Death Karma - The History of Death and Burial Rituals Part I 01Death is perhaps the most interesting subject to me. Though I don’t study it, don’t have any sort of education in it, and don’t have any right to expand on or analyze it, I just find the human intrigue and fear of death fascinating. Some embrace death and live their lives knowing that everything could end today, others accept but fear death, and many avoid discussion of it (and even the thought of it) more than anything else in the world. However, death is something we all have in common. The rich may differ from the poor, the materialists may differ from the naturalists, the educated may differ from the uneducated, but in the end, titles don’t matter, awards don’t matter, money doesn’t matter, material doesn’t matter, and all the rest of this bullshit doesn’t matter. We are all worm food meant to degrade into the earth and become nature’s fertilizer.

However, this is just one opinion from a hick born from America’s Southwest desert. While I may mourn, drink, and reflect on the preciousness of life when friends and family pass away, many people and many cultures look at death completely different than I. Case in point; Death Karma’s six examples of death worship and burial traditions via The History of Death and Burial Rituals Part I. It may be a forty-two minute crash course in the subject, but be sure to take good notes. There’s a test at the end.

The theme here is obviously… death; however, “Part I” focuses on the traditions and worship of the peoples of Slovakia, Madagascar, Mexico, Czech Republic, India, and China. It’s a cool theme that adds depth to some classic black metal riffage that could have easily been partnered with your everyday satanic topics. Opener “Slovakia – Journey of the Soul” begins with some creepy spoken word and organ presence before slamming you down with its blackened assault. After transitioning from an almost thrashy passage at the 3:00 mark to some galloping riffage, it slows to a melodic, mid-paced section that sports some Shatraug-like (Horna) crooning by Infernal Vlad. Nearly eight minutes in length, this track is full of surprises and drives away the staleness that haunts many a modern black metal band.

Death Karma - The History of Death and Burial Rituals Part I 02Equally as good is “Czech Republic – Úmrlcí Prkna,” which showcases similar diversity and strength but with some added flavors. In this case, there is a little more death in the main riff and the midway transition comes in the form of some catchy old-school riffery, echoing cathedral spoken-words, and a melodic groove that induces headbanging. Instrumental “India – Towers of Sacrifice” incorporates all of the previously-mentioned elements in its seven-minute length; alternating between fast and mid-paced, combining black and death elements, and sprinkling in some Slayer-like thrash. It’s a solid track, but a tad long for my taste. More variety comes in “Mexico – Chichén Itzá,” which really fucks with the formula of the aforementioned songs by spending the first half in blackened Spanish-themed tremolo picking and chaotic rasps before shifting into a dissonant riff full of haunting emotion.

The neatest part about THoDaBR Part I is the incorporation of subtle influences from the regions mentioned in the song titles. Not overpowering or overused, there’s a slight touch of culture in each song that drags you deeper into the album’s concept. Overall, the songwriting is solid but the production is one of the most compressed I have ever heard. It doesn’t completely ruin the experience because I fully believe it was intentional to make every strum and bass thump feel like the equivalent of being locked within a bomb shelter while missiles slam into the side of it. Simply put, it’s fucking loud. Sadly, it’s because of the compression that I gave this album a lower score than it deserves. So, if you don’t mind your death hurting a little bit and you really want to learn about “hanging coffins,” then come check this out. Maybe next semester we’ll learn “Part 2.” [And they’ll learn proper production techniques.Steel Druhm].


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 3 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Websites: Too kvlt for that shit!
Release Dates: Out Worldwide: 2.13.2015

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  • Kim Sørensen

    DR3 :O

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Might as well keep listening to Thantifaxath and Caïna while I wait for another worthwhile black metal album to come out…

  • Merijn Kooijman

    “… because I fully believe it was intentional to make every strum and bass thump feel like the equivalent of being locked within a bomb shelter while missiles slam into the side of it.”

    I think this would be a good description of a high dynamic range master instead of a low DR one.. In which every (or some) particular strum and bass thump has impact on its own.

    For me, this is one of the first examples of a low DR completely ruining the experience. It actually feels like a brick. Too bad. Good review nevertheless.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Thanks for compliment and the comments. What I meant was that the sound is simply concussive. Each note is just pounding. It’s like you went deaf with each strum or bass thump. But I do think it was intentional.

      What you’re saying is completely true. I like this album a lot but the compression really hurts it (and my ears).

      • Doc, that’s a DR3 via the MP3 promo which tends to fictiously raise the DR score slightly (digital overs and all that). Put simply, ouch!

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          Alex, I appreciate the added info! I was going to mention the MP3 format but since we list it, I left it alone. But it’s very important for everyone to understand this.

          I really do love the album but ouch indeed.

          • Doc, by NO means was I trying to insinuate that you left something out of this most excellent review!

            Because of that last comment though, I’m going to check this one out (though at reduced volume!).

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            No worries! I didn’t get that impression at all and thanks for the kind words.

            It is a cool album. It’s just a bummer about the sound.

  • Alexandre Barata

    I like it. The low DR hurts me, but I think death would do it too, so I think it is a nice piece of hurtfull music. I really do like it, just have to listen it on a low volume :D

  • PEACE_SELLS

    Anyone has listened to it on vinyl yet? How’s the DR on that?