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(originally posted on the MetalMusicArchives: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/)
Heavily keyboard driven, Kataxu makes some really mind-blowing music. Here stands Hunger of Elements, three lengthy black metal songs and three mid-length keyboard interludes. Normally, I have a problem in interludes and have stated that excessive amounts of them ruined albums like Blind Guardian's Nightfall in Middle Earth and Virgin Steele's The House of Atreus Part 1, but what makes this album much different is 1) I like black metal way more than power metal, 2) the black metal songs are much longer than any of the songs on Nightfall... or ...Atreus Part 1, and 3) the songs are AMAZING!
Right from the first guitar and keyboard notes from "In My Dungeon!", I was hooked. In fact, this song by itself deserves a wide amount of praise on its own. Kataxu's "astral metal" really makes itself apparent here. The black metal and keyboards really make this one of the best songs I've ever heard. I'm rather confused by the song name though, as the feeling that I get from it is of some colorful nebula of dark blues, reds, and purples; not of some cramped dungeon. Even though there are a lot of big moments in this song, it all seems to build up to the best part of the song, the outro that starts at 11:06 and goes to the end of the song. This is one of the best types of songs for me: the music isn't repeated often and lyrics aren't repeated at all; the music builds onto itself with the climatic outro to bring it all home.
The next big song, "Below the Tree of Life", sounds like it could easily fit into Nokturnal Mortum's 'Weltanschauung' album (released the same year as this album). The big difference though is the keyboard emphasis. Kataxu still uses the keyboard as the dominant instrument and it still makes for a wondrous listening experience. The melodic guitar lead at 3:59 is one of the bigger highlights, and another is again the process of the song ending. Though not as strong as "In My Dungeon!", Kataxu's expertise is shown again as the buildup in the entire song to an epic close.
The final song here is "The Manifesto of the Unity". It begins on a lower key, but that ends up changing. At this point, there's nothing really new to expect. It's definitely on the same level as "Below the Tree of Life". There are nicer lower intensity growls that almost resemble spoken word. As the song goes forth, it develops a more sorrowful tone to it and ends with that same tone as if giving a sad sigh that it's all over.
Though this album only has three real songs, they are over ten minutes in length and collectively exceed the 30 minute minimum that I would classify as an album. These songs are very good too though. "In My Dungeon!" could have easily achieved the score I'm giving this album by itself. I really hope the Kataxu team is working on something new. It's been over six years since this release and I'd like to see if they can still pull the same tricks off.
This is another album in my collection I consider an anti-grower; the first time I heard this I thought it was pretty ingenious and with a couple listens would quickly worm its way into my top 10 of eastern European symphonic black metal alongside Dub Buk and Lucifugum, but it seems that with every subsequent spin of this disc I'm less and less interested in it, which makes me really not want to listen to it at all. Kataxu is basically your standard 'Goat Horns' type symphonic black metal band from the bloc, but it has an ostentatious and ornate quality that really grips you on first listen- it's sort of like if 'Goat Horns' was made by kids much less hesitant and more capable than it ultimately was. The arrangements are lush, the melodies are infectious, and even the production is solid- so why does this seem to get thinner and thinner every time I hear it?
Probably because if you look behind the big keyboard washes (fortunately these guys use a better synth patch than most bands of this ilk) there doesn't seem to be a tremendous amount going on- like early Nokturnal Mortum, the riffs are kind of relegated to a supporting role to the rest of the music, and I don't think I've ever run across a metal album where that's been a good thing. There's the appearance of a lot going on but it seems pretty simple after a while- the tracks are long but they're revolving around the same couple melodic themes most of the time (those themes being 'Slavic symphonic black metal theme one' and 'Slavic symphonic black metal theme two'). Moreover, while the synths are supposed to be the leading instrument, they rarely tend to actually lead anywhere- a lot of these songs seem sort of aimless and flat and don't have very defined peaks and valleys of intensity. I feel like a jackass complaining about a lack of dynamics on a fucking black metal album, but I reserve my right to criticize as I see fit.
