Death Karma deliver homage to rites on massive ‘The History of Death and Burial Rituals Part 1’

Death KarmaIt’s Monday, the worst of the days, so who wants to talk about death? Seems rather appropriate since most people probably are in bad moods, so why not indulge ourselves in the extinguishing of existence, something a little more intimidating and permanent than your poor attitude today.

Death has been synonymous with life since the beginning. It looms over our heads every day. We see death on the news, within our family and friend circles, and as a weapon of terror among groups looking to do people harm. It’s unavoidable, scary, and mysterious, and in reality, we’ll never actually know much about it. Once we have that experience, we carry on and can’t report back to anyone what it’s actually about. Ever since societies formed and humans walked the earth, there have been various ways people react to death, deal with it, prepare bodies for burial, and shape the way humans live. Those are subject matters that fascinated and motivated the two members of Czech metal band Death Karma, who examine further on their stunning debut full-length album “The History of Death and Burial Rituals Part 1.” That album title tells you everything you need to know about what they uncover, and the band creates mesmerizing, ferocious forms of death metal to unravel their discoveries.

Death Karma coverThis duo—vocalist/guitarist/bassist Infernal Vlad, drummer Tom Coroner—also play together in world-toppling Cult of Fire, but what they do here is pretty different from that band musically. There’s more atmospheric exploration, psychedelic mind warping, and disarming melody here, making for one of the most morbidly pleasurable 43 minutes you’ll ever spend thinking about death. The band selects six global territories for focus on how their respective people have reacted to death over history and where some of those customs still exist today. Religion and society play major roles, and this record is a form of tribute to the cessation of life and the rituals surrounding it.

The record opens with “Slovakia – Journey of the Soul,” where these two dig into the ancient burial customs and superstitions that thrive in that region even today. The song begins with liturgical-style organs and chants before the chaos rips open and goes for the kill. Grisly growls erupt, the organs taunt and haunt, and the pace is both crazed and somewhat approachable. Toward the end, the keys provide a cosmic glaze you could get lost inside of, as the track dissolves into the thick, rich atmosphere. “Madagascar – Famadihana” follows, with keys blazing brightly and a proggy sequence arising. The growls again are harsh, with guitars boiling, eerie chants emerging, and chilling hammering doing bodily damage. The vocals sound raspy and worn at times, adding to the decay, and furious melodies rage over the song’s final minutes. “Mexico – Chichen Itza” is based on the Mayan city where death ran rampant, sacrificial rituals took place, and people were buried in blood. The guitar work is dizzying and maddening, with gurgly, zombie-style growling, the percussion-heavy rhythms are captivating, and eventually the track spills into doom channels. The growls are guttural and brutal, while the rest of the song makes sure it entrances you in a deep pit of confusion.

“Czech Republic – Umrlci Prkna” focuses on the practice of preparing places for those who died during harsh winters to be preserved so they could be buried in the springtime after the thaw. Weird keys murmur at the start, with organs then joining the death march to create a devastating, mind-altering puzzle. The guitars start to burn, with the tempo chugging along, and the grinding vocals and psyche-rich melodies maintain a sense of dread. Later, the vocals go from a ghostly whisper to a savage outburst, and the track ends at the height of dark drama. “India – Towers of Silence” pays tribute to a place where death feels most alive, and they address that by blowing right into a fit of rage and panic, with drums being crushed and riffs dealing wicked blows. The overall feel is very thrashy and aggressive, with majestic melodies weaving themselves in and giving this instrumental a shimmering, violent feel. Closer “China – Hanging Coffins” drips with psychedelic wonder, with guitars kicking in and enhancing the effects and contributing more melody and drama. The song eventually ramps up and gets meaner, with growls dominating, the guys hitting a massive stride of heaviness, and everything swirling in the air. The soloing rises up and blows out of control, while the remainder of the song bathes in pulverizing waves that eventually give way to chimes and the final moments of death.

“The History of Death and Burial Rituals Part 1” is an interesting, unique look into one of metal’s most traditional sources of inspiration, and as indicated by the title, it looks like just the beginning of this dark journey for Death Karma. This record will take you hostage and force you to address the bleakest part of everyone’s existence, an imminent happening in life we all dread but ultimately face. Death Karma’s tribute is fitting and fiery, resulting in one of the most intriguing death metal records of this winter.

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