Karos’ music forms a vicious undertow, an inescapable undercurrent of cavernous sound.
“Fuck the mortals, I’m a god” screams Houston rapper Karos on “IMMORTAL”, a crazed half-minute of frantic guitars and hasty drum crashes. The song is a strike of lightning, without mass or weight and dissipating just as it appears. Half of it is spent in build up, slowly building anxiety and tension and cruelly forgoing any resolution. The idea is to confuse and distract the audience, perhaps to allow some sort of possession. Crosses, knives and pentagrams adorn the monochrome artwork across Karos’ soundcloud page, a hint at some grandiose villainous intent. Or maybe “IMMORTAL” exists simply because it feels good to make something loud. It’s hard to tell when an artist creates from such a void-like space.
From Houston, Texas, Karos follows a steady line of southern musicians chasing a gritty sound. His voice is deep and rarely vibrant, a dry assonant scratch that serves as host to the songs he writes. He is decidedly not a guest to the beats chosen, but never gives an overly dominant performance. A remix to Lucki’s “Rip Act” alternates between two similar flows, and “Black AF1” plays a solo game of call and response. On “Protean” the microphone is shared with Primenasti, but the song gains its edge from a supremely strange beat from Karos himself – melody is discarded as pitches bend and warp. Constant pummelling bass lines mirror those common in many other songs Karos presents.
It’s genuinely best to appreciate Karos’ work with a holistic perspective. His tags make reference to Kloud Sindicate, a collective from his hometown that operates with an elusive ethos. “Mask On!” by members Hood-E and Isolated Figure echoes Karos’ modus operandi, hinting that he is a piece of a larger system. The recent track is a serviceable introduction to the group, emphasising seclusion and malice through the repetition of its title. Amidst the Kloud Sindicate some of Karos’ songs are galvanised. “You gon’ get you’re head bust, bitch I got them blue bucks” (“Headshot”) is backed by a small army of shadowy figures, a warning from the rapper to believe not only in his threats, but his chances at success too. “Creepshow” with Sindicate members Hood-E and Big Pete affirms this through proficient rapping atop a monstrous instrumental from the5thspirit.
“SOUL” is one of the best songs Karos has released so far. It holds its own as a standalone single with far stronger conviction than some of the more aesthetically reliant pieces in the artist’s catalogue. A mournful, noisy beat from Ell allows a hazy draft of hisses and clicks to enter the mix. The music feels mechanical and soulful. Karos’ sounds confident, using an altered ‘ayy flow’ to keep the pace high. “Love my evil ways, ay, hatred feels the same” is disturbingly normal here, with no alteration in timbre for such an impacting line. “Diamonds on my soul” clashes with “hoping I’ma crash”. His cadence is flat out excellent, a strong display of technical proficiency. It’s all far too much to process in two minutes.
Karos is an intriguing discovery. His music adapts convention to best fit his personal vision, but doesn’t bully the listener into awareness. It’s a reminder to look between the lines of even the underground, and see what kind of mystic art is hiding in plain sight.
– Jamie (@youngjade1216)