This isn't to say it's not a fun album- it's really enjoyable ear candy, but it lacks the meat necessary to compensate for ten plus minute tracks. I see this album as being a sort of less frustration inducing counterpart to 'Carriers Of Dust'- they're both kind of cheating you because there's not actually that much going on, but Kataxu seems to come by it a lot more honestly. There's a lot of enthusiasm in this music but ultimately it feels pretty paint by numbers and I don't think a whole lot of particularly unusual inspiration went into 'Hunger Of Elements'. Some neat points: the drumming is pretty nuanced at times and there's an unusual sense of rhythm displayed at points. When the production allows a lead voice to emerge in a little piano line or something, things get really good because there's a compass point to progress in. Occasionally, like nearing the end of 'In My Dungeon!' the band's music will become a bit more chaotic, with flurries of briefly repeating, short riffs slashing across the soundscape and resulting in something way more exciting than the fast double bass stomp the rest of the music seems infatuated with: shorter, more entropic tracks that capitalize on these moments would be a good songwriting move.
I absolutely have to recommend this to people who are already fans of the Slavic symph black sound, as other reviews will attest most people consider this a lot more amazing than me, and far be it from me to say that my opinion's supreme. Still, I'm kind of interested in whether other listeners have had a similar reaction to me: an immediate love swallowed by a growing sense of apathy. Make of it what you will: it's still a very professional and well made album- I just wish they'd gone a little further with their ideas.
Kataxu, fronted by Piaty who works most of the instruments as well as handling most song writing, had already put out a very solid bit of black metal with Roots Thunder. The follow up, Hunger Of Elements, puts a bigger emphasis on symphonics rather than folk aesthetics. The fact that three keyboardists are on the release, as well as one of them handling solely keyboard arrangements/orchestration, should give an idea of the scope of how keyboard dominated this album is. That is not to say aggression is not an active element in the release, for it is and it blends extremely well with the orchestral elements.
Without a doubt, the opener In My Dungeon! is one of the, if not the, quintessential symphonic black metal piece. The song sets the stage for what the rest of the CD contains. Elaborate arrangements, long building sections, sudden changes, and an overall "astral" atmosphere. The song builds of a slow clean guitar intro into a up tempo energetic vocal section. The vocal sections often phrase lines very interestingly (if you bother following the lyrics), and (important!) repetition is never apparent in the release. Yes, there are three songs over ten minutes on this release, and I challenge you to pick out a verse/chorus/bridge structure in any of them. Often riffs are not recycled, and the songs still maintain a purpose and direction as sections flow smoothly into one another.
The production is also stellar, guitars are very akin to a band like Summoning, rarely coming to the forefront to provide a leading role, but rather add an element into the wall of sound that the choirs and strings create. An element of harshness to accompany the vocals is created by them. If you do play close enough attention to decipher what they are playing you will often by surprised by what they are playing, a tribute to how extremely well the album is arranged (probably one of the best jobs in the entire genre). Drums are clear and do not annoy with any clangy cymbal sounds or high pitched snare. Only thing I miss in the mix is the bass, which probably adds even another level of depth in the arrangement.
The album also has three songs (the shorter ones) that are instrumental and feature only keyboard. The compositions are frankly very stirring, especially the end of NightSky, and while not complex they are certainly a good interlude in-between the longer metal compositions. Essentially the three instrumental songs are what you would get if you isolated the the keyboards in the longer main compositions. In the vocal department Kataxu also has a fairly unique approach, using vocals lower (but by no means guttural) than most black metal shrieks. As mentioned earlier the phrasing of the vocals are fairly interesting and provide some counterpoint to everything else going on.
One of the more musically complex offerings of the genre, all I can say is do yourself a favor and pick this one up, regardless of your musical background.
NSBM meets synth pop: one of music's stupider ideas. This band plays in a style similar to this and it does not work at all.
As a previous review mentioned, a major point of reference in this album is Emperor's debut and also their copycat bands such as Limbonic Art. The production is similar as is the heavy use of keyboards. The songs themselves are much less interestingly structured than Emperor, are much more bereft of the good tunes and are in general overly long. The vocals are okay, distorted in a style slightly reminiscent of Filosofem, but unlike Varg's original and feral delivery, they sound like the vocalist has a speech impediment: attempting to follow the lyrics is difficult at best. The lyrics themselves are even worse than usual for black metal, so warrant mentioning rather than the usual glossing over, especially as they have very pseudo-intellectual aspirations.
"Let all of the matured ultra feelings burn with bloody spew of the Gods' fire"
If you can't speak English, please refrain from doing so if you wish to maintain the illusion of intelligence to an audience who can!
