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Indian - From All Purity[21st January 2014]
[Relapse Records]

01. Rape
02. The Impetus Bleeds
03. Directional
04. Rhetoric of No
05. Clarify
06. Disambiguation

With all the attention that Babymetal have received lately, one may wonder if metal is taking a turn for the cuter, sunnier, and shinier. Of course, for as many bands as there are blissfully pushing the boundaries of metal into dewy meadows, there are just as many groups digging their raw, bloodied fingers deeper into narrowing caverns where no light escapes. On their fifth album From All Purity, Indian are intent indeed to distill the tone that purists desire from their metal; it is what Thomas Hobbes would call a “Leviathan” — nasty, brutish, and short.

While Hobbes may have used those words to describe the natural state of man prior to social contracts as undesirable (which he is totally wrong about, read Christopher Ryan’s compelling Sex At Dawn), ugliness, abrasiveness, oppression and terror are Indian’s modus operandi. From All Purity is about as much fun as watching your dog get hit by a driver who is texting instead of watching the road, and is roughly as uplifting as a miscarriage. For those unaccustomed to Indian’s unique cocktail of blackened doom, hazy sludge, subtly scattered electronic noise, and general unpleasantness, it will likely take several listens to penetrate the swampy thick layers of distortion and to hear all that is happening. Even so, From All Purity is not for everybody who likes this subgenre of metal; it is obtuse, opaque, cacophonous and claustrophobic in equal measure.

The album thrusts itself on you with the appropriately titled opener “Rape”. Right off the bat, this is not the album to try to show your Taylor Swift-lovin’ girlfriend the merits of metal. There is no room to breathe, no melody to hold onto, and nobody to hold your hand for comfort. “Rape” starts From All Purity with a static-filled atmosphere that rarely lifts and is reminiscent of the horrors of Silent Hill and of anything written by Gnaw Their Tongues. The drums are bludgeoned in a hypnotic, tribalistic fashion that echoes a force not heard since Salome’s Terminal. This distinctive pounding serves both to energize the listener (especially as it is chillingly isolated in closing the first track) and to enervate the listener with its unremitting weight.

Vocals are sometimes referred to as the “human” element in metal, as they’re often the focal point with which listeners can most readily connect. The repulsive shrieks produced by vocalist Dylan O’Toole do not vary considerably throughout From All Purity. Occasionally his howling will have a tinge of melody breaking through that can sound a bit like Steve Souza at his most incensed, but it is mostly hellishly atonal wails, which are difficult to understand in all but final track “Disambiguation”. Nevertheless, the vocals are effective in maintaining the misanthropic mood and – arguably most important for vocalists in extreme metal – sounding distinct.

Judged on the merits of what Indian are trying to accomplish, From All Purity is almost entirely successful. The one weak link in the album is penultimate track “Clarify,” which ironically is the least clear of all the songs; it is five unapologetic minutes of directionless noise (static, blips, and tortured screams) that makes the opening credits of American Horror Story sound like happy pre-installed iPhone ringtones. This would not be such a notable detraction if the album were longer, but as it has just six songs, each one counts.

However, the other five songs represent Indian at their finest. Given time to open up, the album reveals intricacies that are surprisingly pleasant, such as the subdued oscillating buzz that gives way to a nearly synthesized pulse in “Directional”. “Rhetoric of No” starts on a very aggressive note and later weaves in noisy insectine layers that clearly match the aesthetic of the revolting video released for the song. “Disambiguation” ends the album on a high note after the pointless “Clarify” with more pronounced dynamic shifts than anywhere on the rest of From All Purity with uncharacteristically speedy drum work and an echo effect on the vocals that makes them sound massive.

Ultimately, From All Purity does not have something for everybody and it’s unreasonable to think Indian would make a shift like say Mastodon did incrementally from Remission to The Hunter. It is unpalatable by design, yet still lovingly produced by the incomparable Sanford Parker. Indian want nothing more than to create soundscapes that make you feel a little less hopeful than you did before listening to them. Although From All Purity is a masochistic listen, it is unequivocally a success.