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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)