Cult of Fire - Moksha
Beyond Eyes
Black Metal
5 songs (34:18)
Release year: 2020
Cult of Fire, Beyond Eyes
Reviewed by Goat

Czech underground black metal squad Cult of Fire impressed wildly with their first two albums, earlier last decade, and have kept busy since with a string of EPs and a live album. And on these next two albums, released simultaneously, they return to their Hindu/Vedic themes from 2013's Ascetic Meditation of Death (albeit not titled in Sanskrit this time around) and add Tantric Buddhist mysticism to form an intriguingly religious duo of blackened batterers. Released separately digitally yet only together physically, it's difficult to know how to treat Moksha and Nirvana as a reviewer - not quite a double album, true, but these two fairly short releases are clearly linked and designed to be listened to alongside each other, as contrasting guides to enlightenment. If only this was the sole obstacle in its path, how easily it would be attained!

Treating them as separate entities for the purpose of this site, then, Moksha is based around the small Aghori sect of Hindu spiritualists, known for ritual consumption of human flesh, dwelling in charnel grounds and smearing cremation ashes on their bodies. They seek to embrace pollution and degradation in order to transcend social taboos and attain altered states of consciousness, pleasing the deities by ignoring the limits of reality and casting themselves into the void (for further reading on the background and status of the Aghori among more mainstream Hindu denominations, if you are interested). All very grisly and fascinating; yet how well do Cult of Fire translate this into their music? Well, surprisingly, with a lessening of the Eastern musical elements in favour of more traditional black metal blasts. Of course, these elements still exist, such as the clattering percussion that opens Zrození výjimečného ('The Birth of the Exceptional') and is woven in here and there in the song alongside sitar strums and subtle symphonic elements.

Yet the music is dominated by melodic guitar riffing and it seems significant that the band have mostly returned to their native Czech for song titles, suggesting a resurgence of Western musical influences. Their style of blackened metal is still effective, not least for the smoothness of how the various Eastern elements have been incorporated into the malign black metal scurrying into your ears. But it's still amongst the most typically black metal material that they've produced thus far, even with inventive additions like the flutes, percussion, and sitar of Har har Mehadev (Hindi for 'everywhere Shiva'), one of the more esoteric pieces thanks to those bizarre snarled vocal lines which add to the invocatory feeling of the song. Said snarls sometimes jar with the atmospheric blur happening behind them, such as (ne)Čistý ('(im)pure') where the guitars are at their most textural and ambient beneath the drums, yet thankfully it's not too distracting.

And there are genuinely compelling moments elsewhere, such as the slower-paced melodic Město mrtvých ('City of the Dead') complete with ritualistic interlude driven by hand percussion and gently ringing bells, and the even more aggressive moments on the closing title track help it stand out. Newcomers may well be sold on the strength of that title track alone, yet those who worshipped at the altar established for the band by those strong first two albums may well find themselves a little surprised at how much the distinct Cult of Fire personality seems stifled here. It's easy to recommend previous releases over Moksha; not a bad album in itself but one that seems a step down from past heights. It may well be inspired by the bones and dust of the charnel house but unless you are in the right mindset - and if you are, switching back and forth between Moksha and Nirvana is a deeply compelling experience that transcends both - it paints nothing so much as above-average black metal with Eastern elements. Onto Nirvana, then.

Killing Songs :
Město mrtvých, Har har Mehadev, Moksha
Goat quoted 72 / 100
Other albums by Cult of Fire that we have reviewed:
Cult of Fire - Nirvana reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Cult of Fire - Ctvrta Symfonie Ohne reviewed by Alex and quoted no quote
Cult of Fire - मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Cult of Fire - Triumvirát reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
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