Sadhaka – Terma

Front cover

Front cover

SADHAKA is a band from Cascadia. And just like quite some other bands from there, they know how to play exciting music. Needless to say that as much as the term “Cascadian Black Metal” became hyped during the last years, a lot of people started to blame basically every Cascadian BM band to be a bad WITTR-rip-off (at best) or hipster-BM (at worst). But acting like this makes you miss some great gems that are neither the former nor the latter. SADHAKA‘s Terma is one of those gems and in its overall conducting a really distinct one, too – if for the better or the worse lies in the eye of the beholder, as one might see later on.

Instead of following the musical path Transilvanian Hunger laid almost 20 years ago – which means a steady blast-beat underneath monotonous, hypnotic guitar riffs – SADHAKA comes in quite slow for long periods, totally incorporating a considerable tendency towards Doom Metal. Of course there are a few uptempo passages that are built upon blast-beats as well, but overall Terma is a squelching, slow record.

During these slow episodes SADHAKA has this very melancholic, almost depressive vibe going on that the US Black Metal band Weakling had as well. Especially the lead-guitarwork is somewhat similar to what’s happening in some songs of Weakling‘s Dead As Dreams, although both bands have a quite different approach altogether.

Another outstanding element in SADHAKA‘s sonic approach is the really severe, vivid bass, which finds itself quite prominently in the mix. For SADHAKA the bass is more than just the typical fill-in to thicken the riffing. It’s the earthy ground upon which the other instruments can act out, the driving force that develops the four songs on Terma. The bass-sound itself is very natural and far away from the typical bass/sans-amp/pro-tools-crimes one can hear on way too many records.

The vocals, performed by all members of the band, come across natural and very honest, too. Quite reverb’ish, but not exaggerated highly screamed or super deeply growled. Just pure, direct, painful cries. The last song Ancient Ones even surprises with beautifully sung, clean vocals that hit you in the face like a cold mountain creek in the summer.

Terma has admittedly a certain melancholy to it, but is strangely life-affirming at the same time. Especially along with the lyrics, SADHAKA‘s music recedes from what is usually connected to the harsh, hostile legions of Black Metal.

First of all, the band’s name SADHAKA refers to dharmic (Indian) religions and describes someone who follows a particular way of life designed to realize the goal of one’s ultimate ideal, whether it is merging with brahman (“the unchanging reality amidst and beyond the world”) or realization of one’s personal deity. When a person has reached the goal he or she is no longer a sādhaka but a siddha. So the band might be on the search for enlightenment or to go a step further, the apotheosis, which is the deification of human beings. (For more info about that check Wikipedia)

Of course such strong ties to religious themes are somehow suspicions, and rightly so. Religions always leave a sour taste of lies, oppression, violence and brainwash. On the other hand the apotheosis is a theme that can be found throughout all ages and in basically every persuasion there is, albeit most religions, especially if they have a gridlocked, inalterable structure, try to repress trends that propagate these ideas. That’s hardly surprising if one considers that the apotheosis enables a human being to become a god or at least god-like, and that often “only” through self-awareness and self-instruction – what would the folds need organized religions anymore? What kind of entity such a god would be, if every individual could find the divine in itself? As the Dead Sea Scrolls proof, even to Christianity the idea of the apotheosis isn’t unknown – but of course it was repressed and denied, since it would weaken the power of the churches. (That it is in spite of everything based on the believe that a person named Jesus who was a Messiah actually really lived is another highly questionable matter of course.)

Anyway, no matter if one actually believes in god or divine spirits or whatever, the concept on which sādhaka is based on is, from a philosophical point of view, an interesting one. Of course the record’s title, Terma, also refers to Buddhism. It describes key teachings, which were originally hidden by various adepts in the 8th century for future discovery at auspicious times by other adepts. Linked to the term sādhaka one could say that the terma lead the way towards the ultimate ideal, which might be one’s own deity. (Again, for more info hit Wikipedia)

The lyrics of Dissolution imply that this deity might not be embodied by some incarnate god or goddess but the natural world:

The grieving rain, the raging sun,
the breathing wind,
Let them in, let them in
Into your flesh, into your bones, into your blood
Through your skin, your living skin,
Become them, become them
Your separation is an illusion

Furthermore human emotions, which are often considered as weakness or illness in modern societies, shall be embraced as well to find one’s inner self:

Paranoia, passion, rage, despair, avarice,
Let them in, let them in,
Into your flesh, into your bones, into your blood

The second track Padmasambhava tells the story of the equally named sage guru from Oddiyana, northwestern Classical India. Padmasambhava is said to have transmitted Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet, Bhutan and neighboring countries in the 8th century AD.

The song Impermanence deals with the never-ending cycle of emergence and passing that determines the way of the world. Needless to say, the idea of reincarnation is a fundamental one within Buddhism and older Indian philosophies. The final track Ancient Ones calls out for the restless souls of the decedents.

Based on the assumption that Black Metal has to be anti-religious, SADHAKA is very far from being a BM band, although the music meets all the requirements. As for the lyrical content I can’t do otherwise but to express my distaste for religious stories that have been made up at some point in history and are sold as truth. I mean it’s totally fine if someone is in search for a deeper meaning in life (although personally I don’t think there is one) or for enlightenment of some sort. But why covering up these immemorial – and seen individually very interesting – philosophical ideas with religious fairy-tale and all kinds of mystical hoo-ha, especially in such an obvious way like SADHAKA does? That’s something I really can’t understand. If the other lyrics would be more in the vein of the first track Dissolution I wouldn’t even complain.

Anyway, Terma is, like mentioned above, a grasping, exciting record with lots of very interesting ideas on the musical side of things. But it’s up to yourself if you can accept, tolerate or ignore the ideological superstructure expressed in the lyrics.

SADHAKA‘s Terma was released on tape by Sick Man Getting Sick Records, 200 pieces made.


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