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As their frosty death comes near, laughter of the winds they hear... - 95%

anamolpoudyal, February 11th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2015, Digital, Legion of Death Records (Bandcamp)

Ugra Karma is an old-school death metal band formed in the mid-1990s in Kathmandu, Nepal by a bunch of metalheads attending Kathmandu University. Encyclopedia Metallum states that Ugra Karma is a Sanskrit term that denotes a bad, harmful action. Ugra Karma is the first death metal band from Nepal and their first full-length album, “Blood Metal Initiation” is one of the most influential metal records to come out of Nepal. From its formation in the nineties, disbandment in early 2000s, to the long-awaited reunion in 2012, UgraKarma went through several lineup changes; some members moved abroad whereas some continued to pursue different musical endeavors.

The current lineup consists of Sunil Dev Pant, Prateek Raj Neupane, Bikram Shrestha, and Bijay Shrestha; Bikram and Bijay are brothers. After a decade-long hiatus, Sunil Dev Pant returned back to Nepal from the Montana, United States and reunited the band with his old friend Prateek Raj Neupane; Sunil then contacted Bikram and Bijay to form a strong lineup to write and record Mountain Grinders. Although majority of the songs in Mountain Grinders were completed by 2013, daily power blackouts, shitty studio managers, and the 2015 earthquake delayed the release of this EP. Likewise, Ugra Karma aptly named their EP Mountain Grinders as they also refer to their music as “Himalayan Metal of Death”. Mountain Grinders was released in September 2nd, 2015 by Legion of Death Records.

Due to the unavailability of proper recording equipment in Nepal in the early 2000s, Ugra Karma’s previous records were recorded at BMI Studios using cheap equipment, shitty Indian guitars, and a drum machine; however, after more than a decade, high-quality recording equipment and musical instruments were easily accessible in Nepal, and Ugra Karma’s sound quality has improved tenfold. The amalgamation of distorted (fretless) bass, clean bass, Jackson Warrior guitar powered with Seymour Duncan SH-8 pickups, high-quality drum set, and flawless mixing by audio engineers at Phoenix Studios (located in Kathmandu, Nepal) was the major factor that made the sound quality of this EP flawless.

The EP consists of 5 tracks and it is 12 minutes, 28 seconds long. The first track is “Annapurna - The Serial Killer”; Sunil’s growls and Prateek’s screeches combined with Bikram’s brutal drumming makes this a killer first track; Annapurna is a massif situated in north-central Nepal, and it has the highest fatality rate among all the 14 eight-thousanders. The lyrics are sick and talk about Mt. Annapurna’s unforgiving nature and how majority of climbers face a brutal death in the extreme Himalayan weather. Sunil and Prateek have mentioned Macabre (Illinois-based thrash/death metal band) as one of their major influences, and Macabre is known for writing albums and songs about serial killers such as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard Ramirez, Edmond Kemper, and many other psychopaths. Thus, Sunil and Prateek may have been inspired by Macabre to name their song “Annapurna – The Serial Killer”.

“As their frosty death comes near
Laughter of the winds they hear” –
Ugra Karma, Annapurna – The Serial Killer


The second track in the EP is “Nullifidian” and it is the shortest track in the EP. Sunil Dev Pant and Prateek Raj Neupane are both known among death metal scene in Nepal for their fascination with nihilism, blasphemy, and atheism. (Prateek has also composed a song named “Nihilist” with his other band Binaash). In an interview with Death Metal Nepal, Sunil says, “I follow nothing and no one. I do not believe in the existence of god or of universal morality or any other kinds of rules except the Laws of Nature. I do not believe that life has a purpose. It is just a chemical process that ends with death. But we are endowed with this very powerful brain that's capable of great many things, including spiritual thoughts. I am spiritual and I find the findings/teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, later Buddha, intriguing. Siddharthic Nihilism is just a phrase that kind summaries my ideology and outlook to life”. Sunil may have coined the term “Siddharthic Nihilism”. Some grindcore components also have been incorporated into this track and the lyrical aspect of this track reflects the band members’ fascination with nihilism.

“I am son of chasm
I am spawn of darkness
I am scion of abyss
We are lords of blackness
I will scorn your deity
I will mock your dogma
I will stomp your idols
We shall slay your Master” – Ugra Karma, Nullifidian


The third track in this EP is “Mount Blasphemy” and this is my favorite track from this record. Unlike other tracks, the lyrics in this track is written in Nepali language. While it is easier for Nepalese fans to understand the lyrics, it is incomprehensible for listeners who don’t know Nepali language. Nevertheless, the song has some of the sickest Ugra Karma riffs and uses complex rhythms. Although Sunil and Prateek never received any formal music education, they are adept at writing complex polyrhythmic music. The lyrics in “Mount Blasphemy” is blasphemous and mocks religious people and their stupidity.

The fourth track in this EP is “Chandaal Shaitaan” which is the most popular Ugra Karma song. Although this song was featured in Ugra Karma’s first full-length album, “Blood Metal Initiation”, Ugra Karma recorded this song again for this EP; it is also the longest track in this EP. In an interview with Death Metal Nepal, Sunil has expressed his dissatisfaction regarding the poor sound quality of “Blood Metal Initiation”. Likewise, this track is mainly about gore, sadism, morbidity, gore, hatred, aggression, and PGA; unlike the previous version of this song, this version is much brutal and aggressive. Although Sunil and Prateek have grown older, their growls and screeches are still intimidating. As a guitarist, I also really enjoy playing this song on my guitar; the galloping riffs are highly addictive and hypnotic. Although the delay effect has been used on vocals on each track of this EP, it is most notable in “Chandal Shaitaan”.

“Butchery embodied in the brain
Craving bodies for satiation
You're lured by morbid plans
Now you're under sadistic hands”
– Ugra Karma, Chandaal Shaitaan


The last track in this EP is “108 Decapitations”. The number 108 is considered sacred in Hindu religion, and this track talks about cattle decapitation (usually goats, water buffaloes, and roosters) that takes place in Nepalese festivals. In an interview with Death Metal Nepal, Sunil mentions, “108 Decapitations” is about the Nepali culture of animal sacrifice. Nepal is one of the few places in the world where animal sacrifice is still practiced on a regular basis”. “108 Decapitations” also heavily uses the galloping riffs that are extremely satisfying to listen to.

“Hundred and eight
Sacrificed here
Bleeding, headless
Celebrate death
Hecatomb done
Decollation
Praise Death! Hail Death!!
Blood tradition
Hail!!!” – Ugra Karma, 108 Decapitations


Mountain Grinders is one of the sickest death metal records to come out of South Asia in recent years, and it has also made Ugra Karma the torchbearers of South Asian death metal scene. Both Norman Trinidad and Prabin Shrestha (Binaash) have designed a sick cover artwork. To conclude, Mountain Grinders is a paragon of a true old school death metal record, and Ugra Karma continues to inspire countless musicians and bands with their brutal and aggressive music. Go to https://ugrakarma.bandcamp.com/album/mountain-grinders, buy their music and merchandise.