Fact is, when Metal Mind reissues something, they do it up right — albums remastered on golden discs, digipaks, liner notes, limited runs, bonus tracks out the ass, sometimes redone art and sometimes not, and when they acquire a property, they consider the best way of getting it out there to the people. They’re not all great, because in the Polish imprint’s quest to mine the back catalogs of the likes of Nuclear Blast and Roadrunner there are duds a-plenty, but in the case of Mountain Mama’s, the triple CD box set combining West Virginian recently-reunited, mostly-instrumental riff-mongers Karma to Burn‘s three full-lengths — Karma to Burn (1997), Wild Wonderful Purgatory (1999) and Almost Heathen (2002) — they nailed it.
I’d liken it to the box treatment Warner International gave to Kyuss‘ Blues for the Red Sun, Welcome to Sky Valley and …And the Circus Leaves Town in 2000, but where that was essentially the three albums wrapped in cardboard, Metal Mind gives us these remastered three Karma to Burn discs in a custom digipak with striking artwork by Elizabeth Duebell biting the head off the Wild Wonderful Purgatory cover; redder and without the lady patriot. Hard to lose when you’ve got a Satanic goat dressed in Native American garb riding a horse carring the West Virginia state flag.
Only the self-titled has vocals, contributed by Jason Jarosz following the dissolution of a promising collaboration with John Garcia (still fronting Kyuss at the time). The band has said numerous times over the years that the only reason they ever had a singer was because Roadrunner made them, so when it came time to follow up, seeing as how they were signed to MIA at the time, nothing was stopping them from going all-instrumental. Wild Wonderful Purgatory and Almost Heathen, then, have no singing — and even as the band reunites and announces new tour dates, there’s still debate over which is better, instrumental or vocalized.
My thesis: They both rule, but for different reasons. Where the last two records cemented the Karma to Burn legacy and put out the influence tons of instrumental bands still grasp onto today, that wouldn’t have been possible had the self-titled not been put out first. Jarosz might not have been as exciting a singer (or selling point) as John Garcia, but he carries songs like “Patty Hearst’s Closet Mantra” over effectively and helps make that album a classic in underrated ’90s stoner metal. You need both to get the complete story, and Mountain Mama’s is that.
By way of bonus material, Karma to Burn comes with five instrumental live tracks recorded at the Dynamo Festival in 2000, Wild Wonderful Purgatory is coupled with more live tracks from the same show and the 18.104.22.168 EP and Almost Heathen has six cuts, four of which may or may not be taken from 1996′s self-released Wild, Wonderful & Apocalyptic EP. As ever, Karma to Burn retains some mystery about them.
Whether you’re new to the band, or in search of the bonus tracks, or just a completist looking to whet your appetite for the upcoming reunion, Mountain Mama’s has everything you could possibly ask of a Karma to Burn box set.
Tags: Instrumetal, Karma to Burn, Metal Mind, Reissues, West Virginia