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Karnataka - Secrets of Angels

Karnataka - CD Review
Secrets of Angels





CD Info
English lyrics
8 tracks


Sonic Cathedral has covered several releases by Karnataka over the years, but not much lately. Well, this one is hard to ignore. This Welsh bunch has a sound that pretty much hits the median point for music in this genre, and does it with a flair that puts it into the upper realms of the genre. We’ve worked with them a lot in the past, here and here. But this is new stuff and it clearly hits a bulls eye in terms of musical trends and lyrical content. To some extent, it’s a new band as well, with new personnel up and down the line up.

One of the things you get here early on is that this one includes a lot of folks. Hayley Griffiths is the vocalist, and a lovely lass she is. There’s a core group of 4 additional musicians, heavy on programming capabilities which quickly points you in the direction this release goes to. But, they’re also good musicians, least as far as I can tell. But, beyond that, there’s a shit load of “guest musicians” covering a range of instruments ranging from “uillleann pipes and low whistles” to harps, cellos, violas and violins. In other words, there’s more music here than you’re prepared to understand. Please pass the peace pipe, I’m outta my league here.

I’m hard pressed to come up with a descriptive narrative for the music. I guess we could call it a Brit approach to things, but that doesn’t do it justice. I mean, the Beatles it ain’t, not exactly anyway. But, the Brits do have an approach to things, there’s typically that keyboard thing and there’s keyboards a plenty here, thank you very much. Guitars, as much as needed, drums, well, without them this would be a very different genre wouldn’t it. But, here the vocals seem to carry much of the music, but, sometimes in a way that does indeed draw us back to some British material that preceded it. I’m not talking Stones here, they didn’t do much femme metal as I recall, not that I was in any condition to comment on the situation during those years when Tallahassee Two Toke ruled my world. So, this material does, indeed, take us forward a few decades but in a different direction than what we would expect from Gothic Doom.

The music will be extremely comfortable to some, slightly less of interest to others. If you’re looking for a growler, you’ll be disappointed, if you’re looking for Doom, sorry, not here, if you’re looking for B & B, not your cup of tea, as they say in the Isles. If you’re looking for a lovely vocal over a symphonic base line, with interesting musical twists, this is for you. Please continue. The lyrics also take that tack, you get some thoughts from the past, from the British past, and they continue with a sound that makes them even more of interest. A lot of it is flutes, a lot of it is vocals that approach the Irish, the Scots, the Welsh, and, of course, the English. And, a lot of that is of interest to people who appreciate this type of music.

We get right to business with the first track, Road to Cairo. There is that unmistakable British feel to this one. Much of it is keyboard based, it’s a lush sound, one that sets up the vocals nicely. But, there is that sound, you almost hear a bit of Yes in the background, only with a femme metal vocal. This is a sophisticated sound, what you would expect from a group that has had a long time to learn their craft. The lyrics don’t disappoint:

River of destiny / Giver of life to me
Holding the sacred key
Carry souls through desert sands to reach the sea

Stars of ancient light / Shimmering in the night
Is this my second sight
Search for answers to the questions that we seek

Pyramids appear / Carved in blood and tears
Reach the Gods so high
Feel the rhythm of heat that dances to the sound

Because of You takes a more personal path. Again, we get that British feel to the music, it’s something to do with the rhythm. But, with Poison Ivy we crank it up a bit. The vocals take a somewhat harder tone, the drums pound out a more emphatic sound, the symphonic begins to become a bit more Mozart in nature. Again, the lyrics go in a way that suggests multiple interpretation, a nice turn of the phrase from one verse to the next.

Borderline begins with a haunting sound. It goes in a mystical direction. As the vocals take over the haunting turns to a lyrical theme that reinforces that musical direction. Lyrics on this release are pretty good, they seem to capture some of the historical poetic themes that have long driven British poetry. The keyboard symphonic on this track provides a background that sets up the lyrics, as does a bit of layering of the femme vocals. But, the lyrical theme is consistent:

Is that a tear in your eye / I never stopped to say goodbye
Time has come to let you go / My life has changed and now I know

That all we had was just a dream / Nothing real or so it seams
Turned to dust before my eyes / Feels so cold, heart paralyzed

Well, all this good stuff is just a prelude to the title cut, a 20 minute opus that captures so much of what this music is about. If you can't get into this, please head over to the local Country Western outlet and get into cow worship. We get pretty much everything you ever wanted in this genre of music here; the overwhelming femme metal vox, the symphonic, more than sufficient metal, all put together in a composite that will more than satisfy your need to experience Gothic Femme Metal. Whoever wrote this spent a lot of time thinking about what this genre is all about, and coming to the right conclusions. This pretty much hits all the right buttons, this addresses all we want with this style of music. I really don’t know where to begin with this one, the music or the lyrics. But, it’s British, no doubt about that. Our lovely vocalist begins this over a Celtic vibe. She enchants us, she seduces us, she begs us to listen to her mystical lore. This is music to to take us to secret lands, to places we imagine in our most personal thoughts. And, the musical background does nothing to detract from this mystical moment. If you loved the “Lord of the Rings” this will make your day, in a musical sense. And, believe me, the Lord of the Rings didn’t have music like this, but the theme is similar. I could spend lot of time with the music but, trust me, it works. So, let’s look a bit at the lyrics which actually drive the track as much a the music. There are actually 7 segments to this track. Each stands on it’s own. Each has it’s own musical entity, each has it’s own theme. You can take them individually or you can take them as a whole, which is certainly the way it was intended. My suggestion: sit back and listen to the track in it’s entirety. This is one to treasure, this is one that serves to define the genre. You can’t listen enough.

The message begins dark enough:

The time is upon us, the hour is near / Together we stand but we’re blinded by fear
Dreams drift on high at a price you must pay / She is your mistress, a deadly parade

The battle begins in the cold light of day / Red rivers flow as the flowers they fade
Our journey continues on promises made / For she is your mistress but also my grave

But each passage carries it’s own theme, it’s own sound. The story is one of battle, but the understanding is that this battle is one that defines life, it’s many flavors, it’s strengths and weaknesses. The second passage presents a sound and message of heroism:

Swords of a thousand men / Won’t hide the fear betrayed by our eyes
For freedom we can’t deny / The crimson tears on the battle lines

But the final passage takes us from the universal to the personal:

Your weapons are words that torture my soul
And my battle scars will never show / The truth of my heart lies here exposed
Secrets of angels they only know

The overwhelming beauty of this track is beyond my ability to describe. The mystical quality, the vocal excellence, the quality of the engineering make this one a classic.

Karnataka has provided some serious music here, there’s not a weak track. Assuming this is your style of music, and even if it isn’t, you’re gonna like this one. Angels everywhere are smiling, and so is this reviewer.