PYRRHON "Another Pyrrhic Victory"

By Lord Randall

 New York’s PYRRHON have never fit comfortably anywhere. Too “metal” for the deathcore bunch (what is that, anyway?), too “core” for the slide rule tech-deathies, PYRRHON has, over time, shunned comparisons and is still in the process of evolving. With their sophomore release, PYRRHON has crafted one solid, erm, mother of an album that sacrifices neither technicality nor brutality. Lord Randall burns one with vocalist Doug Moore…

Wormwood Chronicles: Of course in the grand scheme of things everyone’s heard of Florida death metal, Swedish death metal and New York death metal. What do you think it is that sets NY death bands apart from the herd, and were you really trying to do anything groundbreaking back in 2008, or just make your contribution?

Doug Moore: Culturally speaking,  I don’t think I’m a good spokesman for it [NYDM]. This part of the country has produced some great death metal bands, and some of those bands — especially SUFFOCATION and IMMOLATION — have influenced our music. Alex also plays live session drums for MALIGNANCY, who are great. But beyond that, I don’t feel like we’re really part of “New York death metal,” culturally speaking As with Florida, there’s not really a distinctive New York sound anyway. We have basically nothing in common with MORTICIAN, for instance.

WC: What was the scene like there in the late 00’s, and how do you think its changed since then?

DM: It was pretty vibrant back then, though not quite the way it is now. When we started playing out, Saint Vitus and Acheron — the two most popular metal venues in Brooklyn today — hadn’t opened yet, but people found plenty of other places to have shows. New York City been a live music hotbed for generations, and not that much has changed over the five-odd years we’ve been around.

WC: My first experience with the band was the "Fever Kingdoms" EP, and I knew then that – at least lyrically – you were trying to do something different than the norm. While most technically-oriented death bands jump straight to the cosmos or obtuse social commentary, PYRRHON seems to be of a more philosophical bent. Have you always been interested in philosophy, and do you think that sometimes one can, in effect, have one’s head disappear up one’s own ass, far too entangled in the opinions of past thinkers to craft their own, individual worldview?

DM: [Laughter] Sure. There are lots of ways for people to get lost up their own asses.I’ve been interested in philosophy since my teen years. It was a part of my studies in college, and it definitely informs my worldview. But aside from the EP, I haven’t directly touched on that material very much in the context of the band. Most of the lyrics on the two full-lengths are of a more personal or social nature.

WC: But really, when it all comes down to it, PYRRHON is a death metal band, and therefore must “bring the pain” in a musical sense. Was there anything that you wanted to highlight on the new album that maybe you didn’t on the first? Anything you wanted to make sure you stayed away from?

 DM: Thanks to a lot of time in the practice room and our engineer Ryan Jones’s efforts, I think we accomplished that goal. Much of the record was tracked as a band, rather than using the instrument-by-instrument method more common in death metal, which allowed the performances to breathe and rely more heavily on improvisation.

WC: To my ears, while I enjoyed "An Excellent Servant"…, it just didn’t have the songs. Sure, there were some righteous riffs, some solid ideas, but for some reason there was that tiny inch, the extra second in the oven that would’ve put it on the map as a classic debut. This time it seems like you’re truly firing on all cylinders technically, and the songs are there. It’s memorable as fuck, and that’s hard to achieve with so much going on in the span of a song. If there was one thing to pick, what is the biggest difference between PYRRHON 2010 and 2014?

 DM: Thank you for the kind words about the new record. I agree that it’s an improvement over "An Excellent Servant".., but I also think that the latter is quite good, given the circumstances under which it was recorded. The period around "An Excellent Servant..."  was stressful for us. We were all broke and were bending over backwards to make room for the band in our lives, which created a lot of interpersonal tension. We knew we had some cool ideas, and we were developing quickly as musicians, but the strain was getting to us. It reached a point where we knew that we had to either record a full-length or break up. So we booked some studio time, practiced like madmen for a few months while we finished writing the record, and then banged it out in a week. Bear in mind that the oldest member of the band was 24 at the time. It’s not a perfect recording by any means, but that’s fitting — it reflects the conditions that created it. 

 You already pointed out the biggest difference between us in 2010 and us today - 4 years of experience. It’s also worth noting that the debut was recorded at the beginning of 2011, while "The Mother Of Virtues" was finished in mid-2013, so there’s really only two years of difference between them. We’re better musicians now. We have better chemistry as a group. We’re more established, and understand the business side of things better.

WC: I didn’t catch the 2012 demo, but do you think possibly that recording those 3 songs on your own (sans label) could’ve lit the fire?

DM: Demoing those songs made it easier for us to come up with improvements for them. We were excited about that demo at the time, but the changes we made to those tracks took them to the next level. Ironically, our real intent for that demo was to garner some label interest, as we weren’t under contract at the time. It failed in that respect, but fortunately, the album itself did the trick.

 WC: What was going on in your lives as a band during the writing/recording sessions? Of course personal experience will color your art, and imbue it with shades of yourself you may not have consciously realized were there, but what events occurred during the creation of TMOV to make it the album that it is?

 DM: [We all] dealt with personal issues of various descriptions while writing of the album, the details of which are pretty mundane. The album itself paints a better picture of what we were feeling at the time than I could anyway. I started working from home in early 2012, so I spend the large part of my day not speaking out loud. All that alone time gives me ample opportunity to reflect on my life and on the state of the world around me, but it also leads me to question my own perception and reasoning a lot. Reality seems a little less real when you spend so much time on your own.

 WC: Talk a bit about the cover art. What’s the inspiration behind it, and how much hand did you have in the initial idea?

DM: It came directly out of the album title. I think it was Alex [Cohen, drums] who came up with the idea of basing the cover art on an archetypal female figure to mirror the ambiguity of the title. Caroline Harrison, the artist who did the cover and the layout, was already familiar with my lyrics, so I consulted with her a lot as she settled on the rest of the imagery present in the cover. She deserves full credit for the image’s composition and execution; we just gave her a few starting points.

WC: Personally, the songs ‘The Oracle Of Nassau’ and ‘A Parasite In Winter’ are the standout tracks of the album. What inspired those songs lyrically (and musically), and in this time of instant downloads and digital-only releases, how important is the arrangement of tracks on an album to insure it’s something people want to sit through as opposed to “finger on the skip button”?

 DM: You asked a few different questions there, but let me see if I can cover them.

If I recall correctly, those were the last two songs we wrote for the album. ‘The Parasite in Winter’ is one of Erik’s [Malave, guitars] compositions, so we wanted him to carry the song’s momentum as much as possible.

Lyrically, it’s a continuation of the imagery that began with ‘New Parasite’ on the first album. ‘The Oracle of Nassau’ came about because we’re all fans of technical grind bands and wanted to see if we could pull off something similar. I think the lyrics from that one are more compelling if the listeners find their [own interpretation], as a lot of the language has personal significance for me. I’d mention that it’s not written from my literal perspective.

WC: How have the songs been going over live? And what’s next for PYRRHON in 2014?

DM: People seem pretty into the new songs so far. We’ve been playing some of them for a while already — we performed ‘Implant Fever’ for the first time at the record release show for the last album back in late 2011, for instance. We have some tour plans on the backburner. And we’re working on new material; we have several new songs written for our next release, and have played a few of them live.