Anyone who’s listened to metal for very long has a mental list of bands whose new albums they’ll buy sound unheard. For us, Montreal’s Kataklysm is one of those bands. They’ve also been putting out albums for almost 20 years, which means that most diehard metalheads already know whether Kataklysm is their thing or not. But honestly, it’s hard for us to imagine any fan of extreme metal not liking the band’s latest release, Heaven’s Venom. It’s a fucking barn-burner.
It doesn’t represent any kind of seismic shift in Kataklysm’s brand of death metal, but that’s part of the band’s appeal. They have a distinct sound that they’ve stuck with and honed over time like the veteran pro’s they are, and their albums also reliably include a few songs that step outside the band’s dominant territory to keep things interesting. In other words, you know what you’re going to get, and when it’s as good as the franchise Kataklysm has built, that’s just fine.
Everything on Heaven’s Venom is big and powerful: Big-assed, sawing riffs that generate industrial-strength, nail-driving rhythms; those “northern hyperblasts” shot from the drumkit like a cloud of angry hornets; dramatic melodies; and Maurizio Iacono‘s distinctive, passionate, grizzly-bear roars giving voice to powerful lyrics that you can actually hear.
Once again, Kataklysm has produced an irresistible onslaught of powerful grooves and dark melody, fist-pumping anthems and mosh-pit missiles, and enough variability in the pacing and instrumentation to make Heaven’s Venom an album worth hearing from start to finish. (more after the jump, including a track to hear . . .)
As Kataklysm fans have come to expect, most of the album’s songs, starting with the opener “A Soulless God”, accelerate at the speed of thrash. Propelled by injections of drum-kit frenzy and rapid-fire riffing, they set your head to spinning, but jolt you back on course with those big hammering grooves.
That may be the basic template, but then there’s the variability we mentioned: The mid-paced, lumbering brutishness at the start of “Determined (Vows of Vengeance)”; the melodic breakdown in the otherwise-extreme “Faith Made of Shrapnel”; the stripped-down, headbanging simplicity of “Push the Venom” (with its made-for-sing-along’s chorus); the sidewinding tremolo lead and surprising bass solo in “Hail the Renegade”; the Gothenburg-style melodeath chords in “At the Edge of the World”.
Some of the songs are just straight-forward, kick-in-the-head bruisers — nothing terribly fancy, but still compelling. And some involve more technical fretwork and inventive guitar leads (though Kataklysm has never been known for über-technicality in their playing, and Heaven’s Venom won’t change that). Some of them gallop, some march, and some ride the lightening.
Maurizio Iacono has been quoted more than once explaining that Kataklysm writes their songs to be played live — they record the music as they will perform it, and in a way they’re capable of performing, faithfully to the recorded songs. You hear the songs, and you easily imagine a big throng of metalheads shouting along to the lyrics, banging heads and throwing horns.
So, it’s perhaps ironic for us to say that two of our favorite songs on the album are the least like all the rest. They’re the two at the end: “Suicide River” and “Blind Savior”. Both feature blackened riffing, with dramatic tremolo-picked chords and melancholy melodies. “Blind Savior” is in fact the slowest song on the album, a blackened death-metal lament. But both are made intense and sharp-edged by Iacono’s hair-raising vocals, a mix of howling roars and hawk-like shrieks.
Here’s a sample from Heaven’s Venom — one of those songs we just mentioned:
Kataklysm is currently touring the U.S. with DevilDriver, Kittie, and Misery Index (tour dates and venues can be found on Kataklysm’s MySpace page). They will be in Seattle on September 13 at Studio Seven, and we will be there, that’s for damned sure.
One last parting goodie for you — Kataklysm’s video for the song “Push the Venom”, released earlier in August. “Push the Venom” is one of those simple, stripped-down crowd-pleasers — far from the most interesting song on the album, but still plenty infectious. We liked the video too — chains and swords and angels and resistance against judgment. The lyrics are defiant, and so’s the music. (Thanks to our bro death’s embrace for pointing us to this video.)