Death Karma - The History Of Death & Burial Rituals part I. - 4x reviews - metal archives - EN

Death Karma - The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I - 4x reviews - metal-archives-EN

Black metal by way of Carmen Sandiego. - 78%
Listening to The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I, I get the same feeling the best work of Negură Bunget stirs in me. It's the feeling of walking in on a sacred procession of a culture that to some extent sounds alien to me. Black metal's predisposition for the mystical and metaphysical makes it a perfect grounds to explore cultural traditions, and what tradition is better suited for exploration in metal than death? That Death Karma consists of two-thirds of the exceptional Cult of Fire would have been enough to spark interest in them; Cult of Fire's instant classic मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान firmly displayed how they could explore a foreign culture without letting it devolve into gimmick, as many others seem to do.

Replete with the same eerie organ and equally spiritual atmosphere, Death Karma is at once both fresh and familiar. The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I should come as a welcome surprise to any fans of Cult of Fire, but it's the band's characteristic dedication to the subject matter that gives Death Karma an identity all its own. True to its name, the album is the first part in a prospective sequence of albums exploring the treatment of death across cultures. While मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान focused exclusively on Indian mysticism, Death Karma spans the world in the manner of Carmen Sandiego. One song they'll be exploring Slovakian folklore; on another, they'll muse upon death through the gaze of Aztec civilization. In a way, Death Karma is an even more ambitious project than Cult of Fire. These guys are no less motivated to penetrate to the heart of whatever culture they are exploring, and in the case of this album, they've not one, but six cultures to bring to light.

The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I may not be the revelation that Cult of Fire's second album was, but I have found my appreciation steadily increasing each repeated time I listen to it. Bringing up the Negură Bunget comparison again, Death Karma is a rare case in metal, where the folk flavours are so prevalent that it's impossible to imagine the music without it. Even as a metal band however, Death Karma comes off as strange. Existing fans of Cult of Fire will hear many of the signature traits slither their way on this album. Most notably, Cult of Fire's eerie organ worship is a staple here as well, offering hefty atmospheric punch wherever it's used. Death Karma's guitar work is quite a bit harder to peg down; the chunky tone and aggression in some parts runs close to death metal, but they're never too far from a sweeping melodic angle no stones removed from atmospheric black metal.

The essential weirdness in The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I ultimately lies in the way the pieces fit together. Because Death Karma is drawing from a wide range of cultures, the music is suitably eclectic, and each song seems to mean to reinvent itself. The less predictable ingredients ensure that each song is a unique experience. Although Death Karma's black/death blend remains a relative constant throughout the album, it goes without saying that these cultures would inspire very different atmospheres. Death Karma's greatest brilliance here is the way in which they've successfully conveyed these cultures without resorting to the obvious. With "India - Tower of Silence", for example, one might expect to hear a buzzing of sitars to plant the listener in a specific place and time. But no; Death Karma get the spiritual tone across purely through their own means. When ethnic instrumentation is used (as with "Mexico - Chichén Itzá") it's approached in an unconventional way, blended completely in with what they're doing as a band.

I'll leave on a broader observation: I am glad that Infernal Vlad and company forged a new project to accommodate this music, rather than pass it off another Cult of Fire opus. They are most right in the acknowledgement that a band's name doesn't stand purely as a stand-in denoting the musicians involved, but also the promise of an experience the band has cultivated on records past. Death Karma's fascination with death certainly plays into what they've done before, but their restless gaze here gives the music an eclectic variety that would have felt puzzling after displaying such focus on मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान. I hope Death Karma has a long life ahead of it. People can debate that their past effort is better than this all they'd like. When all is said, we benefit from each of these separate threads, and Death Karma is every bit as mysterious and promising as their flagship band.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical.

A monument for the dead - 92% 
 Not only in terms of heavy metal, Eastern Europe stood in the shadow of the western half of the continent for a long time. But after the fall of the Iron Curtain, it became more and more evident that the metal scenes of the eastern countries also have a lot of interesting bands to discover. Death Karma joins the ranks of original groups from the east. Inter alia because of personnel overlaps, their musical preference lies in close proximity to that of Cult of Fire. The full-length also demonstrates once again that Master´s Hammer had a big influence on the Czech and Slovak scene. In particular the aura of “The History…” equals that of their masterpieces “Ritual” and “The Jilemnice Occultist”. For example, listen to the short straightforward parts of the opener. They sound like a forgotten recording of the Czech forefathers.

The production unites keyboards and guitars in order to shine with a very dense and intensive sound. It is based on the mighty instrumentation which leads to a powerful and thrilling experience of horror. With these requirements, the burial rituals develop their full effect in an irresistible manner. One has hardly any chance to escape the funeral atmosphere, because the musical implementation reeks of the smell of death without interruption. It is not that kind of rottenness that (Swedish) death metal bands evoke. Nevertheless, the songs seem to be the soundtrack of a funeral which takes place on a grey day in November. This does not mean that the music itself is dreary or monotonous. The group does not suffer from a lack of ideas. Do not be confused by the fact that the band has recorded only six songs. The musicians have integrated a lot of fantastic breaks so that the album does not show any deficiencies. The surprising effervescent keyboard line of the fifth track, which occurs after 58 seconds, illustrates the unexpected twists of the compositions perfectly. By the way, this piece is a very well designed instrumental.

