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The Time Unchained - 49%

Sknyliv, December 22nd, 2009

Catamenia are one of an extremely small cult of bands that never had to change their sound. They had perfected a formula of fast, aggressive, crystalline ice-cold melodic black metal with their debut, Halls Of Frozen North. While listening to an entire Catamenia album straight might have revealed some monotony in the band's music, its fusion of frozen, yet razor-sharp guitar riffs, precision drumming, cold harsh vocals, and perhaps most prominently the incredibly atmospheric keyboard melodies would seal in permafrost arguably seven great albums of sonic winter madness.

Then Catamenia shit this one out, VIII - The Time Unchained. While newcomers to this band may not see the crime committed here (listen to any other album first), it is painfully easy to explain to seasoned Catamenia fans why The Time Unchained is so horrendous. Olli-Jukka Mustonen, the band's vocalist of 5 years (starting after another great, Mika Tönning left), has disappeared. While his vocals were not all that varied, he had one of the harshest voices in metal, and it suited Catamenia's music impeccably. The vocals are probably one of the most prominent parts of this album, and they really suck. One of the guitarists has filled the vocal position, and he possesses a terribly passive and at times whiny growl that will undoubtedly let down anyone who enjoyed the previous albums' vocal harassment. There's now also a really generic death grunt thrown into the mix that only adds to the new stripped down dimension the music occupies. The death grunts don't replace the band's signature clean vocal sounds - the clean vocals are still present on this album. This does not mean they're any good, they're actually pretty bad as well. At least on the old albums the band could somehow weave tolerable (at the least) melodies out of the guitar and vocal lines. This is not the case here. Clean vocals are just placed randomly in the music, sound like James Hetfield (but even worse), and add nothing to (or subtract from) the music.

Music, speaking of music, Catamenia have also neglected to include any real icy riffs or blizzard-like passages on this album like they attempted and succeeded in doing on the last seven. Here we have an extraordinarily less colored (if you will) and watered down version of old Catamenia that at times leans more towards the likes of boring power metal or even worse Gothenburg melodeath. The absolutely stale and meaningless riffs presented here are definitely not helped by a now less distorted, warmer guitar and bass tone, which you oughtta know don't fit in Catamenia's work worth a shit. As if Catamenia were not already melting enough, the other absent member of the band is the keyboardist. During the breaks between musical hailstorms on previous releases, where you had extremely entrancing keyboard melodies to suspend each song's already well-established atmosphere, there are now what seem to be horribly failed single-guitar attempts at fundamental powerchord fiddling. It goes without saying that you will immediately notice the keyboardless choo-choo train riff loops and how much they suck.

The absent band members and resultant lack of musical content are not the only surprises that await you with this album. Without those great guitar or keyboard lines, Catamenia have nothing good or unique to feature, and so the whole mix sounds almost like it was intended to be background noise for something else. I don't know how it's possible that everything in a mix could buried under everything else, but Catamenia have managed to figure it out here. The crappy production is yet another surprise, considering the producer and recording studio has not changed for the last three albums. One more surprise and then I'll wrap this up - that is, I'm simply dumfounded by the fact that this band could sit in the studio and listen to these recordings and say "Aw yeah, man! This sounds good! Save that!"

I mentioned early in the review that Catamenia once managed to pull together a ton of elements to compose consummate hymnals of frozen assault. Well on this album, two of those elements are missing, and the remaining ones have turned to shit. So what we are essentially left with are thawing crapsicles piling on top of each other until you have one massive heap of melting, oozing turd. When I review an album, I like to pick out some of the standout tracks so readers might listen to those tracks first before committing to the entire album. Unfortunately I can't really find anything worthy of note (on good terms) here, and I wouldn't endorse this album even if I could.

Worst Catamenia album thus far. Ignore it, unless of course you're looking for subliminal and otherwise boring, molten turd background noise metal.