When you reviewing albums, hundreds of them, many of them get whitewashed in your mind; you listen, you forget. It happens even with the albums that I have loved this year. Paying attention to every riff and melody that you can while judging its merit but musically and analytically is exhausting, at times it can make you hate doing it altogether. I learned this a long time ago when I began studying literary theory. I could not watch a movie or read a book without my brain trying to analyze rather than enjoy. It was infuriating to be frank. My brain was constantly in conflict with trying to learn from the movie or book and trying to enjoy them. That feeling has again reared its head with my musical analysis. When I listen to an album, whether it be black metal, dark ambient, or some sort of neo-folk, my brain is trying analyze the music, find the storyline, find the hook, looking for keys in terminology and narration. Even music I listen to explicitly to enjoy, bands like Akercocke, Anata, and Azaghal, I find myself thinking about themes and structure and it drives me nuts. I want to find music that I can enjoy as much as I can analyze. I’ve found it from time to time, storing the album, song, or artist away in my memory files to come out when I need it, but those albums are growing thinner and thinner as Resounding Footsteps goes on. I’ve like all the albums I’ve reviews, I’ve even loved some, but enjoying them is something entirely different. This has been something that’s been stewing in my brain a long time, it’s not just a catchy opening for the review. It’s not a “at last I found…” clickbait-y sort of opening. When I tell you that Pillars of Crucifixion’s “Parrhesia” is an album I enjoyed as a listener and as an analyst I mean it sincerely.
First off, parrhesia is a Greek term used in rhetoric and discourse studies that means essentially “to speak the truth” or “to speak candidly.” This is important to keep in mind as the review goes on because the lyrical content of the album is largely nihilism, one of my favorite Nietzschean topics. The lyrical and vocal content in the album is uncompromisingly blunt and visceral, forcing questions on the listener that they might not want to answer or even think about. That’s one of the great aspects of black metal in my mind, it allows for a discourse for extremely sensitive topics in an unabashedly brutal and direct fashion. It helps the listener explore more than just anti-christian rhetoric and look at the rationality behind it, if they so choose. Parrhesia is one of those albums in which the artist dominates the meaning and outlook rather than the listener. In the space of just three songs (appropriately titled Chapters 1 -3), Pillars of Crucifixion manage to put up a lot of questions that the listener has to deal with, the meaning cannot be separated from the music in this case. Whether or not the listener understands or even has the ability to comprehend is another dimension
Sonically, the vocals are perhaps this Finnish duo’s strongest suit. They are strong from the first time they come on to the very last second. The raspiness is sinister yet clear, making for a very interesting dichotomy of sound. Or, perhaps, I’ve just listened to so much black metal and so many vocal styles that I can now comprehend any form of vocals. Okay yes that’s unlikely but the point is that the vocals on Parrhesia is eminently understandable. They are creepy and evocative.
The music of Parrhesia is pretty good too, while the duo doesn’t really do anything spectacular with the music they still manage to pull off their riffs with style. They ground themselves in solid, if not completely original, structures. They know what sort of production and distortion works and they stick to it. There’s nothing wrong with that They won’t win a “Most Innovative Music” award but not everyone has to try to be innovative, their lyrical composition and rhetorical content is more than enough to set this band apart from the rest of the unwashed plebian black metal hordes (I use that term endearingly). The melodies that Parrhesia crafts are sharp and to the point, while they might not be innovative and new, they are expertly made, it might just be my analysis but the musical composition seems to have been made with all the black metal clichés in mind. They are brutally efficient with only touches of a melody here or there. Melody is not the focus of Parrhesia, the atmosphere and ambience is. The music that Pillars of Crucifixion plays is geared very much so toward the lyrics, acting as a supporting act rather than an equal or a juxtaposition.
Parrhesia is a good album with some great lyrics and rhetorical content, it’s not a great album but it’s a catchy one that belongs in the archives of thought provoking bands. If I were to imagine, I could see Pillars of Crucifixion opening for bands like Sargeist and Urgehal with a very dark performance full of hooded figures, smoke, and diabolic atmosphere. Their story is just beginning, with time and dedication I think they will be a force in the black metal underground. Give them a shot and see for yourself!
Listen and support!