Pitiless Gaze describes the existential angst which artificially limits humanity’s content of consciousness.
Words by Sean Wright (@stainedglassrevelation):
2020 was a year when time stood still. A pandemic closed itself over the globe like an iron grip. Massive violent political upheaval took place. The world turned upside down. Citizens who either self-isolated or were forced to stay indoors watched both television and their social media feeds at the changes being made. Families were uprooted and torn apart while dealing with the death of loved ones. An unseen enemy made people have nervous breakdowns due to mass hysteria and paranoia. For musicians and music fans, the biggest and most piercing part of all of this was that it meant they didn’t have concerts to go to and brick-and-wall record shops shutting down due to the quarantines. A big part of their identities were forcefully stolen and there was anger and misery, which seemed like it would never find solace nor be resolved, or so it seemed. Once 2021 hit, there was a sense of reconstruction and normalcy happening. In that year of absolute chaos, musicians both of the upper echelons and those who dwell only in their makeshift home studios began extracting all of the creative juices that seemed like an everflowing stream of inspiration.
One of those bands born in social isolation was PITILESS GAZE from Seattle, Washington. Comprised of both Landon James (music) and Ryan McCarthy (vocals), whom you also might know as a contributor to HoA. Their self-titled debut EP, which is nothing more than a single track clocking in at twelve minutes and seven seconds while not completely defining the chaotic year of 2020 (that title goes to Ulcerate’s masterpiece Stare Into Death And Be Still), is the chaotic start of a new decade, at least in this reviewer’s mind. First thing is that PITILESS GAZE, although as extreme as they are, do NOT come off as a carbon copy of anything that came prior in the decade before. No sad panda basement black metal bands trying to recreate Norway circa 1993. No ‘caveman riffs’ that are a K-Mart version of Six Feet Under. No importing of Swedish riffs by ex-studded whitebelt hardcore kids that think Sepultura’s Roots is their best album. No overused groove metal riffs that would make Robb Flynn seem like a goddamn genius. What PITILESS GAZE offers to the listener in 2021 is a forward march into cohesive death metal riffs in the vein of Gorguts and Altarage. There’s blackened fingerprints to it that is eerily similar to Deathspell Omega and Leviathan (Massive Conspiracy - Scar Sighted period). There’s also some random dissonant chords similar to Voivod and Die Kreuzen. Vocally, Ryan McCarthy does not seek your typical vocal approach, meaning whereas most vocalists are wanting to be in the front of the general noise, Ryan is in the background completely distorted and muffled by the weight of Landon James’ riffs. Ryan’s approach to vocals is straight-forward spoken parts but processed. Think of Nuclear Holocausto’s spoken parts on Beherit’s Drawing Down The Moon. This gives the music a stressed-induced dream-state that morphs into a giant night terror. That’s just a run-down of the musical part.
Lyrically, the song The Last Messiah is a musical cliff note of a 1933 essay written by Norwegian philosopher, Peter Wessel Zapffe. One of his most significant works, it sums up his own thoughts from this book, On The Tragic, and, as a theory describes a reinterpretation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Übermensch. Zapffe believed the existential angst in humanity was the result of an overly evolved intellect, and that people overcome this by ‘artificially limiting the content of consciousness.’ Zapffe viewed the human condition as tragically overdeveloped, calling it “a biological paradox, an abomination, an absurdity, an exaggeration of disastrous nature.” Zapffe viewed the world as beyond humanity’s need for meaning, unable to provide any of the answers to fundamental questions. While the description of the ideas written by Zapffe in The Last Messiah, might be seen as a carbon copy of lyrical themes seen previously by bands and artists dealing with nihilism, existential crisis, and antinatalism, this isn’t edgy teenage nihilism copied and adapted by that weird ADHD kid in the back of the class drawing pictures all day. If anything, this is just an extension and progression of those themes and going further down the rabbit hole of authors and philosophers that DO have certain things in common with Nietzsche. My question to the listener is this: Where is the influx of influence by writers such as Albert Camus, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Louis Ferdinand Celine, Hamsun Knut, or George Batelle? If bands are going to write about heavy subject matter such as nihilism and so forth, why do they only seem to all go to Nietzsche and nothing else? I understand the concept of if something isn’t broken why fix it? It’s not like PITILESS GAZE is reinventing anything. Far from it. PITILESS GAZE is again, not doing anything too carbon copy of what has come before. And the fact that they did their homework and trying to push and expand the listener’s education as far as philosophical territory goes is an excellent class needed to pass unto the next grade. So for PITILESS GAZE going outside of what is normally read and written about, I praise them. If anything it’s just another philosopher/author added to my bucket list of books I need to read and add to my personal book collection.
Final note I will be making of The Last Messiah is the sound production, which comes from Convulsing mastermind Brendan Sloan. Side note: if you haven’t listened to Convulsing, stop what you are doing and check out either Errata or Grevious. Mr. Brendan Sloan’s engineering of PITILESS GAZE’s soundscape is another accomplishment to put under his belt after successfully mastering his own craft on both Convulsing’s releases. The slight difference between Convulsing and PITILESS GAZE is whereas Convulsing is damn-near crystal clear enough to sound like Immolation, Brendan gives PITILESS GAZE a slight cavernous sound similar to Impetuous Ritual. It’s not overbearing nor that noticeable until after a few listens, but even the slight cavernous sound gives the music and hellish noise that Landon James creates a definite edge to it that again doesn’t sound like a lot of other bands nor his musical influences that much. Performers, lyrics, music, and sound production all put together makes PITILESS GAZE one of the better offerings of the first quarter of 2021, so much to where I’ve pretty much forgotten anything that has been released since the latest Hate Forest in December of 2020 (Goddamn what a return!). I sincerely hope that this isn’t just a one off type of recording from both Ryan McCarthy and Landon James, because truth be told, it would be a shame if that were the case.
PITILESS GAZE has so much potential with so much to gain and so little to lose if listeners were given a full album treatment. Bottom line: seek and indulge in the nihilism of PITILESS GAZE. It’s beyond worth it.
The Last Messiah is available now and you can get your digital copy HERE.