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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.