Doug Moore: Death Metal Personality and Radnor High Alumnus

Estelle Atkinson

Dotted in and around Brooklyn are sundry dimly lit bars, save for the colorful stage lights, clad with heavy metal merch and posters, and regularly visited by fervent fans from the periphery of society. Based in Brooklyn is Pyrrhon, one of today’s more prominent technical death metal bands, fronted by vocalist and lyricist Doug Moore. Earning the fifteenth spot on Rolling Stone’s reputable 20 Best Metal Albums End of Year List is their newest album, “What Passes for Survival”, placing Pyrrhon among other well known names of the genre such as Mastodon and Circle.

Moore and his band pay careful attention to the lyrics in all of their songs, which is a large contributing factor to their overall appeal in the industry. Their lyrics are a commentary on the harsh realities one will experience in life, and are often delivered in a poetic manner. For instance, from one of Pyrrhon’s songs, The Invisible Hand Holds a Whip, Moore articulates: “This isn’t what they promised me, Their tide won’t lift me back to my feet, Nickels and dimes weighing me down, And plenty of ocean for me to breathe.” Moore’s writing skills were initially developed in the English classes we as students of Radnor High School attend every day.

Doug graduated from Radnor in 2006. I recently had the pleasure of conducting an interview over email, asking about the development of his musical career. Moore’s passion for music began in elementary school, although he never seriously considered it as a viable career option until college.

Moore moved to Radnor Township from North Carolina when he was in middle school. In high school, Moore “liked studying and found a lot of the coursework compelling”, but socially felt like “a round peg in a square hole”. This resulted in an overall negative high school experience, which Doug believed to be proof of a future distaste for conventional work. Some of the classes offered at Radnor proved to be helpful in his music career in ways unforeseen. For instance, Moore developed songwriting skills through an emphasis of “nonfiction persuasive writing and literary techniques” in his English classes. Pyrrhon’s ability to stay grounded in their lyrics while stretching reality comes from a “general worldview” that was heightened by “social studies/history and math” classes.

Moore was admitted into the University of Pennsylvania, and entered with aspirations to attend law school. However, as graduation approached he realized this would not be a suitable next step for his personality. After his senior year, Doug “somewhat rashly decided to move from the Philadelphia area to New York and plan [his] life around making music.” The death metal scene in Brooklyn is more prevalent than in Philly. In his own words, “It was a little reckless, but the gamble has mostly paid off.” Being a musician in the death metal industry has proved to have its setbacks, and is not a role one assumes for profit. Moore says, “sometimes I find myself questioning the wisdom of choosing to do this stuff, but fortunately those moments are relatively rare.” Just like with any other job, Moore encounters difficulties, but an overall love for the work makes it worth it.

In an interview with Decibel Magazine, a Philly-based publication dedicated to “extreme music”, Moore revealed that he joined Pyrrhon whilst in college. He “would go to classes during the week and on the weekend hop on the Chinatown bus, the cheapest option from Philly to New York. [He’d] do [his] homework on the bus.” Moore was consistently dedicated to his schoolwork and classes, and had multiple paths open to him. To pick the path with no promise of future financial security is bold, but for Moore, ultimately worth it. Pyrrhon has had the ability to tour locally, as well as in France, which has a vast underground music scene. Moore said in his Decibel interview, “I have lost an incredible amount of money with Pyrrhon; everyone in the band has.” But the experiences we’ve had together writing these records and going on the road has been incredible. I never thought touring Europe was in the realm of possibility. The fact that we’ve been able to do these things has made every cent worth it.”

Moral of the story is, this industry is tough to crack. It’s hard to become profitable within any genre, particularly underground death metal, and a day job is often a necessity. According to Moore, “choosing your creative impulses over your financial security is a prerequisite for pursuing the dream in question.” Moore and Pyrrhon have recently found success, and his advice for any other Radnor grads hoping to follow in his footsteps is “don’t go into the arts unless you’re ready to work extremely hard and make sacrifices.”

Moore is quite notable in his field, fronting three bands: Pyrrhon, Sepatus, and Weeping Sores. Pyrrhon, named after philosopher who practiced a philosophy whose values align with the philosophy of skepticism, which according to Doug “definitely fits with the band’s identity”, although the name was chosen primarily based on aesthetic. His work is quite clearly driven by an immense passion for this genre, from a joy garnered from “developing a piece of music from its initial creative kernel to the fully-realized final recorded version” to the “cathartic thrill” of playing to a “room full of receptive people”, though his ultimate driving force is the creation process. All of these factors counteract the stress that accompanies playing with a “small-time” touring band.

The music of Pyrrhon is, according to WillowTip record label, is “dense, volatile, and drenched in manic ferocity.” According to Rolling Stone, “Pyrrhon go to gymnastic lengths to sound totally disgusting.” Their new album and powerful sound has earned them their recognition. Whether you’re a fan of the genre or not, the passion and effort behind Moore’s music is evident. Pyrrhon’s newfound recognition in the Rolling Stone reinforces Moore’s statement regarding pursuing music that “only the truly dedicated survive in the long run.”