Promos come in and promos go out, and amongst the parade of CDs labelled as heavy metal, re-thrash, or ridiculously specific (read: nonexistent) black metal genres, there’s a disappointingly low number of tech-death releases. The last few years have been pretty good for tech-death, so it’s no surprise that the release schedule for the genre is in a lull right now, but that doesn’t make me any less sad. Thankfully, Pillory are breaking the silence with their sophomore effort Evolutionary Miscarriage.
It’s been almost a decade since their debut, No Lifeguard at the Gene Pool, suggesting that Evolutionary Miscarriage has spent a long time in the writing process. Theoretically, this should mean a superior album preened and cared for with a mother’s love. In reality, Evolutionary Miscarriage turns out to be the tech-death album only a mother could love. While not lacking in complexity, it occasionally strays too far into noodling, and when the songwriting does hit its stride, it’s still disfigured by a grossly brickwalled production job.
“And the Defeated Emerge” opens the album respectably, showcasing Pillory’s beloved stop-and-go riffing style and placing a definitely brutal enough breakdown in the middle. The title track unfortunately is a bit of a letdown, bearing less resemblance to a song and more to a seven minute long bowl of ramen. It’s severely lacking in good riffs and relies mostly on short spurts of guitar, a strategy that should be reserved for sub-three minute ventures. A great first impression this does not make.
The album has a cream-filled center though, – from “Imbeciles in Defiance” to “Distorted Axiom” the songs are a lot more listenable and there are even some excellent moments. “Nihilarian” takes the time to feature an actual melody near the end, one which is surprisingly something of an earworm. “Phantasmagorical Beasts” follows the same route and is equally effective, but also layers on symphonic elements which render it quite memorable. There are moments across the middle of the album that show writing that’s not just technically interesting, but emotionally effective. Unfortunately these aren’t very frequent. There are more disjointed, wanky runs than solid riffs in some songs, which severely damages their quality and can make the album a bit tiring.
What makes it even more tiring is its attempt at crisp production. While it has succeeded in making every performance clear, the job has also made every performance sound terrible. The drums are ridiculously computerized, the bass lacks any sort of oomph, and the guitars have been absolutely crushed. While the nasty sound makes sense when songs become more grinding, it cripples the album as a whole. It’s possible to produce an album in such a way that death and grind mix flawlessly (as demonstrated by Cattle Decapitation), but apparently that’s either very difficult or somehow overlooked by a lot of deathgrind-oriented bands, Pillory included.
Evolutionary Miscarrige is the sort of album death metal purists point to when explaining what’s wrong with technical death metal today. The glut of little weedely-dos that go nowhere special, the irritatingly computerized production, and the legions of meticulously crafted runs that turn out to be incredibly forgettable. The album ends up being not bad, not mediocre, but frustrating. Pillory has the chops to play whatever they want, but the production and to a lesser extent the writing of this album simply aren’t on par with their technical ability, and that’s something that carries over from No Lifeguard at the Gene Pool. One can only hope that by the year 2022, Pillory will have sorted things out for their third album.