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Adorations of the Darkness - 88%

TheStormIRide, March 16th, 2015

Formed by veteran members of the Greek metal scene, Katavasia aims to bring that classic Hellenic black metal sound back with their debut full length album, Sacrilegious Testament. Hearkening back to the glory days of Rotting Christ, Necromantia and Varathron, Katavasia checks all of the boxes on what made Hellenic black metal so memorable: epic and sweeping atmospheres, crunchy yet catchy riffing and interwoven Mediterranean melodies; all spurned forth by devastating heaviness. Funnily enough, the band features members of Varathron, Aenaon, Hail Spirit Noir and Agnes Vein, so they get those classic vibes honest.

Greece has blessed the metal community with some of the most majestic, epic and moving black metal albums to date, as Triarchy of the Lost Lovers, A Dead Poem, His Majesty at the Swamp and Scarlet Evil Witching Black will forever be the stuff that Hellenic black metal is compared to. The root of Greece’s black legacy lies with the experimentation of black metal in the early to mid ’90s. Rotting Christ led the charge, injecting gothic atmospheres while focusing on a slower, mid-tempo approach that held melody in an ever increasingly high regard. It’s in this fashion that Katavasia seeks to bring their sound. The music on Sacrilegious Testament doesn’t fully buy into the gothic-tinged style of A Dead Poem or into the constant epic pacing of His Majesty at the Swamp, but it does bring a touch of middle ground and tons of nostalgia.

While the majority of Sacrilegious Testament focuses on that sentimental mid-tempo crunch, there is certainly not a lack of speed woven in, like during “Visions of the Misty Night”, with some fast-paced double bass runs and trem riffing. The band’s tempered pace almost becomes a hindrance, especially on tracks like “Symphony des Gravens”, which is almost slow to a fault, but the differentiated instrumentation allows things to proceed rather smoothly. Despite their adherence to a mid-tempo sound, Katavasia fills their debut with atmospheric flourishes out of the wazoo in the form of classy keyboards playing strings at the rear of the mix and tons of melodic lead guitar embellishments (including those classic Rotting Christ trailing squeals). The guitars cover a lot of ground, with a mix of powerful and crunchy power chords, brick heavy palm muted chugging and melodic trem riffing based in Mediterranean scales. The vocals sound like prime Hellenic black metal vocals, and they should, as the gruff and grating shouts are courtesy of Necroabyssious of Varathron. It should also be mentioned that none other than Sakis of Rotting Christ and Sotiris of Septic Flesh make guest appearances on the album as well.

If it was indeed Katavasia’s intent to summon the sounds of the early Hellenic black metal scene, then they have succeeded. The music is atmospheric and heavy, with a tinge of melancholy. Melodic extrapolations, such as acoustic guitars and keyboard backdrops, alongside the pulsing mid-tempo black metal give Sacrilegious Testament just enough diversity to keep things intriguing throughout. The Rotting Christ and Varathron vibes are inevitable, but in all seriousness that’s exactly what Katavasia was going for. Despite a few moments of downtime, Sacrilegious Testament is an excellent homage to the glory days of Hellenic black metal and this is a must have for fans of the genre.

Written for The Metal Observer.