Artist: गौतम बुद्ध (Gautam Buddha)
Album: पुनर्जन्म भाग १ (Reincarnation Part 1)
Release Date: 16/07/2021
For the second day of India Week I look at mysterious black metal project गौतम बुद्ध (Gautam Buddha) and its album पुनर्जन्म भाग १ (Reincarnation Part 1). The album was released on July 16th through Pest Productions & Azure Graal with a future vinyl release on His Wounds still to come.
गौतम बुद्ध (Gautam Buddha) is not an easy project to find information about. Their member(s) are mysterious, they have no social media accounts and I cannot find anything about them anywhere online. What I can tell you is that this is a Buddhist themed black metal project based in Kushinagar, India. What I can also tell you is that they play a HIGHLY atmospheric form of raw black metal that draws influences from the realms of folk, dark ambient, psych, drone and lo-fi. The entire album is extremely progressive and experimental but not in the usual obvious way that people associate with the term prog, in a subtle mysterious way.
This has become one of my favourite black metal albums this year with the repeated listens I have given it since first hearing it. The more you listen the more you notice and discover about the music. There are layers upon layers of elements here, all stacked on top of each other and running both parallel to and through each other. The result is a swirling vortex of atmosphere and noise that can easily overwhelm the listener if they aren’t careful. The way to best appreciate the album is to learn to appreciate what each element is offering individually and then apply that to the whole. That way you can fully appreciate everything that the artist has gone to this level of effort to create.
I will briefly defer to Pest Productions and their summary of the album, as I couldn’t put it better myself. They describe it as, “A chaotic cacophony of possessed chants shrouded in an aura of sanguine mania, onto a path seeking rebirth but gone astray, leading to a heretic enlightenment of dark minds… Preaching their unique and profane interpretation of Buddhist doctrines with four loosely-structured yet often trance-inducing lengthy tracks, these group of unknown mendicants have made it clear that their trail to reincarnation will remain sinful and unorthodox, a frenzied pursuit towards an ominous end.” Simply put this is what you should take from this album, now I’ll give my take on it.
The vocals alone should be reason enough to listen to this album. There’s a certain surrealness about them, as if they may or may not be of this world. They pierce through the music on the album to reach the listener in a faded and distorted haze. Weirdly enough there is something comforting or maybe a better term is reassuring about them that I cannot explain. Let me be clear these are raw screeches and shrieks I’m talking about so don’t think this is some soft smooth vocal performance. Lyrically they convey (as mentioned above) a dark and twisted path to enlightenment pursued by heretics and sinners. Stylistically they perfectly match this theme and concept.
Instrumentally there is so much at play that it’s hard to even summarize. I’ll start with the drums as they are the simplest to grasp. These are created through the use of a drum machine and present the listener with an almost ceaseless barrage of stimulation. At times they can actually become quite intense and at other times they relax and let the listener breath in the more atmosphere focuses parts of the album.
The other elements on the album have almost a psychedelic tinge to them. They may seem chaotic due to their meandering nature but when you pay attention you see that everything is planned and focused right as it should be. Every stray chord is intentional, every tempo shift planned, every complete change in sound and style is just as it is meant to be. Yet the out of time layering of the various riffs and hooks happening simultaneously makes the album feel somewhat unnatural and intimidating. The gaps and fleeting silences between elements feel almost blasphemous and dangerous, as if they shouldn’t be acknowledged. All of this combined gives the album a truly haunting quality that many black metal acts aim for, but few achieve.
The inclusion of folk elements at various moments throughout the release are just one more element that makes the album so unique and so immersivity captivating. The same can be said of the lo-fi elements sprinkled throughout the album. They may be woven in neatly, but they aren’t subtle enough to miss if you’re paying attention.
There is also a constant back and forth between left and right channel that gives almost a hypnotic and dizzying effect to the album, particularly if listened to with quality headphones or speakers.
I saw a comment about this album that was too good not to include, saying “*insert domino effect meme here* Varg killing Euronymous -> Bhuddist black metal from India…”. While this is a joke, it has a surprising level of honesty in it. That comment and this album remind you of what a diverse and far-reaching genre black metal has become and how it transcends all boundaries of ethnicity, religion, culture and language. It’s this diversity that makes me love it so much and appreciate the level of creativity and artistry that it attracts as a genre.
Honestly, this is a completely unique offering and in my opinion a masterpiece of modern black metal. I have to do some serious contemplation concerning this album as it stands a very good chance of making my top 10 for the year. Very few acts can make music that is truly haunting and transcendent, but this happens to be one of them. Do yourself a favour and listen to this album today, and tomorrow and the day after and then just keep listening to it until one day you die and are reincarnated and then listen to it some more.
Listen to and order the album below: