REVIEW: Kharma – Survival [EP/2016]


Artist: Kharma

Album: Survival – EP


There are those of us who are born into life with everything set and squared away. We have a supportive family, a decent enough nest egg and opportunities for us to make the most of ourselves. Then there those of us who have to fight just to make it through a day—those who have to sharpen knives and draw blood just to get a chance to even contemplate making it anywhere. For the downtrodden, the cast-out and the overwhelmed there may not be much in the world that physically gives hope, but there is music—more specifically, there is Survival, the breakout EP by Illinois aggressors Kharma. Combining fist-swinging beatdown with beefy, bold traditional hardcore, Kharma give the listener a series of hard-hitting, heavy-handed anthems that inspire hope and energy where despair and depression are abound. Socially conscious, scathingly intense and super catchy, Kharma are a band whose debut EP will catch the ears of many in the heavy music community—even those who may not have a taste for heavy hardcore.

Instrumentally, Survival is visceral, energetic and eviscerating all in one fell swoop. Built on a platform of punishing, quick drums that oscillate from slow, spine-splitting slams to quick, cracking two-steps, Kharma craft a hardcore juggernaut that bullies it’s way into the listener’s head. From the first thick smack of the kick drum in “12,” through the punchy, slam-laden “Loose End” and ending at the deadly climax to “Survival,” Kharma’s percussion has one goal: keep pushing. Like a heart-beat jacked up on adrenal stimulants, Kharma’s drums and bass form a flooring low end that doesn’t quit throughout the entirety of Survival. “Survival” itself sees extended interplay between drums and bass—bouncing and bludgeoning away, while the band’s guitar roars like a jet engine above. “Slave to Society” and “Survival” see Kharma at their most riff-driven, with sinister, furiously fretted leads dropping into devastating breakdowns and slams at the drop of a hat. Meanwhile, tracks like the brief-but-blistering “Loose End” are essentially one giant breakdown, constantly devolving until it ends with a slam that could level Mount Everest. All things considered, Kharma are about as diverse as anyone could expect from a beatdown-inclined hardcore band: fast at points, slow at others and constantly furious.

For a debut EP, Kharma’s instrumentation is prodigal. However, where the band begin to encounter turbulence. Survival is home to a vocal effort that is anything but generic. High, shrill and slightly aggravating, Kharma’s frontman is a mixed blessing. Upon first listen, many listeners might not be inclined to even push through one song—however those that do will quickly acclimate to the relatively unique vocal style. However, even after getting used to the high-pitched, piercing yell that serves as Kharma’s voice, there are still areas where the band stumble vocally. “Repent” and “Survival” both feature cleanly spoken segments that break the intensity and build up Kharma have so excellent crafted—and “Disgraced” has an almost-rapped portion that, plainly stated, just doesn’t fit. However, for their pitfalls, there are also moments where Kharma absolutely excel. “Loose End” is both vocal and lyrical excellence—and the “OOH” in “Repent” is reminiscent of the UK’s Desolated in the best way possible. So even where there are moments that Kharma may lose listeners, those who give them an earnest chance will likely fall in love.

Boasting a beastly musical platform and a unique (polarizing at best) vocal aspect, Kharma are a band fans of heavy music will become absolutely addicted to—if they can get used to the different and somewhat off-putting vocal style. However, where the vocals are unusual and don’t always blend well with the music, the lyrics are catchy and strong, complimenting the crushing music background brilliantly. Borrowing from beatdown hardcore and traditional hardcore punk tastefully, as well as adding a uniquely Illinoisy twist to the entire experience, Kharma are a band that give those with unsure futures and uneasy feelings something not to fight for, but to fight to. 



For Fans Of: Drowning, Cold as Life, Street Rat, Bruise, Misgiver

By: Connor Welsh