The keyboard interlude In Arms of the Astral World is the most worthless track I've ever heard on a metal album. Its tedious 4 minutes of keyboard swishing sounds like a classical string orchestra elegy being sodomised by the Pet Shop Boys. It actually makes Vinterriket sound diverse and sophisticated. Nightsky is marginally better. It's longer but has slightly more material involved, yet it is still crippled by being childishly simplistic. The keyboard sounds very weak, either bleeping like 80s elecro pop or most often utilising a very cheap sounding "symphonic" drone in which the tunes desperately peddle through very slow and simplistic note progressions in an attempt to justify themselves through layers of pretension, but this fails. It's the kind of music that you don't need to know anything about keyboards or being able to play them to create. I wouldn't be surprised if the keyboard this band uses was played by two index fingers only. The all-round hamfistedness of the keys resembles Abyssos more than Emperor, but significantly less proficient. While I do not demand complexity all the time, it at least offers a chance to avoid total boredom. To utilise minimalism to maximum effect takes a rare talent which this band lacks on a massive scale.
Aside from the three mid-length keyboard tracks, there are three long metal tracks; all much the same length, averaging around 12 minutes each. As a result, the album has no sense of flow and each time a keyboard track arrives, it feels pedantically placed and never fails to disappoint with its mediocrity. The album's tediousness exacerbated by the metal tracks sounding much the same. The constant sugary keyboard tinkling does nothing to distinguish one track from another, and the effect is more to make every track sound far too similar. The vocals are especially awful, sounding reasonably solid at first, but halfway through the album become monotonous in the extreme. They aren't sufficiently expressive or dramatic to maintain interest. The riffs are rather tepid, while not massively repetitive, they aren't particularly interesting either. The long tracks would benefit from more flexible dynamics and good use of breaks (usually it is the opposite problem). Certainly the band has no need to feel committed to playing fast music, as this keyboard-fucked style is about as far from black metal roots as a band can get before considering turning to rap. The speed was adequate enough for the first long song, but renders the other two irrelevent both by them sounding very similar to the first, and also by them being even worse than it. Overall the perverse combination of high tempo and occasional blasting underlaid by the same old leisurely keyboard washes is musically disastrous.
Why a band would make the decision to produce music like this (presumably after some amount of consideration) is beyond me. The "cosmic raw keyboard-laden epic black metal" idea was an abortion from the start.
A majestic trip through space into unknown galaxies, solitude, darkness, yet in peace with the cosmos lets you plant the true seed and proclaim the rightful heir to your throne. The world you live on is full of scum, and to escape this pathetic attempt to life, is in the cosmos; the trips through multiple galaxies is to find the perfect place filled with evil and darkness which only the mighty will survive. You are the new god, and the true race will now rule. This is Hunger of the Elements...
Kataxu uses the keys and the wall of guitars to create a unique atmosphere; the album rumbles through 48 minutes of bleak, dark, majestic, yet optimistic feelings. There are 3 actual songs on the album, but the other three are beautiful ambient pieces. In each case it keeps the tone of the album. Kataxu’s keys are similar to what Emperor did in In the Nightside Eclipse, but they are more upfront and do a bit more noodleing; however, the use of keys mimic the atmosphere of In the Nightside, but this is done with a majestic trip through space rather than a dark winter landscape. Vocals on this album are definitely in the black metal style, but the use of layers with the dual vocals is absolutely stunning and adds much more the journey. The combination of majestic keys, a wall of guitars, and layered vocals combine majesty, evilness, and darkness.
Kataxu takes the next logical step from In the Nightside Eclipse and merges it with the cosmos. I can’t help but see some Lovecraftian influences in the lyrics, because as much as the conquering of space is the theme, they show they are still are not in control the universe. The gods will only permit what they see feasible. This album is highly recommended for anyone a fan of Lunar Aurora and In the Nightside Eclipse.
Kataxu. Polands band... Or more than just a band. An anomolous appearance in Black Metal created in a mystic offering from this albums result; a world beyond any humans knowledge.
The masterpiece that is Kataxu's "Hunger of Elements" is an album thats overflowing with emotion and power. No lack of effort or thought appears in any moment throughout this albums pieces. From the moment it begings the listener is whisked off from the dull and meaningless existence of which he curently resides and through the strong and thick use of keyboards, amongst other instruments is taken to the edge of another dimension, almost close enough to become part of it.
