Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dying Out Flame: Shiva Rudrastakam (2014)

When Death Metal Was Born Again for the Seventh Time

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

During law school my wife's Sikh friend got married in Vancouver and we were privileged to take part in the elaborate, striking and lengthy wedding ceremony. My wife had the henna administered (it looked totally metal!), I ate the Kara Parshad and the three days flew by. It was wonderful. Of all of the things I learned that weekend, the most important was the light bulb dance. For the uninitiated, this was a particular dance move performed in traditional* Indian dance by which one alternates raising a wrist and twisting it high in the air like he is screwing in a light bulb, while the other hand goes down behind. Switch hands, twist the light bulb. Repeat. I have since wielded it to measurable effect at another Sikh wedding in Vancouver - also a blast! - and to earn second place at the father - daughter dance contest last year. I also like death metal.

If there's incongruity in me dancing the light bulb to pop music and listening to death metal, I don't see it.** That's me. Dying Out Flame play death metal but with a (light bulb) twist - and what would appear to be completely incompatible is what's on their release, Shiva Rudrastakam (Vedic Death Metal). I've written before about how we search for something new in metal but we don't want it too new or different. For a metal band to even try it is brave - it's fraught with the danger of cheese and failure of metal power principles.*** Dying Out Flame blend brutal death metal with classical Indian music and female sung hymns. Danger! Cheese alert! Power failure! But guess what?

It's awesome. The tone is set with the short opener "Praise of the Omnipresent One" an aforementioned classical Indian instrumental which leads right into brutal death of "Shiva Rudrastakam". This is pretty much straight up death metal, well played and ugly. But it's peppered with little chanting breakdowns that offer that atmospheric balance necessary in metal to lend force to the heavy bits. Nothing crazy. They are brief early on but get more elaborate, and the awesomeness effect is greater with each passing track. Songs like "Eternal Mother of Time" evoke Nile as an obvious reference point, but the Indian themes and music lend is a better fit than the less familiar Egyptian music present on Nile's releases. This is more listenable than Nile, but without losing the brutality.

Patient listeners that get to the last three tracks will be rewarded with some of the best 21 minutes of death metal you'll hear this year. And a lot of it doesn't even sound like death metal, if that makes any sense. "Vayuputra" starts out familiar enough but at about the minute mark we are treated to traditional Indian drumming overlaying the blast beats, followed by brutality, followed by blast beats, a solo, traditional drumming over blast beats and the breakdown to worship of Shiva. Then brutality. My favorite tracks are the last two, probably because they incorporate the most of the Indian music dynamic. "Maisasura Maridini" rolls with an hypnotic chanting sequence and then death. Metal. For another three minutes and then two minutes of chanting, and traditional strings with "traditional" death metal growls and punctuated death metal blasts. It's fantastic. The closer "Trinetra Dhari (Three Eyed One)" all but abandons the genre's trappings and is the best track for it. First you'll headbang, and then you'll do the light bulb.

4 out of 5 stars.

*Well I'm not sure if it is "traditional" per se but I've seen it in Indian cinema a lot.
**If there's incongruity in me referencing a Sikh wedding when reviewing a Nepalese band that worships a Hindu god, I do see it. That's me.
***Not "power metal" principles, which are cheesy.

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