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Orator arose from the ashes of Barzak, a more primitive black/death metal project which the primary members of the band were a part of until the change in moniker. Three years after their debut EP ‘Dominion of Avyaktam’, the fruits of the band’s hard work are presented on this studio endeavour. Released via Armée de la Mort Records, Kapalgnosis marks the first full-length of the Bangladeshi trio. The etymological meaning behind the title and the overall running theme of the album is imperative to the album experience, and is not merely a superficial subject for the record to frivolously lean back on, but something that adds to the overall theatrical experience of the music. Kapalgnosis is as portmanteau word of two words – kapal and gnosis. Kapal translates into the skull cup possessed by Kāpālikas (and more broadly Aghoris), a non-Puranic, tantric order of Shaivism in South Asia. Gnosis on the other hand denotes knowledge, and thus Kapalgnosis together denote the cranium chalice/skull cup of knowledge.
The trance like intro of the album puts the listener in an almost meditative reverie, with an atmosphere begetted by the trajection of what seems to be an ambient sitar, evoking a feeling of austere. But this feeling of tranquillity is encroached with the first song, ‘First Born of Sataninsam’, which sets the tone for the album in a sense, chronicling macabre Aghoric tales, among other alternative path topics. One immediately takes note of the slight shift in the pacing of the band, which was a more straightforward blasting indulgence on their debut EP in the vein of the percussive patterning of bands like Krisiun. This full length sees the band take on a charging tempo that is comparatively evocative of a more classic death/thrash metal percussive racing in the vein of Sepultura, Master and Merciless, which are quite obviously some of the band’s influences. This works to the advantage of the band, as they’re able to forge their riff ideas in a more controlled manner as opposed to mindless un-fettered tremolo ripping. However, by no means could the music be described as restrained or sterile, as the tone of the drums are punishingly bludgeoning. Essentially, Mephistopheles Warmonger brings forth a dynamic to the band that keeps structural adherence in check while refusing to compromise on the savage nature of the music.
The guitar work is unapologetically syncopation driven, evoking a raw and thunderous textural dynamic that compliments the grotesque realism of the Aghoric dogmas. Tempo shifts and riff ideas are seamlessly executed and blend into the larger creative canvas in some of the more lengthy compositions such as ‘In Tamas They Dwell’. Clean guitar work is sparingly added during appropriate segments of the aforementioned song, as well as the ambitious and eremitic instrumental ‘Devoid of Dharma (Aghorey Bhyo)’. This element serves to add to the layering and illumination of a given track, while presenting fragmented ideas working together in counterpoint. Solos are brief and quite simplistic, perhaps leaving one longing for more in that specific department, but the vitality of the songs as a whole compels one to ignore this shortcoming. Vritra Ahi’s bass work mostly follows the riff idea established by Skullbearer, but adds to the overall cohesiveness and sturdiness of the sound. Independent bass moments are found on songs like ‘Gnosis Stained Khadga’ and others across the album.
The song structures are cyclical, and the number of distinctive, separate riffs is limited within a given song, but the sheer relentlessness of the compositions, driven by the ripping wave-like riffs keep any notions of monotony at bay. The vocals are a primitive, ripped vocal-chords type of indulgence that requires little analysis. Vocal hooks are incorporated within the primeval sonic pillage of Skullbearer’s venomous chants; as the chorus of songs like ‘Kapalrevolution’ or ‘Rites of Grand Renunciation’ effectively reflect. There are less native instruments on this album relative to their debut EP, and is mostly restricted to the usage of subtle flutes that are in congruence with the trance inducing guitar patterning on the sole instrumental track of the album. The band has also added a cover of Merciless' ‘Bestial Death’ which is simply fantastic.
Lyrically, the band invokes the cultural mythos and mysticism of the land, albeit not by means of a straightforward historical narrative. Instead, they reflect on the more anomalous (some would say morbid) side of the land’s spiritual tenets, and what better dogmatic order than the Aghori sect compliments their menacing and dark hymns? This is tastefully done, and doesn’t overwhelming the listener. The sound they’ve forged for themselves is universally relatable amidst these cultural specificities and thematic leanings. The artwork is also fantastic, which portrays a Brahmin being decapitated by a maniacal Aghori (with a third eye to boot), and the premise of the artwork can be read inside the lyrics/credits booklet of the album. I cannot stress what an excellent visual compliment it is to the larger thematic premise and rabid music of the album.
In conclusion, the band successfully conjures a death metal sound via a vicious thrash metal percussive channel, which is both gratifying and has high replay value. It might not present the most original sound, but is cohesively executed and to put it simply, very catchy and invigorating, and is stellar by any standards.
Originally written for - Putrid Ascendancy