Review Summary: Goddess of creation, Goddess of destruction
I tend to enjoy concept albums in metal because the core theme is often unique and explorative, usually trending towards darker and bleaker subjects. Maha Kali is a concept album that plays with listener expectations in many ways. Headed by Mahesh Das out of Dover, New Hampshire, this album is a solo black metal project that is centered around worship of the Hindu Devi, Kali Maa.
In Hindu and Buddhist tradition, chanting mantra is an activity often used in order to focus the mind on something singular and repetitive during meditation. Even to those unfamiliar with the specific meaning of these mantra, they can sound quite peaceful and relaxing. However, that is not the case in this album. All of the lyrics are made up of chants to Kali Maa, vocalized in brutal and disturbing ways that makes them sound utterly evil. One might expect devotional music to a goddess to be less so, but Kali is a multifaceted being that encompasses both life and death; creation and destruction.
The intro track “Om” is almost cruel with its placement in this album, as it allows the listener to step into a serene soundscape meant fool you into feeling at ease. This is taken away almost immediately as we are thrust into a thick swirling mess of chaotic instrumentation. The sound of this album is incredibly dense, making it difficult at times to pick apart the individual pieces. It is a complex sound that combines elements of atmospheric black metal, noise, psychedelic, and death metal.
The guitars are often quite grimy and muddy, giving the album a very sickening feeling when juxtaposed with the demonic vocal performance. They vary from repetitive heavy chugging to more melodic segments, which become more frequent as the album progresses. The drums are still clearly heard through this mess of noise, but aren’t straight blast beat either, which gives appreciated variety in the percussion. I find that one of the pitfalls of atmospheric black metal is that it can often become too absorbed in its sound, making the project repetitive and dull over time; but in Maha Kali each track retains its own identity and purpose while still contributing to a larger idea.
My personal favorite attribute of this record is the vocal delivery. I seldom pay close attention to the lyrics of metal music while listening, especially if the delivery is unclean. This is because I place higher value on the sound of the vocals as opposed to the word choice or construction of verse – which works very well for Maha Kali, because as I mentioned, all of the lyrics are Hindu mantra. The vocal range varies from mid to low, with the mid-range taking on a disease ridden gargle, and the lower register sounding more like an ancient demon. Either way, the vocals are an essential piece of the atmosphere that really solidify a chilling, evil feeling.
Maha Kali is one of the most unique black metal records I have heard lately, both in its sound and its thematic presentation. Basically, this thing rips.