Death Karma [Czech Republic]
The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I
Iron Bonehead Productions
When I first encountered Death Karma with their 2013 EP release A Life Not Worth Living, I knew little about the background of the masterminds behind the band, having only encountered Manic Butcher prior to that. 2 years on, the Czech duo (who are also two-thirds of outstanding black metal outfit Cult of Fire) return with their debut full length release, suitably titled The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I, following up with the theme of life and death that started with their 2013 EP.
Through the recent encounter with Cult of Fire and their excellent releases and musical concepts, knowing that Death Karma is made up of Tom Coroner and Infernal Void only made me all the more excited about their debut full length. As the title suggests, The History of Death & Burial Rituals‘ concept derives from death rituals of different cultures, with six selected cultures being covered over here – from the Far East of China to their home ground of Czech Republic.
With that in mind, right from the start of the album with Slovakia – Journey of the Soul, the growth of the band from their 2013 EP to their current release is obvious. Gone are the antics of tracks like G.G. Funeral (a sort of tribute to GG Allin, I guess). Instead, the band indulges fully in the issues of death and morbidity, exploring the different cultures and their ways of embracing death.
While A Life Not Worth Living sees the band often indulging in raw aggression, The History of Death & Burial Rituals instead takes a more atmospheric path – after all, most such rituals tend to be rather emotional, and an atmospheric approach would be most suitable. Slovakia – Journey of the Soul immediately brings about some Cult of Fire comparisons, and aside from the chants that remind one of their works on मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान, the musical style is also rather similar. Often one is immersed in bleak soundscapes that is not unlike that of métal noir québécois, reminiscent of the work of Forteresse or Csjethe.
The genius in the band’s songwriting is clearly shown as the album progresses. While I know nothing about most of the rituals as described on the album, Death Karma manages to ensure that things remain interesting, as each of the six tracks present slightly different sounds, fitting to the respective rituals. From the heroic, Bathory-esque moments to worship the dead to the more aggressive, almost Marduk-sounding moments on the sacrificial practice of Mexico’s Chichén Itzá. India – Towers of Silence is a good specimen. Indeed, words are not needed when it comes to expressing the various emotions when dealing with death and burial.
Production-wise, The History of Death & Burial Rituals sees a major improvement over A Life Not Worth Living, comparable to the recent exploits of Cult of Fire, resulting in a stunning soundscape throughout the record.
The amount of research that the band has put into their concept is obvious, digging out some of the most obscure death-related rituals for each of the cultures. Heck, I didn’t even know of the ritual of hanging coffins in China, with my closest knowledge of anything remotely China is the Tibetan tradition of sky burial. With six cultures covered in the span of 42 minutes, we can only hope that Death Karma brings us more knowledge with future editions of The History of Death & Burial Rituals.
1. Slovakia – Journey of the Soul
2. Madagascar – Famadihana
3. Mexico – Chichén Itzá
4. Czech Republic – Úmrlcí Prkna
5. India – Towers of Silence
6. China – Hanging Coffins
Favourite picks: India – Towers of Silence
Death Karma on the internet:
Iron Bonehead Productions