Review Summary: Jerry Fuchs couldn't have asked for a better epitaph. Pyramid of the Sun
is a perfectly-named monument. It is a testament, a reminder, and a celebration in so many ways. For as every review and every news post will doubtlessly retell, this album has been created in the memory of Jerry Fuchs. Fuchs, a phenomenal drummer who’s work behind the kit is a huge driving force behind Maserati’s music, passed away in a tragic accident last year, leaving behind an extensive legacy for one so young (he also played for !!!, The Turing Machine, MSTRKRFT, The Juan MacLean, and LCD Soundsystem). This album includes his final recordings, which his fellow band members have preserved and used to painstakingly craft Pyramid of the Sun. Thus, this album will forever be attached to Fuchs memory. Fuchs could not ask for a finer epitaph.
This album is brilliant, and the extra work and care shines through in every facet. Maserati, genre-defying and complex, have outdone themselves. While many will surely carelessly toss out the oft-used ‘post-rock’ tag, it is a poor, lazy attempt at capturing their and sound translating it into words. While post-rock is not inherently wrong, there are numerous additional elements worth mentioning. On
, we are presented with instrumental music often roaming into the realms of psychedelic rock, expanding into spacey atmospheres, and containing elements that would even attract the trance and techno scene. It bridges gaps between psychedelia, alt rock, and space rock while touching on numerous other genres. It is, to be concise, eclectic and innovative.
A gripping, enthralling atmosphere is created from the very first tense moments of the restrained opener “Who Can Find the Beast?” Everything flows seamlessly from beginning to end, aided by point-perfect climactic production. Each track is an individual with a different dramatic tone and voice (metaphorically speaking), yet all stand together, tightly knit with a smooth continuity. Each stands out while never taking away from the whole structure. They combine to live up to their name, built into something that is truly momentous and glorious.
The ride is as unrelenting as it is huge. Rolling steadily from the initial suspense into the title track’s psych-laden, percussion-driven core of the title track, this is the moment when Pyramid of the Sun takes flight. The journey just begun is kicked into full force as a constantly building, ever-climbing vision. Maserati flexes their muscles on the intro, gearing us up for the instrumental showcase.
I hesitate to describe this showcase as flawless, as there is always room for improvement. But actual flaws are difficult to find. The musicianship is spot-on, and the song-writing impresses throughout. Fuchs final work is some of his best, with his work behind the drums astounding at every turn. He takes over at the right moments, absolutely crushing it as he drives each track, and pulling back to provide texture when needed. The production, as stated, is exquisite, balancing each part equally in creating a united whole. Melodies are contagious, earnest guitar lines and pummeling base engraining themselves in the listeners’ heads, as on the anxious and rebellious rocker “We Got the System to Fight the System.”
Steve Moore of Zombi collaborates with Maserati on two of the tracks. The first, “They’ll No More Suffer From Thirst,” is a perpetually pounding banger of a track paced by another monstrous bass line over rapid, tasteful drums, with guitar and synth creating space-psych atmospheres over the club-friendly rhythm section. That is a lengthy description, but it is difficult to be succinct in describing this music accurately. The bounce of this track is equal to any disco/dance creations with its dank, ritzy beat. The other Moore-assisted track, “Oaxaca,” is a schizophrenic wonder. It is yet another display of Maserati’s versatility as it switches back and forth between almost sinister guitar and bass power and uplifting, resplendent synth laden anthems.
I feel I must also mention the two tracks sandwiched in between, for they are just as good as any other track. Instrumental bands sometimes get a bad rap, lumped together into categories that ill suit them because of perceived deficiencies, but this is unlike any other instrumental I’ve heard. The songs are brief, relative to other somewhat similar bands. But Maserati only need a few minutes to create brilliant bursts of power and sleek, slick rhythms and melodies. Or, in the case of “Ruins,” music so thick and heavy that it’s almost sludge, an overpowering throb maintained for two and a half bass-drenched minutes before suddenly winding down. After this drudgery, “They’ll No More Suffer From Hunger” launches forward at a comparatively break-neck pace. As much a construction as it is a song, it’s furious pace, extensive length, instrumental excellence, and refusal to release the listeners’ ears and mind make it seem like an easy standout. But on an album full of them, it’s just another example of the rewards of due diligence and careful perfecting.
The culmination of all this, a place that is both the end and, somehow, the peak, is “Bye M’Friend, Goodbye;” the final recordings from Fuchs. The initial moments are dark and eerie, but they steadily metamorphose into multiple layers, transforming into a brilliant, emotion-driving wave. It ends the phenomenal album, dedicated to the memory of an incredible drummer and person, at its acme; a high note that is also bright, sure to bring a wistful smile to many faces. Versatility, passion, and skill displayed throughout the album, from song to song, encased in every song, is no less strong on this closer. It propels mindlessly forward, decelerates ever so slightly, and explodes again in a eternal drive of never-ending unmistakable joy, even amongst a reminiscent sadness. Endless, it says. Forever.