Artist: Pure Wrath
Album Title: The Forlorn Soldier
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Date of Release: 6 March 2020
Consider this to be yet another excellent new discovery at the beginning of 2020, a year of some already great new discoveries. Before I received this EP, entitled ‘The Forlorn Soldier’, I had no clue as to who or what Pure Wrath were. Now though, I know exactly who they are, what they do and how they do it. On all counts, I am delighted to be able to say this has changed. I’m even more delighted to be able to bring this review to you, to shine the light on this band from perhaps one of the more unlikely corners of the globe, Indonesia.
When I say ‘band’ though, it would be more accurate to refer to Pure Wrath as the work of a solo artist, the multi-instrumentalist Januaryo Hardy. This three-track EP has been written and performed by Hardy with only the assistance of ex-White Ward drummer Yurii Kononov and Dice Midyanti (Victorian), who offers some piano embellishments within the compositions.
It may only be an EP comprised of three tracks, but they are all lengthy affairs and epic in scope. As such, the listener is able to immerse themselves in around thirty minutes of music on ‘the Forlorn Soldier’, music that creates the soundtrack for an exploration of, as the press release puts it: “…of events behind a brutal incident during the ‘60s genocide in Indonesia where male members of a family were kidnapped and ‘vanished’ by a tyrannical army in the name of “so-called nationalism”.
I used the word ‘immerse’ in the previous paragraph with good reason, because this is the kind of music that the listener can genuinely immerse themselves. The weak link, if there is one, in the armoury of Pure Wrath, is in terms of originality; the melodic and atmospheric black metal doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises and, as such, could be overlooked by some who are on the hunt for something new or ‘edgy’.
However, what Hardy and co. do, is create some truly effective music that hits a sweet spot with me. It is honest, genuine and well-crafted with a great blend of grit and beauty, where the extreme elements dovetail very nicely with the more melodic passages. There’s also an extremely deft and clever use of dynamics, where minimalist sections take over from the out-and-out attack seen at other times.
The slightly grainy, unpolished production only serves to enhance the authenticity of the music too, as if it is deliberately harnessing the power and feel of the black metal of yesteryear. The fast-picked guitar riffing at the forefront of the mix feels sufficiently frosty but is imbued with a warmth delivered by the melodic sensibilities. The drumming is, as you might expect, dominated by blastbeats, whilst the raspy, gruff vocals are very much set back in the mix to provide them with an echoey, ghostly feel. The same can be said when a clean, solemn voice is used to counterpoint the gruff delivery.
Stand-out moments include the piano and spoken-word outro of ‘When A Great Man Dies’ which, despite not understanding a word, carries with it a weighty melancholy. ‘Children Of The Homeland’ is arguably my favourite of the three, thanks to its occasional up-tempo, full-throttle groove and grandiose, epic sweeps of sound that deliver some stunning synth-drenched immediate melodies. Then there’s the Alcest-like blackgaze segment in the latter stages that’s utterly glorious.
The final track, ‘With Their Names Engraved’, is the longest piece and it doesn’t mess with the formula too much, although the ultra-minimalist lone clean guitar section is fascinating in that it offers a radical departure from the tumult, and resides within the song for much longer than you expect. And yet, it feels right and doesn’t detract from the song; if anything it enhances it with it’s sorrowful simplicity, conveying a period of poignant reflection at the close.
I have really fallen for the charms of ‘The Forlorn Soldier’ and have listened to it a significant number of times in the lead-up to this review. It hasn’t lost its charm and, whilst I wonder whether a full album may have suffered in terms of variety and audience engagement, at half an hour, it feels like the ideal length to make it’s significant impact. If you enjoy melodic, atmospheric black metal with a symphonic and blackgaze element, I implore you to check out Pure Wrath without delay.
The Score of Much Metal: 88%