Before I get cracking on this album can we please spend a moment to acknowledge the band name here. Whoever came up with ‘Nepal Death’ deserved their moment in the sun… brilliant.
Ok so settle in and consider the following…
Imagine Charles Manson and Anton LaVey teaming up with a band of fake Hare Krishna cult members speeding towards Kathmandu in a run down VW bus along the dusty Hippie Trail in 1966.https://nepaldeath.com
It is an intriguing prospect that immediately set in play all sorts of scenarios, indeed it is a premise for an unwritten novel which would likely be a colourful, diverse and high octane trip (in many senses of the word); with extreme tension… not least from LaVey’s apparent strong aversion to rock music. You can imagine being a fly on the windscreen of that bus just about to pass into your next life and witnessing the claims to spiritual authority flying around in a haze of incense, hash and acid.
This record is in essence a musical chronicle of that road trip, a journey which encompasses and alights upon many of the sights and sounds that you would expect from such a premise… if this music was coming out of the bus’s radio then it would both affect and reflect the milieu into which it was emerging.
In addition to this you do really get a sense of narrative driving through this record as you move from scene to scene. If you can imaging the heat, the claustrophobia and the acrid air this group of people would surely create, and contrast it with the differently chaotic sights and sounds outside the window… imagine yourself tasting the dust and diesel as the villages, dry river beds and temples pass you by. Having travelling through parts of India by mini-bus I used my memories to do this, but I’m sure you would soon get the picture.
Right, well is seem to have got a little lost in my imagination listening to this album, so I’m going to street it up from the beginning again and have another crack at actually explaining the music now…
The first two tracks kind of set out the premise. ‘Eik Dei (introd) is like a summoning incantation inviting us into this world, segueing into ‘The Hippie Trail’ which sets the story and also dates it with the 60s psychedelic rock groove which brings the California vibe into the Nepalese context… this feels like a big song that you could imagine soundtracking a 60s film of Eastern discovery…
All the tracks have segues between them which really add to the atmosphere of the set… and so we find ourselves in ‘Sadhu Satan (The Durukti Mantra)’ which I guess brings in LaVay’s occult ideas and looks at them through a more Eastern perspective… it feels to me like a paean to Kali asking for a blessing to wander as a hermit… It’s a huge dramatic and almost overwrought number which in some way mirrors the destructive power of the goddess.
‘Shadow Empress of Kathmandu’ is altogether more subtle and textured with it’s atmospheric allusions within what is a very sixties feel. It has that sort of drama that you would perhaps acquaint with Scott Walker, and again takes you that bit further on the journey which, at this juncture you feel, could equally be enacted on the stage.
Things step up a gear with ‘She Smelled of Hash’, were now on the less spiritual, more mundane, side of the hippy trail now… this is a real banger of a song… but I also like the element of storytelling here too… there’s a really nice balance of wit and imagination which then segues into an atmospheric interlude before blasting straight into ‘Wytches’ which again seems to play into the satanic theme… there’s some really ‘bollocks’ era Pistols guitar mixed in here too… again there’s the mix of Eastern and Western ideas here that are all thrown in… the pick and mix spiritually that many craved at the time.
After that ‘Om Kali Ma’ sees a Harrison-esque mixing of Western rock trips with Eastern mantras as the band no doubt whisk themselves up into a drug induced frenzy, the soma of old being replaced by other more contemporary hallucinogens… which leads on to ‘Tonight We Die’ a much more crisp heavy track that looses a lot of the fuzz surrounding much of the album… it feels like a moment of clarity before the denouement.
The theme of death continues with ‘Sita Ram’ with it’s open spaces… it feels like the final march towards the pyre and towards the final track ‘Dead in Nepal’. It could, by the lyrics, also be called ‘extensive shenanigans in the temple’ as the protagonist goes through the final throes of life in a long and hedonistic final act amidst a gradually ramping up of the music as the band build up to a climax before being ritually snuffed out at the end.
‘Nepal Death’ is a concept that really appealed to me. I really enjoyed the whole narrative and premise… it paints a picture of the hippy trail which is chaotic and vibrant, carefree and yet somehow substantial, drug-fuelled but with a genuine sense of seeking out some truths.
’Nepal Death’ is available in various formats, with some ace t-shirt packages, direct from the band here.
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