"Almost Heathen" (Spitfire/Jellysyrup Productions

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

With "Almost Heathen," Karma To Burn stick to the thick riffs and sultry grooves that have defined their uncluttered music in the past. Karma To Burn's chunky instrumentals still seem perfect for high-speed driving down the freeway; more than any other form of music that I can think of, Karma To Burn's twisted stoner rock has a feeling of freedom (that or a really good beer buzz).

After a few proto-typical Karma To Burn jaunts ("Nineteen" and "Thirty Eight") the music changes ever so slightly. It's hard to explain, but it's as if the rest of the music on "Almost Heathen" has a more sarcastic tone this time around. The band starts to slow down the staggering riffs just enough (and often enough) to give the rhythm guitar lines a voice that speaks in measured tones (see "Thirty Seven" for an example). Respectful influences creep in throughout with some obvious examples, among the many, being Angus Young ("Thirty Six") and Clutch ("Thirty Three"). Uptempo riffs like those found on "Thirty Five" and "Thirty Nine" keep the music moving forward like it's nobody's business. "Five" provides new sonic colors not heard from Karma To Burn in the past. 

Well, it turns out that "44" wasn't on this CD, so it'd better be on the next one!

Hey, I have to mention it, but I LOVE the title - what a cute little play on West Virginia's tourism slogan 'Almost Heaven.'

Instrumental music isn't for everyone, but I love it and Karma To Burn are just the latest in a string of bands that I love to listen to at any time.

"Almost Heathen" was produced by Michael Barile. 

Karma To Burn is Rich, Will, and Rob. 

For more information visit http://www.karmatoburn.net

"Wild Wonderful Purgatory" (Spitfire)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Originally from West Virginia, but now calling Baltimore home, Karma To Burn is often lumped in the stoner/sludge genre (unfairly, I might add). I prefer to see Karma To Burn as a bright spot on an otherwise bleak landscape of pure instrumental music.

I caught this stunning act in April 1999 when I had attended a record release party for a compilation CD that Karma To Burn appeared on (see my review here). Not only did Karma To Burn impress me that night, they impressed me even more when I listed to the compilation CD the next day (see my review here). I finally got a hold of Karma To Burn's new release "Wild Wonderful Purgatory" and my CD collection is the better for it.

Karma To Burn employ a "simple is better" philosophy when creating their music. Eschewing lyrics allows the band to focus on the riffs and the groove - this approach is a refreshing change of pace. "Wild Wonderful Purgatory" is the best I've heard lately in what I would call 'driving music' - it's not to hard to envision a whole nation of maniacs are riding around driving at excessive speeds while Karma To Burn blast through their respective car radios.

You will hear elements of old Kiss, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Southern rock, Middle Eastern vibes, and a whole lot more in the music. All of this is done to great effect all the while knowing there aren't any vocals to clutter up the sonic heights. It may be best to think of Karma To Burn as the anti-Satriani; whereas Satriani has made a career of blurring the line between melody and solos, Karma To Burn stick to the riffs and rarely use the lead guitar as a voice to spruce up the songs.

Extending the "simple is better" formula to even greater extremes is made evident by the fact that Karma To Burn don't even bother giving their songs actual titles. It appears the band assigns a number in numerical sequence as they write them. For instance, the track listing for "Wild Wonderful Purgatory" is "20," "28," "30," "31," "29," "32," "25," and "26." Karma To Burn's out-of-print demo is added to the end of the CD: the track listing for this "1," "3," "7," and "8." All I know is my favorite number had better be on the next disc ("44" in case you're wondering).

For what it's worth the tracks that really pique my ears are "20," "30," "26," and "1"; the other eight songs are very strong as well with "8" the only tune that really shows off a Kyuss influence.

"Wild Wonderful Purgatory" will open your eyes to the possibilities of riff-driven hard rock played with passion and bold enthusiasm.

Karma To Burn is Will on guitar, Rich on bass, and Rob on drums.

For more information visit the band's semi-official website http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Studio/5511/k2bindex.html which is hosted by a European fan.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Revised: 03 Apr 2022 15:56:16 -0400.