Title: Astral Mantras of Dyslexia
Type: Album (Split)
Label: Dunkelheit Produktionen
This sounded too good to be true! Black metal from Sri Lanka? Now don’t get me wrong I’m not looking down on our South Asian brothers (or sisters) but one would not think of black metal music, let alone black metal bands coming out of Sri Lanka. For those who are unaware, Sri Lanka had been embroiled in a savage civil war for the last 30 years and it’s only been 3-4 years since that the war ended and peace was restored. Since then the country has been reverting to normality after a long and arduous troubled past. I recently had the opportunity to witness a special metal festival, Colombo Open Air, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and it was here that I was acquainted with a couple of Sri Lankan death metal bands like Fallen Grace, Hollow and Mass Damnation. Those guys are death metal but these guys are black metal. Thus, hearing (finding) of black metal bands like Funeral In Heaven and Plecto Aliquem Capite in Sri Lanka are indeed rare gems.
Upon celebrating my new find, I began to immediately download the album into my IPhone for a quick listen. That’s when my feeling of joy upon my new find morphed into disbelief. Not in a bad way though. The band’s style of Black Metal is somewhat different from what I expected and this being the first time I have heard them, no prior expectations can be made.
Astral Mantras of Dyslexia opens with Funeral In Heaven, a five piece black metal band formed in 2002. No stranger to the underground black metal scene; I discovered with their catalogues of demos, EPs and splits to their credit. ‘Transmigrations Into Eternal Submission (of altered consciousness)’, the first track is an 11 minutes melodious instrumental Indian Raga featuring Indian classical instruments accompanied with a slight guitar twang in the background. Somewhat a unique feature for a black metal band but Funeral In Heaven seem to be comfortable in their ethnic culture and roots. As the name suggests, the track was probably an attempt by the band to take the listener on a surreal journey through time and space to open their subconscious minds (or ears) to something beyond this realm. Unfortunately, the track goes off sounding like background music from an Indian restaurant, and does not in an attempt take the listener on a spiritual journey. Unless you are a fan of classical Indian music, the only journey one would take is the ‘Next’ button on your CD player!
The preceding tracks ‘Bandhana (Gatahaththey kathaa wasthuwa)’ faired slightly better. No Indian Raga’s or Indian classical instruments this time but straight-forward Black Metal music. One can hear traces of the Finnish’s Archgoat, in terms of the sound and feel of the track. This plus the shrieking screams and inhuman growl and Sri Lankan voice-overs in the background redeems the band of its first track, and sets forth the whole tone of the split. The 3rd and last track by Funeral In Heaven is “Buddhang Saranang”, a cover of Sri Lankan ritualistic rock band “Thapas”, which comes complete with a bluesy guitar opener and chorus chants. The track was recorded by the band as a tribute; which provides a look into the roots and influences of Funeral in Heaven, also a befitting ending to the first half of the split.
Plecto Aliquem Capite (which means “Suffer Capital Punishment in Latin) the other black metal band on the album has to date released several splits, demos and EPs since forming in 2008. ‘Lament’ the first track is a musical dirge comprising of ethnic classical instruments accompanied by an acoustic guitar; somewhat setting a somber mood to what the band has to offer in the preceding tracks. The other tracks by Plecto Aliquem Capite (‘Stoned Guru Ramblings’ and ‘Cemetery of the deep’) are both strong tracks with inklings of the usual black metal speed and texture. Only thing different about these tracks are the mood of the music, which present an almost ‘hair-raising’ feeling coupled with ear piercing demonic shrieks and blood-curling scream, almost like a soundtrack to a horror movie.
The final track of the split, “Crestfallen: Immolating Shakthi” is a collaboration of all the members from Funeral In Heaven and Plecto Aliquem Capite. This swansong continues where both bands left off with their unique brand of Eastern influenced black metal coupled with low guitars, blood shrieking growls and soprano chants. An almost fitting end to this album split featuring two bands from the growing metal scene in Sri Lanka.
Though the music on Astral Mantras of Dyslexia cannot be compared to the hundreds (or thousands) of regular black metal bands in the world, what Funeral In Heaven and Plecto Aliquem Capite possess is a ‘knack’ for being different by staying true to their ethnic forms and not copying the styles of others. In hindsight, this is a good album. However, it is not easy to digest as it requires lots of patience to appreciate its depth and beauty I had to listen to the album at least 4-5 times before I was able to understand the music. Like the opening soundscape included in Plecto Aliquem Capite’s ‘Stoned Guru Ramblings’, ‘… mindfulness is non-judgmental observation; it is that ability of the mind to observe without criticism. With this ability, one sees things without condemnation and judgment…” A somewhat befitting statement for a unique album.
(6/10 Imran M)