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Of Ages Past - 80%

Fulgurius, March 4th, 2010

Catholicon isn't very well-known band, though it had gained some reputation in the underground since the mid 90's, and to me they were known mostly due to their 1998 classic "Lost Chronicles of the War in Heaven". After 15 years of existence, Catholicon had split-up in 2009, and as the final gift to their fans they've released their last album "Of Ages Past", which comes together with bonus DVD that includes a lot of rare and unreleased material. I will tell about this DVD at the end of the review, but first few words about the album itself.

"Of Ages Past" can really be considered the summation of the whole period of band's existence, the album is well-thought-out, well-recorded and well-produced, and it really feels like they wanted to make it the best album in their career. Symbolically, the album starts with the new version of "Anno Domini", the song, which originally appeared on the very first Catholicon's demo "Children of the Lost Generation", and also it includes the cover of Sodom's "Remember the Fallen", which they have played on their live shows throughout the years. Over the years Catholicon had developed their own sound, which is an original combination of black and death metal with some keyboards and with two vocalists (and though screams dominate here, there are also a lot of death metal growls). They use an interesting formula: you can say that this part was taken from one band and that riff sounds similar to another one, but you can't tell that Catholicon sounds like band X or Y. So, unlike many black metal bands that prefer more intuitive and unpolished way of writing and recording their stuff, Catholicon's approach is more logical, thought-out, and "materialistic", so to say. And though I prefer the first way, when there's more feeling than logic, I can't say that "Of Ages Past" is dull or unoriginal. And not only all the instruments were played skillfully and technically and everything here is well-balanced, but also there are some quite catchy and memorable moments, with noteworthy songs being "Blood Ink for the Book of Life", "Faith of the Fallen" and "Sacrificial Feticide".

As I've mentioned before, "Of Ages Past" comes together with bonus DVD-ROM, which includes all the demos, rehearsals, live recordings, and unreleased studio recordings of Catholicon, as well as the recordings of some of the side-projects of Catholicon members, live videos, and even one short XXX video. So, even those who haven't heard previous Catholicon releases, now have a chance to get an idea what they sound like. Here we can see the band's development over the years: on the first two demos they've played death metal with keyboard interludes (and in this I can draw some parallels with Acheron, but also there were similarities with Morbid Angel, and even early Deicide), then, on "Lost Chronicles" album, they've added more black metal elements into their sound, lead vocals became black metal-styled, and keyboards were included in the songs, and not only as interludes, so the music became more melodic. On the next releases we can hear that they once again have added more death metal brutality and aggression, without leaving off the black metal sound, so finally they've became what we can hear on "Of Ages Past". I may not like some material presented here, particularly the side-projects part, but the effort that was put in getting all these together, restoring and re-mastering all the recordings, and writing liner notes with the story of each recording, is really appreciated.