November 2016

Review: Kartikeya – Mahayuga

When I crossed paths with Kartikeya’s Mahayuga for the first time, I wasn’t impressed at all because this wasn’t the kind of music I was usually listening to back then. Now, a few years later, things have changed quite a bit and so has my perception of music. After listening to Nevid’, one of Roman Iskorostensky’s other involvements, for a good deal since the release of Agarta, plus having been impressed with Arsafes’ debut album as well, it was a close shot giving the album at hand another try. And this album certainly is worth it.
Besides Kartikeya’s obvious intention of mixing melodic black/death metal with Middle Eastern (Indian) influences, this album in particular deals with vedic/hinduistic philosophical and mythological aspects (so the style of music can be called vedic metal), as is apparent in every song. But these lyrical aspects I’m going to treat more particularly later on, as they are quite essential for grasping this album’s meaning and, at least to me, very interesting as well.
Stylistically, Kartikeya’s music on this record can not only be described with the aforementioned attributes, as this album incorporates a huge amount of different influenced that are merged into a very individual blend. While the technical death and atmospheric black metal elements certainly dominate the whole guitar and percussion work, there also is a variety of atmospheric, acoustic and even ambient elements created by folk instruments, clean vocals and keyboards, but these are not isolated but in constant interaction with the rest of the songs’ guitar work, so they are not out of place but fit perfectly to the more aggressive parts and overall atmosphere. This keeps the songs from developing any ‘folksy’ character, any resemblance of that is usually blown away by the furious guitar riffs and vocals. In general, almost every song consists of interactions of these different stylistic means, with some exceptions like the acoustic interludes ‘Moksha’ and ‘Exile’ and the “description” of the ‘Satya Yuga’. And these constant interactions are what make this album so special, as the huge tension build up by the furious metal riffs is relieved by the atmospheric, sometimes almost meditative parts – and they are not arbitrary, but always in coherence with the topics the composer dwells upon!
In general, as Kartikeya (also known as Skanda and Murugan) is an Indian god of war, usually depicted holding a spear and riding a peacock, this aspect is surely reflected in the fast and furious metal parts, while the more spiritual themes are represented by the atmospheric ones, sometimes even maintaining the ritualistic, meditative character I already mentioned. Besides, many texts of hinduistic spiritual scriptures are about war, struggle, especially the Bhagavadgita (part of the epos Mahabharata), where the hero, Arjuna, asks for the reason why he has to fight a battle against his enemies’ army, while he even has close blood ties to them, and gets answers and spiritual guidance by an avatar of Krishna. I mention this not for the mere interest of mine, but as this particular battle is known as the Kurukshetra War, which is dealt with in the song ‘Fields of Kurukshetra’ (the title actually is a little redundant, as ‘Kurukshetra’ already means ‘the field of the Kurus’).
As much as I’d like to do that, I’m not going to give you a comprehensive interpretation of every song’s title and lyrics as well as its reflection in the music, as this would obviously break with the frames of a simple review. I’m only giving you a few examples and ideas of what this is about, because I think it is necessary to understand and to really listen to this album. It may make you realize WHY the musical arrangements are as they are. So, in sum, every song here treats some aspects of Vedism and/or Hinduism, but as this is a conceptual album, many of them can’t be understood without the others. For instance, the introductive song ‘Sarva Mangalam’ is based on a religious chant, its text meaning “May there be peace in earth, water, fire, and air, the sun, moon, and planet, in all living beings, in body, mind and heart. May that peace be everywhere and in everyone.“ One now could wonder where this album is peaceful in any way. But as it is often the case with religion or philosophy, this chant does not describe what IS, but what was or should be endeavoured. Surely, these words don’t describe our present world, but most of the following songs actually are or can be projected on nowadays circumstances and quests for meaning and wisdom. At least until ‘Utpavana’, where another, central topic starts to develop, that I simply have to grant some lines. Utpavana means ‘cleansing’, and can be interpreted as the cleansing of this planet considering morally and spiritually rotten mankind as ‘dirt’. In this context, the last lines of the lyrics “Hark! Thou shall be erased, for the great Utpavana has begun!” are quite clear, as is the following calm and peaceful ambient passage that is the bridge to the Mahayuga cycle, which is to me the central topic of this record. Mahayuga is one aspect of the Hindu units of time, having a duration of 4.32 Million solar years, being cyclic and thus repeating itself, and consisting of four Yugas (=ages), Satya, Dvapara, Tretya and Kali Yuga. This succession of the Yugas is characterized by a decline in human nature, usually symbolized by the goddess Dharma (herself symbol of morality), standing on four legs during Satya Yuga, on three during Dvapara Yuga, and so on. This development, these Yugas Kartikeya set into music within the last four songs of the album. That is actually why there are these calm, peaceful and harmonic ambient layers in ‘Satya Yuga’, the instrumental metal in ‘Dvapara Yuga’, the aggressiveness in ‘Tretya Yuga’ and the almost lunatic, erratic music in the last song, ‘Kali Yuga’, the age we presently live in, where “man kills each other”. This development is impressively depicted in the lyrics, for example with:

