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The first and second albums can be grouped with one another as the first phase of Catamenia’s music, since both sound alike. With this album, the band’s music began to sound more uplifting, much more chilly, and just a whole more modern. By attaining this newfound tone, they had to sacrifice a few bits, but nothing too serious that would kill the experience.
The second album came off as fatigued and hopeless in the face of new ideas, but this album organized its resources and fought back with a change in tactics. For one, the addition of synths make the album sound more poignant, but also a tad bit less serious. Melodies brought on by the keys still work both in solo and escorting methods, moreso than the backing methods that occurred on the previous two. Riffs still dominate the show when it comes to who’s controlling the rhythm and lead, but there seems to be a little bit of fighting when it comes to what tone wants to rule: the evilness brought on by the guitars or the enchantment brought out by the keys. It’s like a duel party match-up that works most of the time and distinctive from one another.
Tremolo, scissor-like riffs are what you should be expecting before heading into this, but they sound much weaker than on the first two. Whereas the first two albums had a thick, barbaric sound, this album doesn’t really pack a whole lot of punch, and that’s with bass inclusion. Bass itself manages to grumble forward, but the lack of power from the guitars makes this album sound less menacing than the others, which is what I loved from the first two. It should be noted that this marks Catamenia’s journey into the more melodic death / power metal territories, like a migration into a different land that requires the adventurers to leave behind that which isn’t necessary to survive.
Drumming hasn’t really changed that much, which still manages to mark up fast-paced double bass galloping and an artillery showers worth of everything else from the kit. Blast beats are essential for building up the songs, but that’s expected; the drums tend to adjust speed based on the tempo of the guitars. While Immortal know how to make shit cold, Catamenia know how to make it magical (even though Immortal did this with At The Heart Of Winter and could do it whenever they want). The song “Into The Void” probably marks everything Catamenia can do right with this formula, producing an enthralling melody and epic leads emotional enough to paint the sky with auroras (also get samples of growls)
Catamenia’s slight change in sound keeps this one alive with passion that wasn’t heard on the sophomore. This second offensive would last a couple more albums in my eyes, though only time will tell if will hold up or falter.
Every metal genre has it’s neglected master bands. Normally it has to do with the size of label you’re on. With the right push – any band can end up looking a hell of a lot better than they actually are. Just take a look at RHAPSODY, DRAGONFORCE or COB. Real fans will tell you SKYLARK is the goods for symphonics, HELLOWEEN is all she wrote for Power Metal, and THRONE OF CHAOS did more on their first album than an entire decade of COB jam sessions. All of which brings us to CATAMENIA.
So who are CATAMENIA in the shadows of? Well put it this way. Take a look at the artwork and bonus extras you get on an average DIMMU BORGUR or CRADLE OF FILTH release. Pretty impressive isn’t it? Well at the opposite end of spectrum you get CATAMENIA. The modus operandi here is to simply write criminally brutal melodic black metal and then stick a wolf on the cover and release the damn thing. When the budget’s really big, they even have two wolves. I think one album has three wolves on it. They probably lost money on that one.
Kidding aside, and in the words of the oldest cliché of them all – CATAMENIA is about the music. All immortal metal is. And ‘Eternal Winter’s Prophecy’ is the precise moment that this band took the next step. Nothing particularly wrong with the first two albums by the way. But this time around the hooks were just that little bit sharper, the playing that little bit angrier, and someone obviously forgot to show them the script about why not to include a chorus.
“Gates of Anubis” is a song that does everything right. Incidentally that cool title’s no accident (tunes and titles are a CATAMENIA trademark). This one has band founder and main songwriter Riku Hopeakoski ripping at his axe with all the intensity of a black metal massacre that starts fast and gets faster. Vocalist Mika Tonning opens his account with a shriek injected with a wail and delivered as scream that hurts. And that’s just the verses. They lyrics are on about a divine mythology that can take a life as easy as it grants it. But the chorus is when things really get serious. You get Sir Luttinen on drums cementing his reputation whether he likes it or not as the rest of the band go in for the kill.
“Soror Mystica” sounds a mystical note alright. Female voices sing a short black metal requiem as the curtain raiser to this stark take on a time of death. Even when the chorus does hit (and when I say hit, I mean pulverize), things never completely speed up. They don’t need to. The same applies for “Blackmension”. Both songs overlay deceptively intricate guitar work with a grand keyboard accompaniment that never lets either win.
“Kingdom of Legions” has a title that tells you exactly what it’s about, and right away you’re pulled into what sounds like an army regrouping after a mighty battle. The verses pound hard, and the chorus is black metal execution from start to finish; raw, definitive and uncompromising. Now imagine all that without being on the back-foot this time. Because that what happens in “Forever Night”. This is the price-of-admission-alone track that would make any top ten metal song list. Yet again CATAMENIA aren’t going to play fast just because they can. But they are going to forge something from metal, melody and malice.
Acoustics enter the fray for “Dawn of the Chosen World”, but not for very long. In fact the exact opposite is what follows. The riffing here is overarching and sustains the melody like a singer holding a note. The actual singer meanwhile is as pummeling as the drumwork as both tear at the chorus like a pack of wolves.
And the taste of blood is still there when the title track turns up. Every word is delivered with head banging precision, and every note played with a genuinely frightening ferocity. But as usual, that’s nothing – just wait til you get to the chorus. Which in the end is what really sets CATAMENIA apart from their neighbours in the genre. They actually give a damn about the melodies. There’s a whole world of angry black metal tantrums out there. They hit you and walk away. CATAMENIA are neither hit or run. They’re more see and conquer.
With this album, it seems as if the band is finally starting to develop the skills necessary to become one of the melodic BM elite. However, the band is still not there when it comes to writing truly memorable songs, but to their credit, the band definately seems to have cultivated their own sound and style, as well as accurately capturing the proper icy, majestic atmosphere of melodic BM.
Regarding the actual music, on this album the band has made several improvements. For one, the keyboards and the guitars sound better than they did on the previous albums. I believe this is partly due to the addition of new axeman Ari Nissila (replacing Sampo Ukkola)- the riffs are fresher and offer more variety. Also, the whole production quality on this album is even better than the last album, which I felt sounded pretty good. And lastly, and most importantly, the band finally replaced drummer Toni Tervo, whom I felt was pretty mediocre, with Kimmo "Sir" Luttinen, who was definately a good choice as a replacement for Tervo, as the songs definately sound more energetic and aggressive. My only complaint about the band's performance regards the vocalist, as he still doesn't do a whole lot for me. I just get kind of irritated with his standard, BM rasp and occasional growly "demonic" vocals, although the band does a better job this time with balancing vocal parts with instrumental breaks.
Overall, this is a much stronger effort than their last album, "Morning Crimson," and although at this point I wouldn't recommend Catamenia to anyone yet, I still feel that the album offers a look at the band's true potential to be a contender for a place among the melodic BM elite.