Let us now praise famous formats: Friends, the EP is a beautiful thing. Whereas splits and 7″s are usually home for orphaned b-sides, and LPs often feel like an obligation, the necessary economy and visceral impact of an EP means that it frequently works as a powerful declaration for a band: THIS is what we’re about. The full-length album is still (rightly or wrongly) treated as the major artistic statement for most styles of music, but if you’ve got something worthwhile to say and can’t cram it in a 15-20 minute morsel? Take a hike, chum.
Much like the efficiently destructive Vorum EP recently reviewed here, Pyrrhon‘s new EP Growth Without End maximizes its impact by spending precisely no seconds of its time screwing around. Alex Cohen’s snare hits a 1-2-3-4, and then it’s fifteen minutes of meticulously corrosive death metal. Now, although Pyrrhon’s vocalist Doug Moore is a MetalReview/Last Rites scribbler emeritus and all-around mensch, Growth Without End is a front-to-back burner even without the benefit of rose-colored earbuds. Each of these five songs shreds itself ragged, but taken as a whole, the EP has a confident, intuitive arc that compels the listener to return again and again.
Although Pyrrhon’s stated intent with this new EP – their first on Handshake, Inc after being dropped by Relapse for, we presume, not landing a tour slot supporting Wilco like their also-excellent (former) labelmates Royal Thunder – was to write a quick batch of shorter, grindier tunes in the mold of “Oracle of Nassau” from last year’s towering The Mother of Virtues, there’s considerably more stretching out here than that goal suggests. Certainly, the short, sharp shock and woozy groove of the opener “Cancer Mantra” fits the bill, listing more toward the early Willowtip sound of a band like Crowpath than the Gorguts comparison Pyrrhon is often saddled/graced with.
“The Mass,” however, torques itself into a taut, recursive breakdown midway through while Dylan DiLella pulls hot needles from his frets, and “Viral Content” opens with Cohen’s drums and Erik Malave’s knotty bass straddling the other’s groove in an off-kilter sort of duet. Where it really all comes together, however, is in the elongated solo section in the middle of the EP’s closer, “Turing’s Revenge.” DiLella’s guitar wizardry is in full blossom as the band launches into a seasick bit of group improvisation. His strings moan and whine and eventually call the unit back down to earth for a final, skronk-leavened sprint.
In Pyrrhon’s music, as in Moore’s consistently evocative lyrics, entropy beckons. The sound is frayed at the edges and collapse is always imminent, but it all holds together. Each song races as much as it wanders, but there’s a compositional nucleus that tethers each instrumental freakout, and while Moore’s lyrics are both smart and sad, they never succumb to nihilism. Growth Without End, then, bears a kind of strident traditionalism in its weird bones: music can mean something.