“See the father cry as the mother eats her child
Awaking an orgy of sacrilege and blight
See the genocide and bloodshed, raging armies rise
In the desecrated fortress of hatred and lies”.

But this last song is special in itself, as it consists of at least three parts. The first is the brutal, erratic one, out of which the quotation was taken. This part ends with the meditative Hare Krishna mantra. Then again an ambient structure sets in, before the final song, a cover of Shakira’s ‘Eyes like yours’ begins. A Shakira cover?, one might wonder. But I think it’s quite ingenious. Within the Kali Yuga it is said that there is a short return (10 thousand years) to the Golden Age (Satya Yuga), which is represented by the ambient passage that actually resembles the song Satya Yuga. After this ‘short’ period, the final time of Kali Yuga continues until the final cleansing. This last period (comparable to the present day, if you like to) is represented by covering a modern day popular music song (that even matches the album’s overall oriental tone) and the disturbing ambient final breath, before the cycle returns.

Now, to come to an end, there is nothing more to say that this album is amazing if you are into this kind of music and interested in the treated topics. The instrumental and vocal performances are very variable and professionally executed, so everything sounds the way it is supposed to, and one has the impression that the composer perfectly knew what he was doing. I can nothing but recommend you listening to this awesome piece of music, possibly giving it some time and thought! As an introduction, I can suggest listening to ‘He who carries the head of Brahma’ and ‘Surya Jayanti’, although I have a new favourite song with every listen. And I’ll definitely listen to this album again and again, while eagerly waiting for the following album, Samudra, that saw some unfortunate delays but seems to be in the final re-recording stages now.

Callisto – Backbone

This song amazes me since its publication more than 1.5 years ago. I’ve listened to it so many times, and I just can’t stop doing it.

No question, it was named “Backbone” for a reason. Just feel the guitars with their somewhat dissonant riffing crushing into you, getting to the marrow of your bones. I particularly like these lines:

“Still reaching out to find a meaning
A revelation guiding home
Worn out to wear the armour of the vivid
While stumbling on the winding road”.

And then the singer shouts “Gather pieces and rebuild”, which is the very meaning of having a backbone – being able to rebuild yourself, out from your ashes, in every moment of your life, without losing connection to the self you once cherished (or just couldn’t avoid), thus being able to constantly return to yourself.


