Indian From All Purity

[Relapse; 2014]

Styles: blackened doom, sludge, power electronics
Others: Lord Mantis, Nachtmystium, Wolves in the Throne Room, Khanate, Thou, Eyehategod

In Antonin Artaud’s first manifesto for The Theater of Cruelty, he called for a new kind of spectacle to shatter the theatrical form, which had calcified around the authority of text. This new theater would feature a new language of physicality, an immediacy that burns like fire, and direct assaults on the portals of the senses, using costume, light, and of course music. Perhaps most importantly, this new theater would feature an element of cruelty, a violent concussion of the false image the audience accepts as reality. One can imagine that this new theater would require constant renewal and perpetual deepening. Over time, these practices could themselves solidify into an uncritical and false reality, or worse, lose their power to audience-desensitization and familiarity with the techniques.

Extreme metal falls prey to the very same problem. Black Sabbath’s transgressions, both against social norms and against musical propriety, shocked huge swaths of the public and energized thousands of fans, but much of their work sounds positively tame compared to the outer limits of today’s metal spectra. Since Sabbath, extreme metal’s technical and thematic palettes have grown to vast proportions, generating increasingly deeper cruelties to more effectively assault the listener’s ears. On From All Purity, Chicago’s Indian renew their own spectacle by fully incorporating harsh electronics into their lumbering, crushing doom. From All Purity at once epitomizes Indian’s sound and represents a leap forward into new levels of intensity. 2011’s Guiltless spared the listener no brutality, but here Indian have refined their sound to its essential malice.

But to intellectualize such a visceral work hardly seems wise. What Indian offer here is not a symposium on metal philosophy, but constant violence, so consistent that even at its 47-minute length, it exhausts. Judging from the few snatches of lyrics that arise from the seething noise and torturous screams, the picture From All Purity paints is not of supernatural darkness or death-drive laden melancholia, but of all-too-real violence, filth, hatred, and their effects on the psyche. Lyricist Dylan O’Toole evokes the most painful and wrathful of emotions, and at its best moments, the bestial, raw energy of the music effectively prevents thought from occurring. Blow after blow of the pummeling guitars and drums, slowed down to a pace that gives you time to process the pain of each blast, repeatedly interrupt the analytical faculties.

From All Purity abounds with that most primary of metal’s characteristics: heaviness. The riffs never veer off into stoney noodling, and their repetition and simplicity prove all the more effective. It’s the space within these glacial riffs that Indian use most effectively. More primary than their new instrumentation, Indian’s biggest innovation is their focus on timbre, courtesy of Sanford Parker’s subtle and careful production. By morphing feedback and distortion in and out of the swells of electronics, they achieve a mass of texture that besieges the listener’s ears. Few moments of respite arise, because these masses cover even the slower songs. The ironically titled “Clarify” gives into the textural design completely, with barely distinguishable vocals drowning in the boiling pool of sound. It’s these vocals that earned Indian their “blackened” tag, though to slap that label over the unique quality of O’Toole’s and Will Lindsay’s vocals is facile. The unique fervor with which O’Toole strains to deliver his screams is audible, rendering each track more immediate and severe.

Perhaps the most crucial aspect about their new cruelty is that it feels so vital. It’s not as if noise and metal haven’t coexisted for decades. And yet Indian’s focus on texture feels like a breath of fresh air because of its very ferocity, without ever crossing into caricature. It’s not as a historical development that these tools are exciting, but in the power with which Indian wield them to augment their already brutal sound. The fervor of each moment on From all Purity is a powerful medicine, shocking the audience out of the mundane in its incessant assertion of harsh reality. It’s a cruelty that we need and a step forward on the path of heavy music.

Links: Indian - Relapse

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