CARMA – Ossadas (2023)REVIEW

The elaborately fashioned graveyard, or, architecturally splendiferous marbled crypts of the Gothic era provide less of a legacy for the bones of the wealthy today so much as they remain as cultural artifacts by the hands of inspired local craftsmen, artists graced with glorious budgets and inspired ideas crafting narrow monuments to the better-off dead. The decay of these ornate, kempt yet clearly ancient houses of the privileged inspire Coimbra, Portugal-based blackened funeral doom metal trio Carma by way of atmosphere, the monumental fumes of a cold and lasting presence typically given off by 19th century cemeterial designs. ‘Ossadas‘ wears these hand-carved throwbacks to the estilo manuelino era as its marbled skin, illustrations which not only reflect the arch-and-finial rich designs but also the worn faces, melting facades they’ve accumulated over the course of centuries. Naturally the album itself is a slow, steadily creeping feat which unfurls its austere cemeterial glow over the course of an eternally patient, ambiance enriched hourlong dirge.

Carma formed circa 2012 between musicians who’d both collaborated or struck out on their own black metal related projects throughout the 2010’s otherwise including Everto Signum, Mandragora Malevola, and Nekromorphine. Of course without some vested interest in the Portuguese black metal spheres these names are either too temporally distant for the magpie black metal fandom today or simply mediocre unknown releases to begin with. No doubt this particular project was on the cusp of something more rarely achieved from the outset and it’d naturally called for more interest in 2015 when their debut (‘Carma‘) released. Blackened death influenced vocals, a couple of extended scene-setting dark ambient passages, and an atmospheric black metal rhythmic tilt all added up to an interesting enough style of funeral doom on that debut but likely nothing mind-blowing for the typical extreme/atmospheric doom metal enjoyer at the time. With ‘Ossadas’ the band expand upon this idea in a far more dramatic fashion, leaning into their dark ambient side to space out their doubly long (~9-10 minute) funeral doom pieces.

With funeral doom being such an insular, no longer all that avant-garde ideal and an unpredictable proposition for the average fan today it’ll make sense to suggest that Carma appeal to my own taste in the older guard while still reading as a modern act, something a bit more homebrewed than their first record but still decidedly post-2010 in the richness of its ‘dark metal’-esque atmospheric black metal influenced reach. Opener “Jazigo” emphasizes this lead guitar driven voicing, something closer to gothic death/doom metal at a slowed pace with chorales lending a more dramatic, yearning feel to the general introduction. There is a reverence within this first piece which sustains throughout the entirety of ‘Ossadas’ that reads to me as hymnal intent, an embodiment of their experiences haunting the Conchada Cemetery there in Coimbra, which they’ve named as the inspiration for not only the artwork but a muse upon the emotional effects of setting as this place naturally stirs the mind toward the subject of grief, loss and futilist lament.

Between the dramatic carriage of “Jazigo” and the ranting, frustrated tension of “Memória” the tone of the album is set and generally unbent from that point, though I’d be remiss to not focus upon the ~3.5 minute interludes which create some distance between the three major sets of ~9-10 minute songs that make up ‘Ossadas‘. These numerated “Leirão” pieces refer to the cemeterial land in description (not a certain species of European mouse) and appear as landscaping, setting to help the mind wander into its next miserable dirge or two; The general modus, language and phrasing of the band is generally set by the time the pairing of “Paz” and “Destino” arrive, “Destino” being a reprise of the strengths “Jazigo” lead with between its chorales and deeper-growled vocals. At this point my interest in the actual guitar arrangements begins to fully dry up within these lengthier songs though the atmosphere is still successful and the passage through time will better suit a morose, patient mood.

The major salvage of the experience comes within its third act and specifically by way of the strongest piece of the lot, “Monumento”, which appeals to my senses by way of its melodic blackened treatment of a toccata (technique piece) from “Suite Gothique“, a famous organ driven opus from French composer Léon Boëllmann produced in an entirely appropriate era for this setting. The reference is small within the piece but the gesture is inspired and no doubt the band could/should pull far more deeply from this sort of influence since it stands out in an appreciable way. Beyond that point I’d appreciated the band picking up the pace for a grand finale on “Saudade”, lending a bit of replay value to an album which otherwise steadies itself as a point of design. While I’d found the reverent atmosphere of ‘Ossadas‘ exceptional, its keyboard driven interludes charming in their depiction and the chorale-juiced pieces very strong on repeat listens I couldn’t help but feel the record drain of its potency once I was well-familiar with its stride. After around a dozen runs through I’d still found the record charming but found myself skipping over at least one of the songs (usually “Paz”) to push toward the finale. Impatience factors into my assessment, sure, though it may not yours. A moderately high recommendation.


Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.

$1.00

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

$5.00
$15.00
$100.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly