So Pyramids is one of a slew of new bands making their debuts with Hydra Head recently. However, this outfit seems to have either a much lower profile than the label's most recent output or Pyramids completely flew under everyone's radar, and thus allows this self-titled album to be quite the surprise. After hearing their samples available in certain notorious places, my own personal excitement level for this release is pretty high. But what to expect on the whole album is somewhat of mystery. This is also a double CD release with the second disc featuring remixes by James Plotkin (Khanate, Atomsmasher, Khlyst, etc), Justin K. Broadrick (Jesu, Godflesh), Toby Driver (Kayo Dot), and others which is an additional bonus of sorts as, at times, remix discs can add quite a bit to an album (see the Explosions in the Sky remixes of All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone for reference).
The album begins with the sublime vocal performance found in "Sleds" set amidst the guitar and electronics washes with which the band establishes an ethereal sound that takes just over three minutes to shatter whatever expectations one might have concerning this release. The madness that is "Igloo," which sounds suspiciously like a black metal song hidden beneath echoing vocals and waves of ambient sounds, is an exercise in the bizarre that is unsettlingly no matter what mood the track attempts to get across (if any). "The Echo of Something Lovely" is more along the lines of the first track in feel while still containing some rather frantic "drumming" sounds heard in the second piece while parts of the guitar tone are vaguely familiar; there is quite a bit of depth to the song as it is the track with the most remixes on the second CD (but more on those later). By about the midpoint of this record, the realization that hidden beneath the otherworldly veneer of calm vocals and ambient guitar and electronics is some of the most vicious and devastating music, mostly because of the subtle layering over top of the, at times, violent drumming that contrasts with the upper layers of the music. "Monks," "Hellmonk," and "Hillary" all similarly brutalize the ears in this manner; the method is actually rather unsettling particularly because the songs are thick sounding due to the sheer weight of the layers coming through the speakers.
The remix disc for this release is quite excellent, and even though there are several remixes for some of the songs, each one has its own unique sound and almost completely sounds like a new track. Toby Driver, Ted Parsons (Jesu, Swans), and Colin Marston turn "The Echo of Something Lovely" into something completely different as the drums are toned down and some of the arrangement is more mellow and measured; calling this the same as the source piece is surprising considering just how different and at the same time even more eerie than the original. Justin K Broadrick also tackles "The Echo of Something Lovely" by totally reinventing it; all elements of the harshness found in the original are gone and are replaced by much more soothing timbres. The Birchville Cat Motel version of "Ghosts" also removes the harsh drums to interesting effect as the song takes on a more "soundtrack" quality than the original displays which is a good thing as the frantic drumming of the original can at times get in the way of what is going on in the track, and this aspect is not a factor here.
Pyramids offers a challenging and thought provoking debut album that is equally spellbinding and frustrating at the same time; in small doses, the album proper is pretty good, but in long sittings Pyramids can be difficult to listen to straight through its entirety. The remix disc is awesome, and I find myself listening to that more and more than the album itself. In either case, I do enjoy both discs a great deal, but the remix disc is highly recommended (make sure to grab the remix disc version). The artwork suits the record perfectly and the packaging is very reminiscent of a gatefold double LP package, which gives the whole release a nice touch.
Editors Note: This band is not to be confused with the screamo band from Philadelphia of the same name.
7.2 / 10
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