We tend to get a little excited around here when we come across a record that sounds like nothing else we’ve heard before during the year, because there’s a painful lack of variety that has marred metal. But it can’t just be different than everything else, because if it doesn’t also deliver sonically, then it’s just an oddball bouncing around.
Coming across “मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान,” the new album from Czech death maulers Cult of Fire, certainly fits the bill for a record that completely stands apart musically from everything else released in 2013, but it’s also a stunning, exemplary piece of work that is one of the best black metal-style releases out there, one you should investigate right now. But keep an open mind for what you’ll hear. The music has distinct Far East-, Hindu-inspired influences that play a heavy role on this album, and while their metallic edge is tried and true and delivers brutality as fiercely as any other band, that mystical edge is what sets them apart. The album title is Sanskrit for “Ascetic Meditation of Death,” and all of the songs are written in the same language, providing a bit of a language barrier if you can’t read the words. I also don’t have access to the lyrics as I write this, so I can’t really take a great stab at what it’s all about, but their bio hints at opening up and revealing ancient texts and speaking in forbidden tongues. It just adds to the mystery.
The three artists who comprise Cult of Fire–vocalist Devilish (of Dark Storm), guitarist/vocalist Infernal Vlad (Maniac Butcher, Death Karma), and drummer Tom Coroner (also of Maniac Butcher and Death Karma)–certainly have a grasp of violent, lava-splattering black metal that’s uncompromising and unquestionably furious. But those Eastern-style melodies, as well as their willingness to sink into post-rock and prog territories, make their work even more interesting and riveting, and all of those colors fuse together onto a wonderfully chaotic kaleidoscope. While the band is paying homage to muses such as the goddess Kali and Hindu funeral ceremonies, they’re keeping your head spinning and heart racing with their incredible playing, that pays off that promise that this is one of the most interesting, unique albums you will hear all year. Or maybe all the way until Cult of Fire put out new music again.
The opening track “संहार रक्त काली” (“Samhara Rakta Kali”) opens with a swirl of sitar and a droning chant, but then the cut opens up and hits on its full intensity, with churning guitar work, hellish misery, creaky growls, and a nice dose of speed that’ll bruise your chest as it rollicks you. That leads into “अस्तित्व की चिता पर” (“On the Funeral Pyre of Existence”) that gives off the first fumes of prog rock, with keyboards ringing out, only to be blown apart by furious playing and gurgly vocals. The melodies whip into a frenzy, and after the song calms in the middle for the death fires to crackles, it reignites and pummels you until its finish. “शव साधना” (“Shava Sadhana”) begins with swirling organs, almost as if setting the proper ambiance for meditation upon death, but then violent savagery gives way, and the band begins to thrash anew. There is speed and terrifying tyranny in the air, and proggier tones return as a voice chants in the background, perhaps as some sort of ritual. It’s an enrapturing piece that never loses an ounce of its intensity. “काली मां” (“Kali Ma”) is another ode to the Hindu goddess, and it’s one of the most intoxicating pieces on the whole album. The music swirls, and the chant-like vocals move both heart and soul as the track plays out, moving in and out of the verses and keeping you in a trance. It’s the most approachable track on this whole album.
The mesmerizing haze is ripped apart in no time by “मृत्यु ही सत्य है” (“When Death Is All”), a monstrous, pulverizing track that immerses itself in black thrash and even more prog, especially with the organ-like keys. It’s a punishing song overall, and that leads nicely into “मृत्यु का वीभत्स नृत्य” (“Fierce Dance of Death”), a song that might remind you of earlier Enslaved. There is an epic black metal feel to the song, as well as one that feels aligned with nature, and there is both blistering assaults and colorful textures that give you the best of light and dark. “खण्ड मण्ड योग” (“Khanda Manda Yoga”), a terrifying, violent, self-mutilating process of rebirth to which the band gives the proper fiery treatment is another stunner. The song drives a little slower than the rest, but the intensity never dips, and the whole pace changes with about two minutes left when the menace returns and the music feels like it’s going for your limbs. Closer “दिव्य प्रेम की ज्वाला से दग्ध” (“Burned By the Flame of Divine Love”) returns to the sitar doom that greeted you on the opener, only to be met by thundering guitars and gong shots that seem to signal the end to a ceremony. Chants return and get inside your head, the pace is more post-rock and atmospheric in nature, and the instrumental hypnosis provides the perfect background to the recitation that’s going on as the track lumbers toward its conclusion. Once it’s over, if you don’t have chills, you may have to go back and experience this all over again to ensure you absorbed correctly.
So as noted. Cult of Fire have delivered one of the most intense and special albums of the entire year, and had it not dropped so late in November, chances are this record already would be on the tip of every scribes’ pens. This is an experience you will not soon forget, and it’ll take a long time to remove it from your bloodstream, if you can at all. Cult of Fire deserve much respect for making something so different and captivating, but never losing one spark of their black metal fire. Go out of your way to hear this album.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.cultoffire.cz/
To buy the album, go here: http://ironbonehead.de/shop/
For more on the label, go here: http://ironbonehead.de/