Archive for February, 2014

Layout 1Reviewing art affords a unique form of meditation. To communicate a personal interaction with a text – be it a book or film or record – the reviewer must turn inward to inspect the new path coursed by the text. In fact, I rarely feel I’ve engaged a text until I’ve reviewed it somehow, using concrete language to exercise my abstract interaction, which surely will change after a few new interactions, and then change yet again. Still, you gotta start somewhere.

Such meditations are particularly helpful with an album like Guiltless (released April 2011 on Relapse Records) from Chicago doom-metal maestros Indian because, after several dozen listens, I still don’t know what the hell to think. I’m not even sure I like Guiltless as much as I feel oddly drawn to it, compelled to endure it again, even to shut down the lights and fall either into it or it into me – of which I’m convinced neither direction can be too healthy. Regardless, I can’t go more than a week without cranking Guiltless again.

Here’s one thing I do know: Guiltless scares the shit out of me. Even now I feel uneasy with the title track pouring through my earbuds into my body. (What else falls in alongside it?!) I’m the only one awake in my house. The doors downstairs are locked. And as the guitars dig like rusty trunk keys and the vocals pierce like broken pigs (beginning of track 4: “Guilty”), I can’t help feeling the urge to look over my shoulder into this (thankfully still) empty room. Guiltless is sinister, doom-metal murky-bottoms business. A musically maniacal Frank Zito on a lady-scalping spree, for sure.

But there’s something undeniably beautiful about this record, too. Maybe the honesty? The unencumbered anger? The sudden awareness of a distant light while trudging swampy clipped limbs away from an assailant’s slow muddy-booted pursuit? It’s there. Something is there that keeps calling me back despite my hesitations.

If it seems odd to review a 2011 record at this time, I do so to prepare my review of Indian’s newest record, From All Purity, next month. I realized after a few listens of From All Purity that I needed to back the truck up. Step in one stumpy toe at a time. And as I went backwards into Indian’s discography, I found myself stuck on (in?) Guiltless. It’s a demanding record that I do not recommend as much as urge you there with your happy reading face to experience. Take, for instance, the opening track, “No Grace”, which begins with teeth bruising brutality, then simmers into a sludgy vat of churning vocals and fuzzy blasts, before masterfully ascending into a buzzard swirl of black, calculated riffs. Such distinctly fluid movements in a mere six minutes offer assurance that you’ve found something special, something worth noting.

And right there, in those last few sentences, the review’s meditation took hold: yes, I like Indian’s Guiltless. And, it seems now, the gravity I feel to return here so often is an appreciation for someone else’s expression of a personal conviction. Who knew? Maybe I didn’t want to.