(Andy Synn wrote the following first impressions of Kataklysm’s new album — and there IS a summing-up at the end.)
So I’ve decided to do something a little different for this review. Instead of my usual over-wordy, over-intellectualised stream of self-congratulatory bullshit (quality bullshit, of course) I’m going lo-tech and lo-fi with this one!
So after the jump you can follow my first impressions in a semi-live manner, as I note down my random feelings and musings from my first listening session to the band’s new album.
Ok, so, here we go… pushing play…
Breaching The Asylum
00:00 Hmmm… I wonder where that quote’s from?
00:29 Going “epic” for the start.
01:02 My, that’s a very At The Gates-y riff…
01:18 …and even the vocals seem a bit… hmmm… not sure about this one yet…
01:38 It’s a VERY melodeath-inclined starter. Not as Kataklysmic as you might expect. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing…
02:24 Ahhhh THERE it is. That’s better. Feeling it now. Hyperblast velocity and Maurizio sounding nice and angry.
03:12 Chorus has grown on me quite a bit now actually.
04:04 Damn. It’s over. That felt oddly underdeveloped. Good in parts, but I’m a little underwhelmed by that.
The Black Sheep
00:02 That’s a good start. Big, beefy Kataklysm riff FTW.
00:26 Love the pick-up. Love the energy.
00:40 Man, Maurizio sounds PISSED.
00:54 Chorus is unexpectedly moody so far… liking it…
01:10 …except the lyrics. Wow, they’re awkwardly “on the nose”.
(Side note: I’ve often felt like Maurizio writes his lyrics in one fell swoop and then doesn’t spend as much time thinking about the actual delivery after that… so there’s times when the words he’s yelling sit really awkwardly with the song, and he doesn’t seem willing to make any lyrical concessions/alterations to help the flow. Anyway…)
01:46: Oof, Oli Beaudoin and Jean-Francois Dagenais are playing up an absolute STORM here.
01:58 “Fuck you all!” + nice drop into hammering chugginess.
02:58 Oh dear, that spoken-word part was cheese-tastic.
04:33 Still, it ends strong. Nice, thick grooves and really good use of dark melody. Good song, despite the… erm… lack of subtlety in the lyrics at times.
Marching Through Graveyards
00:35 Now that’s what I’m talking about. Uber-blasty, much more deathy, goodness.
00:56 Classic Kataklysm riffology
01:12 YES. Intense. Super-fast. Vocals are on fire.
01:36 Loving it so far. Prime stuff here.
02:42 What’s this… a moody, calm interlude? What’s going on???
03:20 That was nicely done. Well played. Liked the bass and the slow build up too.
03:52 Riff-riff-riff-riff-riff-riff-riff-riff (Headbangs self into 5th dimension)
04:08 Great hooks to this one.
05:22 VERY good ending. More like THAT please.
Thy Serpents Tongue
00:02 Oh, hello Death Metal.
00:34: Loving the drumming here. Real sense of energy to it. Can’t praise Oli Beaudoin enough for his work behind the kit.
00:46 Classic Kataklysm chug-along verse. Fine by me.
01:15 Great pre-chorus. Like the riff and drum interplay (I’m sure the bass is in there somewhere too… cough…)
01:46 Hooky as hell chorus too. Love that background melody it has.
(This song feels really well put together so far)
01:58: Hmmm, the melody in this riff reminds me of something, but I can’t put my finger on it.*
(*It’s Novembers Doom, that’s what it is.)
02:18 Oh, I DO like the section that follows though. Back to the intro for some malevolent groove.
02:52 Yep, still loving the Pre-Horus and Chorus.
03:04 Though it does make me think, again, that the big K could do with a second guitarist.
03:56 Yep. Great track.
00:15 Nice intro riff. Instantly catchy. Like syphilis.
00:32 I can see those competing guitar parts working well live (one on guitar, one on bass).
Spiffingly precise drum work too.
00:54 I like how the verse keeps the flow from the intro going.
01:14 Seems to be building to something…
01:22 …oh no, curve-ball. New riff time.
01:38 Motherfucking blast-beats falling like rain here. My teeth hurt from all the blasting (in a good way).
02:04 Chorus (if that’s the right word for it) is… not that strong. Like a weaker cut off Prevail.
02:58 Been meandering looking for a direction for quite a while now…
03:04 Big stompy bridge is nice (love the cymbal work in the background too).
03:24 And… we’re back to the catchy intro riff.
03:34 Big blast-tastic ending.
03:42 In hindsight that was kind of an odd song, structurally… but I think it might grow on me.
Mark this one down for a re-listen and re-evaluation.
00:00 With a name like that this had better be HEAVY.
00:04 Start could go either way…
00;10 Unexpected bit of dissonance there. Nice brutal groove setting in.
00:30 Thrashy verse Kataklysm-style. Good stuff.
00:48 Is this the chorus? It sounds like it could be.
01:14 Oh, no, wait, THIS must be the chorus. I think…
01:30 Or was it? Hard to tell. Seemed a bit… short.
02:18 Repeating a bit too predictably on this one. And doesn’t really have the hooks to justify it.
02:54 Bridge is a bit… stock.
03:10 Quite like how it turns into the ending riff though.
03:28 Overall disappointing. Seemed a bit rushed and lacking in substance.
Chalk that one up as a misfire.
00:02 Going with the old “high-pass filter” intro I see.
00:10 Boom. Big kick in. Mid-paced bulldozer of a riff. Just what the doctor ordered.
00:44 Good shit so far!
00:56 Definitely liking the two guitar parts here a lot. Very dark.
(Although, again, it makes me wish they had two guitarists live).
01:12 Unleash the blast-beast!
01:22 Also, damn, those are some vehement vocals.
01:58 Good riff-kick syncopation there. Makes things feel twice as heavy.
