Cult of Fire
मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान

Ever hear of a sophomore slump? Cult of Fire most certainly does not believe in them. This Czech semi-supergroup composed of Lykathea Aflame, Maniac Butcher, Dark Storm, and Death Karma members came out of nowhere last year with their passionate debut full-length, Triumvirát (if you had heard their 2011 self-released EP prior to that, +666 kvlt points for you). They were so surprisingly powerful right out of the gate, I was afraid they may have burned up too much of their fuel. Apparently these cultists have been stocking up on lighter fluid because मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान (Ascetic Meditation of Death) is the product of a band fully ablaze. (Bad punnery? Sorry, it was unavoidable.)

I’m not privy to the lyrics, but considering the cover art and Sanskrit album and song titles, I think it’s safe to say that the theme is based in Hinduism, which I’m not going to pretend to know anything about outside of what I gleaned from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Apparently that movie pissed off some people in India for its depiction of Kali as an evil goddess. Something tells me they won’t appreciate her depiction here either.

Despite the overt Hindu theme, the music itself is largely void of Indian influence, so don’t expect to hear sitar-based black metal or anything like that. Well, there is a little of that, but the vast majority of the album is in the same emotive, occult, Czech-ish vein as their debut. However, this is no retread. As good as their debut was, this surpasses it in every respect. First off, the production style here fits the music perfectly. It’s raw and harsh, yet every element is unclouded and appropriately balanced. “Authentic” is a word that comes to mind as nothing sounds phony or forced. And, then there’s the music itself. The riffs are more biting, the drumming more intense, the vocals more venomous, the atmosphere more rich, and the overall songwriting and flow of the album feels more varied and sophisticated. To put it simply, this is their Ride the Lightning.

As previously mentioned, there isn’t much tying the music to the theme, which is neither here nor there, but some Indian instrumentation does bookend the album. Deep chanting and sitar set an ominous, mystical stage in the LP’s first few minutes and the closing track, “दिव्य प्रेम की ज्वाला से दग्ध” (“Burnt by the Flame of Divine Love” according to Google Translate), is a dreamy mix of sitar, spoken word, guitars, and marching drums that surprisingly remind me of Type O Negative’s “Can’t Lose You” off of Bloody Kisses, and not only because both include a sitarist. The feeling and pace are also similar and both are album closers. But, this is an isolated resemblance as the rest of the album is total serpentine blackness. Obvious reference points are country mates Master’s Hammer, Root, and Maniac Butcher, but Cult of Fire have developed their own sound that culls from a variety of influences, making each song its own unpredictable journey. A woodsy hue á la Agalloch and Drudkh colors tracks like “अस्तित्व की चिता पर” (On the Funeral Pyre of Existence) and “खण्ड मण्ड योग” (I couldn’t get a clear translation for this one), which also includes some of the wintry ambience of Forteresse in its subdued pace and sad tremolo guitar work. Then there’s the dynamic melancholy of “शव साधना” (Spiritual Bodies), which plays like a mashup of Kroda (minus the folk) and early Emperor before launching into manic thrashing right before its abrupt end. “काली मां” (Black Goddess) is a hypnotic, solemn number with chanted vocals which is then immediately contrasted with a haunting force akin to Lunar Aurora at full-speed in “मृत्यु का वीभत्स नृत्य” (Macabre Dance of Death). Album opener, “संहार रक्त काली” (Black Blood Destruction), and “मृत्यु ही सत्य है” (Death is Truth) end up being the most straightforward tracks, but they earn their keep with vehemence. At times, this rich tapestry has a hint of musty ‘70s aroma from the subtle Hammond organ that creeps into several of these tracks and adds another layer of character, but it never overpowers.

I’ve been comparing this to a lot of other bands, but none of these influences really hit you over the head. They’re all seamlessly woven into a cohesive whole that Cult of Fire can call their own. If this year’s amazing Bölzer EP and slew of other great releases from Iron Bonehead Productions didn’t already get them on every serious metalhead’s radar, this certainly will. They might have some trouble topping it, though.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Adam Palm
November 18th, 2013

Comments

  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    great writeup, excellent album. I am also impressed by the songwriting on this one – particularly the band’s grasp of dynamics and atmosphere. It’s not all blasting savagery all the time, which makes for a rich and varied listen. Some moments could even be considered transcendent (fits the theme) though not in the obvious ethereal way. Top 10 of the year for me.


  2. Commented by: Storm King

    Where did you get that font from? That’s all I want to know, lol.


  3. Commented by: Phil-l-

    This…is wonderful!!!


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