MetalMatters February 2022

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Albums of February 2022

The Best New Heavy Albums of February 2022 feature an abundance of excellent debut works across the spectrum and the return of heavyweights.

Pure Wrath – Hymn to the Woeful Hearts (Debemur Morti)

Pure Wrath - Hymn to the Woeful Hearts

Indonesia has developed a vibrant and exciting black metal scene in recent years. Tilted towards the atmospheric edge of the spectrum, acts like Vallendusk and Choria came to the forefront. At the same time, post-metallic influences altered the black metal core for Dusk in Silence. Within this extreme, atmospheric tradition, we find the project of Ryo, Pure Wrath. Founded in 2014, Pure Wrath have produced two excellent records, Ascetic Eventide and Sempiternal Wisdom, alongside a series of split works and EPs. Ryo now returns with Pure Wrath’s third full-length Hymn to the Woeful Hearts.

Pure Wrath follow an all-encompassing attitude when it comes to atmospheric black metal. They devote their sound to a long lineage, starting with the epic underpinnings of Bathory circa Blood Fire Death and the majesty of Emperor’s Anthems to the Welkin At Dusk. Much of Pure Wrath’s sound owes a lot to these legends. The brutality of “Passage from A Restless Soul” sees the emotive qualities fuel their raged progression, resulting in complex, multifaceted patterns. The weaving melodies of “Those Who Stand Still” bring forth the 1990s eeriness, while melodic inclinations bring out an epic perspective.

Pure Wrath call upon the latter-day followers of this tradition. A kinship with folk-obsessed acts like Saor, Winterfylleth, and the great Agalloch is spread over Hymn To The Woeful Hearts. Here, the folk perspective is altered from the European and American landscapes to Indonesian history. The album’s concept is based on the true story of a mother whose son’s was kidnapped and brutally killed during the 1965 Indonesian genocide. To that end, Pure Wrath make sure to touch upon the entirety of their textural palette.

Chaos is invoked as the bitterness of “Footprints of the Lost Child” comes in. “Those Who Stand Still” follows the same relentless perspective, offering a true stampede. But still, what sticks with you is the awakening from the melodic inclinations. “The Cloak of Disquiet” sees these majestic melodies come forth as acoustic passages and ambient interludes are passed by. Similarly, “Years of Silence” still finds the time and space to offer stunning harmonies on the piano amidst all the brutality.

Pure Wrath have taken a known recipe, and they have in part made it their own. The change in the outlook, focusing on Indonesia’s history, has provided the necessary fuel towards that end. Still, it would be interesting to see how much more they can discern themselves from the trunk of this tradition and start working towards building their own branch. But, that is for the future. For now, Hymn to the Woeful Hearts will keep us busy. – Spyros Stasis

Schizophrenia – Recollections of the Insane (Redefining Darkness)

Schizophrenia - Recollections of the Insane

I’m starting to think that everything can be made better by letting just a fraction of thrash influences seep in. Antwerp’s Schizophrenia certainly think so too. While Recollections of the Insane is made extraordinary primarily thanks to their knowledge and mastery of all things death metal, the album also owes a lot to the quartet’s willingness to splice these familiar idioms with thrash’s bumbling aggression and groove.

Take the fantastic seesawing guitars that propel “Cranial Disintegration”, the Death-evoking progressive solo that punches through the murky “Sea of Sorrow”, or the slamming, almost tech-death of “Monolith” as evidence of a band that knows exactly what and how they want to do. It might only be their debut, but Schizophrenia have slipped into something comfortable to play this stuff. In doing so, they have crafted an album that is nostalgia-triggering yet quite modern and fresh sounding. – Antonio Poscic

Shape of Despair – Return to the Void (Season of Mist)

Shape of Despair - Return to the Void

With a global pandemic still riding at large – despite the “let’s just get on with it” narrative that’s taking hold – and another of the horsemen seeding atrocities in Ukraine, it seems fitting for our current situation to be serenaded by a genre as melancholic and downtrodden as funeral doom. Return to the Void, the fifth LP by the Finnish pioneers of the genre, doesn’t stray much from its roots. In fact, it would be strange if it did, seeing how this crawling, atmosphere-building music is meant to be immutable and eternal. Looking in from the outside, it mourns our fate without being capable of changing the tide of history. Instead, it weeps and growls, slowly roaring through the darkness with riffs as big as mountains and as fragile as the autumn mist at their feet. Gorgeous and haunting, there are not many more appropriate things to listen to as the world is about to end and, indeed, return to the void. – Antonio Poscic

Stander – Vulnerable (The Garrote)

Stander - Vulnerable

Hailing from Chicago, Stander have been greatly influenced by their local scene. The experimental rock trio walked on the pathways first opened by pioneers like Pelican and Russian Circles throughout their first demo and The Slow Bark. Still, not feeling comfortable within the confinements, Stander looked further outward. They created a holistic sound, taking on aspects from post-hardcore to free-rock. And they are now returning with their most accomplished work, in their debut for the Garrote, Vulnerable.

Despite their instrumental setting, Vulnerable is a work of deep emotion. At times, this can be relentless and aggressive. The furious start of “Procession Up the Tower” with exhilarating blastbeats and raging distortions showcases the underlying majesty. Similar is the case with “He Was a Poisoned Man”, the weight and fury coming down hard, mirroring some of the heavier sides of early Pelican. But, at the same time, Stander can appear dreamy and otherworldly. The harsh reality slowly drifts away, and “Frozen River” sees a mesmerizing offering come into view. 

Still, despite their post-metallic manifestations, Stander drift away further. The grand post-metal is shed away as the structures of “Patience” fall apart, giving rise to an improvisational tornado. Thrashing relentlessly, Stander turn the song into a blur, the noise rock and post-hardcore of Shellac taking over, with a healthy dose of free rock cacophony to complete this ambitious work. This tendency towards experimentation shows even in the small details. Glorious sound design moments are achieved through simple applications.

The start of “Whither” sets the tone wonderfully with the simple guitar notes, while “Frozen River’s” feedback gives a glacial attribute to the proceedings. It is this mindset that separates Stander. Having taken an old and trusted recipe in post-rock, they have readjusted it to fit their needs. And they have brought a very refreshing offering with Vulnerable. – Spyros Stasis