Pestilength – Basom Gryphos Review

Although divisive, Portal’s influence in the death metal world is undeniable. Featuring riffs that seem to crawl with murk and dissonance aplenty with an eldritch monstrosity roaring from the pulpit, there are few who can accurately channel this particular breed of otherworldly alienation. Many have tried and failed, but getting that squirming aesthetic just right is nearly impossible. Basque duo Pestilength is the latest to try their hand at the next Vexovoid, after relative success with debut full-length Eilatik. Does it measure up to the portals of madness that it attempts to open?

Pestilength’s aim is to balance sticky riffs with kickass rhythms in sophomore effort Basom Gryphos. Even recruiting The Curator himself to contribute lyrics to “Tephra Codex,”1 it’s a writhing death metal listen tinged with sinister latent doses of black and doom, utilizing scathing dissonant chords and warped guitar tone to accomplish its otherworldly aims. Clocking in at a digestible thirty-six minutes with a more traditional Morbid Angel approach, it feels a bit like a gateway drug to Portal,2 rather than raising their own mountains of madness. But just because it’s Portal-core doesn’t mean it’s bad Portal-core, and Basom Gryphos is worth a listen or two thanks to its own grotesque tendrils of writhing dissonance and surreal atmosphere.

Pestilength’s pedigree is its Portal-esque riffs with more upfront tendencies. The percussion drives the pace, that instead of dwelling in far-off dimensions, Pestilength provides the scenery. Blastbeats and doom tempos keep things interesting, gracing Basom Gryphos with tasteful variety. While opener “Tamm” and “Thelegm” are surreal and corrosive marriages of wormy dissonance and death metal punch, toes are dipped in other ever-flowing streams and wintry darkness in the light’s bane: mostly instrumental “Entglant” dwells in nearly entirely blackened blastbeats and scathing dissonance, “Exertion” lingers in minimalist doom tempos with a blackened climax, and “Phorme” features a punchy groove that’s difficult to shake. The true album highlight is “Tephra Codex,” which features The Curator’s lyrical contributions. Curiously patient in its very ominously organic growth, it balances a nearly dissonant slam approach, recalling Ad Nauseam-meets-Wormed riffs, before the squirming earworm of the closing mechanical riff hits, which shifts time signatures with seamless otherworldly grace. While not as dense as Portal, its shivering guitar tone welcomes fluidity, warping and squelching from movement to movement.

The most painfully glaring issue that Basom Gryphos presents is its inconsistency. While each song presents tasteful uses of Portal-inspired death metal, the extremities feel tossed in at random. While black metal dominates “Entglant” in shrieks and tremolo following the chunkier riffs and guttural roars of “Tamm” and it seems like the snare tone can’t decide what it should be throughout, the album’s three ending tracks showcase this issue more explicitly. Winter-inspired minimalist doom gives “Exertion” a gracefully ominous tone, but “Chrome” blindsides this with wailing guitar solos that very awkwardly make their appearance, only for “Vexed” to hit you with another curveball in a wormy ascending riff that sounds straight outta Portal’s “Catafalque.” It’s musical whiplash at its most jarring. To add insult to injury, Pestilength sounds way too much like Portal for its own good. I’ve seen dissodeath try to emulate the Aussie enigmas, but in many ways, Basom Gryphos feels like a Vexovoid copy-and-paste in Comic Sans.

However, Pestilength has the potential to make good Portal-core. “Tephra Codex” is the best example of the band setting out on its own path, but uneven songwriting sinks this ship to hell before it even leaves the harbor. Don’t get me wrong, Basom Gryphos features some seriously neat ideas, fusing black, doom, and good ol’ fashioned death metal with obscurity worship, and each track has great ideas, but their placement and combination feel like a compilation. These Basques have created dollar store Portal-core, but I’ll be kicking myself for a while for how many times I’ve repeated that name today.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Winter Productions | Sentient Ruin Laboratories | Goat Throne Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 11th, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Lyrics are all in Olde English, and titles are Straight Outta Swarth®.
  2. Pun intended.
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