Mourning. It is a process that we all have to deal with in one way or another throughout our lives. It is a sorrowful and painful experience but it can also involve cleansing, rejuvenation and acceptance.
Mourning is the dominant theme of Kariti’s debut album Covered Mirrors. Kariti is a Russian-born artist living in Italy who has decided to “finally write music for many poems piled up over the years.” “Kariti” translates (from an old Slavic liturgical language called church Slavonic) as “mourn the dead” and the music is described as “stripped down mourning folk songs with crisp fingerstyle guitar and eerie vocal harmonies.” The album was written, performed and produced by Kariti herself, with guests Marco (electric guitar) and Lorenzo Della Rovere (additional acoustic guitar, recording / mixing).
The music is indeed mournful, dark, and melancholic. The arrangements consist largely of folky fingerpicked acoustic guitar and Kariti’s sombre, impassioned and ethereal voice, along with the occasional doom-laden stab of noisy electric guitar. The opening track, simply titled “Intro” is a deeply unsettling sample of what sounds like an old woman crying uncontrollably whilst a strange choir warbles dissonantly in the background. It sets the grief-stricken and despairing mood.
But actually Covered Mirrors has an emotional palette that encompasses more than just pain and suffering. “Sky Burial,” with its lush and majestic vocal harmonies, is undoubtedly a funereal song (“Undress my body / Break my spine / Beat the drums / And take me high”), but it also hints at the possibility of some kind of redemption or rebirth — of death as not the ultimate end but part of a journey. The music here, as on much of the album, has a strangely uplifting quality underneath the melancholy.
“КРЕЩЕНИЕ ВЕДЬМЫ (The baptism of a witch)” was inspired by a Russian folk song about reincarnation. It uses a simple and sparse arrangement but the heavy delivery betrays a doom-metal influence. The double-tracked vocals are intense and evocative as they weave beautiful melodies around monolithic guitar chords. “Anna (Requiem to death)” is structured around a “Black Sabbath meets Fairport Convention” riffy electric guitar part. Kariti’s voice trembles with emotion as she sweeps through a powerful and even catchy song. “Absent Angels” is like a dark lullaby with flowing voice and rolling acoustic guitar meeting in wistful sadness. The album closes with “ПРОПАСТЬ (Abyss)”. As with much of this album, the song leaves us with a bleak and elegiac atmosphere, but there is also a hint of hope peaking through the eeriness.
The press release describes Covered Mirrors as “a cathartic peregrination [a long or meandering journey] through bereavement,” and that description sums up the record aptly. It feels as though we are being led through sorrow and loss towards acceptance and letting go. Perhaps, in facing the themes of death and mourning, we can exorcise unnecessary burdens that we carry and move forwards with renewed vitality.
Kariti implores the listener to submit to facing and acknowledging painful and difficult existential truths. In doing so, we can experience this journey of catharsis and, ultimately, of renewal. Fans of “dark folk” artists such as Chelsea Wolfe and Marissa Nadler will find a lot to appreciate here, as will open-minded metalheads who need a more nuanced form of heaviness once in a while. Above all, this is an album to put on when you really need to feel something.
Covered Mirrors is released on 18th September 2020 via Aural Music. Preorder on bandcamp today: https://kariti.bandcamp.com/releases