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I haven’t been following Kataklysm since ten years ago. Somehow I have this urge to return and listen back to the band’s records, and Epic: The Poetry of War happens to be one of those death metal albums that was once a regular on my stereo. Before I began learning English at school, the band’s name came across as quite unique and amusing since in my native language, the word ‘katak’ simply means ‘frog’.
Well I’m not going to talk about frog in this review. Epic: The Poetry of War appears to be quite underrated in my opinion. I believe this particular release bridges the gap between the band’s finest efforts from the early 90s that defined their sound, to steady streams of mediocre outputs that characterized post-millennium Kataklysm. For those who have listened to their early works since the early days, there is not much to expect here. But the band is still able to punch dozens of holes through your body with the tracks on this record. “Il Diavolo in Me” is one hell of an opener; featuring furious hyperblast with slow kicks to the bass drums and carotid-severing riff that will be used with a degree of variety for the next eight songs. There is no shortage of heavy rhythm as exemplified on “Damnation is Here”, especially from 01:04 mark where it sounded as if I am listening to a blackened death metal hymn instead of Kataklysm. The rest is business as usual but still noteworthy nonetheless.
There is nothing fantastic about the guitar works in general but throughout the album, they are strong and they significantly command your attention down to the very last detail. As we all know, the bass falls short behind other primary instruments but its presence is no less audible. I wish they had turned it up a little bit to make this record even heavier. There are some harmonic rhythms injected randomly into some songs; Era of Mercyless duo is a good example of this, particularly in “As the Glorious Weep”. The latter also has some slow, groovy pace in it which makes the sound varied somewhat. Perhaps this is the fact that prevents this record from being sucked into its own oblivion. I mean, listening to 9-10 minutes long blast is just as tiring as listening to songs that have no discernable structures. But Epic: The Poetry of War seems to have these elements under creative control, which is nice.
Different parts of the songs seemed to foreshadow the change in direction that would later come to fruition in later years. “Shivers of a New World” is primarily composed with near-melodic death metal riff but with typical Kataklysm brutal sorcery. The same can be said with “Manipulator of Souls” what with Maurizio’s hilarious vocal intro. But make no mistake, this overall sound is still quite primitive compared to everything that comes after this album as shown on God-bashing “Wounds”. Despite the slow, lumbering double bass ride, the ferocity is quite enigmatic. This song has sinister feeling to it which befits its quasi-agnostic take on God. The chorus part is surely addictive.
It is also interesting to note that the band makes self-conscious reference to their existence for the last decade. This is evident in “What We Endure” which has a great mellow part beginning from 02:09 that is then followed by dual harmonic guitars on an epic scale. The lyric mentions the band’s primary full lengths chained together to give us the idea of where they have been since their inception in 1991, which is cool thing to do. I can’t deny the fact that most songs recorded on this album are catchy and enjoyable, that is, if you are able to detach yourselves from making comparison to previous releases that make Kataklysm an awesome death metal band from the 90s.
It’s not all about blindly blasting through and through. There is a healthy amount of creativity and heightened sense of melody to be found on this album. I wish the band could have worked on the entry-level sections but overall this album rips your face off right off the bat. Iacano is doing quite a decent job on the vocal department especially on his trademark growls. It’s just that I find his shrieks bordering between hilarious and annoying at times. Other than that, this album deserves a praise. Too bad that it doesn’t create that much of an impact on the metal community.
I admit that I was a bit skeptical when I bought this album, seeing as I had expected another furious death metal album, when I'm more of a doom metal guy, but this album just plain kicked ass! The lyrics, all based on Roman war, are not too shabby. The drummer is abnormally fast, with some great blast beats and double kick, and the guitaris very melodic with the occasional chug-chug death metal sound. The vocals, varying from death metal grunts to black metal screams, are done quite well, and all by one person. Tracks 3 and 4 are a two part masterpiece that show how well the singer can scream. The screams in the chorus flow with the music and are quite catchy, and you can't help but just start headbanging. Track 9 is a dedication song to the fans, and has a part similair to the song Tyrants on Immortal's 2002 release "Sons of Northern Darkness". If you like melodic death metal with some black metal vocals, this album perfectly fits the bill!