“We’ve played in venues that everyone plays and we have friends in lots of other New York bands. But, yeah, I wouldn’t say we were ever part of some niche community. We float between a few of them.”
Doug Moore, the gloriously demonic vocalist for Brooklyn-via-Philly metal deconstructionists Pyrrhon, is guzzling down a cold one at Ridgewood watering hole Onderdonk & Sons, attempting to explain where, exactly, his band fits in to New York City’s vast and somewhat schizophrenic heavy-music pantheon. Sure, Pyrrhon are semi-regulars at metal hubs like Greenpoint’s Saint Vitus and Bushwick’s Acheron, but boxing these mad scientists of extreme and chaotic shreddage into a single genre is near impossible. Fact is, Pyrrhon can be plugged in to a free-improv gig at John Zorn’s downtown experimental space, a noise bill at D.I.Y. haunt Trans-Pecos, or a weird avant-garde show at Cake Shop, and the vibes will still be copacetic. Naturally, Moore embraces that outsider mindset.
“I like that about being in this band,” he explains. “It’s liberating, in a way. Not to dramatize it, but because we all like different types of music, it’s nice not just to have to play death-metal shows or grind shows or noise-rock shows.”
It was right here in NYC, on the subway, where the seeds of Pyrrhon’s origins were first planted. “I met our original bass player on a subway platform after a Vital Remains show in 2008,” guitarist Dylan DiLella says. “It was at the old Knitting Factory [on Leonard Street]. I remembered seeing him at the show and I struck up a conversation with him, which is not something I ever do.” Moore, living in Philadelphia, entered the Pyrrhon fray by way of a community service trip, and in a strange twist of fate, DiLella’s sister happened to be on that house-building mission. “We were the only two people who were into strange music, so I friended her that way and I met Dylan through that,” Moore recalls. “A few years after that, Dylan and I wanted to go to Maryland Deathfest, so we went down there together and we started talking about doing a band.”
Ultimately, that crystallized into Fever Kingdoms, their 2010 debut EP, and the following year’s long-player, An Excellent Servant but a Terrible Master. These LPs make for a pair of controlled, yet chaotic, sets of manic math-metal riffs and brain-frying stop/start pummeling, with Moore’s gnarly gone-postal howls at the center of the sonic din. Famed metal label Relapse took heed, inking Pyrrhon to a deal, and for these born-and-bred Philly hardcore and punk disciples — rounded out by bassist Erik Malave and drummer Alex Cohen — it was a dream come true. “Relapse was a big part of learning about extreme metal for all of us,” says Moore of the endorsement. “I first came into contact with their stuff a little less than fifteen years ago, and their stable from that era — stuff like early Dillinger Escape Plan, Burnt by the Sun, Pig Destroyer, Neurosis, Halo, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Cephalic Carnage, Today Is the Day, Dysrhythmia, reissues from Suffocation and Human Remains, etc. — makes up a huge portion of our musical DNA. Their Nineties death-metal and grind catalog is also very important to us as fans. I suspect that I also had a soft spot for Relapse because they’re based in Philly, near where I grew up.”
With the release of their Relapse debut (last year’s The Mother of Virtues), Pyrrhon cemented their outré rep with a noxious avant-metal blitz recalling the groove-heavy grind of Child Abuse, the fretboard-hopping wizardry of Mick Barr, Black Flag’s slower, sludgier moments, and the skronky jazz-metal of Naked City. Alas, Pyrrhon were unceremoniously dropped for — get this — not selling enough records. Moore, however, holds no ill will toward their former label, even presenting a silver lining. “Being on Relapse helped the band tremendously,” he says. “As brief as it was, we went from being a band that virtually nobody had ever heard of to being a band that, at least, has enough name recognition that when you get into contact with publications and promoters, they take you seriously. Once you achieve that status, you kind of have it, and that really is priceless.”
Less than a year after The Mother of Virtues and the Relapse debacle, Pyrrhon are back at it, celebrating the release of Growth Without End, a fly-off-the-rails EP that vomits enough chunks of mangled and spazzed-out riffage, improvisational fuckery, and piercing screams to make your face melt. That was no accident. “I think of the EP as kind of a ‘punk’ recording, both in the sense that it’s short and fast, and in the sense that we deliberately wrote, recorded, and mixed it as quickly and efficiently as we could,” says Moore about Growth. “We also just really like playing fast.”
Pyrrhon play Saint Vitus June 18 with KEN Mode, Fight Amp, and Couch Slut. For performance and ticket information, click here.