02:18 , I wondered when Maurizio was going to start chanting the song-title…
(Side note: even though it’s predictable at times, sometimes that’s EXACTLY what you want)
02:32 Unleash the blast-beast… again!
02:46 “Take it all back!” + riffgasm
03:06 Kataklysm really are the Death Metal version of Hatebreed aren’t they? Not that I’m complaining.
04:31 Final word – Moody track. Not an instant grabber, but I can see what they were going for. Heavy too. I think this one will be a slow-burner that sticks with you.
00:4 Oh, that’s DARK. Uncharacteristically so. Promising.
00:34 Good riff. Almost predictably so (again, that’s not always a bad thing) with just enough tweaks and touches to make it their own too.
00:48 FEEL THE DARKNESS…
01:02 Verse is very In The Arms of Devastation.
01:30 Actually, the whole song has very ITAOD vibe.
01:46 The line “My blood is thicker than water” is inadvertently hilarious.
2:00 Love the end of the chorus though. Great riff, and simple, effective vocal hook.
02:14 Damn, that’s a nice guitar lead… although… double-damn… that melody reminds me of something else. Any guesses? Anyone?
03:40 Hmmm, the problem with Kataklysm and their bridge-sections is that they have to be very careful to avoid it being “just another riff”, since they don’t tend to throw in many solos, or quiet parts, or anything that massively shifts the dynamic. This one’s dragging a bit. Though Oli’s clearly doing his best to keep it interesting.
04:00 DARKNESS RETURNS!!!
05:02 Fade out ending is a bit weak (not that I have anything against fade-outs).
Not one of the best songs on the album. Drags quite a bit in fact.
00:00 Firstly, that’s a terrible title.
00:01 Secondly – blast-time!
00:34 That riff seems a bit over-simplistic
00:52 I’m definitely getting to the point where I feel like Maurizio could do with deepening his growl slightly now and then. Maybe just change it up ever so slightly to emphasise certain parts?
I get that he’s not the world’s most versatile vocalist (though you can’t doubt his conviction), but maybe there’s more that could be done outside of his comfort zone?
01:28 Quite an old-school (relatively speaking) chorus there.
01:47 Oh my god… bass!
01:57 Oh, it’s gone again. Hyperblast time.
04:36 Not much else to say about this one. Pretty stock. Album’s taken a bit of a dip with these last two tracks!
The World Is A Dying Insect
00:20 Well, well, well… isn’t this a surprisingly enigmatic intro?
00:46 Sounds more like Altar of Plagues than Kataklysm. This bodes well.
01:02 Catchy riff ahoy… sometimes the confluence of simple riffs and rhythms and drums is all you need to make a part work. And this works.
01:20 Followed by an even BETTER riff.
01:38 Liking this verse. Solid, marching, nicely melodic (but not weak). Indomitable.
02:24 That stop-start chuggery works for me.
02:40 Oh yes, bringing the intro melody back in. THAT IS HOW IT’S DONE.
03:00 Damn, we’re 3:00 into the song and I hadn’t even noticed.
03:20 Great riffs and a great fill into the drum-pick up there by Oli. Nicely done.
03:34 Unexpected(ly awesome) ambient section? What madness is this!?
04:04 Sounds like the outro’s going to be a big one… building to something here…
04:30 Still building…
04:46 Ok, that was a slightly awkard change…
05:06 There’s the outro though. Big finish guys. Come on.
05:28 Great use of layered guitar parts and steady tempo changes right where you need/want them to be.
06:39 That was a pretty darn fantastic way to close the album actually.
So… what did I think of the album after my first listen?
Well, it’s a good album, very good in places. The quartet can definitely write some very good songs when they put their minds to it, and I definitely think it continues the slow, incremental growth of the band that’s been going on since In The Arms of Devastation.
Still, I get why some of you might be thinking “but Andy, Kataklysm always sound exactly the same!”, as there’s certainly a grain of truth to that, and, they’re never really going to “progress” very much…
BUT… to my mind they’ve slowly but surely been polishing and tweaking their sound over the last 4/5 albums. It’s not broken, and they don’t see the need to fix it, but they ARE trying to improve it, playing around more with getting that “epic” vibe down right, perfecting their layering of guitars and melodies, adding in some more honest-to-goodness Death Metal moments, and just generally polishing things up and hammering themselves into better shape.
As a consequence of this Of Ghosts and Gods is probably a little less immediate than you might expect actually, compared with its predecessors at least – though it’s not without some instant classics.
I suppose that might make some people write the album off prematurely. After all, what’s a Kataklysm album worth if it doesn’t make an immediate impression? We’re not exactly talking about Tool here, are we?
Still, there’s a sense that at least the band are TRYING to add a touch more depth to their sound, and in places it definitely works. Occasionally it’s a bit of an awkward fit, but generally I think they know what they’re doing.
That said… the fact that they’re trying to improve/expand certain aspects of their sound – even if only incrementally – does make the more standard parts stick out a bit more, and there’s still definitely some parts, and some songs, that lean a little too heavily on delivering that stock-Kataklysm sound.
I don’t want to be too negative though as, and I never thought I’d say this, but Of Ghosts and Gods feels like the sort of Kataklysm album that’s actually going to take a few listens to really digest properly. There’s a definite sense that, beyond the instant impact of a lot of these songs, there’s a bit more going on under the surface than usual.
Food for thought, perhaps…
(I still want to know why that guy has a bird growing out of his back though…)
Of Ghosts and Gods is scheduled for release on July 31 by Nuclear Blast and can be pre-ordered here. Tomorrow the band will release “Thy Serpents Tongue” as a single, and on July 22 they will begin releasing one video per day for each song on the album. A teaser for the one for “Marching Through Graveyards” is below: