Kurokuma – Born of Obsidian

Kurokuma - Born of Obsidian - cover art

Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump.

Humans have an innate beat perception. We experience life in 4/4. We are strongly biased to group sounds together, subjectively accenting, to the point we hear clocks tick-tock when modern clocks do no such thing (if you want to really blow your mind you can listen to a clock, observe the tick-tock, and then make them change order at will in your mind). Incredibly, fetuses, newborns and infants will spontaneously synchronise movements in the presence of and in time with a simple rhythm. In short, we are built for music.

Born of Obsidian, the first full-length by Sheffield doom outfit Kurokuma, is a syncopated exploration of this innate ability. Try playing this album while out for a walk. You’ll find it hard to ignore beating your hands on your chest or escape the rhythm from the pounding of your feet on the street lining up with Joe. E. Allan’s outstanding performance. We are built for rhythm and music, and for this reason alone it’s only a matter of time until Born of Obsidian is etched into your brain and you involuntarily tap your feet to its beats even when the music has stopped.

Kurokuma - Promo shot

With two-thirds of Kurokuma also featuring in the excellent death-doom band Bible Basher in one form or another, I knew I would find plenty to enjoy in Born of Obsidian, but I wasn’t prepared for just how different the two projects would be. In case you haven’t guessed it, I wasn’t familiar with the band’s extensive back catalogue of EPs, demos and splits before I picked this out of the promo pile. Past Kieran has made many mistakes and this is clearly another one to add to the list.

A quick browse of the album art, name and track titles will reveal the theme of this work is Mesoamerican civilisations. While technically a sludge album, the adherence to this theme sees Kurokuma employ a heavily syncopated rhythm section in each of these five tracks alongside guitar riffs thicker than molasses. or pulque if we wanted to maintain the theme. This ritualistic, occultic feeling is what I was hinting at in the rather wanky and pretentious introduction above. The lyrics and music fit perfectly together thematically, successfully hypnotizing the listener and causing forty minutes to pass in the blink of an eye.

As metal fans, we are used to things being heavy. That’s what we love about this music after all. But calling Kurokuma heavy doesn’t really cut it. This is a dense record. Everything about Born of Obsidian pulls at the space-time around it.

Born of Obsidian is as assured a debut as you are likely to find as a sludge fan this year. It is the sound of footsteps on paving stones as you walk to the chopping block. It is the sound of your heart as you rest your neck in the groove. It’s the sound of your head bouncing down the temple steps in the hope that this sacrifice will please the gods and ensure the sun rises tomorrow. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump.

Born of Obsidian will be released by Kurokumo on 4th February. You can pre-order here.

Kieran McNairn

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