Artist: Pure Wrath
Album Title: Hymn To The Woeful Hearts
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Date of Release: 18 February 2022
It was back in 2020 that I came face to face with an impressive three-track EP by an outfit by the name of Pure Wrath. The EP was entitled ‘The Forlorn Soldier’ and it was predominantly the work of one man, Indonesian multi-instrumentalist Januaryo Hardy. I described the music on that EP as ‘melodic, atmospheric black metal with a symphonic and blackgaze element’. No wonder I liked it in that case – on paper, this is the kind of music that tends to be right up my street.
‘Hymn To The Woeful Hearts’ is the follow-up to that EP, the third full-length of Hardy’s career under the Pure Wrath moniker. To be more precise, this is a companion piece to the EP, a continuation of the themes and lyrical content which are actually incredibly raw, angry, and poignant. Given the stark and emotive cover artwork, the darkness that pervades this record is of very little surprise at all. In Hardy’s own words:
“The record serves as a dedication to a mother and survivor of the 1965 Indonesian genocide whose son was kidnapped, tortured and brutally beheaded. For more than fifty years she had to pretend everything was normal through every second of her sorrow, living under the shadow of the still-powerful perpetrators.”
Musically, ‘Hymn To The Woeful Hearts’ also takes up the baton of ‘The Forlorn Soldier’ by delivering six generally lengthy compositions of melodic yet aggressive, atmospheric black metal through which, a vein of melancholy runs unashamedly. Once again, Hardy is joined by drummer Yurii Kononov and pianist/cellist Dice Midyanti, thus ensuring a consistency of approach across the board. It means that anyone who heard ‘The Forlorn Soldier’ and enjoyed the experience will be in for a similarly positive listening experience here.
As if to underline my observation about the melancholy vein that runs through Pure Wrath’s music, the opening track, ‘The Cloak Of Disquiet’ opens with a rather solemn and poignant intro comprised of a lone cello and gentle acoustic guitars, atop what appears to be the quiet crackle of flames. The melody introduced at the outset is then reprised by the lead guitar as blastbeats, and cold, fast riffing, muscle their way to the forefront of the song. This is pure black metal territory; frosty and uncompromising but with a layer of majestic melody weaved in, accented by atmospheric synths along the way. The track ebbs and flows really nicely too, allowing moments of calm and quiet introspection to douse the aggression and increase the melancholy. The addition of a short spoken-word passage that I presume represents the mother in the story adds extra gravitas to what is a very classy opening composition.
As with previous efforts, the production is a touch lo-fi, with a harsh, gritty edge that harkens back to the late 90s. It actually suits the music well, although I have no idea if it deliberate on the part of Hardy and friends. Personally, I’d have liked a bit more bottom end to get the bass to feature more prominently, but otherwise it serves the music reasonably well.
My personal favourite track has to be ‘Footprints Of The Lost Child’, the longest piece on the record, clocking in at nearly ten minutes. After a typically brutal opening couple of minutes, there’s a noticeable increase in keys and it signals the introduction of a scintillating melodic passage, where the pace slows to a mid-tempo and then choral-like clean vocals enhance the whole solemn atmosphere with real aplomb. Again, the transitions between fast and slow are slick and smooth, never clunky or contrived. Acoustic guitars emerge from a heavier section, out of the shadow of a distorted guitar note that’s allowed to ring out and fade away. Joined by piano and cello, it is easily the more moving sequence on ‘Hymn To The Woeful Hearts’, even if I wish it was allowed to remain in place for longer. No matter though, because the ending has a wonderfully bitter-sweet nature to it; part crescendo, part incessant angry violence. It is simply stunning and has the power to capture even the most woeful of hearts.
Elsewhere, the surprisingly elegant, yet darkly foreboding ‘Years Of Silence’ is another quality affair. The synths are all over this one, whilst the drumming is an utterly relentless battery. Even when the lead guitar serves up a really nice poignant melody, as a piano tinkles, Kononov barely lets up his aggressive assault.
The final song is also the title track. An introspective and rather emotional instrumental, there is nothing ‘metal’ about it, and it ends things on an interesting note in my opinion. It features an additional guest guitar contribution from Nick Kushnir and, whilst genuinely sad in tone, it also strikes me on repeated listens and musings, as if there’s an element of warmth and hope about it, as if planting the first seeds of fleeting positivity in an impossibly raw and unimaginable reality.
When I reviewed ‘The Forlorn Soldier’ a couple of years back, I queried whether the music might lack enough variety and therefore suffer in the long-player format. Admittedly, ‘Hymn To The Woeful Hearts’ is only another 14 or so minutes longer, but Januaryo Hardy has answered me perfectly – there is no lack of variety here, no real moments where I switch off and disengage; from the first minute to the last, I listen intently and with real enjoyment. The music might not be the most original, the best produced, or the most immediately appealing release of 2022. However, it is most definitely and unequivocally worth every moment of your time, should atmospheric black metal even remotely be your thing.
The Score of Much Metal: 90%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
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