Modern metal needs new heroes. As it becomes harder to spot diamonds twinkling in a murky, generic swamp of mimics and copycats, bands with the power, intelligence and style to drag the genre forward are more precious than ever. London’s Karybdis have long had something special about them: that hard-to-define essence of something better, something beyond.
Formed in 2009, Karybdis grabbed the attention of the metal world with their debut album From The Depths. Released in 2012, it was a tour-de-force of ruthlessly contemporary but defiantly non-conformist extreme metal that embraced everything from the howling harmonies of the Gothenburg set to the brutish clatter of deep, dark hardcore. Bolstered by a concept fuelled by Greek myths and legends, it stood apart from the generic hordes by simply aiming higher than the rest. Subsequent live performances confirmed the potency of the band’s vision and collective will and despite their proudly self-sufficient, DIY approach, the band began to generate a buzz in the wider world.
Fast forward to 2015 and Karybdis have maintained their forward thrust, with just one significant adjustment along the way. After the amicable departure of guitarist Harsha Dasari, a new six-string master has joined the fold. His name is Matt Lowry and the results of his impact on the band’s collective chemistry are writ large across every scything second of Samsara, the new Karybdis album.
“Whilst we auditioned some extremely talented guitarists, in the end it was an old friend of Rich [O’Donnell, vocalist] that stood above all of them,” says bassist Jay Gladwin. “The demo he sent us prior to his audition ended up being the album opener Rorschach and since then he's just churned out amazing song after amazing song. He and Pierre [Dujardin, guitarist] collaborate extremely well together and since he joined I think he's helped push our playing to an entirely new level.”
With a new guitar tag team working in perfect harmony and Jay and drummer Mitch McGugan reaching a new peak of dual dexterity, Samsara is an explosive and often celebratory collection of songs that spark and fizz with renewed urgency and an emboldened sense of purpose. From the jaw-shattering melo-death grandeur of Rorschach and the kaleidoscopic tech-metal of Constellations through to the brooding grind of Mermaids and the devastating denouement of Absence, Samsara showcases a band at the height of their powers, with an abundance of inspiration and impeccable technical chops. No wonder they attracted the attention of one of metal’s pre-eminent studio gurus.
“We sent Mark Lewis (AudioHammer Studios) a speculative demo in early 2014 in the hope he might be interested in working with us and to our delight he got straight back to us saying that he was!” Jay recalls. “Mark has produced and engineered some of our favourite modern metal records and always gets an organic but still extremely aggressive sound on everything he works on. It's far from the often sterile digital sounding production found on a lot of modern metal records. That also echoes the approach we took to this album… We've not tuned down, we still play six string guitars, we've not started djenting or stuck in loads more beatdowns. Our plan was to write an album of great songs on our terms and that's what we feel we've accomplished.”
Audio triumphs aside, Samsara also heralds an intensifying of Karybdis’ lyrical focus, with intelligent songs that aim for the existential jugular while still satisfying on that all-important primal metal level.
“The title Samsara refers to the ever flow of energy and the cycle of life, death and rebirth,” Jay explains. “Although there is no solid theme like our previous album, most of the tracks have this idea as a metaphor in one way or another. The lyrical content flows from life experiences, to songs about having an open mind and looking past what we are taught for our own answers.
“Where our first record felt like a bit of a melting pot of styles we feel on Samsara we discovered our natural sound,” the bassist continues. “There's still quite a lot of variety within that from the straight up melodic death metal of Avarice to the more hardcore-influenced Mermaids but the album as a whole is a lot more cohesive.”
Karybdis enter 2016 on the form of their lives, with a brand new album that deserves to propel them to the forefront of the UK scene and beyond. This is metal made for the love of creativity and the thrill of heavy music’s ageless power. These are songs with brains, brawn and a huge heart. This is modern metal, Samsara is a revelation and Karybdis are the heroes we’ve been waiting for.
“From The Depths got brilliant reviews in the press and online but we don't feel like enough people got to hear it and that's something we can't let happen with Samsara,” Jay concludes. “We are going to try and be everywhere in the UK next year and will be forcing ourselves down people's throats whether they like it or not. We believe we've written a very special album and now we need to make sure everyone hears it.”