Review Summary: On the brink of disintegration
Pyrrhon are hell-bent on raising hell, so much is certain; What Passes For Survival
is a single-minded pursuit of nothing less than the most irreverent chaos. The remarkably dense mass of instrumentation at breakneck pace initially confounds, then intimidates, then confounds once more. There is no method to this madness, it seems, but What Passes For Survival
may be a surefire way to induce madness. Interestingly, the mastering of What Passes For Survival
bears significant resemblance to that of Gorguts’ Colored Sands
; no doubt this is due to the handiwork of Colin Marston, who has imbued this record with welcome dynamic range.
What Passes For Survival
pushes compositional anarchy to its limits, engaging in an extremely loose structuring of its tracks on both a macro and micro level. The impact is left to individual sections of repeating motifs that only very briefly draw back before landing another punch. Within a single cascade of notes come claustrophobically-packed riffs, a whirlwind of snare drums, and a snaking bass focused on adding weight to the synchronized hits. The vocals switch erratically from harsh growls to higher-pitched screeching in a small-scale study of contrast. Indeed, What Passes For Survival
often eschews any discernable rhythmic foundation for sheer momentum. The three-track suite of “The Unraveling” is the epitome of such flailing insanity, aiming to whip listeners into submission with a mind-boggling torrent of blast beats and clustered, clashing chords.
The sort of drive that would be satiated by such havoc is likely to be primal, unthinking. The irony of attempting to parse through What Passes For Survival
is that it is an entity who would rather resist attempts at being perceived as a gestalt. Its identity hinges on the potency of its every second, the discrete impression of each development. Everything is, however, cemented together by the commonality of unabating dissonance. The risk that the record runs with such an approach is that of sounding fatiguing, monotonous, or both, and this issue is not entirely mitigated. While What Passes For Survival
is not exactly prone to predictability in the sense of having repeating progressions, a barrage of near-incomprehensible notes is capable of triggering that same reaction of exhaustion. There is immense technicality in Pyrrhon’s ability to endlessly conjure their breathless spectacles of apocalypse, but this arguably works against them when they forget that breathing is in fact a biological necessity.
Nevertheless, it is to Pyrrhon’s credit that they have more than one trick up their sleeve. “Tennessee” and “Empty Tenement Spirit” are the two curiosities of What Passes For Survival
that rely more heavily on empty space than their other peers on the record. “Tennessee” sludges through to drawn-out, tortured screams and feedback-ridden guitars before concluding in an explosive burst, whilst the slogging “Empty Tenement Spirit” is given a generous amount of time to mutate and evolve; the latter, as the closer, is a gripping summation that inserts surprisingly euphonic riffs. The textures of the two are brighter, ever so slightly more harmonious, and they serve as necessary contrasts to the predominating grit and mire. But there is also appeal to be found beyond their function as complimentary pieces; they are arguably the compositional pinnacles of What Passes For Survival
by virtue of the greater experimentation taken in their construction.
Whether What Passes For Survival
would have benefited from additional slower-paced, more methodical tracks is not an easy question to answer. After all, it is something to be taken at face value for its insanity. Whatever is gleaned from a first impression is likely to remain the same after repeat returns. Things are what they are, and they will be what they will be; in the case of What Passes For Survival
, it is nothing more and nothing less than chaos.