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My first opinion about this album was quite different from what it is now, because when I bought the album I only knew the title track. Why is that any relevant? Because the title track is probably one of the most relentlessly brutal songs in the entire Kataklysm discography. I heard that song at a time in which I counted Misery Index, Nile, Hour of Penance and other very brutal acts in my playlist, and for some reason I thought the whole album would sound as brutal as well. The fact is that it doesn’t, the title track is the heaviest track on the album, and I felt a bit disappointed because ‘Prevail’ was not that brutal. But I wouldn’t give up on this album, and I started listening to it for what it is, and not based on comparisons or expectations. And that’s when I saw just how damn good this album really is.
Maurizio’s vocals are amongst the most fierce he has ever done, he sounds more aggressive than in any of the previous albums; even though he keeps his dual register, he really brings it on when he growls, very good! Besides, the lyrics are also very focused on belligerency, warfare, absolute superiority and dominance, which add to the overall aggressive tone of the album.
The guitars are standard Jean-François, very thick and explosive riffs, balanced by powerful intermediate sections and highly skilled solos. The way he is able to mix a high dose of aggressiveness in those faster parts and then comes out with incredible dense melodic parts that never allow you to lose the sense of ‘heavy’ is unique. The bass is actually barely noticeable. The drums, however, show a very precise (as usual) Max, who can blastbeat like a maniac, gallop through endless sections of double bass and keep it flawless in slower parts.
The songs are each and every one a blasting force of in-your-face death metal, and sometimes the very intensity of these themes makes you wonder whether this actually is a melodic death metal album, or something else. The production is excellent; you can hear everything that is going on there very loud and with a certain dirty feel which conveys that healthy dose of aggression indispensable on a death metal piece. Each and every one of these tracks is suitable to be played live, there are no fillers here. You can listen to any of the ten tracks alone and it will guarantee you an undeniable urge to move your neck – even the instrumental closing track is an excellent death metal opus. If you like death metal and you don’t give this album a fair chance, you will surely be missing some serious ass-kickin’ head banger.
This is the newest effort by death metal titans Kataklysm. Now, if you’ve heard their last effort In The Arms Of Devastation, and didn’t like it, then you may want to skip over this one, as everything about this album is basically the same as that one, in every way.
Having said that, this is probably the better of the two. It’s almost like Kataklysm recorded all the songs from here and their last album at the same time, and gave Prevail the better cuts. I use the term “better” loosely, though. The opening title track kicks off with speed and fury, and is one of the better tracks here. The closer instrumental is a nice way to finish the album.
The problem here is that everything else is not memorable enough. Occasionally there might be a riff or a section that will stick in your head momentarily, but nothing here has any lasting power. There is nothing about the album where you can think back and say, “that was a good song because of this or that.”
That’s not to say that the musicians here are bad or anything. The drummer is very tight, and knows his way around the kit. The guitarist can certainly play with precision and sharpness. The bass…well, you can hardly hear it, like on many other death metal albums, but he seems to be defined, just like the guitars. The vocalist is the obvious weak link of the band; he sounds very tired and needs to try some new techniques. He’s not the worst I’ve heard, not by a long shot, but he could be more diverse.
So the drummer is tight, the guitarist is precise and the bass is defined. And there-in lies the problem: it’s just so boring. At the commencement of each song, you’re hoping for something new and exciting. That partially occurs on “To The Thrones Of Sorrow”, but everywhere else, it doesn’t. But you’re not quite let down, either. It’s a situation where there’s nothing wrong here, and nothing is bad, but it’s just so by-the-numbers and technically fixed that you’re constantly praying for anything unexpected to come around, even if it means a mistake in the recording process. This is one great mediocre album, and while it’s better than their last effort, there is still much room for improvement.
Best tracks: Prevail, To The Throne Of Sorrow, The Last Effort
Kataklysm seemed to be on a non-stop crusade to the very top of the death metal scene in the past few years. Each subsequent release of theirs was better than the previous one. I got introduced to them with the “Shadows & Dust” album from 2002, just as they were about to release 2005’s “Serenity In Fire”. The progression was obvious. Not genre-wise, but in technicality and songwriting. However, that didn’t prepare me for the onslaught brought by 2006’s “In The Arms Of Devastation”. That was a near-perfect album with a perfect flow, sounding very melodic and intriguing while keeping the relentless assault constant during its full length. It marked a remarkable increase in sales for the band and, obviously, set the bar very high for the band’s next album. Now that it’s finally out, what’s it like?
