Death Karma – The History of Death & Burial Rituals, Part 1
Genre: Black/Death Metal
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Almost 2 years ago, Czech Republic’s Cult of Fire released their sophomore album, whose Sanskrit title can be translated as “Ascetic Mediation of Death”. It was an album that captivated quite a large portion of the black metal audience, due to its thematic (music-wise) variety and the passion emitted by the band’s black metal (which was not teeming with originality to be honest). Death Karma is a side project of 2 Cult of Fire members, located in Slovakia, and “The History of Death & Burial Rituals, Part 1” (quite an exhaustive title) is their debut album. According to the band, it is a tour of 6 death rituals, spanning 6 countries.
Cult of Fire’s influence on Death Karma’s music is quite apparent to anyone who has listened to the mother-ship’s recordings, both in the torrential guitar leads’ structure (trailblazing with phantasmagorical essence) and in the interweaving of folk melodies in the music canvas. On a certain level, one can conclude that this album is a majestic development of last year’s Cult of Fire’s “Čtvrtá symfonie ohně“ ep.
Here be black/death; the “black” part of the term dominating the album’s music, while “death” gliding across the implied aesthetic themes. That’s not to say that there are no death metal offshoots in the ensemble, but black metal elegance is the one element ruling supreme. The album is multifaceted: its division in 6 geographical entities is not just decorative, reflecting itself in the way that each track unfolds; not so much riff-wise, as rhythm- and composition-wise. For instance, the outlandishness of “Mexico – Chichen Itza” can be traced to the ritualistic rototom/octoban percussion, as wells as in the almost autistic evolution logic of its starting part.
Concerning vocals: the band’s spectrum contains echo-ridden black metal narrative whispers, coarse but clean singing, and death metal growls. Of special note is an observation as to the Czech language’s effective alignment with black metal, a fact not lost to any person listening to Master’s Hammer or Root. The flow of phonemes has a hideous beauty, transmitting an occult essence. The album’s instrumental work is in constant flux, containing even some guitar-solo hints (the final part of “China”, for instance). All instruments are quite discernible in the mix, due to a quite satisfactory music production. Finally, the quality of certain parts is of the monastic piety variety, created by austere chanting (reminiscent of Attila, all things considered).
In conclusion, “The History of Death…” is a prismatic album, through whose lens 6 death ritual from around the globe are revealed in a musically thematic way. The album is imbued with sort of a detached passion, similar to that of a scholar that tries to avoid his subject’s pollution by the scholar’s own interference. The album is not flawless (it is based on the successful Cult of Fire recipe, and there are moments of compositional plagiarism), but all in all it is a more than satisfying debut.