Only just released yesterday, I see that this debut album by French trio Karma Sutra was recorded four years ago in January 2017. Why it took so long for something of this quality to reach the light of day, I really can't say, but I'm happy that it's finally out there.
It hooked me from its very outset, through a song appropriately named Shiva's Chant, given that it's driven initially by a memorable chant, even if it ramps up halfway and lets loose a blistering solo for a very tight and very memorable second half. Its sound can be pinpointed somewhere around the line where heavy blues and stoner rock meet and that's echoed across the rest of this album.
The four tracks of the first half all feature vocals but, with the exception of that chant, they're never a primary concern. All these songs live or die on their riffs and the other things the guitars are doing, a job we can credit to Edouard Reynaert. I didn't really notice until my second time through the album that the vocals vanish after Bastard Children, as they hardly matter, except for that memorable chant, of course, which is as much voice as instrument as an actual vocal, finding a throat singing drone at points. The final five pieces of music are all instrumental.
While Shiva's Chant may be the best of those early songs, I can't skip past the fantastic riff on Mind's Eye, which is quintessential heavy psych. It's relatively simple, but it's instantly catchy and I love how it's explored by the guitar but handed over to the bass to mimic it during the verses. While this band can get balls to the wall heavy, there's a lot of softer material here too and it's just as capable, so the big heavy riffs like this one are moments to cherish.
What's odd thus far is how lo-fi this seems. The band are tight, even when pretending to be loose like on Bastard Children, another heavy psych standout. The recordings haven't been tidied up though, as if they were all recorded live in succession and piped straight onto Bandcamp with the only post work done being to put a gap between each song. Even there, that's rough; it takes a full sixteen seconds to start Karmasutrized #2 to start and there are rough edges before and after a number of tracks. It (and I mean the production here, not the performance) feels honest but very unpolished.
The instrumental pieces are interesting because they feature more dynamic play than the vocal songs. Oddly, though, three of the five are called the same thing. Karmasutrized initially comes in two parts, both really exploring mood, getting particularly mellow towards the end of part. 1 and for a majority of part. 2. I like these slower and softer pieces, which still ramp up at points, but my favourite of these instrumentals is Karmasutrized #2, which is unrelated to Karmasutrized part. 1 and part. 2, in all but a name.
What I realised during Karmasutrized #2 and the second half of Shiva's Chant is that this band remind me just as much of a classic heavy blues outfit like Aeroblus as the usual proto-stoner rock bands like Black Sabbath or Blue Cheer. Karma Sutra could cover Vamos a buscar la luz and it wouldn't feel at all out of place next following Shiva's Chant in a live set. Now, let's hope that whatever back end issues the band had with getting this album out won't affect the next one.