Death Karma takes us on a trip around the world. They want to make us familiar with the special characteristics of different cultures in dealing with death. Countries like India or Mexico are represented. But I have to admit that the compositional approach of the single tracks stays more or less the same during the entire album. I am fine with this, because the constant emanation of transience matches very well with the concept of this full-length. And I do not want to hide that the band has involved rarely surfacing oriental or Indian sound sequences. All in all, the quality of the songwriting is admirably high. Only the third track needs three minutes in order to reach the amazing level of the remaining songs. This is just a minor flaw in view of the highlights such as “China – Hanging Coffins”. It leaves no questions unanswered while offering powerful and captivating guitar lines, unleashed drumming and atmospheric keyboard sounds. The majestic overall impression is the result of the stylish arrangements of harsh sections and mystic interludes. The latter ones are characterised by spheric keyboards which reveal a surreal aura. They stress the mysterious feeling of entering a new dimension.

Of course, you are free to dislike the outcome that the band presents. You can reject its lyrical content as well as the music itself. But you will not have the right to call this album insubstantial, half-baked or uninspired. It is an outstanding work in its own way. The only question is whether you like the combination of keyboards with extreme metal. I guess that no supporter of the black / death genre will deny that the sinister flair of “The History…” hits the mark. Hopefully, its second part will be published before I die. I am curious to see what comes next; Australia? Luxembourg? The Fiji Islands? However, I want to be buried in Germany. But from my side, this project definitely has no priority.

The formulas of death. - 90%
The past few years have seen the mysterious Czech ensemble Cult Of Fire rise from the underground, attaining a solid cult status with the mesmerizing Ascetic Meditation Of Death. A synthesis of majestic black metal and a distinctly Hindu death cult aesthetic, the album stands as one of the finest black metal albums in years. Although steeped in elusive obscurity, the project known as Death Karma features two out of three members of Cult Of Fire. Their debut album, aptly titled The History Of Death And Burial Rituals Part I, takes the esoteric concepts one step further. Dealing with funeral rites and death worship in different cultures, Part I is both ambitious and a deeply fascinating endeavor.

Similarly to Cult Of Fire, Part I is black metal of the magnificent and epic kind. Drawing on a vast menagerie of sounds, the duo behind Death Karma incorporate funeral keyboards, devastating death metal brutality, and sweeping riffs that are vaguely reminiscent of early Emperor or Enslaved. The framing concept spans globally, from ancient Mexican sacrificial rites to the Chinese custom of hanging coffins from cliffs. As on Ascetic Meditation Of Death, the aesthetics mostly consist of subtleties, rather than becoming an overbearing gimmick. As with any great concept album, the music is capable of speaking for itself, and the songwriting is often mind-melting. There are deathly infectious riffs, gloriously mounting crescendos, moments of unbridled brutality, and a lasting atmosphere befitting the album’s morbid themes.

Adding to the numerous twists and turns, Death Karma does not come without its oddities. The standout example is “Mexico – Chichén Itzá”, which channels the often bloody sacrifices in the ancient Mayan city, through tribal incantations driven by feverish drums and malevolent chanting, weaving an atmosphere of ceremonial chaos. Experimental touches such as these provide a welcome breather from the dense riffs and grandiose melodies, elevating Part I to something truly special. What could easily have felt like a Cult Of Fire side-project instead emerges equally brilliant, and somehow manages to surpass the esoteric magnificence of the Cult.

The History Of Death And Burial Rituals is supposed to become a series of albums, and Part I is a jaw-dropping opening chapter. It’s not often you hear a black metal album that manages to balance an relentlessly malicious atmosphere with such a larger than life sound, and Death Karma more than live up to their grim intent. If you are at all interested in Cult Of Fire, or have more than a passing affection for epic black metal, you should drop whatever you’re doing and go listen to this album. After all, you never know when death will pay you a visit.

 Written for The Metal Observer

The History Of Death - 70%
Emerging as a side-project of Cult Of Fire’s members, Death Karma, from Czech Republic, have released their debut album “The History of Death & Burial Rituals – Part I”, via Iron Bonehead Productions. Like the title suggests, this is a piece that revolves around funeral rites that were performed in various corners of our planet and through Death Karma’s music we can visit Slovakia, Madagascar, Mexico, their homeland Czech Republic, India and China.

With the first track, “Slovakia – Journey of the Soul”, it’s already understood that the band’s sound oscillates between harsh passages, that are a lot of times supported by keyboard arrangements, and amazing melodic moments, all packed in not so linear structures putting the band in a constant roaming through several musical sections in just one single song.

It’s also easy to understand the fact that Death Karma create their songs in a way that after dark and infernal moments, we can go to extremely melodic soundscapes without obliterating the fury exhaled by Vlad’s vocals – like in “Czech Republic – Úmrlcí Prkna”. We can also find a sporadic epic moment in the initial phase of “China – Hanging Coffins” which naturally evolves to a more stable composition contrasting the rest of the tracks, and it ends in a shredding turmoil. Being this a side-project comprising Cult Of Fire’s members, it is not a strange thing that some melodic passages are able to recall the, let’s say, main band – a thing that’s not bad at all; on the contrary, it’s really cool.

The keyboard arrangements come to us through different types of sounds, a thing that makes everything more creative and not boring. They don’t reach a pure cosmic environment, but they definitively emanate an atmospheric nebula around us. Like previously said, this is an album that revolves around burial rites, so it’s expected that ritualistic choirs are present, like in “Madagascar – Famadihana”. Another folkloric tool is the inclusion of tribal rhythms and instruments that can identify the many regions that are portrayed in this work.

As a final note, the production is not a clean one and it may be hard to propagate the melody and atmosphere the band wishes to inculcate. However, it may also show that in spite of the daring theme, Vlad and Tom Coroner want to wander within the underground concerning Death Karma. Still, I believe that a more sophisticated production would take Death Karma into a more professional and respectful stage within the metal scene.

Originally written at