Karma To Burn are a hard rock band originally from West Virginia, who played and recorded in several different incarnations, but most famously as a three-piece instrumental group. The music sounds most at home in the stoner rock genre, but with a distinct metal influence, and their disdain for such niceties as song titles and lyrics won them credibility with the riff-rock revival underground.

Karma to Burn assembled around 1993 from the wreckage of several local West Virginia bands, and began playing (usually all-ages) shows in the surrounding locale. K2B's early lineup shifted continuously but centered around guitarist Will Mecum and bass player Rich Mullins. They worked briefly with a singer but soon became a strictly instrumental project, attracting the attention of Roadrunner Records in 1995 and recording an EP (with no lyrics, and numbers in place of song titles). Label A&R drones insisted on adding vocals to the tracks, and the members enlisted the help of then-Kyuss singer John Garcia, who they had encountered on tour in California. Though the group rehearsed and toured with Garcia out front, no recordings from the collaboration ever surfaced, and Garcia moved on to singing with Slo-Burn.

With Roadrunner still pushing for a lead singer, Karma To Burn reluctantly hooked up with their friend Jason Jarosz. In the ever-flattering words of the official bio: "He can't really sing... he moans and grunts a lot. Due to his dyslexia, they had to name their songs because he sucked at numbers and kept fucking up." The band managed to record and release their eponymous debut in 1997, complete with vocals, but not surprisingly, the pairing of vocalist and instrumental trio didn't last. Just as the band were struggling with their singer, they took the opportunity to replace original drummer Nathan Limbaugh with Chuck Nicholas. A few Stateside shows with Jarosz were not well-received, and by the time of the European tour the other members were already joking to the press about self-destructing lead singers à la Spinal Tap, and Jarosz returned to the obscurity from whence he had come. The tour went on, singer-less, but even less surprisingly, Roadrunner dropped the band before the year was out.

The next year brought yet another new drummer (Rob Oswald) and more touring, including another road encounter with John Garcia, which led to plans for another new album with vocals – tentatively titled Nino Brown. But yet again, the project fell through, supposedly because Garcia's management balked, and apart from another self-released EP, the group didn't record again until 1999's Wild, Wonderful Purgatory. This record truly set the tone on the band's own terms: no words, no song titles, just a seamless wall of stoner-metal riffs from start to finish. This time around, the followup tour included opening slots for Metallica, COC and Clutch, among others. The tour kept them busy until 2000, when Almost Heathen was recorded for a 2001 release by Spitfire Records; the new album picked up right where its predecessor had left off, right down to the obligatory jab at the West Virginia state motto.

After more touring, Karma To Burn turned once more to the tantalizing idea of recording with a vocalist – or, in this case, several guest vocalists, rumored to included COC's Pepper Keenan and Burton of Fear Factory, to name a few. Once more the plans came to nothing, as by March of 2002, the band were widely reported to have split up. The news was never made official, but the band has been silent ever since.

Later the same year, Rich Mullins signed on to play bass for the slightly higher-profile Speedealer, but was soon ejected from the band after (supposedly) having pawned some of their gear for drug money. During 2003 Will Mecum resurfaced with a new outfit called Dragon Ass, who have played shows in West Virginia and the surrounding states with a variety of other acts.


Sources: The Roadrunner and Spitfire official sites, and especially http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Studio/5511/.