Eight full-lengths and roughly thirty years of dedication precedes any movements outside of the rich spiritual tradition of Singapore based extreme metal legends Rudra, who’ve long developed a one-of-a-kind groove driven style of blackened death metal inspired by historic Vedic culture. Elements of Carnatic music had creeped so steadily into their work within the ‘Brahmavidya’ trilogy that’d started in 2005 that it would seem founding member Kathir (Abyssal Vortex) had yearned for a simpler, more straight forward undertaking which manifested as The Wandering Ascetic in 2011. The trio would produce the ‘Manifest Destiny’ (2013) EP a couple of years later that was sonically very much in the tradition of pre-‘Kurukshetra’ Rudra though their rhythms were admittedly more relaxed, relying on mid-paced blackened groove metal ideas that no longer fit into Kathir‘s other bands direction. Here six years later The Wandering Ascetic resurrects amidst the downtime proceeding one of Rudra‘s finest records to date, ‘Enemy of Duality’. This time around there is perhaps even less of a distinction between the two projects outside of the relatively stripped-down, straight forward production of ‘Crimson’.
If I have learned anything in my time spent with each of Kathir‘s records with Rudra it is that patience and intentioned immersion reveal a well-hidden rhythmic core to the attentive listener; The same is entirely true for the blunt-faced post-thrash feeling that ‘Crimson’ initially reverberates. The Middle Way is felt here despite the ascetic moniker where no extreme is accepted as a way forward and that balance is vital to the experience of The Wandering Ascetic‘s debut full-length. To let it play out and give the record time to breathe upon repeat reveals some meaningful depth and a set of ideas that reach far outside of the ‘comfort zone’ of previous works. The second half of the album makes this much more clear as the rhythms take less twisted paths and begin to straighten their burl into some more traditional heavy metal rhythms; This latter portion of the record has a stylistically destabilizing effect that translates classic thrash sensibilities and incorporates an odd bout of subtle Hellenic black metal influences. There is value in this completely unique point of view despite the simpler guitar compositions that lead the experience.
The lesson inherent to ‘Crimson’ is one of expectations and idiomatic heavy metal style worship. To enjoy this sort of ‘middle ground’, a meeting of cultural rhythmic ideologies, it might be necessary to void existing mental associations with mid-paced power chord metal and I’d say this is particularly hard if you came of age in the 1990’s. My own fandom of Rudra‘s discography already enables this though I will concede that ‘Crimson’ isn’t the right starting point towards cross-cultural enlightenment, in that case I would say ‘Kurukshetra’ or ‘The Aryan Crusade’ offer easier touchstones on that path. For the initiated I think The Wandering Ascetic is somewhat average, an ‘almost there’ conceptual effort that isn’t immediately welcoming but can grow in value with persistence. Moderate recommendation. For preview my favorite track was probably “I Sing the Body Electric” and to see the other side I have to recommend “To Hell, back and to Hell again…” paired with “Here for the Good Things”.
Rituals of observation. 3.5/5.0
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