Tuesday 24 March 2020

Pure Wrath - The Forlorn Soldier (2020)

Country: Indonesia
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 6 Mar 2020
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Pure Wrath is another one man project, this time from Indonesia, and the one man is Januaryo Hardy, who does everything here except the drums, which come courtesy of Yurii Kononov, formerly of White Ward and currently of a host of varied bands, and the piano on the opening track, which is by Dice Midyanti. It's Hardy's fourth release as Pure Wrath, following two albums and a split release with French symphonic black metal band Onirism, and it counts as an EP, even though it generously runs almost half an hour.

It's also very good indeed. I've listened through a few times and every time it shocks me by ending so quickly and I realise all over again just how much it sucked me in. There are only three songs on offer, ranging from seven up to ten minutes, but they're so immersive that they feel like five apiece. If I have a complaint, it's in the mix of the drums, which are excellent but a little buried in the mix. The piano works well down there, because it teases and we pay extra attention to hear it. The vocals are buried to exactly the right level too, but I'd have liked a crisper drum sound.

The piano gets overt at the end of When a Great Man Dies, underpinning what I presume is a voice sample of someone who was involved in or affected by the subject of the album, which is the genocide that began in Indonesia in 1965 as an anti-communist purge after a failed coup and became so much more, leaving a million dead and setting up the New Order of Suharto in power for the next three decades. Maybe it's a late recording of Sukarno, the deposed president, who was placed into house arrest until his death.

I've read that this bloody period is little talked about in Indonesia, due to being suppressed by the government, so it's good for it to see a little light on this album, even if I have no idea what the lyrics happen to be. I did catch odd bits here and there, enough to believe that they're delivered in English but not enough to have a clue about what they cover. I'd like to read those lyrics, just as I'd like to know who's speaking in that sample.

Atmospheric black metal is a fantastic genre to explore this sort of subject matter. hardy and Kononov create a powerful wall of sound that's impossible to ignore, just like the mass murder of one per cent of the population would be. It's hard and mostly fast until, at certain key moments like one midway through With Their Names Engraved, it all suddenly stops and we're calm in the eye of the storm wondering what's still going on out there while it's so peaceful here inside. After that moment of peace, the last couple of minutes are melancholy, with an almost choral dirge, as we come to terms with what's just happened.

What impressed me most, beyond this structuring, is how the guitars retain a melodic line even at ludicrous speed. One of the benefits of being a one man band is that every part you play has to be recorded separately and, once you get into that mindset, it's no great stretch to add further layers. As this album has such a dense sound, I can't say how many guitar layers Hardy added but much of the album obviously features a backing layer to maintain density and a lead layer for surprisingly patient melodic riffing.

I liked this a lot on a first listen and I liked it all the more after a few times through. I look forward to seeing what else Hardy has done, whether as Pure Wrath or one of his many other bands. He also provides everything for a brutal death project called Perverted Dexterity and a post-black one called Lament, among a host of others. He shows a lot of versatility here and that is never a bad thing when you play in multiple genres.

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