"The History of Death and Burial Rituals, Part I"

By Dr. Abner Mality

The one thing that unites all human beings is death. But this universal ending is celebrated, feared and acknowledged in so many diverse ways, you could spend the rest of your life exploring all the various funeral rituals and practices. Perhaps this is what the Czech band Death Karma plans to do. With their new full-length "The History of Death and Burial Rituals, Part I", they take us on a musical tour around the world and use heavy metal to explore the many practices of dying. Yes, folks, this is REAL "death metal" in the truest sense of the term!

And the music equals the fascination of the subject! This is an amazingly diverse album here that uses a lot of metal tricks to cover the subject. Each song has a bit of the flavor of the nation that it explores. The first song "Slovakia--Journey of the Soul" is a bit deceptive as it doesn't reveal the full scope of what Death Karma is trying to do. After an appropriately funereal intro featuring organ and voices speaking in Slovak, this song explodes into a noisy outburst of frantic pounding and agonized vocals. It sounds chaotic, but settles down into discrete patterns and riffing. I love the way the organ accentuates the brutality. But this is actually the least impressive of the album's songs. The true breadth of Death Karma becomes apparent with "Madagascar--Famadihana", a more focused and angry song that reflects some of the darkness and savagery of Madagascar itself. Then our tour takes us to "Mexico--Chichen Itza" and here there is a kind of primitive majesty, the kind found amongst ancient Mayans and Toltecs. You can hear the soul of ancient Mexico in this one. By now, the album has my full, undivided attention.

And the album gets even better, becomes more ambitious and diverse. "Czech Republic--Umrici Prkna" is a magnificent metal epic brimming with the old East European spirit. Great sound effects and native instruments along with the organ keep this one interesting throughout. It's not quite black metal, not quite death metal, but touches on both of those genres. "India--Towers of Silence" brings us a raging instrumental that strikes fast and hard. Again there's a type of majesty to the riffing that is transcendental...the organ again adds power to the music. This is just a killer song! Our tour of death and burial rituals concludes with "China--Hanging Coffins" and this song begins and ends with ethnic sounds of ancient China while once more bringing the black/death mayhem with an Oriental touch. Fantastic!

Bands like Negura Bunget and Thy Catafalque have hit on some of what Death Karma is trying to accomplish here. I know the subject of how humanity celebrates death is fascinating and diverse. If Death Karma can keep the quality they show here intact, they can investigate funerals in every country of the world. Outstanding release in every aspect!