... provides the listener with more than enough evidence proving the case for the growth potential death metal still has. However, one must be very careful when mentioning the words "progressive" or "technical" and "death metal" in the same sentence, as many will immediately begin to think of the unlimited cesspool of soulless Muhammad SuiƧmez copycats that have been plaguing the death metal market like a festering epidermal disease. Whether it's superficial drum triggers, endless fret masturbation that seems like nothing more than Widespread Panic in super-fast motion, or shitty vocalists who happen to be well-liked because of their enormous dreadlocks, about 99.5% of modern death metal bands that consider themselves to be technical lack anything substantive enough for a serious listener to put up with more than one or two tracks of their bland garbage...

And what of those few, well-respected bands that we refer to as "progressive death metal" outfits? Yes, what of the bands that release two-hour-long albums that, although musically sound, are far from memorable and an absolute chore to listen to. Are journalists really scratching their heads when they find out bands like this are still unsigned? ...

Need I continue this ongoing rant and mention the recent multitude of bands popping up attempting to emulate "old-school" death metal or death-core bands? While the former genre should have never climbed back out of its muddy grave, the latter should have never been invented...

Well, that's all water under the bridge now, because Pyrrhon provides enough oomph within the foundation of its song structure to alleviate the aridity contained in most albums that try too hard to push new boundaries. Each song brings new elements into the equation yet continues to solidify the overall sound that Pyrrhon skilfully creates. The group vocals are fun early on, and they don't contain too much testosterone, either. The guitars are technical and noisy, but behind all the experimentation is some solid riffage that bands such as The Dillinger Escape Plan or Converge continuously seem to lack, as far as I'm concerned. Although the two previously mentioned acts have undoubtedly played a role in Pyrrhon's influence, they could actually learn a few things from Pyrrhon themselves -- like how to actually sustain a groove before shitting randomly placed notes all over the listener's face... or how to back their technicalities up with real force.

Lyrically, this shit is as bleak as the natural selection process that the Earth keeps using to rid itself of the surface nuisance Carlin himself referred to as the human race. Moore's lyrics leave us with no solutions or ways of reversing the unfortunate process we are all a part of. They simply describe a situation, as horrid and hopeless as the narrative may seem to some. The words fit well into the album and (unlike most metal albums) are both intellectual and entertaining. If there's one thing I already knew about Doug, it's that the dude can fucking write... and it's nice to know that some sledgehammer vocal deliveries help back up the lyrical integrity of the album.

Gorguts, Death and Atheist also come to mind as strong influences, but Pyrrhon never regresses in its songwriting -- its members continue to learn all they can from their predecessors but still cover new ground. Whether it's the interesting transition between "Idiot Circles" and "Correcting a Mistake," the numerous vocal distortions that occupy slower parts of the album such as "Flesh Isolation Chamber," or the guitar distortion of the title track that actually make the album ...well... quite emotional, Pyrrhon seems to have corrected everything wrong with death metal as we know it today. Pyrrhon's progression is natural, and it's bands such as this that death metal is going to need in order to see any real development in the future. If it wishes to survive, that is....

Truth be told, I don't know how many death metal bands are out there doing the right thing. It doesn't really matter either, because I know an organic piece of music when I hear one, and Pyrrhon has given us just that. An Excellent Servant... is as sincere an album as any I've heard so far this year, and all of you who thought my year-end list last year was a bit too black (even though there can never be such a thing) should take serious note, because Pyrrhon definitely has what it takes to end up on quite a few lists come year's end, including my own. Then again, the album doesn't quite have what it takes to revive an entire genre that has gone totally wrong in too many different directions simultaneously, but it's sure as hell a good start.

Originally written from MetalReview.com