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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.