Death Karma is a Czech blackened death metal band, but don't expect to find yourself listening to Behemoth. While there is plenty of death influence in the vocals, I would describe the overall sound as kvlt symphonic black metal a la early Satyricon, Marduk, or Sacramentum. Many words come to mind as I attempt to describe its atmosphere: visceral, gripping, ugly; yet stunningly beautiful. Perhaps the most accurate word for me: Spell-binding. Hooks are equal parts infectious and hypnotic in their grief-stricken melodies.
Unfamiliar to the group, I was not surprised when my Googling turned up a similar masterpiece in Cult of Fire's मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान. Sharing two members, including vocalist and mastermind Infernal Vlad, The History Of Death & Burial Rituals Part I not only reaches the heights of that album, but may even surpass it in conviction and grit. I may not understand a word of Vlad's language, but that does not for an instant keep me from hanging on every goosebump-inducing howl.
Compositions are lush in emotion and concise in structure. While not sharing the Indian influences of his last LP, the ever-present, looming organs return to complement the simple-yet memorable riffs. Production has a cavernous quality with plenty reverb and a sense of depth. This is most apparent in the bass drum, which sounds like the hammer of goddamn Thor. The recording may be raw, but not at the expense of low end.
One of my personal hallmarks of a great album is an ability to create a sense of consistency throughout while still showcasing variety from track to track. Death Karma must have been reading my diary. From the sermon-esque intro of "Slovakia" to the pounding, largely instrumental "India," the almost hopeful "China" to the spiraling madness of "Mexico;" The History Of Death & Burial Rituals part I still manages to maintain enough aesthetic throughout its 6 tracks to build something truly special.
So far, this is the best black metal I have heard of 2015, but it's obviously early to cast a vote. At the very least, it warrants your time and attention for ballot consideration. We have all been known to jump the gun on an album only to find our initial impression fade over time, but my compulsions so far have proved otherwise with this one. Over the first week I found myself at their bandcamp page on at least a dozen occasions, and I sat through its duration every time with newfound adoration. I'll end here before I devolve into any further fanboy tropes. The album is about 7 Euro for digital on bandcamp, but the lovely artwork warranted my purchase through the German label on Discogs. Help a brotha out, eh?
Note: This is a repost of my same review for Metal Storm.