Say what you will about deathcore and “slam metal” (and if you’re someone who likes metal and you have access to the Internet, you probably already have several times over); at least they’re trying to shake things up. There are only so many ways you can approach ol’ meat-n-potatoes death metal, and after two-and-a-half decades of bands playing brutal, atonal riffs with some growling over it, a little change is welcome. Of course, one doesn’t immediately have to buy their weight in flat-brimmed hats and the sketchiest hoodies available in order to want something a little different from death metal. Pyrrhon know this, and play to both sides of the death metal spectrum really well. On the one hand, they’re unquestionably brutal; on the other, they’re stuffed to the gills with time signature changes and exceptional musicianship, like a slightly-more-human Necrophagist. Though this isn’t some next-level shit per se, it shows signs of creative life in lieu of bowing at the death metal altar then going home and plugging riffs into a formula. Heavy times call for heavy music, so clearly we need death metal. Pyrrhon fulfill that need quite nicely.

Their EP, Fever Kingdoms, stumbles in that there isn’t quite enough there, which, by nature, is where the EP as a format tends to falter in general. This is a great problem to have, of course: when the band do get around to making a full-length, they’ll be able to unleash something fucking terrific. They don’t waste a second of the EP’s twenty-one minutes: no pointless ambient intros, no acoustic intros or outros, no samples. Just wall-to-wall shift-on-a-dime technical death metal, confidently executed and simultaneously presented with a sense of looseness that gives you the sense that it’s being played by humans. From the stuttering riff that opens “King of All Tears” to the skittish assault that closes “Pascal’s Wager” out, there’s not a dull moment to be found on Fever Kingdoms. Dorky song titles (there’s a song named after fucking Baudelaire, for Christ’s sake) imply that these dudes read on top of obsessively listening to Death, Atheist, and Decapitated all day. Pyrrhon have all the indicators of a bright, prosperous future.

On the more brutal end of the tech-death spectrum lie Parasitic Extirpation. The Massachusetts upstarts win the “most improved” award (were I actually handing out awards) on their debut full-length, Casketless. I reviewed their first EP, and while it certainly was nothing to sneeze at, it didn’t necessarily jump out at you. Pristine production and a revived sense of purpose have made all the difference, and have pushed them from being a decent slam-prone death metal band to a great brutal tech-death-grind band. While the genre’s general complaints still appl y– it’s hard to tell one track from the next, and the songwriting falls a little into the realm of riff salad-ry — the point is moot, considering that the riffs are all top-fucking notch. Like, all of them. So if you can’t necessarily tell the difference between the title track (with its meaty slam and ridiculous leads) and “Drifting with the Dead” (with its multiple nimble-fingered guitar segues), it doesn’t make a difference. Piling quality on top of quality yields… well, quality. If you’re looking for massively enjoyable tech-death that’s not afraid to slow it down every now and again (but isn’t obsessed with it), look no goddamn further than Parasitic Extirpation.

Of course, what if you’re looking for none of those things, but are still looking for death metal? Well, then NYC thrash-sympathetic old school fetishists Mutant Supremacy may be right up your alley. An array of filthy death metal riffs occasionally broken up by King/Hanneman-style solos and thrash beats, Infinite Suffering, their debut, scratches an itch one could assume no longer needed to be scratched. No brees, no slams (though there are some excellent sludgy Morbid Angel-y grooves every now and again), no gravity blasts… just primordial viciousness that never grows tiring. Add relatively raw production to things and one is reminded of a time when death metal wasn’t played by evil robots in unintelligible band logo shirts, but by slovenly, acne-scarred dudes you wouldn’t leave anyone you loved with for too long. Sometimes the absence of bullshit is a noteworthy element in and of itself; Mutant Supremacy go beyond that and become an extremely solid band. Sometimes all you need is a few solos and some fierce atonal riffs. On a base level, if you can’t find joy in that, well, you, sir, can go ahead and show yourself the goddamn door. Infinite Suffering is more than throwback novelty, though. It displays an adoration and understanding of the past and thus justifies carrying it into the future.

For metalheads, the key to weathering this putrid era (forget the economy and partisan divide: the continued popularity of Katy Perry is the emblem of our loathsome times) is drowning ourselves in the music we love, as it’s typically rooted in frustration and catharsis. And while doom and black metal can quench that, their arty tendencies tend to glaze over a base anger. Death metal taps into that anger masterfully. So whether it be Pyrrhon’s vaguely proggy brutality, Parasitic Extirpation’s relentless technical offensive, or Mutant Supremacy’s deceptively basic viciousness, there’s something to turn that scowl upside down (into whatever an upside-down scowl is). Metal can be forward-thinking and inventive, but sometimes, you just want to obliterate shit. Any of these three will do nicely.

Pyrrhon, Fever Kingdoms

(3 out of 5 horns)

Parasitic Extirpation, Casketless

(3 1/2 out of 5 horns)

Mutant Supremacy, Infinite Suffering

(4 out of 5 horns)


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