The droning sitars and chants marking the beginning of Cult Of Fire’s new album remind me of the soundtrack to the 2002 Lovecraftian video game Eternal Darkness.
And Eldritch deities from beyond the mortal plane would probably be quite at home listening to this record. But even if you lack tentacles, a thousand eyes or the ability to astral project, you’ll probably still like this.
Butchering horrific zombies and facing off against unspeakable terrors (à la Eternal Darkness) isn’t completely unrelated to the atmosphere of this album either – there really is something quite terrifying and bleak about it, a musical brand of nihilism that speaks volumes of fear – but there’s more to the record than the bleakness.
Though the track names are a complete mystery to me, and I can’t help but think that the choice to name everything on the record in Hindi is more than a little pretentious (Cult Of Fire are from the Czech Republic), the quality of the music has completely overwhelmed my misgivings. The translation of the album’s title is Ascetic Meditation of Death, according to the band’s website.
It all sounds a bit grim, but there’s always the imprint of light at the end of the tunnel, as even the rawest black metal riffs are redeemed here by the gorgeously constructed melodies. Amongst the turmoil of universal chaos, there’s a glimmer of something meaningful.
Though perhaps it would be more accurate to say that there’s a significant movement towards melodious climes in the second half of the album, as there is an undeniable force to the first few tracks that identifies far more with the ’90s black metal scene – even if there is always the noticeable use of sitar, juxtaposing the tremolo-picked riffs with individually picked notes. Harsh, tribalistic drums are a staple of this album’s sound.
[2014 update – you can stream the full album below! – M]
Cult Of Fire’s name really couldn’t be more apt when they crash into pace with the second track, though the crackling fire effects a few minutes in disrupt the pace hugely. Once that’s out of the way though, there’s a return to their startling black metal fury, complemented by passages which have been lifted straight from the post-rock/metal compendium of recent years, generating layers of psychedelic, ambient music – particularly in the final track. So there’s a lot more going on here than just black metal. You can almost smell the thick, heady incense smoke trailing around you.
If there’s a monastery somewhere out in the far east where all the monks wear corpse-paint, it’s probably where Cult Of Fire drew their inspiration for मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान from.
They might be another group who are treading the line between black metal and post-metal, but with interesting instrumentation reaching for inspiration from Emperor’sIn The Nightside Eclipse, Satyricon’s K.I.N.G. and drone maestros Earth’s 2008 release The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull, there’s a lot to set Cult Of Fire apart from the pack.
This is a brilliant album that tends to drift off the point from time to time – but it’s stellar nonetheless.