With their latest album, Czech group Cult of Fire has changed the landscape of black metal. An elaborate and beautifully crafted album, मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान has pushed the boundaries of the genre and fills an important niche in the musical landscape as a whole. As someone drawn to Eastern spirituality and extreme metal, I’ve come across many bands who make music at the intersection of both. Groups like Rudra, The Firstborn, Kartikeya have all made sincere works of art in this vein. However the crucial subniche of Tantric Black Metal has gone unfilled, until now. So it is with great pleasure that I review this amazingly cohesive and spiritually magnificent work. मृत्यु Is an album devoted to the Indic goddess Kali and the darker rites of Tantra and Asceticism. Translating to “Ascetic Meditation of Death,” मृत्यु is melodic black metal much like Dissection and the Memoria Vetusta albums of Blut Aus Nord, seamlessly mixed with sitar, tambora, and chanting. The album and songtitles are rendered in Devanagari script, expressing and elaborating the Tantric worship of the terrifying goddess Kālī.
Tambora and darkly ominous chanting start off the first song, संहार रक्त काली (Saṃhāra Rakta Kālī) followed by distant guitars. This impeccably arresting mood is interrupted by crushingly harsh vocals, weaving us into amazing sitar and guitar synergy, working a slow mood accompanied by the harsh vocals. This invocation to Kālī perfectly sets the stage for the rest of the album, giving a taste of the meditative exploration as the sitar and guitar synergy increases in speed and intensity. Brutally harsh vocals call out to Kālī before we move into an even faster atmosphere, accompanied by relentless clean chanting and mesmerizing riffing tuning our consciousness into a contemplative and receptive state of mind.
The next song starts off at a harsher note, with devastating vocals and powerful riffing. Much faster and brutal than the previous song, अस्तित्व की चिता पर (On the Funeral Pyre of Existence) summons a very different state of mind. After the brutality the song slows to a standstill halfway through, giving way to the sounds of burning fire. Here we find ourselves in a desolate mood, confronted by the fact that all of this world is subject to death and destruction, a bleak funeral pyre from which there is no refuge. The savagery begins again afterwards, with alternating brutal and atmospheric parts leading us upwards and upwards through higher and higher states of mind, reaching a climax after pushing us to the limits.
The bleak atmosphere continues through the third song, शव साधना (śava sādhanā), summoning the profound spiritual malaise summoned and confronted in hard-core Tantric practice. This song concerns the Tantric ritual of the same name, in which the practitioner meditates atop a corpse in a cremation ground. After an extended section rather placid and plodding, the music gears up and assaults the listener with crashing waves of force and noise, invoking the constant assault by demons and spirits encountered in such a ritual. Diabolical chanting from the deepest hell realms enters in, intoning vile truths while the listener sits amidst the overwhelming rot and terror. The music grows more and more relentless after the chanting ends, until the ritual draws to a close.
After the relentless torture endured by the listener in the previous songs, we come to a beautiful hierophany of the goddess herself. The fourth song, काली मां (Kālī Mā) is one of the jewels of the album, a reverential and beautifully sad piece of music. Clean vocals and exquisitely melodic black metal are at center stage, accompanied by well-placed drumming. Riffs enter in and out of the foreground, while the listener sits in a meditative trance in the glory of the dark goddess. The atmosphere this song creates is right up there with Wolves in the Throne Room and Agalloch in terms of pure mood. A piano enters near the end bringing the beauty to a crescendo before taking us back to the hypnotic riffs and chanting buried in the mix. The song slowly fades out at the end, bringing the vision of the goddess to a close.
The mood shifts as we enter the next song, मृत्यु ही सत्य है (When Death is All). After the vision of the goddess the music returns to the brutality of previous songs but with a more empowering atmosphere. This song has a frenetic energy, brutal black metal played at breakneck speed, joined by amazingly crushing riffs towards the end of the song. The frantic atmosphere continues into song #6, मृत्यु का वीभत्स नृत्य (Gruesome Dance of Death), along with the visceral approach with death. “Gruesome Dance of Death” takes the listener through deeper and deeper levels of trance, its meditatively atmospheric riffs and heartwrenching vocals propelling through greater and greater meditative heights as we contemplate the brutally impermanent nature of reality. One can only marvel at this album’s ability to trigger profoundly altered states of consciousness.
As we near the end of the album we find ourselves at yet another change in pace and mood. After the frenetic energy of the last two songs, खण्ड मण्ड योग (Khaṇḍa Maṇḍa Yoga) has a much slower atmosphere. “Khaṇḍa Maṇḍa Yoga” is the name of an extreme Tantric sādhanā in which the practitioner cuts off their limbs and head and sacrifices them to a ritual fire. This song’s glacial riffs and screams create a steady ambiance that channels the absolute faith, devotion, and dedication required for this. This penultimate song brings us to the conclusion of the album as this brutal ritual incinerates all ignorance and self-grasping left in the listener, allowing the purified and worthy yogi to attain the goal.
After all of the suffering we’ve endured in this journey we finally arrive at the ethereal closing track दिव्य प्रेम की ज्वाला से दग्ध (Burned by the Flame of Divine Love). Tambora drone begins this song alongside other Indian instruments, joined a minute and a half later by black metal riffs. The music merges together seamlessly, creating a relentlessly blissful ambience. At this juncture we find ourselves bathed with divine love, the extreme path we’ve practiced finally bearing fruit as we are burnt by the profound beauty. The blissful ambience is joined by an Indian voice, the superlative beauty literally burning us.
This album creates such a cohesive and perfect whole that it’s beyond the grasp of words. There has been a huge gap in black metal for me that this album fills, a niche of brutal and atmospheric black metal composed in glory of Kali, the dark goddess. This album hooks the listener in, a truly unique work incorporating Indian musical elements without it feeling cheap or tacked on, a bold challenge to the walls of sameness enforced by the black metal orthodoxy. The crushing and desolate atmosphere flawlessly expresses the profound darkness and energies confronted in this spiritual practice, giving exquisite musical form for the most gruesome and grotesque as well as the most beautiful and blissful aspects within Śakta Tantra. मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान is a truly innovative work, a new classic in black metal that will survive the test of time, and stand as some of the greatest spiritual black metal ever made.
Release: November 30, 2013
Label: Iron Bonehead Productions
Avantgenre: Tantric Sādhanā
Origin: Czech Republic
Official site: None
Review online since: 07.04.2014 / 22:41:36
01 – संहार रक्त काली