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Although the word of the more recent day has been 'jazz' for Spanish black metal act Kathaarsys, this band originally had quite a different sound. In the same style of bands as Agalloch, Opeth or Drudkh, the early Kathaarsys played an epic and brooding sort of metal, with plenty of acoustics and dynamic change in the songwriting. Although it teeters a little much on the long side, this band's debut, 'Portrait Of Wind And Sorrow' is a very ambitious black metal album that should satisfy anyone who finds themselves attracted to nature-inspired progressive black metal.
Although being comprised of six tracks, each of the songs is over ten minutes long. Suffice to say, 'Portrait Of Wind And Sorrow' is a fairly long album, and most black metal albums would get boring long before a full 65 minutes was over. In the case of Kathaarsys however, they manage to keep their sound interesting more or less throughout. This is accomplished through the use of beautiful melodies, something that all too many of this brand of bands seems to forget. Aside from the soaring black metal melodies, there are also plenty of lighter moments with clean vocals, and although not the most technically accomplished of singers, JJ Montans holds a warm tone to his clean vocals that reminds me somewhat of Mikael Akerfeldt.
The Opeth comparisons don't end there. This reminds me much of that band's debut, 'Orchid'; each of these tracks is a mini-epic of sorts, but the album's greatest weakness is the fact that while each of them are very good, they all sound alike, and lack much individual identity as a result. A little too often in this album, I would get the feeling that I had already heard these ideas or progressions earlier in the album. There is little that is unexpected outside of the melodic death/black metal style that Kathaarsys plays here, but they do what they do very well. Overall, a great debut from this band, and I would readily recommend this to fans of any black metal with melodic, epic, or folkish leanings.
Progressive metal is a road I’ve never taken before until recently. In my youth, I was accustomed to sticking with certain genres, like black metal, and keeping my distance from those I was less familiar with in order to establish a stronger connection to the traditions of a brand as hybrids are likely to change one’s own perspective on the traditional side to the genre one loves. This undoubtedly will sound strange, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a taste for scouting out new and talented acts who tap into the avant-gardé nature of metal, bands like Spain’s Kathaarsys who surge forward and take a stranglehold on the listeners emotions with their take on progressive black metal. Once again, black metal of this nature has a few standard formula’s in creating it’s driving and often menacingly marvellous atmospheres. The ideas of regulated black metal, like double bass blast beats and rasps of an unearthly manner, are implemented into the mix without compromise. However, it’s in the solid musicianship and subtle song writing where this Spanish act really sets themselves apart from the everyday black metal act.
Spain’s Kathaarsys are a truly unique band. Their front man, L.J.Montáns, who takes charge of the lead and acoustic guitars, as well as the vocals, is the primary element to the success of this record, ‘’Portrait Of Mind And Sorrow’. His performance alone is likely to impress, especially in terms of his guitar work, which is immense. First, one must look towards the electric guitar to perform from the front. Black metal, even of a hybrid nature, is likely to focus it’s main energies on eclipsing performances of other bands by producing an outstanding performance on lead guitar. L.J.Montáns’ work on lead guitar is fantastic. Songs like ’Epic Pagan Times’ with it’s stirring clean guitars and vocals is supremely effective, particularly when combined because the result is painfully emotive. His performance, as stated, is the best the record has to offer, but without the efforts by the other members on bass and drums, this record wouldn’t be as effective as it is. The bass is underlying, of course, and doesn’t grab the attention like other, more immediate elements of the music do. Subtle aspects of this record often come to the attention of the listener when the tempo slows down. The conjuration of images of the destruction of beautiful landscapes, or the death of all life itself are powerfully depicted in my mind as the soundscapes unfold.
This doesn’t mean to say the performance of the bassist goes unnoticed because it doesn’t, the production, which is fantastically built around the soundscapes, doesn’t allow any aspects of the music to be left in the shadows for too long, which is a major positive in hindsight. The sweeping solos, filled to the brim with emotion, take the aggressive levels higher than any other factor, bar perhaps the rasping vocals. As stated previously, songs like ’Epic Pagan Times’ are a noteworthy example of such work. There are two emotional sides presented on this record by Kathaarsys, both of which are produced without sparing a second thought to the audience, who by now are on the edge of their seats waiting in anticipation for the next experimental move. The first element of emotiveness comes in the form of the standard aggression. This side to Kathaarsys’ work, whilst not as appealing, is solid. The work on the driving double bass and cymbals is good when coupled with the rasping vocals which don’t exceed the expectations of the modern listener who, by now, is used to the black metal screams of sorrow and torment.
It is in the second more inspiring emotional side to Kathaarsys which enthrals the individual listener and makes the record more personal to them. The performance, once again, from L.J.Montáns is brought into the limelight. His work on acoustics, in particular, as well as his clean vocals, which adds more emotional depth to the soundscapes, is awe inspiring and impacting upon the audience. The acoustics, coupled with these clean vocals, makes ‘Portrait Of Mind And Sorrow’ a reflective piece, whereas the aggressive tendencies leaned more towards the normal standard we’re likely to hear from a black metal act. Even then, take the lead electric solos from ‘Nectar In The Nocturnal River’ and one will understand the appeal of the crushing formula presented to us by the stunning performance of the musicians on offer. As touched upon already, songs like ‘Epic Pagan Times’ and the seductive ‘Nectar In The Nocturnal River’, with it’s unashamedly typical approach make this record a must have in the collection of any black metal fan, regardless of whether or not you enjoy hybrid acts.
Alright, I was given these guys to listen to off of another metal forum. Needless to say, I fell in love with it. The stellar guitar playing, the vocals, the drumming, the (barely audible) bass. Everything, and now I'm going to break it down, very simply.
Guitar Playing - The playing, whilst somewhat simplistic, captures the listener with such tracks as "Gnostic Seasons," where the acoustic/clean guitars give a spellbinding attribute. The distorted parts, given the production of the album (see below), sound great and inspired.
Vocalization - Black Metal screeches. Prog Metal melodies. Death Metal grunts. What more could you want? The black metal vocals remind of a certain Ihsahn. The clean vocals are totally original, from anything I've heard, and are great. Whilst, the grunts are...for lack of a better word, average.
Drumming - The only reason this album gets a ~100 score, is because of the complete overuse of blasting. This drummer cannot keep his hands and feet from syncing together, except for the more melodic parts. His drumming is skillful, but just overused in the blasting department.
Production - Airy, atmospheric, and evil. It's downright disturbing how well this production fits the riffing. While it may drown out the vocals sometimes, it usually brings out the guitar parts in a better sense. I wiss, only that the bass would be a lot more audible in the final mix.