|Kataklysm - ‘Of Ghosts And Gods’ (Nuclear Blast)|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Tuesday, 25 August 2015 04:00|
When Kataklsym came to release this, their 12th album in their 23-year career, they took the somewhat unusual – and, it must be said, daring – step of recording videos for each of its ten tracks and then releasing them on a daily basis in the days leading up to it becoming available for purchase. It was a big step but one which ‘Of Gods…’ thoroughly deserved - as this a massive, motherfucking beast of an album.
Following on from 2013’s stunning ‘Waiting For The End To Come’, ‘Of Ghosts…’ is nigh on the perfect death metal album: a collection of (as we said) ten songs not one of which possesses or shows any signs of weakness, as the four musicians – vocalist Maurizio Iacono, guitarist JF Degenais, bassist Stephane Barbe and drummer Oli Beaudoin – each deliver consummate masterclasses in their individual and collective crafts. But, where this album succeeds where many others in the genre fail is that it does not rely solely on brutally beating the listener into submission, but uses almost delicate layers of sound to build the overall atmospherics and enhance the entire listening experience.
Opener ‘Breaching The Asylum’, for example, builds slowly, starting with a sampled voiceover and a slow, almost remorseful, rhythm from Beaudoin, before he unleashes the full fury of his hyperblast assault. On ‘The Back Sheep’ – and not for the last time either – Deganais builds the song around a rolling, beautifully melodic, twisting riff, while ‘Marching Through Graveyards’ is characterized by dark, mournful passages interspersed into its dense, militaristic feel. ‘Thy Serpent’s Tongue’, built on another of Deganais’ winding melodies, features a suitably spiteful – you can sense him ejaculating the words into the microphone - and powerful performance from Iacono, while ‘Vindication’ closes off the first half of the album in more traditional DM style, with Deganais’ mid-pace guitar work counterpointed by the intense blastbeating of Beaudoin.
‘Soul Destroyer’ kicks off the second half in similarly furious manner, Iacono’s towering vocal underpinned by Barbe and Beaudoin’s neck-snapping rhythm, which is in turn pickled by by Deganais in one of his more under-stated but nevertheless equally effective contributions. ‘Carrying Crosses’ simply oozes pain, especially Iacono’s anger-filled delivery, which suggests that this is a deeply personal track for the singer: the three musicians match his anger with intensity and passion, with the flowing melody carrying the angst of the song. ‘Shattered’ once again sees the band taking the foot slightly off the accelerator, proving that you don’t have to play at supersonic speeds in order to deliver quality death metal, using the layering of harmonies to bring out the darkness which the vocalist once again hints at but just holds back from fully revealing. ‘Hate Spirit’, on the other hand, starts off at the sort of breath-taking speed Lewis Hamilton wishes he could take into the first corner of a GP circuit, before again introducing layers of almost jazz-like progression (especially in Barbe’s brief solo interlude) and then ripping the listener’s head off with the ferocity of its downbeats. Closer ‘The World Is A Dying Insect’ rounds the album off beautifully, turning it full circle with its slow build up and supreme use of atmospherics to underpin the nihilistic darkness of the main musical and vocal theme.
As I said at the beginning, this is a beast of an album. A masterpiece of the genre. It may have taken them nearly a quarter of a century and a dozen albums to get here, but ‘Of Ghosts And Gods’ shows a band at the height of their powers and ready for domination of the global death metal scene.
Kataklysm play the following dates (with Septic Flesh and Aborted) in February 2016, make sure you get to one of them:
Monday 15 – Bristol, Fleece
Tuesday 16 – Glasgow, Audio
Wednesday 17 – Dublin, Voodoo Lounge
Thursday 18 – Manchester, Sound Control
Friday 19 – Nuneaton, Queens Hall
Saturday 20 – London, Underworld