One of metal’s best-kept secrets, North Dakota’s Frosthelm is a name that’s bound to come up when the old blackened thrash ethos manifests itself from the aether. If quality is one of your prerequisites for underground thrash, Frosthelm is as kvlt as it gets. As with any review, it all boils down to how good the material is and Pyrrhic is perfect. In fact, it’s beyond perfect.
From the South of Heaven-esque dirge greeting listeners on “A Gift of Razors” to the rustic “Pyrrhic I: Hollow” & “Pyrrhic II: Looming Dusk,” Pyrrhic is a transcendent onslaught that is as cold as it is brooding. To my knowledge, there’s no such thing as gothic thrash, and if it ever becomes a thing I’ll deny any credit for inventing the term; nonetheless, Pyrrhic rages along at a pensive cadence that you don’t often find in blackened thrash, or in vanilla thrash for that matter.
Guitarists Dakota Irwin and Billy Zahn are writing their own chapter in metal guitar duo dynamics, combining thrash’s breakneck speed with black metal’s existential dissonance and coating it in a mournful shade of grey, which can be found most prominently on “The Sorceress” and “Immortal Nightfall (A Dreamless Lust).” While this mournful approach permeates the entirety of Pyrrhic, Frosthelm still know how to cut loose and does so on “Serpentine Embrace” and “Pisslord.”
Picking a standout track on an album of this magnitude is redundant, but it would have to go to “Pisslord.” Every album has an acclimation process and “Pisslord” is the point on Pyrrhic where you realize the entire band is on point and will remain so. It’s also the point on the album where the dark horse performance of bassist Jimmy Cherry begins to grab hold. In spite of the adjectives that I’ve been using to avoid giving Pyrrhic a “gothic” tag, Pyrrhic still rocks the fuck out and Cherry brings the funk playing like a man possessed by Lemmy and/or Cliff Burton.
Drummer Brian Helm is well versed in the required savagery needed to pound the skins in a thrash band and vocalist Bernard Pfliger’s tortured growls seal in the urgency of Pyrrhic’s drab inclination. Pfliger’s clean vocals at the end of the aforementioned saga named after the album come with a profound sense of sadness before the album abruptly ends you’re left feeling bummed that the album had to come to an end. The good news is you can press play again and you’re going to want to, which reminds me. I’ve gotten so overwhelmed providing a thorough examination of Frosthelm’s sophomore effort that I forgot to mention the best part: Pyrrhic is a state of the art face melter.