You wouldn’t know from my reviews, but I listen to plenty of extreme metal. Pretty much anything that gets a 3.5 or higher from my fellow prisoners writers will get a spin in Chez Huck. I don’t often write about extreme metal because, to be honest, pretty much all of my cohorts are more well-versed in that subject matter. I would be doing you a disservice by faking my way through a review. But once in a while, something comes along that a: really grabs my attention, and b: arrives on my doorstep before anyone else can get their filthy hands on it. Last year’s excellent Agrimonia album is a great example. And this year, Adrift struck the same chords. So here I am, about to fake my way through a review about some excellent blackened post-metal.
Adrift hail from Madrid, and Pure is the band’s third album. Black Heart Bleeds Black came out in 2012, and upon close listen came across as a more evil rendition of Neurosis, with a fair helping of early Mastodon topping it up. It was a worthy purchase and an excellent primer for Pure, but Pure takes that album’s motifs and influences and cranks everything up a notch. This is evident within seconds of the title track, which also opens the album. After drawing us in with a driving post-metal intro, the song soon begins churning relentlessly, and when Jorge García’s black metal vocals come screaming in, the intensity of the track goes to a whole new level. On BHBB, García’s vocals were primarily of the early Mastodon variety, with some blackened screeches thrown in as changeups, but on Pure this style is reversed: much of the album features his black metal rasping but he effortlessly (and effectively) switches into his lower register throughout.
“Pure” is a dynamite start to Pure, but it’s not the best song here. That honor goes to “The Call,” which has quickly risen to the upper echelons of my SotY playlist. With a ponderous and foreboding guitar riff patiently starting it off, accentuated by full-on blasts from the band, the first minute-plus has us on the edge of our seats. Quiet drumming and a steady bass line build tension as the guitars meander along. Before we know it, we’re three minutes in and the band is going full throttle. The ebbs and flows of this nine-minute piece of perfection are pure pleasure. If you think the post-metal tag means this will be boring and pretentious, one listen to “The Call” will change your mind. With only six songs, I can’t highlight everything here, but two other incredibly strong cuts are “Confluence of Fire,” which features some extended and mesmerizing interplay in the middle, and the closing “The Walk of Tired Death,” which begins like a quiet Russian Circles number but ends in pure fury. Oddly enough, the best songs here are also the longest ones.
Adrift have been together a long time: their chemistry is palpable. The guitars of García and López play off each other both delicately and furiously, and Daniel Chavero maintains a rock-solid foundation on bass. But the star here is drummer Jaime García, whose work is beyond impressive. He can bludgeon his way through a track as needed, but more often brings a sublimely skillful turn to the skins, with plenty of flams, drags, and inventive fills that never feel overdone or out of place. García turns in the drum performance of the year, and the crystal-clear yet powerful production lets us hear that in all its glory. Pure is one of the best-sounding albums I’ve heard this year, especially at as high a volume as I can get away with.1
I may not be able to get into the nitty-gritty details of what makes a more extreme album good, or even great, but I can say one thing: I know when an album kicks ass, and Pure does just that. The skill on display, from the actual playing of the instruments to the songwriting, put Adrift on the same top level as other post-metal bands I hold in high esteem. The song lengths2 are not an issue. Any time I found myself waiting for a song to end, it was so I could start it right back up. That’s the sign of a great album.