Released: 2007, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
In the months since the release of Psyopus’ sophomore album, OUR PUZZLING ENCOUNTERS CONSIDERED, vocalist Adam Frappolli, bassist Fred Decoste and drummer Jon Cole have all left the band. Puzzling, indeed. Where that leaves guitarist Christopher Arp is uncertain but what we have here is a dizzying, bi-polar freakout of an album that fans of ultra-technical death-grind will be drooling over. Like Psyopus’ debut, 2004’s IDEAS OF REFERENCE, OUR PUZZLING ENCOUNTERS CONSIDERED is a challenging listen on the best of days. Melody? I don’t think so. At times, the music can seem directionless but is, in fact, quite the opposite. Jazzy interludes pop up out of nowhere providing a cerebral twist to the barely-controlled chaos of Arp’s riffs. Screeching vocals, shredding guitars, off-kilter rhythms and tempos that shift every other second are Psyopus’ specialty and that can be unnerving and hard to absorb. OUR PUZZLING ENCOUNTERS CONSIDERED is like the musical screenplay of a tweaking meth addict’s cognitive processes on day six of a drug bender.
Upon first listen, “The Pig Keeper’s Daughter” can sound like a half-dozen songs all played over top of each other. The amelodic lurching tempo is hammered home by Cole’s frenzied drumming and Arp’s diving leads and discordant riffs. “Scissor Fuck Paper Doll” is pure metallic mayhem with Frappolli screaming hoarsely overtop of Arp’s wailing guitar. The male/female shared vocal of “I need you more than some cheap bar room whore’s number under a matchbook cover does” on “Whore Meet Liar” is perfectly executed with Karen Schiffmacher sounding natural but just as angry and intense as Frappolli. Listen to the blinding “Play Some Skynyrd” for a 32-second burst of intensity that rips on today’s glut of one-note metalcore acts (“I am more than annoyed/Ten songs/Forty fucking breakdowns/Who the fuck handed you that guitar?”) behind a riff that rings like a siren and enough blasting and double bass to humble the heaviest of bands. And Arp’s mind-bending guitawork on the title track begs repeated listens just to be able to absorb it all.
While Psyopus’ skill at laying down a frenetic barrage of music is indisputable, the band can also pen some stunning, richly-textured instrumentals. The second part to “Imogen’s Puzzle” from IDEAS OF REFERENCE is a jazzy, fast-fingered exercise in virtuosity that showcases all of the band members’ respective talents, while the lush “Siobhan’s Song” is a long, wistful piece that shows restraint and depth. An unnamed thirteenth track consists of a bitter, twisted voicemail then holds on to the last word—annoying—and repeats it over and over…for twenty minutes! Brilliant. For those patient enough to sit through that, a hidden track of Mr. Bungle-like, Tourette’s-powered, stream-of-consciousness noise, jazz and funk goes on for another eight minutes.
Psyopus is not for everyone but fans of this style will surely be lavishing OUR PUZZLING ENCOUNTERS CONSIDERED with praise and worship for a long, long while. Psyopus defies musical conventions and, along with The Dillinger Escape Plan, have helped carve out their own niche in metal through skronky arrangements, weird time signatures and over-the-top virtuosity. Hopefully the departure of everyone in the band but Christopher Arp does not spell the end of Psyopus but if it does, OUR PUZZLING ENCOUNTERS CONSIDERED is a hell of a way to go out in style.
KILLER KUTS: “The Pig Keeper’s Daughter,” “2,” “Scissor Fuck Paper Doll,” “Whore Meet Liar,” “Play Some Skynyrd,” “Siobhan’s Song”