Reviewing is not a complicated process. We listen to a promo album the same way an average listener would, with our heart and gut, gauging our emotional state during each separate song and the album as a whole. Aside from that, we analyze from a more clinical point of view, weighing factors like originality, history, and experience of the band, the skill of individual members, and production quality. We weigh all the good against all the bad like Anubis and his feather, but every now and then an album comes along that doesn’t seem to have any flaws. You consider every angle, every riff and subject, but nothing seems like anything less than a total home run. Green Bastard‘s debut Pyre is pretty much the exact opposite of that.
The first track opens with what sounds like the last bit of echo of a previous take before the first notes slowly fade in. This strange artifact prompted me to double-check the track order and to doubt whoever produced the album. This state of uncertainty did not last long because the album sounds horrific, confirming my suspicion the producer had no idea what he was doing. The entire album is drenched in so much distortion and reverb the guitar and bass may as well have been played with handbrushes or by dragging the instrument across the pavement. I would not have been able to tell the difference. I certainly can’t tell from listening whether guitar or bass or both were used. The master is as dynamic as concrete and the only instrument rising out of the puddle is the drums.
The album lasts close to an hour and contains about 6 riffs, all of them dull, spread over 3 songs. It seems Green Bastard went for a record like Sleep‘s Dopesmoker, but they failed to use anything that made that album good, decent, or even tolerable. By the time the monotony becomes unbearable and some variety needs to be interjected the band repeats the same riff another few minutes before adding vocals to the mix. These vary from a Crowbar rasp to a Khemmis croon, although both those comparisons imply the ability to keep rhythm or pitch. Mercifully the vocals are mixed back so far they regularly get buried in the avalanche of monotonous distortion, giving an impression of an incoherent man shouting from three blocks over.
The drums are the only feature decent enough to save this from being a disaster on all fronts, providing a welcome distraction from the constant churning buzz. They’re nothing brilliant, but they’re still leaps above the rest, and the abominable production hasn’t managed to squash them completely. On the second half of “Cyclopean Walls” the speed is turned up slightly, and the occasional atonal solo or screaming feedback pepper the endless drone, breaths of fresh air among the noisy slog. None of these can save this train wreck but they kept me from bashing my skull open on a table corner after the third listen.
Pyre is a debut, and one could argue this means some slack-cutting might be in order, but I should note that two of my highest rated reviews this year were debuts, as well as one my favorite records this year. If you can’t play your instruments, if you don’t have the money or skills to have your album produced to a semblance of decency, don’t release a debut album. Release some demos, practice, work on your songwriting. To do otherwise can only end in tears, as evidenced above. Pyre is a joyless and miserable droning hour of weak riffs endlessly repeating amidst hideous distortion and atrocious production. Green Bastard better get back to the drawing board. Their debut goes on the pyre.