Orator – Kapalgnosis Review (2013)

The onus to be constantly creative, as an ideologically and technically straitjacketed musical style like extreme metal evolves over time, lies firmly on latter day practitioners, a responsibility to avoid falling into predictable ruts whilst retaining the spirit of the progenitors. Mind and muscle far too often collude on a subconscious level unbeknownst to the artist; what distinguishes the old from the new is two-fold: (a) being in the vanguard of a style of music that is wholly without precedent, where every step, faulty and ill-advised as it may be, expands the lexicon of a nascent genre, and (b) a perfectionist attitude to detail where each component is taken apart and inspected of itself and in the music’s context. The first is an unfortunate circumstance of chronology but newer bands could certainly be a little more anal where songwriting is concerned. How easy it is to slip into comfortable patterns in spite of the best intentions, to play for time until the next good idea happens along.

Orator, while never destined to be the most original of death metal bands, derivative as they are of old Sepultura, Kreator and Merciless, come frustratingly close to realizing the potential they displayed on their debut EP. Bellicose and uncompromising to the hilt, their intent is never in question on Kapalgnosis. Showing an admirable understanding of the old forms in terms of texture and composition of individual parts, Orator‘s sound, keeping with the best traditions of great death metal, is fervently non-recursive, driven by sheer will to move the song forward. Opening the album with the drone common to Indian classical, Orator choose the same group of bass notes throughout, applied in varying combinations, as rhythmic base to launch further explorations into chromatics, groove and assorted guitar pyrotechnics. Intentional or not, this has the effect of keeping the album rooted to a home theme; unfortunately, it, along with the band’s propensity to blast, also renders large portions of the album one-paced and samey. A thick, all-pervading guitar sound that never lets the fuzz recede doesn’t help matters, preventing the music from retaining any space between notes; instances of subtle  harmonics, especially, suffer for it. More the pity because Orator are at their best when they slow down, as occurs with greater frequency during the second half of the record, well inducing the sense of mysticism that their imagery would suggest.

Kapalgnosis is easily the best death metal album from the Indian sub continent but that means little when held in the strictest light. Orator understand the pulse of this music, reintroducing certain ideas that are rarely seen in today’s scene. By the same token, it is but right to expect a lot more from them.

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