Jarboe - Mahakali
Season Of Mist
Experimental Doom/Drone
16 songs (1:11:54)
Release year: 2008
Jarboe, Season Of Mist
Reviewed by Goat

Rated behind only Diamanda Galás as the most elemental and uncanny female vocalist in the underground scene today, former Swans frontwoman Jarboe here presents her latest solo album, featuring input from everyone from Phil Anselmo to Attila Csihar. Describing this album in simplistic terms is pretty much impossible; this is a culmination of everything the songstress has accomplished up to now. The most important elements are, of course, Jarboe herself and the droning backing sound, which ties the album easiest to the Doom/Drone genre. You’re as likely to hear some thunderous yet snail-paced riff as you are the woman herself, and when looked at as a whole Mahakali seems to form a strange concept, running through the music as well as the titles. When listened to all the way through (make no mistake, there are no catchy parts or songs that remotely approach ‘single’ territory) the album forms one long journey that’s as rewarding as it is exhausting – on initial listens, Anselmo’s Bluesy Overthrown (sounding like something from one of Steve Von Till’s solo albums) won’t make a great deal of sense when compared to the more elemental keening of other tracks, but give it and the album time, and the twisted insanity at the heart of this release begins to take shape.

Of course, when you’re invoking the Hindu goddess of death, a certain level of madness is given, and Jarboe’s extremely creepy childish vocals on Bornless are just one example of the ways that Mahakali can sneak inside and grab hold of you. The Shamanistic quality to songs like Ascend, with the tribal drumming and weird, twisted-Country vocals, is downright unsettling, and whilst her albums up to now have dealt with, at least partly, the emotional fallout from the Swans split, here we seem to be dealing with Jarboe as a life force as opposed to Jarboe the angry singer/songwriter.

Those of you that have heard her collaboration with Justin Broadrick from earlier this year will at once be on familiar ground and new territory. Whilst the album opener, Mahakli, Of Terrifying Countenance kicks off with a particularly Jesu-esque Industrial riff, it soon turns into a freakier, sort-of-Folk anthem, gripping in a sort of Lisa Gerrard-but-insane manner. Jarboe explores the deeper registers of her voice on The House Of Void, which could have Sunn O))) playing on it, as the backing is pure Drone with added percussion, and dips into Noise territory towards the end, with her voice shrieking horrifically. Don’t expect anything too extreme, though. For the most part, Mahakali is more about the atmosphere than the extremity, and tracks like Transmogrification show the style off perfectly. Attila Csihar’s contribution to The Soul Continues especially is outstanding, his uncanny growls working perfectly with the backing drone, the deranged Country vibe very effective.

Mahakali ultimately will appeal to Dronesters the most, with fans of alt-Country and the leftfield of the female singer/songwriter (if such a place exists) probably finding much to like too, although it may be a bit too sinister for the latter.

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Killing Songs :
The House Of Void, The Soul Continues, A Sea Of Blood And Hollow Screaming, Overthrown, Bornless
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