Disappointing, that’s what it’s like. No, don’t be instantly discouraged and leave the page, I will give explanations in more detail. The band told us not to expect the 2nd part of the last album, and I prepared myself for that. However, I could never expect the band to commit such a musical regression on purpose. Instead of further developing the band’s trademark sound, they decided to break and make a U-turn. However, they obviously flipped over doing that. During the album, there are just a few hooks in every song that are obviously there for the sole purpose of constantly reminding you that this is Kataklysm you are listening to. That means that they opted for neither the previous album’s sound, nor the back to the roots attitude (for example, making an album sounding akin to “Shadows & Dust”). This is some very strange concoction of different Kataklysm influences that sounds like a newbie death metal band’s first demo with a few Kataklysm covers.
It’s not all bad, of course. The production is perfect and there are more than a few choruses to headbang and growl along with. However, choruses don’t make up a song. The disappointing part of the album lies primarily within two things: the non-inventiveness of Jean-François Dagenais’ riffs (apart from the choruses, as I already mentioned), which sound as if he was chugging on the E string 90% of the time and switching to the A string for the remaining 10%, and the second is the suffocating, crawling tempo of Max Duhamel’s drums. The actual rhythm is the prime reason the album sounds so watered down. The first part of the album hides this fact for a while, but as soon as you are past track No. 3, it becomes painfully obvious. This is, after all, the band that claims themselves the forefathers of the “northern hyperblast” sound, which is simply absent from here on most of the time. The only truly memorable and infectious track in its entirety is “Tear Down The Kingdom”, which is Kataklysm by the book and definitely worth playing live. It captures that typical Kataklysm feeling and shows that the band is capable of producing such stuff, but also that this change was done on purpose, and although singer Maurizio claims that the band felt like it when writing songs (which you can read about in more detail in the interview we published a while ago), it just sounds too damn artificial to be truly believed in. At least it’s certain that this wasn’t done to boost the sales, as this certainly doesn’t sound more commercial than before.
All in all, I guess that every band has the right to an artistic crisis. Then again, maybe this album is precisely the means to prevent one in the band. Either way, as a Kataklysm fan, yes, I will buy this album. It contains just enough good material to be worth the money of a Kataklysm fan. The problem is that it’s hardly worth anyone else’s.
(originally written for Metal Sound webzine)
In the world of death metal, you can get some bands who are downright reliable. Kataklysm has put an album out every 2 years since 1996 (and they also had extra albums out in 1995 and 2001), because of course in the world of indie/underground music, the 2 year tour/album cycle is practically standard.
Now if you’re new to Kataklysm, they like to keep the action pretty simple and catchy, from guitar riffs ‘n melodies, to the drums that are also simple in concept, although at times very high speed. Vocalist Maurizio Iacono likes to have a mix between high lows, low growls and a lot of harmonized screams
The catchiness is where the band shines the most, sort of like the equivalent of a loveable rock soundtrack, only in this case heavied up to death metal. There is of course a flip side, that being that Kataklysm has a lot of albums that are very similar to one another. They hold to some personal traditions very tightly, such as using short movie quotes just before the quick opener, and the long, slow, fading closing songs. In this case “The Last Effort (Renaissance II)” is an instrumental (a rarity for the band) which eventually moves to clean guitars and very melodic solo at the end.
As always, the band ups the ante on their formula, but only slightly. Those new to the band could easily do no wrong by getting their hands on “Prevail”, however those who have a few Kataklysm albums in their collection already might have a hard time justifying another Kataklysm effort when they sound so much alike.
Originally posted at www.waytooloud.com
This album is a pretty big disappointment. Kataklysm is a good band, but they have fallen into the trap of producing groove-influenced death metal, which can be okay at times, but it should not make up the majority of their music. Shadows and Dust was probably their finest moment, but Serenity in Fire wasn't that bad either. Now, Prevail, is just utterly mediocre. There are only two memorable songs on here, "Blood in Heaven" and "To the Throne of Sorrow." "Blood in Heaven" is just decent, but nothing special. "To the Throne of Sorrow" is absolutely excellent, perhaps one of their best songs.
Aside from that however, there is nothing special about this album. The songwriting is uninspired. The guitar riffs are for the most part really bad. The production is lackluster, and the vocals are mediocre as well. The drumming is good as on every Kataklysm release, but that alone is not enough to make up for a bad album.
This isn't even good deathcore music. I am not a fan of deathcore, but at least I can differentiate between good and bad deathcore. And this is the bad. After giving this album an entire listen, you're only going to remember those two songs, and everything else will seem like a jumbled mess of bad riffs, mediocre song structures with heavy blast beats.
Recommendation: download "To The Throne of Sorrow," and skip this album. It's swimming in mediocrity. Go get Shadows and Dust instead.