Taking its title from the Indian goddess of destruction, MahaKali portends two things particularly about Jarboe’s first solo release in a while (not that she’s been quiet, with several other projects this year, including J2 with Justin Broadrick and guest appearances on recent Guapo and Puscifer releases): There’s an eastern feel, and it’s ominous.
Both are true of MahaKali, an expectedly difficult listen from performance artist best known for her work in the post-punk band The Swans. From the very first track, with Jarboe acting as a wavering timbre, almost like a sustained guitar lead, caterwauling over the precise material laid forth by what’s essentially a combination of all of Dysrhythmia and parts of A Storm Of Light along with a few others. The restrained, subtle backing music simply acts as a landscape for Jarboe, effectively channeling the goddess, to survey and react to her will.
As such, the record is certainly one personality— Jarboe’s, but not always. Atilla of Mayhem acts as an even more primal counterpoint on “The Soul Continues,” and Phil Anselmo provides an over-indulgent doubling and tripling of vocals on “Overthrown,” what’s probably the most contestable song on the album, as it feels unrelated to the overarching thought.
It’s probably the most satisfying piece of work from the artist in years, as her seemingly endless collaborations had almost pegged her as a go-to guest star on metal and art rock as regularly as a well-known rap name. Trouble is, it’s often been to an otherwise unlearned audience. Hopefully, MahaKali will work to destroy that.