Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Impaled Nazarene - Ugra-Karma (1993)

Ugra-Karma, the sophomore effort from Impaled Nazarene, was released in December 1993 through Osmose Productions. Unlike other bands from the Finnish Black Metal scene, such as Beherit and Archgoat, Impaled Nazarene shared many similarities with the bands from Norway, at least on the surface. This L.P. represented yet another step in that direction, while also improving upon many of the flaws of the debut. Though far from perfect, Ugra-Karma represents the pinnacle of the band's career.

One of the most noticeable aspects of this record has to be the production. The pummeling of the drums, often, take the focus off of the guitar riffs. Throughout the entire album, the percussion is far too high in the mix and is rather distracting, at times. There are occasions where the bass is too loud, as well, but this is much more rare. The vocals, of course, are never buried in the mix and are always featured well enough to be heard clearly. The guitar tone is rather odd, sounding like a rusty saw blade, for the most part. While not really that negative, the riffs may have been better suited by a colder sound.

Aside from the nitpicking, the actual musical content of Ugra-Karma is quite enjoyable. Gone are the inconsistent songwriting and occasional Death Metal leanings of Tol Cormpt Norz Norz Norz..., replaced by more developed arrangements and an overall cohesiveness that was previously lacking. Rather than filling space with countless tracks that go nowhere and clock in at or under the one minute mark, Impaled Nazarene put more time and thought into their second offering and put forth a solid collection of tunes. The one exception to this would have to be "Gott ist Tot", which is an utterly worthless techno track that seems very much out-of-place. The majority of the songs center around blast beats and tremolo melodies, though the guitars hardly ever have an opportunity to create a dark atmosphere. However, that is as much a result of the poor production as it is the punk / Motörhead influence that is detected in the execution of the material, most evident in songs like "Soul Rape" and "Kali-Yuga". Though this record possesses many of the same ingredients as albums like Pure Holocaust and Under A Funeral Moon, the prevailing mentality behind it is much more in line with the first Blasphemy album. The end result is an album that fails to imbue the listener with a dreadful sense of darkness, opting instead for a straightforward barbaric onslaught.

This is highly recommended for fans of the Second Wave of Black Metal. and is the one essential Impaled Nazarene release, providing stronger songwriting than its predecessor and yet more integrity than its successor. Though it shares very little in common with albums such as Drawing Down the Moon or Tales of Desecration, Ugra-Karma is one of the cornerstones of the early Finnish scene.