It’s amazing how Cult of Fire have gone, in just a few years (they were formed in 2010), from a small underground Black Metal band who’s main attractive seemed to be the fact that the line-up was made of ex-Maniac Butcher members, a band I never was interested in (although if we speak of Mr. Tomáš Corn other band, Lykathea Aflame, then things get a lot more interesting), to an entity with real (musical and lyrical) personality, as well as one of those bands who have invested a lot of effort into taking things to a new level in terms of theatrics on stage next to other now very well known names in the genre.
After a self-released 10»EP in 2010, they released, in the two following years, two full-length albums which I would describe as simply majestic. Despite the differences between both of them, we could say they take us back to the times when atmosphere, melody and orchestral influences in Black Metal didn’t directly end up in cheesiness or bad taste. But, honestly, I didn't really like their following 7"EP from 2014 dedicated to Czech composer Bedřich Smetana, which sounded quite more Post-Rock oriented to my ears (although I promised myself to revisit it at some point and get a second opinion). So I was wondering if that would be the path they would be following on their next releases (and kind of expected it wouldn't, to be honest).
Back to this dying year, in the past month of September they announced a new mini album which would be available at their show during Prague Death Mass III, a festival organised by the members of Cult of Fire, whose physical release (managed by the band’s own label too) was presented on an amazing picture LP shaped with the form of a lotus and packaged in a lotus shaped sleeve too, again designed by Teitan Arts in a very similar way to their previous record artwork, only that this time the figure represented on the cover is not Kali but Chinnamasta. And both the cover and the inner sleeve look amazing, with a lot of details and symbols all over which you can be looking at for a while and which look quite unique in comparison to a lot of other bands artworks. I can’t praise enough the work Teitan Arts has done here (and both on past Cult of Fire and Death Karma releases, specially on ‘The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I’, which is beyond amazing).
When I first played 'Life, Sex and Death' I was quite happy to discover they had gone back to something closer to the sound of ‘Ascetic Meditation of Death’, with that highly melodic and enveloping atmospheric Black Metal combining fast Northern influenced tremolo parts with more open and meditating ambiances as well as some more experimental influences, all in all still imbued with an Eastern European (necromantic) feeling. They actually create a bombastic effect since the very first moment with the great opening track “Life”, which might be amongst their best compositions to date, and which also takes back memories from when I discovered their debut, ‘Triumvirát’. This song starts with a grandiose quite simple mid-paced part which ends on an acoustic guitar passage only to become even greater thanks to martial percussion and a beautiful melody and then exploding into a more aggressive and fast cavalcade. Pure Cult of Fire, only better and even more accurate.
This is followed by “Chinnamasta Mantra”, a female recited mantra on a way less extreme and very ambient/new age and also oriental inspired track that is the exact contraposition to “Life”, calm, beautiful and quite luminous, very trance inducing (I would actually love seeing them explore this kind of composition a bit more on a next recording), and thus creating the perfect bridge (before turning the vinyl upside down) for the continuation with “Death”.
This one is a very straightforward track which directly starts with a fast and melodic part over which Mr. Devilish’s vocals sound absolutely possessed. If their guitar lines and keyboards are not good enough, when more mid-paced parts appear you can here a sitar creating one more layer of on their already very rich sound and giving it that special oriental touch that makes it so special and tying it so well with their lyrics. The song ends with an ever faster and more aggressive part, with Tomáš his powerful drumming.
They close the record with “Tantric Sex”, another calmer and more experimental track with sitar and clean guitar opening it over which clean vocals recite some other mantra and suddenly changing into a more Post-Rock oriented track which could very well remind of Godspeed You Black Emperor! or even Sigur Rós, but adding to it blastbeats to drive it towards the end of this release. It’s definitely not the most original thing they’ve done, it’s actually a bit clichéd, but it still serves its purpose in the context of ‘Life, Sex & Death’, closing it in a beautiful and intense manner and still keeping the essence and overall ambiance of this release.
So yes, this is not an EP they’ve just released to get some money while they prepare their next album nor something only for their most die-hard fans and collectors. Don’t be mislead by the impressive presentation. There’s great and mandatory Cult of Fire songs in here, which are very well connected to serve the global concept, and they are again presented under a great sound production as already happened (specially) on their previous album. I like the way they keep a slight chaotic and raw feeling no matter how clean and well recorded and mix they songs are. It possesses the magic but doesn’t end up in a mess, quite the opposite actually.
If you missed the vinyl version, there's a tape version which was just released by Triangulum Ignis, again with a fabulous presentation. Whatever the format, get it if you were already captured by these Czech's sound, you won't regret it.
Gia Thanatos is a webzine dedicated to music for the apocalyptic times. No matter the scene or genre it comes from, and mainly chosen according to its author's taste.