New album: Klimt1918 – Sentimentale Jugend

Klimt1918, one of my favourite rock bands, is finally releasing their long-anticipated sophomore album called “Sentimentale Jugend” on December 2. More than 8 years have passed since the release of their last album “Just in case we’ll never meet again”, which was a very persistent companion of mine during all these years, as have been all of their previous releases. Thus, this release, which is in fact a double album, to me is one of the most eagerly awaited ones of the past years. But now a few words for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with this Italian band.
They were founded in 1999 in Rome and have released one demo and three albums (for a brief overview, see here) so far. While the early demo was described as gothic metal, their later material is generally labeled as indie rock/alternative rock, though the band itself once described their material as “eerie emotional music”. But it is definitely hard to label them, especially as I usually don’t like labels at all. They surely have alternative rock influences, you can hear post rock crescendos, guitar walls with a lot of reverb, clean vocals that nicely fit the atmosphere (and have some italian feeling to them, especially regarding the sound of the mostly english lyrics) … But see and hear for yourself, their previous releases are (almost) all available at bandcamp!
Their new album has a lot of interesting influences, as Sentimentale Jugend refers to a noise project of the guy from Einstürzende Neubauten and Christiane F. (“We Children From Bahnhof Zoo”), and it is said that <<“Sentimentale Jugend” captures West Berlin in its pulsating, nihilistic glory during the late 70s […] and processes notions from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s award-winning movie “The Lives Of Others”, be it the foggy winter atmosphere in East Berlin during the early 80s or the female protagonist’s melancholy.>> As I am from Berlin, I’m specifically interested in how this might sound like!
As references for some influences of the sound of their new album, which actually consists of two separate releases, “Sentimentale” (9 songs, 54 minutes) and “Jugend” (10 songs, 53 minutes), their label Prophecy Productions lists The Chameleons, iLikeTrains, Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Everly Brothers, Sigur Rós or Dead Can Dance. For the full description, click here.
So, to keep it at least relatively short: If I got you interested, check out their stuff using the given links and, if you want more updates, check out their facebook page.


Philosophy and public affairs?

This article posted on one of the news sites that I am regularly following certainly deals with a common problem, a question that must have been posed multiple times during the history of philosophy. The article starts with the recent statement of the famous slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, in which he “endorsed” Trump as president – though with a lot of restrictions, so to say. See here. The article then continues with a brief recap of the historical interaction of philosophers with public affairs, identifies the point when the path of direct interaction was left, and finally dwells on several problems in modern-day philosophy that led to the under-representation of philosophy in public affairs. Interestingly, the article clearly outlines the same structural problems of the scientific world that are commonly criticised, and that almost everyone trying to gain foothold in science has encountered, not even mentioning the early critics of these methods. In this case meaning that the intense pressure to publish something new and showing off your skills in abstract fields distracts philosophers from focussing on the understanding of things that may be simple, but are of the greatest importance to humanity’s perception of and interaction with the world.

As someone highly interested in philosophy who always tries to see how it could be relevant for practical life, even if “practical” simply means modifying your brain to different paths of thinking, I enjoyed the approach the author of this article has taken. And in general I sincerely hope that philosophy, or the art of thinking, will soon regain some levels of impact.

It’s about time, don’t you think?



Hölderlin – Hälfte des Lebens

Zwar gibt es von Hölderlin eine Vielzahl bewegender, genialer, zum versinkenden Nachdenken anregender Gedichte, doch der Kürze halber möchte ich diese Kategorie mit einem seiner bekanntesten eröffnen – etliche andere werde im Laufe der Zeit gewiss folgen.

Mit gelben Birnen hänget
Und voll mit wilden Rosen
Das Land in den See,
Ihr holden Schwäne,
Und trunken von Küssen
Tunkt ihr das Haupt
Ins heilignüchterne Wasser.

Weh mir, wo nehm’ ich, wenn
Es Winter ist, die Blumen, und wo
Den Sonnenschein,
Und Schatten der Erde?
Die Mauern stehn
Sprachlos und kalt, im Winde
Klirren die Fahnen.

F. Hölderlin, 1804

Klabautamann – New album

Klabautamann, my favourite progressive black metal act from Germany, recently announced the final recordings for their upcoming fifth album. As of now, it looks like this album marks a return to the soundscapes of Merkur and Der Ort while further expanding it, as indicated by the two guest vocalists and the trombone contribution by Clemens Toyka, who already did the great atmospheric brass sections on Island’s self-titled 2010 album and the Enigma of the Stars EP.

To me, this album is one of the most anticipated of the last years, and I have to try hard looking forward to it patiently.

Give them a try and listen to their previous outputs! And support the work of their high-quality genre-transcending label Zeitgeister Music.

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