The kids from metal’s answer to Frank Gorshin’s Riddler, Pyrrhon, have once again strayed from terrifying chaos into something a bit more user friendly. When their earlier side project Seputus was unleashed a few years ago I laid it in the honorable mentions portion of that Year End. It was not so much death metal as dead metal. It was one of the coldest, most forlorn sounding death metal records I have heard to this day. Now drummer Stephen Schwegler and vocalist Doug Moore have teamed up with violinist Gina Eygenhuysen (live bassist for Tchornobog; guest spots abound and growing) to give us Weeping Sores. And while Seputus was generally death metal, Weeping Sores is doomy death and something… more.
Pyrrhon, Sepetus, and Tchornobog are on the extreme side of extreme music. You kind of have to want to get into what they offer before trying to tackle them—especially Pyrrhon. What Weeping Sores offers is not a deviation in quality or creativity, but rather a record anyone already accustomed to heavy sounds and harsh vocals can instantly get into. Moreover, said person might find this to be one of the year’s great releases.
Why? Because it is not a niche album. It is not a doom project, or a death project, or an epic/folk/black project. It is a metal project. And everything it tries to do, it succeeds at. It encompasses but also removes itself from contemporary acts like Abyssal or SubRosa by taking that hefty floor plan and building a crisp, dynamic structure out of it. The riffs are exemplary, and built into pieces of music that at times drives your skull into the pavement, but just as often lifts it into an oncoming bus of melody.
The melodic moments are all the shinier for Eygenhuysen’s violin. She is not a constant presence, but when her strings wail into the music they lift it up emotionally. She is not a gimmicky guest performer. She puts as much thought into her contributions as the other two, and it adds something great to the sound. She is the clean instrumental voice which sets the harshness in relief.
When the music is down to a three piece, it crunches and marches with something of a Melvinish sense of rhythm, never really losing urgency as some sludgy bands can. A lot of that is on Schwegler. Those that know his work in Pyrrhon already know he is an insane karate octopus, but here he is showing just the right amount of restraint to keep the songs foremost, and the way he and Moore play off each other is very Buzzo/Crover at times. Schwegler’s jazz/math precision and jackhammer power give the backline exactly what it needs to keep the songs fresh, the grooves exciting.
Which brings us to Moore’s fretting, which is interestingly precise and well considered. The riffs come hard packed as we should expect, but the real killer here is the melodies he builds, with and without Eygenhuysen accompanying. They can be aptly cool, but they can also soar, and they make each song feel more alive. Add some brief but complimentary soloing and we can see that composition was the name of the game. His vocals are gruff, low or (and) scratching, without quite the laryngeal gymnastics he gets up to with Pyrrhon, and that suits the songs just fine. There is no reason to cover the same territory here as elsewhere in his CV. This is a broad sound and he chooses the right style to fit it without trying to make it about anything but the sound.
When all three musicians are working together this album fucking levitates. The production is generally effect free, and the mix is great. They have chosen clarity, allowing the instruments and vocals do all the work, which makes this even more engaging. The shortest track is eight minutes and the longest is eleven; these are not for the ADHD-stricken among us, but they are full of variation, so they are not prohibitive of the short winded.
Clarity, melody, restraint? Am I even talking about a death/doom metal album? Yes I am.
Consider opener “Scars Whispering Secret Tongues.” Right off the bat you get a doom-infused, forlorn, but wonderfully heavy riff. The lyric is driven by Schwegler’s double kicking, without changing the tempo, early Mastodon or Inter Arma style. Sickening breaks and lead melodies follow, until the lead work begins to send us toward a melodic interlude, ramping the energy just to send us over a cliff of oddly off-kilter violining and into an abyss of sorrowful crunching weight. “Transfiguration of Flesh into Dream” begins as a grotesquely perfect death metal chugger, breaking down into a sweeping riff-assembled cavern of slow burning riffs. This time the violins enter to create an intimate flesh carving experience, with Schwegler maniacally pounding away at the kit.
Downsides? Honestly, not really. Not if you love any of the artists I have already mentioned, at least. If you have a problem with beauty in your ugliness, maybe the violins will put you off… but I can’t see how. If you love brevity, maybe the lengths of the songs will bother you. But they have so many hallways and corridors to explore, I just don’t see that as being a downside.
Bottom line: Moore, Schwegler, and Eygenhuysen have exposed something dynamic and enthralling with this project. Coming on the heels of crushing releases from Abyssal, Immortal Bird, Tomb Mold, and Cerebral Rot, this may be the best summer for metal I have heard in my long, boring, sad, ugly, fat, incompetent… sorry, got carried away… life. I feel like any lover of metal in any of it’s various forms should own this album. I feel like it will infect my year’s end list and my iPod/phone/car stereo for years to come. And I feel very strongly that you should infect yourself with this as soon as possible.