Review: Kurokuma ‘Born Of Obsidian’

Kurokuma have been around for about eight years now, steadily building through a series of shorter recordings and local, UK, and international gigs. Sprouting from the fertile substrate of Sheffield, they sit within the general sphere of doom, but always with an eye to trying something a bit divergent – drawing on band members’ other interests, whether that’s incorporating non-typical rhythms, working with dance labels (Sheffield’s Best Metal Bands Vol.1, 2019, Off Me Nut Records) or developing a signature cannabis strain: KuroKush.

Kurokuma ‘Born Of Obsidian'

From the first moments of Smoking Mirror Kurokuma set about establishing that this album is also going to be their own strain, bass and percussion leading into towering doomed riffing with a harshness that has me reaching for that catch-all term ‘blackened’. There’s a proper metal intent that pervades the album and is one of the genetic traits that the band use to balance out the slow ’n’ heavy and trancelike aspects. The second track (and the only offering below eight minutes) Sacrifice To Huitzilopochtli, in particular, brings the metal, using an overdriven tone to set up a rolling mid-paced chugger and a change of gears that is here to start pits.

As the album progresses Kurokuma bring out some of those other aspects to their sound, using building momentum to explore ritual states and finding ways to move from tectonic doom foundations to open out into brighter spaces as on Ololiuqui. This song finds its way into an almost prog development into strange territory and swirling feedback. Kurokuma carries this impulse further in the album’s final track Under The Fifth Sun. Using an almost breathy bass sound, gathering tension in the treble register which finds the out-breath release in climbing psych on the way to a proper enormo-climax.

a recording that captures the doom low-end, crisp percussion, metallic guitars, abrasive vocals, and weirdo-sludge psych…

Reconciling these disparate ideas sonically could well have gone awry, but Kurokuma were fortunate to be able to call on the services of Sanford Parker, recording for the first time in the UK. The plan had been to travel to Chicago to record there, but international travel becoming complicated in recent times led to an agreement to meet with him at Narcissus Studio in London. To my ears, it was worth whatever hassle all this involved as Parker has been able to handle the range of tone and intent on a recording that captures the doom low-end, crisp percussion, metallic guitars, abrasive vocals, and weirdo-sludge psych of the songs. Album centrepiece Jaguar is particularly satisfying in this regard, building to the shamanic embodiment of the jungle cat in a heavy groove of tight drums and sliding guitars.

So, in all, Kurokuma have built a pleasingly heavy and interesting piece of work, themed around the ancient history of major Mesoamerican civilisations [Why? – Why not?] that without inventing its own thing weaves a path through the cracks between various metal sounds. They hope to be out playing live this year, and I think it’d be worth getting out to be involved in the ritual.

Label: Independent
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Harry Holmes