The album is hugely based arond the use of keyboards, and is the driving instrument through-out (as opposed to the previous album in which the guitars played a bigger role). The guitars follow the powerful tunes roaring above, with the occasional touch of perfection gently layed down upon this, namely the piano parts, especially that of the first track "In My Dungeon" which is a 13 minute non-stop eruption of pure emotion and feelings. For me this song is the highlight of the Metal side of the album. The album is divided up into parts, 3 metal, with an interlude between each of pure ambient genius. "In the Arms of the Astral World", which follows on from "In My Dungeon" battles with "NightSky" for the title of strongest ambient part. These are no Burzum style keyboard pieces, but awe-ispiring ensembles of ever growing wonder.. Untill they stop dead. Leaving the listener in a state of limbo, between the world of beyond and the feeble life below.
The vocals differ from the first release. Attempting a louder, deeper more ominous sound. Bellowing from pagan lungs, rather than the more Black Metal inspired first full-length.
In all honesty though, despite how high-up I hold this album, after the pinnacle of all that exists in musical form for many years, In My Dungeon, the album does tend to slope downwards a little.
This band has left me... Speechless. This album does so much for me. And others, obviously. This album is an amazing piece of musical architecture and through an alignment of aural and mental power this album will leave you feeling small... Insignificant; Inspired; Amazed; Questioning; Begging for more, to be taken back once again to this world in which only Kataxu's "Hunger Of Elements" can take you to, a world that seems so real, but not for mortal touch - it is immense.
I just want to hear more from this band. Truely amazing.
Every now and then, an album is created which ridicules its particular scene, not by being bad but the exact opposite - by being so utterly superior to almost anything that style is thought to be capable of producing. In black metal, the year 2004 was widely thought to have seen such a release in the form of Enslaved's album "Isa". Myself, I never understood the fuss around it, probably since I usually cannot stand the mere stench of progressive elements. Kataxu got good feedback with their "Roots Thunder" the time it came out, maybe because symphonic BM was quite unique in the Slavonic scene. In 2005 they struck again and literally shook the pillars of my entire music taste.
"Hunger of Elements" is HEAVY on symphonics, far more so than "Roots Thunder" or the obvious influence of Kataxu, Limbonic Art. We are talking about bombastic melodies both on the background and foreground, melodies which have been perfected to an almost unbelievable extent. I've heard this kind of music being called "majestic black metal" and I cannot help but nod my head in awe as I listen to the majesty contained here. If kings and queens listened to metal, Kataxu would be worthy of their highborn ears.
We shouldn't, however, forget the elements of BM, which are there and not weakened a bit. The guitarplay and the drumming are as simplistic and monotonous as those of any other band, and the vocals are some of the most chaotic I've ever heard. Coming to the vocals - their use is intense. The first, third and fifth track (the other three are actually ambient) are all over 10 minutes long and almost entirely covered with singing. You might ask what the lyrics are about. Basically, they represent pagan world-view, future prophecies and the astral world through abstract wording. Pretty strange but original.
Another important element of music (at least for me) is emotion and atmosphere. Kataxu excels, again. Each song has its own world that you can take a brief glimpse at through a window which only lasts that track's duration. Having heard this album countless times by now, I'm still discovering new things. What's important is letting your imagination loose and only by doing that can you get the most out of "Hunger of Elements". The atmospheres vary - depending on the track it can conjure the vastness of space, the majesty of the divine or the wonders of nature. The second ambient track "Nightsky" is wholly on another level, even for this album. A photo of a clear summer sky at night couldn't communicate it to me any better, only a real experience would match up. The vision of star-riddled vastness above, bordered by the dark edge of treetops and reflected by a small lake amidst the woods came very near to being flooded with tears from my eyes. So moving was the experience from a mere six-minute piece of music and so deeply did it touch my most sacred dreams, emotions and memories. What crippled lives we lead, what feelings we never get to know in this bleak world that surrounds us today.
Finally a few words about the physical appearance of this album. The cover art is quite cliché and not so special. Fortunately that cannot be said about the booklet and the picture on the CD, both of which are spectacular. Most if not all of the images are taken by the Hubble space telescope and I cannot think of anything more appropriate considering the theme of "Hunger of Elements". The picture on the disc is especially beautiful, a perfectly circular galaxy. Does it represent the sad truth that even on an astronomical scale the world is inevitably bound in a circular motion, both a curse and a blessing? But Kataxu can briefly relieve you of that eternal wheel of pain by letting your mind fly free. Use this oppurtunity that you have been given. Another chance might just not come.