Pyramids – Pyramids

Label: Hydra Head Records

Produced by: James Plotkin (mixed, mastered by)

4 out of 5

Fascinatingly unfocused, and one of the rare occasions where a “sounds like” tag isn’t limiting, but more a stretch to describe the indescribable.

Opening with the reverb-soaked, Jeff Buckley-esque shimmery guitar and vocal warble of Sleds, Pyramids’ debut on Hydra Head Records builds on that ambience for followup Igloo, adding on even more and more cavernous echoes and introducing another key tonal component: Xasthur-esque howls and thrash drums. Don’t worry, you’re not being jerked around between extremes: the group forefronts this mash-up with a latter-day Radiohead expansiveness, James Plotkin’s skillfull mixing pushing the harsher elements down – initially – to act as flavoring. A piercing, visceral guitar squall builds at the track’s climax.

Instead of warring between these two sides of its sound – something ethereal and exploratory; something damning and gloomy – Pyramids, instead, somehow pursues both at once, leaning into elements in an ebb and flow between beauty and violence, expressed in short, 3-minute or so bursts. This open-endedness and brevity is, in part, the album’s greatest strength, as such expressions at length would need some type of punctuation which would probably require committing to one tag – metal; rock; etc. – over another, and part of the relistenable quality of the album is its sense of the unattainable, of yearning for an expression that’s just eluding the miasma of sounds; themes that hauntingly drift in to any given track and that disappear in a smoke of percussion and squalor. At the same time, you do arrive at the end of the experience without the satisfaction of a conclusion, exactly; you’ve witnessed something bizarre and notable but it’s hard to pinpoint what it is, and maybe easier to go on to something more accessible as a result. But I find that once I hit play on the album, it’s hard to tune it out – it’s an incredibly immersive experience, and wavers between blissful and antagonistic in a way that I think tons of “pretty noise” groups / albums attempt to, but don’t quite manage to achieve.