Kurokuma – Born of Obsidian

Posted: 8 January 2022 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

4th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s fitting that a doom / sludge metal act should take their time over things – and Sheffield trio Kurokuma have really taken their time over things in order to deliver their debut album. Having formed late 2013, they’re one band whose progress can’t have been said to have been hampered by the pandemic: instead, they’ve been evolving their sound over the course of a number of single and EP releases, notably the Advorsus EP in 2016 and 2018’s ‘Dope Rider’ single. This means that the arrival of Born of Obsidian feels like an event, a monumental summit in the band’s career. And if five tracks, in the face of it, does‘t look like much by way of a definitive statement that represents the apogee of some eight years of work, the fact that all bar one are over eight minutes long and each one packs the density of a black hole gives some necessary context.

‘Smoking Mirror’ lands things perfectly; there’s a definite groove, even a hint of funk – not in the Chili Peppers’ funk metal sense, but in a twisted, fucked-up psychedelic sense – to the bassline that bounces along before the crushing power chords crash in. The vocals snarl and scraw and everything comes together to deliver optimum weight. It may be a cliché to sat it needs to be played loud, and playing any metal not loud is a mistake, but having been recorded in London with Sanford Parker (YOB, Eyehategod, Indian), volume really increases the appreciation of the quality production. There’s not only great separation between the instruments, but each brings something more to the overall mix. On ‘Smoking Mirror’, your attention is likely to be on the churning guitar, but the drums are outstanding in the way they kick through the dense, treacle-like distortion.

They promise an album that’s ‘equal parts primitive brutality and mind-bending psychedelia’, and it’s all there in the pulverising repetitions of ‘Sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli’. For its brevity, it packs in a neatly-constructed structure, with intro, verses, chorus, mid-section – which brings an explosive change of tempo – and megalithic, gut-churning riffing that rages hard and heavy. It demonstrates that there’s a lot going on with these guys, and that they’re not just lug-headed chord-thudders, but possess a level of musical articulateness that separates them from many of their peers.

Single cut ‘Jaguar’ is, it turns out, entirely representative, a roaring beast of a tune that has a rare swing to it – and a lot of cowbell. It warps and lurches with remarkable dexterity for something of such colossal weight. The repetitive riffery of ‘Ololiuqui’ batters and bludgeons relentlessly, maintaining its form and instead varying the tone and depth of the distortion, and stepping up the volume incrementally, before the nine minute ‘Under the Fifth Sun’ delivers a decimating conclusion.

With bulldozing, unyielding mass and density, Born of Obsidian is high-impact: Kurokuma have mastered the power of hard volume and brutal force – as is in keeping with the genre. But where Kurokuma stand apart – and above – is in the detail, the nuance, the deviation from the blueprint, which shows a unique flair, and surely Born of Obsidian is destined for cult status.

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