Pyrrhon, masters of bafflingly heavy and Linda Blair-esque-headspin-inducing music that can only loosely be described as death metal, seem to be taking a page from the Krallice book of surprising fans with mysterious EPs. So how does this new four-banger stack up against the rest of Pyrrhon’s obtuse discography?
If nothing else, Running Out of Skin seems to eschew any doubt that the band is doubling down on their unique brand of cracked-out, bottom heavy skronkedelia. Across the EP’s four tracks is a single thread, namely the grinding, stone-crunching bass sound, derived both from Erik Malave’s absolutely mangling approach to playing the bass guitar and Dylan DiLella’s Mariana Trench probing riffs that spend as much time in the lower registers as humanly possible. Or perhaps inhumanly, as Pyrrhon continue to apply their strange, bestial approach to structure on the first three songs.
“Statistic Singular” is a proper composition, constructed with intent and purpose. It also features an absurd sonic wall of blastbeats and angular, dissonant chords on the bass and guitar that seem to be interlocked in a spiraling battle to the death. The song feels loose and jaunty, but that’s always been Pyrrhon’s appeal and even brilliance. There’s a genuine complexity that, unless observed carefully, could be mistaken for sloppiness.
The next two tracks, “Ashes to Alveoli” and “Motivational Speaker II,” seem only to continue this haphazard, jarring trend, but the explanation for this is evident in the EP’s description. Both tracks were recorded as unfettered improvisations in studio recorded live and raw. Far more than anything else in Pyrrhon’s discography, these songs sound like unadulterated chaos, the result of a fever dream precipitated by drinking a concoction of Doug Moore’s deepest fears cut with mescalin and gunpowder. The walls of sound and contorting structures double back on themselves as Moore barks and snarls like a rabid wolf trying to hypnotize a nation of pigs. It’s simultaneously mesmerizing, off-putting, and sickening, and I’m sure you already know how much you’ll like it.
The final track is perhaps the most interesting. To close out the EP, Pyrrhon offer an abstruse cover of Death‘s seminal epic “Crystal Mountain.” What’s most intriguing about this cover is how true-to-form it remains while still sounding like Pyrrhon. Structurally speaking, all of the untouchable elements of the original track remain in place: the solos are still gnarly, the drums still gallop along, and the bridge riff still has that shimmering chromatic radiance. What Pyrrhon manages to do, though, is coat everything in a layer of slime and obscenity; the riffs sound slightly more angular, the drums a little more imposing, the vocals a bit more derelict. Little trigonometric bends and guitar accents add the final touches. Chuck Schuldiner had an irreplaceable vocal presence, but Pyrrhon made the wise choice to diversify Moore’s vocal approach and have him growl in an understandable fashion so as not to totally dilute the initial vision. It all works well and successfully translates a timeless piece into a nightmarish brave new world.
Running Out of Skin, ultimately, is a pleasant surprise, one made bitter-sweet by the announcement that this is mesmerizing skinsman Alex Cohen’s final release with the band. If you like what you hear, you can purchase Running Out of Skin on Bandcamp for just 4 bucks. If you want the album physically, pay attention to Pyrrhon’s Facebook, where they’ll be announcing soon how to get one of the limited-run copies from PRC Music.
(h/t Chris H.)