Pyrrhon Credit: Courtesy the Artist

Metal has a reputation as an escapist genre. That could be because some bands indulge in the theatrics and fun of dragons, witchcraft, and swordplay, or because others traffic in gruesome or apocalyptic themes that feel too outsize and horrific to accept as real—even when they’re a staunch reaction to a specific place and time. All of that is to say that in 2020, some of the most compelling metal albums are hitting too close to home for even the most reality-averse fans to ignore—including Abscess Time, the new fourth album from New York avant-garde metal band Pyrrhon. Written over the past couple of years and recorded this winter with Colin Marston (Behold . . . the Arctopus, Dysrhythmia, Krallice), it uses a complex amalgam of twisted metal, gutter-scraping noise rock, and heady experimentalism to take aim at the power struggles, cultural dissonances, and technological shifts that have contributed to the colossal shitshow we find ourselves in, and to cast light on the ongoing challenge of survival. “Down at Liberty Ashes” (which features samples from Taxi Driver) discharges its death-metal vocals, discordant guitars, and syncopated, plodding beats at a system that forces workers to define themselves by their trade and serve the ruling class. Pyrrhon find a groove on the smoggy “State of Nature,” while front man Doug Moore venomously bemoans the scorched, barren planet we’re foisting on generations not yet born. It ain’t pretty, but the band’s attention to detail is exquisite, and a diabolical beauty occasionally pervades the album’s most unnerving passages: the loose, improvised guitars and jazzy drums of “Solastalgia” collide and rattle while Moore’s vocals echo as if the entire band were free-falling in a pitch-black, cavernous void. Despite its dire ruminations, Abscess Time might still count as a respite from real-world calamity, given that dissecting its intricate tracks requires your complete attention—it might even give you a little more hope for the future, if only because you’ll want to see where Pyrrhon head next.   v