Karmatik is a new and really exciting four-piece band from Quebec that plays a powerful style of rhythmically intense melodic death metal that is often both simultaneously brutal and thoughtful while never forgetting the need to give their listeners a large amount of killer riffs and memorable melodies. I’m often put off by a band that feels the need to be brutally intense all the time and have been really attracted lately to bands that have a great variety of moods and textures in their sound. Not only does this band do that very well, they also have an almost hypnotic intensity as part of their musical ethos which is very apparent on their debut recording Humani-T which came out just a few months ago. Even though the band is new, from what I’ve read the musicians have been around for a while and there is definitely a maturity to the album that you often don’t find with new musicians. There’s also a great sparseness to the sound with all of the songs in the four-six minute range and focused on great powerful hooks that grab you by the throat and don’t let go. Not to say that the music here is simple but just that it’s no more than it needs to be to best convey its messages.
Interestingly, Karmatik sings in both English and French and this debut album is about living in the moment and how humanity can design its own future despite the horror of war (perhaps the vocals being in different languages is meant to indirectly refer to how we need to all communicate and get along better despite our differences.) The sound is huge too as befits the album’s rather deep subject matter. The album begins with After War and talks about the obvious aftermath of wars and how a soldier deals with the horrors that he was led to commit. The song has a great heavy riff to lead and close out the song (with some really intense cymbal work from drummer Martin Gagné – a really nice touch) but is offset by a passionate, highly melodic solo from guitarist Jean-Michel Audet (who’s a really tasteful melodic guitarist in addition to all of the heavy riffs that the band loves) and the album is filled with great musical juxtapositions like that. Enfant Soldat is the story of a child taken from his village and unwittingly forced to kill his best friend before finally escaping. The driving intensity is perfect for this song. After a short instrumental interlude, Deuxième Vie is about desiring second chances and has an almost warlike intensity with its great riffs offset by some short memorable melodic guitar bursts. After all of the invective against the horrors of war, the band takes it down a few notches with the introspective Roi Démon which is a beautifully melodic, heavy ballad with clean vocals and a nice mixture of softer guitar textures and is about metaphorically “slaying” the demons within that compel us to go to war. Worthy of Trust is one hell of a deep song about how all of humanity is worthy of each other’s trust. It’s a heavy and builds perfectly to its climax. After another short reflective instrumental piece, the album concludes with the dramatically headbanging So Many Possibilities and with the bleak intensity of Causalité (the songs discussing the many choices we have in life and how we must choose our actions wisely) before ending the album with Relatif, a heavy and very dramatic (but not at all cloying) song about the how time passes slowly or endlessly depending on our own perspectives. Yeah, this is one hell of an intense ride and the musicianship and recording quality are top-notch.
Humani-T is a remarkable album by a new band that has a great, fully formed and easily identifiable sound all their own. Like the great Swedish band Opeth who found their sound early on and just keep expanding and twisting it in all kinds of ways while still remaining true to who they are, I really feel that Karmatik is onto something great here and look forward to them being around for a long time to come. You can hear the full album via the Spotify playlist below and you can purchase a copy via the BandCamp.com link, also below.
Review by Jeff Stevens
If you want to stay in touch with our Spotify Friday series and other news in the world of progressive metal, please subscribe to our email list and don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook (via the sidebar link) or follow us on Twitter (@Progmetalzone).