Karma Marata is currently a quintet of semi-anonymous musicians whom are relatively new to the military pop / martial industrial underground, having only previously released a split with Kristian Giorgini entitled …and Still Remain in 2010 as a collaboration between the German SkullLine (featured here as the lucky label to offer up Karma Marata’s debut full-length) and the Russian UFA Muzak. Beyond this, there is little known about the project other than their allure towards avoiding genre-defining barriers and their defiance against the unenviable hinderance of self-imposed rules. The five-piece appears to have a progressive mindset, operating on a level that is more about pushing boundaries than musical prowess, though frankly there is little to complain about on that front. If there is one thing that Karma Marata excel at with Das Sturmläuten, it’s their ability to remain frustratingly difficult to corner into one spotlight or describe with comparisons to other notable artists. In some ways, I can’t help but think of Spiritual Front as I listen to the many varying songs that are offered up with Das Sturmläuten, but the evokation of that project does nothing to describe the music itself — perhaps only their attitude towards art.
There is a not-so-subtle Neo-romanticism about Karma Marata that dominates most of the music found here, even if it finds itself having to cut through the profound violence of martial themes as with those within the opening track, “Feld von Blut und Eisen”. Battle samples take up the heart of the song as a wood flute gently hums a melody somewhere amidst the chaos, inevitably bleeding into bombastic percussion and the traditional synth work that is often associated with military pop. In addition to these instrumental elements that are paired with Germanic vocals, a sample of Robert Frost‘s famous poem Fire and Ice makes an appearance, further adding to the competing atmosphere of calm vs. chaos. By the time “Believe me my Dear, he is in the Flames” begins, a number of names begin to come to mind from all over the post-industrial spectrum, from the beautiful underrated work of Herr Twiggs in Kammer Sieben to EBM artists like Assemblage 23, which seems an unavoidable comparison given the dreary, unemotional vocals that are present throughout the album as well as some occasional rhythmic electronics. These vocals find a welcome home in “She’s like a Whisper” where they seem more fitting amongst the more common neoclassical elements of synth stringed arrangements and fluttering piano melodies.
From here, even more obscure faces make themselves known, from the foreboding martial ambience of “Der Schwarze Turm” and its Barbarossa Umtrunk-like haunting esotericism, to the unplaceable influence of Von Thronstahl — an impression that I couldn’t shake throughout the whole listen. Even the influence of both faces of Rome (industrial and folk) can be heard in moments. Despite all these comparisons, the music of Karma Marata is entirely original, however, somehow managing to avoid the same stagnation that is applied to so many new projects whom are accustomed to becoming slaves to their influences. At the same time, there is something glaringly absent from the work of these five gentlemen. While the music performance is nearly perfect throughout the duration of Das Sturmläuten, the overwhelming gloom of the entire album is somehow at odds with what I’ve come to perceive as the spirit behind the project, especially in terms of melodic progressions. The notes themselves often beg for an explosion of emotive expression that just never seems to come. In other words, the listener is more often than not left with all tension and no climactic release, regardless of the beauty that is present in many of the tracks. This rarely evolving atmosphere leaves Das Sturmläuten feeling like a world that is doomed to monochromatic drabness instead of popping with moments of piercing color that would have put this record over the top.
The main culprit? The never-ceasing dreary vocals. Even in tracks like “No Faces in the Shadows” when the vocals appear to be attempting to come out of their proverbial shell, they still end up simply feeling restrained. It’s a shame in the end, really, as the music itself is perfect on so many different levels. Just as an instrumental work, Das Sturmläuten appears able to convey an impressive variance of many different emotions and atmospheres that are unfortunately covered up on the vast majority of songs, thus leaving the more experimental, industrial tracks like “Das Letzte Siegel ist Gebrochen” as the highlights in addition to “She’s like a Whisper”. There is one track, however, where the vocalist finally lets himself soar, and that is “A Ray of Hope”; a track which displays a somewhat out-of-place danceable rhythm that brings to mind Allerseelen with more of a pop appeal. This track, along with the final two, offers so much promise for the future of Karma Marata that it’s hard not to look forward to seeing what they can do next. I just can’t imagine this project catching on unless they can get their vocalist to open up a bit more. It seems that they’re poised to make a statement with their sophomore effort, and I can only hope that it isn’t a second-release let-down as has seemed to be the case for so many promising new projects lately.
01) Feld von Blut und Eisen
02) Believe me my Dear, he is in the Flames
03) She’s like a Whisper (The Secret Lady)
04) Der Schwarze Turm
05) Das Sturmläuten
07) No Faces in the Shadows
08) Das Letzte Siegel ist Gebrochen
09) A Ray of Hope (Feat. Husen)
10) Wo die Masken Fallen
11) Rome’s Rising (Feat. Spreu & Weizen)