Kartikeya is a rather interesting band from Russia’s capital Moscow that mixes genre-bending progressive and technically appealing death metal elements with epic Indian folklore music in songs about Eastern mythology, Hinduism, and different philosophical topics. Fans of bands such as Absu, Arkan, Melechesh, Myrath, Nile, Orphaned Land, Rudra, Zindan or maybe even early Amorphis and Therion should definitely check this band out. If you hesitate to give this band a try because of its extreme metal nature, know that this is only one element among many others, and that Kartikeya’s music is extremely diversified, fluid, and inspiring.
The band convinces me most when it comes around with its cinematic and epic song writing in the incredible title tracks “The Battle Begins Part I: The War Of One Blood” and “The Battle Begins Part II: Arjuna”. These songs vary from chilling keyboard sounds over vivid drum, acoustic guitar, and percussion play to a surprisingly fluid mixture of slow-paced death metal elements and almost thrash metal inspired fast outbursts. The vocals vary from melodic clean parts over vivid growls to whispered narrative passages as well. The band sounds extremely atmospheric and diverse on here and put more ideas in these two progressive songs than other bands put in entire records.
The band also offers a few rapidly changing and surprising tracks that are somewhere between genius and insanity. You never really know what to expect, but the end result always sounds completely coherent. A choir of enchanting and melodic female and male vocals introduce us to the otherwise pretty extreme “Thunders Of Indra”. The harsh vocals, blast beats, and apocalyptic keyboard sounds in the otherwise folk metal driven “Ruins Of Belief” hit particularly hard as well. “Unleash The Spirit” features the fastest and most pitiless instrumental part of the record, but also surprises with catchy clean vocal parts that complete the song. If you pay some attention towards the end of the record, you will even find a cover of Soulfly’s “Babylon” as hidden track, which I didn’t expect at all. I’m not a Soulfly fan but this cover fits well on this record.
Kartikeya is definitely one, if not the, most exciting extreme metal band I have discovered over the last months and years. The band really has its own unique sound, and the fusion of epic folk passages and progressive extreme metal parts is absolutely incredible. Discover the band’s Bandcamp presence to give the band’s impressive debut album a fair try.
Kartikeya’s first album The Battle Begins, was a stunning masterpiece that mixed technically appealing, progressive and epic extreme metal with Indian folklore elements. Four years later, the band came around with a follow-up entitledMahayuga, that really pales in comparison to the first release.
My feelings boil down to the overwhelming impression that most of the initial magic is gone. Many songs here are shorter and straighter than the elaborate epics of the first release. A track like “He Who Carries The Head Of Brahma” is an aggressive death metal song, and not completely bad, but it doesn’t represent what Kartikeya stood for on its initial release. Many of these songs sound quite alike as well. Most of the instrumental tracks go nowhere and don’t manage to develop a profound atmosphere. “Mahayuga Part I: Satya Yuga” and “Mahayuga Part II: Treta Yuga” sound like uneasy and uninspired drone compositions. Many folk sections on this release sound like samples from a Senmuth album, and feel a lot less organic than on the first record. Even the few epics featured here have considerable and unnecessary lengths without shining. “Utpavana” is a good song somewhere between Celtic Frost, Dimmu Borgir, and maybe The Vision Bleak, but after five or six impressive minutes everything has been said and the band simply stretches the track out to a length of almost ten minutes. They’re really losing me here.
There are still some rather strong songs on this album. “The Path” is a consistent track with a good mixture of folk passages, impressive symphonic samples, and a duet of hypnotizing clean male vocals and powerful growls. This is maybe the best track. “Moksha” is an inspiring and short instrumental track that would have fit on the first album eaily, and “Neverborn” is a diverse epic that grows with each spin, but doesn’t go too far to bore me. The hidden track that exists on this album is actually another favorite of mine. The band added a truly enchanting version of Shakira’s “Eyes Like Yours” at the end of their record. I must admit that I already appreciate the original version, but this cover is an absolute winner, and a rather surprising choice for the band.
In the end, there are a lot of lights and shades on this album. If this was the band’s first release, I would probably tell you that it has a lot of potential and a unique style that they should expand while improving their song writing, and would probably rate it better as well. The thing is, this is the band’s second output, and that their first strike was really much better. Therefore Mahayuga must be considered as a step back, without being a complete failure. If you want to discover this band, you should maybe start with their sophomore effort and listen to their first release after, or just ignore this album and stick with the band’s debut masterpiece.