Prague’s Death Karma are a duo whose two members — frontman/mastermind/multi-instrumentalist Infernal Vlad and drummer Tom Coroner — also play in the trio Cult Of Fire. Cult Of Fire’s first album, Triumvirát, was released in 2012, and Death Karma made their debut a year later with the A Life Not Worth Living EP, and over the last few years, both bands have been responsible for some of the most exciting, insane black metal in the world. Cult Of Fire’s 2013 LP, ?????? ?? ????? ???????? (“Ascetic Meditation Of Death”), found both musical and thematic influence on the Indian subcontinent, paying homage to the Hindu goddess Kali and incorporating sitar and drone into its melodic black-metal buzz. It was one of 2013’s best metal albums. Last year, that band returned with the ?tvrtá Symfonie Ohn? EP, which “covered” music by Czech classical composer Bed?ich Smetana. Now, Infernal Vlad has shifted his attention back to Death Karma, and as far as I’m concerned, that band’s soon-to-be-released debut LP, The History Of Death & Burial Rituals Part 1, is the best album of his career. The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part 1 is proggy, symphonic, melodic black metal with a high concept (literally: a history of death and burial rituals), but more importantly, the thing fucking rips. It’s one of the year’s early highlights; we covered its lead single in Black Market last month and now we’ve got the whole thing for you to stream. I highly encourage you to do so.
Ian wrote about it quite beautifully (I thought) in Black Market, so I’m sharing again what he had to say, in the hopes that it will deepen your appreciation for the music (or at least further entice you to listen):
There are artists who treat their concepts like hedge mazes. That doesn’t apply to the Cult of Fire-related Death Karma. You don’t need GPS to figure out the theme of The History Of Death & Burial Rituals Part I; the band have graciously spelled it out in the album and song titles. The duo’s debut LP, following a 2013 EP, rips away the euphemisms modern society has applied like band-aids to the process of dying. “Slovakia – Journey of the Soul” is even kinda literal, taking listeners, as promised, on a soul’s journey. Point A is a funeral dirge, Point B is a transcendent, new-age Iasos-ism. In between, the song floats through different planes. It rots as raw-throated, necrotic blackened death encased in Deep Purple organs. When we leave the corporeal, it’s ensorcelled by the same spell cast on early Emperor. It then crosses over into the thawing melodies of Edge Of Sanity’s Crimson before finally speeding toward the light. But, if you strip the concept away, it’s still a great song. Multi-instrumentalist Infernal Vlad’s compositional ambitiousness harkens back to black metal’s second-wave, when infinite possibilities ensured even the frostiest and most naive still smoldered. And drummer Tom Coroner reprises the role he filled on Lykathea Aflame’s Elvenefris, that of the sure-handed supplier of propulsion; though he plays here with a greater economy. Playing aside, the album’s fearlessness — musically and conceptually — is what makes it bracing. Some elements are less successful than others, but nothing is delivered timidly. These are feelings needing to be captured, right now, because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. This is a mindset the West is trying to forget. After all, realizing there’s an end is scary, something that’s easier to plaster over with appointments and deadlines and sporting events and jokes and other things you just do that are of little consequence; the 21st century trump cards saving our eternal bid of blissful ignorance. Death Karma, though, strips away the artifice until the end is all there is. Then, as their cultural subjects have done for generations, they deal with it.
The History Of Death & Burial Rituals Part 1 is out 2/13 via Iron Bonehead.