Shiva Rudrastakam by the Nepalese band Dying Out Flame is one of the most unusual, most inventive, and most instrumentally accomplished metal albums you will hear all year. It fuses together elements of death metal reminiscent of bands like Hate Eternal, Morbid Angel, Suffocation, and Behemoth with classical Hindu melodies and sanskrit chants. But it is far more than a stitching together of disparate musical traditions for the sake of creating a curiosity. It represents an authentic union of the creators’ passions, one that succeeds in finding an unexpected harmony in all these divergent ingredients.
An informative Decibel interview of the band’s co-founder, vocalist, and bass-player Aabeg Gautam reveals that the band’s name refers to the last phase of the burning of a corpse in the open air, an ancient Hindu sacrament designed to release the soul from the body after death, with fire acting as the medium between man and god. In the same interview Gautam calls the band “the instruments of Lord Shiva”. But even without these disclosures, the extent to which spiritual themes have inspired and fueled the band is abundantly evident in the fiery music itself.
The songs are impressively dynamic, ever-changing in ways that are fascinating rather than jarring. There is no doubt that the band could have recorded an album of pure death metal, both written and performed with an exceptional level of skill: In every song after the introductory track they unleash powerful torrents of brutal fret-burning riffs and hyper-active percussion with jaw-dropping flair. Yet this is only one facet of an intricately layered and vibrantly multi-textured work.