Throes of Production: Pyracantha and Hellchant


In the comments for his excellent review of Haunter’s Thrinodia, my esteemed colleague Richter opined, “For a solid two years now I’ve found myself craving that weird haze that hangs over shitty-sounding albums.” As my friend so eloquently put it, terrible production can have its own charm and offer a unique sonic aesthetic apart from the general trend toward further fidelity you find in many spectra of metal. I’ve gone on the record defending the artistic merit of bad production, but to reiterate my own point, production should be viewed as an artistic choice and evaluated for how it conveys the theme and tone of the album rather than whether or not it meets some acceptable DRM scale. Today I’d like to introduce you to two lo-fi bands making a joyful racket.


As far as I can gather, Pyracantha is a one-man black metal band from Las Vegas. There may be other collaborators, but I have trouble believing that this kind of depressive/suicidal black metal took more than one person to conceive. Daybreak really only has two things going on throughout its three short tracks: somber, slightly melodic chords squelched out at a sluggish pace and a steady, unwavering backbeat not unlike the main drumline in Metallica’s “Fight Fire With Fire.” In fact, at one point the guitars in “Wandering Woods” even drop out into a wash of distortion while that constant boom-crack of the kick and snare rolls on almost identically to the segment featuring only Lars’ handiwork just after the solo section in the aforementioned thrash anthem. It’s an odd, incongruous stitching of elements that shouldn’t really work, but the singular, mechanical drum beat’s lack of variance lends a cold, mechanical, and oily feel to the smoky notes. It’s a tactic that worked perfectly for Legion of Andromeda, although the effect here is more a constant reminder of despondency rather than a perpetual hammering sensation, as though the only thing linking you to the misery of existence is your own treacherous pulse.

There are vocals at play too, the kind of raspy indistinct sort superstitious Victorians would have ascribed to banshees in the mist. They do little more than add an extra layer of grief to the atmosphere, but for the minimalist approach taken by Pyracantha on this release, it’s just perfect. Daybreak succeeds because it uses only the bare essentials to convey its central tone: shiftlessness, longing, misery. A clean production job would only detract from this tone by adding clarity to it. By drenching everything in a dense, hissing fog, we’re encouraged to lose ourselves rather than peering too closely at the distinct elements. Compare the production here to the slightly crisper job on The Long Night. The guitar lines are quite a bit more complex on that EP and demand a greater level of discernment. Instead, Daybreak presupposes nothing and merely invites you to sit beside it in the dwindling twilight.


Hellchant tackle the fidelity question from a decidedly different approach, and for good reason. If the overtone of Daybreak is lachrymose restlessness, that of Temple of Abominations is unfettered rage. As you can likely guess from the excellent album art above, Hellchant’s debut is a slipshod, cantankerous mess of bestial black metal. Everything is cranked up to 11, but the vocals are given an added punch and taken just one notch on the dial higher. The end result is a loud album with loud guitars, loud drums, and even louder vocals. Picture a snarling lion bellowing out to ward off would-be usurpers of its pride while cymbals crack and sizzle like an overhead electrical storm, ushering forth little bursts of ball lightning and kindling wildfires. The riffs are a shapeless mess, coiling and heaving in an old-school death metal snarl of muscle and sinew, as though the ravenous lion is tearing into a competitor in a jumble of teeth and nails.

The production on this album, too, is fuzzy, but that only lends to the ferocity. The drums, especially the cymbals, sound almost as though they’ve picked up conversion artefacts while the vocals burst out from behind a ski mask. It’s perfect for the raw bloodlust this young Swiss band is attempting to conjure, and the vocalist’s shriek of “ABOMEENASHUN!” in “Temple of Abominations” would likely lack some menace if the production was cleaner. Like Daybreak, this is an album without guile or artifice; there is no need for clarity because the blasts and riffs are one-dimensional. There is only boiling rage and hate burbling out like burning petrol from a crack in a pipeline to hell.

P.S. I just love that the last track, “KAOS” is way louder than everything else and features a jackhammer bass drum and just sounds like absolute war being unleashed. Perfect.

Pyracantha’s Facebook | Pyracantha’s Bandcamp| Hellchant’s Bandcamp

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  • Lacertilian

    Hellchant would be my pick of these two, not sure if it’s due to the production though, maybe the primal garage riffs just appeal to me more.
    Though in regards to the allure of the lo-fi aesthetic, it could very well be that there is simply more scope for variation when things aren’t sterile. Squeaky clean production can be like a meal that has no spices/herbs/seasoning/sauce. It’s going to taste the same everytime. Whereas, adding varying amounts of different dirt(s) gives you a lot of potential textures.

    • Hellchant is kicking my ass right now.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Grit > Cleanliness

      • Dubbbz

        Girth >>> Cleanliness

  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    This Pyracantha sounds interesting.

  • Howard Dean

    When the vocals first come in at the beginning of the embedded Pyracantha track, they sound like a muted police siren five blocks away. Dude loves that drum beat, too. Haha.

    That being said, I can dig it. A demo like this is perfect length for the style. Any longer and you end up just spacing out (à la the more bloated Xasthur full lengths).

    • Bloated is the perfect word for a lot of the Xasthur albums. I get bored really fast with some of those albums.

      • Howard Dean

        My favorite Xasthur release by far: 2005 Demo. 2 tracks. 16 minutes. Creepy, atmospheric, good riffs, tortured vocals. And it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

        • Surprising this guy hasn’t killed himself yet.

          • Howard Dean

            Yeah, he’s pretty messed up. That cringe inducing documentary he was in with Jef Whitehead and the Striborg guy made it seem like he is really in the fringes–like on the edge. He has an acoustic project now called Nocturnal Poisoning. Haven’t listened to too much of it. But I think he’s doing better (mentally) than before.

          • Haha, that was most certainly a cringe worthy watch. That dude seemed so weak.

          • Howard Dean

            The Striborg guy dressed up in corpse paint with the candelabra and screaming in the cave was pretty cringe-provoking. I actually felt embarrassed during that part. It’s one thing to do that for an album cover. When you are 19–in 1996. Whole other story when you are a middle aged father and husband from Tasmania being filmed by some hipster news channel for a documentary. He probably could have toned it back a bit, hahahahaha.

          • Major LOLZ.

          • I want to see that.

          • Howard Dean

            Watch it. It’s in three 15-20 minute parts. Tyree linked it below.

          • I linked the wrong one. Here it is.


          • Howard Dean

            @george_lynch:disqus yeah, this is the one. Cringey stuff with the Striborg guy starts at 29:50 and continues again around 39:50.

          • It’s truly hilarious. I watched this super drunk the one night and totally forgot about a lot of this.

          • Howard Dean

            Haha, the part where he is screaming in the cave made me laugh/cringe again when I just watched it. I wonder if he ever watched himself in this documentary?

          • I was cringing at 1:00. It is almost too much to watch. lolz

          • Eliza

            Shot in black and white, to make everything seem more “deep”.

          • RJA

            You do – but you don’t. As they’ve mentioned it’s pretty cringe worthy – although Leviathan’s stuff isn’t so bad.

          • CyberneticOrganism

            “Oh this is no big deal, it’s what I do every weekend.”

          • Dave Vincent’s Perm

            “I never make unreasonable claims, I never said I was going to kill myself. What I try to do is give the listener a reason why they should look into dying, into killing themselves”
            ~Scott Conner

          • Less talk, more dying Scott. Come on man.

        • RJA

          Suicide in Dark Serenity is probably my favorite which is also a shorter one actually.

    • Dubbbz

      Yes, I think any longer and it would be snooze material.

      • Tetragrammacide do this well. They keep their releases to a reasonable length. Any longer and it would become WORK!

  • I do love raw/harsh production, but it has to fit with the right style. Black/War Metal, Crust/Punk, and Death Metal seem to be the best style for rawer/harsher production for me. Tetragrammacide, Nyogthaeblisz, and Hexenslaught have really taken it to the next level though. It can really add a lot of feeling to the style of music. Sometimes production can become even more powerful than the music itself.

    If you want to find a shit ton of lo-fi harsh black metal ugliness then check out everything on Defiled Light’s Bancamp page. There is some great stuff here.

    • whooooooa

    • Howard Dean

      Definitely some rawness on that Bandcamp.

      That Orgy of Carrion is solid as fuck. Me likes.

      • Agreed, I wish they would release this shit on physical formats.

    • Dove in. Found this. It made me go “hmmmm”.

    • RustyShackleford

      Holy shit! Some of this sounds like they put a tape recorder a mile away from them and then just played THAT loud.

  • Pressed PLAY on “KAOS”.
    And then my computer SUDOKU’D.

  • I vote Hellchant. The overall ferocity is vastly more appealing. I am sure if asked tomorrow, the answer might be different, though. Seems like both would appeal depending on ones current mood. Sweet write up, W.


    • If it’s raining tomorrow you’ll vote Pyracantha.

  • RustyShackleford

    Hellchant is really cool but I’m digging the riffs and production in Pyracantha. Definitely adds to the atmosphere. I’ve gone back and forth on production styles. Used to dig only the cleanest production, but too often that shit is cranked up and there is zero dynamic. I liked to be able to actually hear all the instruments (as much as I like Devin Townsend he can shove his Phil Spector wall of sound bullshit up his butt). Lo-fi stuff is sometimes more dynamic to me. YEP!

  • Dave Vincent’s Perm

    On the subject of *voluminous* black/death, everyone should listen to this Set album that Tyree linked me.

  • Graveborn

    Hellchant is the better one of these two, in nearly every way. I’m down with lo-fi/poor production in certain contexts, and it’s correct that it’s a valid artistic choice. But how many of these bands would be putting out higher quality stuff production wise if they had the $$$ for it?

    Pyracantha is terrible songwriting wise to me, and the poor production just pushes it further into “how can anyone like this” territory. Really great writing can always shine through some bad production, but one guitar playing chords (poorly) and a drum track that never fills? i guess it fits the “depressive” moniker in that the writer was too unmotivated to put even the barest bit of effort into that

    • I agree. I don’t think throwing $$$ at the dude from Pyracantha would cause him to write better songs. He seems to get one idea and record it instead of (gasp!) getting another idea and fusing the two together. Too simplistic for me.

      As for his production, it is not only raw but also squashed into 1% of the available 360 degree audio spectrum. Sounds like he recorded in mono. Not sure.

    • With the wealth of free or damn near free recording technology available, it’s definitely an intentional choice to create something that poorly recorded.

      • Exactly.

      • Graveborn

        i dont think so. you would still have to have the skill to use that free recording technology to make a high fidelity record, and if you don’t, you have to pay someone to do it. otherwise I wouldn’t pay anyone to record my band for me. I use lots of that free recording stuff at home, but without the proper years of learning and experience, I can’t put it to good use. but maybe i don’t have those skills OR the money to pay someone, but I want to put something out anyway (inadvisable, but people do this). resulting in a low production quality record that wasn’t an artistic choice

    • Welcome to the Toilet, bud!


      • Graveborn

        been here a while, just never had anything to say. thanks!

  • I’m a Yin and Yang type when it comes to production. I cannot stand a recording that’s too polished and can’t listen to something that sounds like it was recorded on a one track cassette recorder either. These bands could’ve benefitted from not sounding like they recorded in a cellar

  • Eliza

    Isn’t the phrase “one man band” sort of contradictory? I mean, the word “band” implies the presence of more than one person. It’s a thing that bothers me, but I digress. I like the idea of production quality adding a layer to the song’s meaning, but I don’t want artists to go for it without a certain vision in mind. It would feel out of place and lazy. I like better Pyracantha out of the two examples here, but Hellchant provides a good take on this concept too.

    • *offtopic(sorry)* How was your Maiden show???

      • Eliza


        • Which song was your favorite??

          • Eliza

            ALL OF THEM! But when they played Powerslave, I squealed like a One Direction fangirl.

          • more beer

            Good answer. Glad you had fun.

    • JWEG

      I figure one reason to accept the distinction between a one man ‘band’ and the one man involved, though not the main one, is to avoid potential legal obstructions.

      A solo project (which is a better term for it IMO) can be given a name, to distinguish from when the solo artist records something a bit different under his own name, and record with different labels without violating one or another contract.

      • Eliza

        I’d just use the term “musician”.

    • more beer

      Hers a one man band for you.

  • Waynecro

    Nice finds, Dubya. Playing Hellchant on my computer speakers made my dog leave the room and crawl under the covers in my bedroom.

    • Eliza

      My laptop speakers on the right are broken and, while that’s usually really bothersome, it makes the music better in this case.

      • Waynecro

        Broken-speaker mono ist krieg.

        • CyberneticOrganism

          – Varg

        • Eliza

          I could connect my laptop to my cd player and get better sound, but I won’t. I’d lose the kriegness.

  • Hans Gruber

    Pyriphlegethon, Tukaaria, Gorgorth’s Under the Sign of Hell – that’s the sort of Black Metal sound I really like. This article made me wonder if those are considered lo-fi; it’s certainly not as lo as these guys.
    Joe used “moderate-fi” in the Useless premiere some weeks ago. Perhaps that describes what I like more accurately. Man I’m looking forward to that record.

  • Vincent Groenenberg

    I’m the drummer of hellchant… we are a dutch band and not a swiss band. Someone should change that part in this article