Album Title: Meditations
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date of Release: 1 June 2018
I can’t explain it, but there is something so satisfying about Kataklysm. On the one hand, they’re not all that different from the hordes of death metal bands out there who are both brutal and who inject a touch of melody into their otherwise brutal soundscape. However, the Canadians always manage to scratch an itch with me. It may not be an itch I was aware of, but the moment I hit play on a Kataklysm record, I find myself almost involuntarily letting out a small ‘ooh’.
With a little deeper thought, I realise that my inexplicable love of this band is not actually that inexplicable. The reason, as it turns out, are three-fold.
1. That guitar tone speaks to my primeval self – it is a thing of beauty, if such a description can be attributed to something so dirty, depraved and muscular.
2. The overall production with Kataklysm albums tends to be fantastic. Pin sharp and crystal clear without sacrificing any of the energy and forcefulness of the material.
3. The song writing is simply killer. Kataklysm manage to effortlessly combine brutality and aggression with groove and catchiness. But crucially, the blend is just about perfect, so that neither aspect suffers at the hands of the other.
On that last point, it is fair to say that over the course of the preceding twelve albums, the chosen blend has fluctuated ever so slightly, meaning that certain albums are more overtly melodic perhaps than others. Take ‘Of Ghosts And Gods’ as an example. However, the recipe has always remained broadly the same. And when the recipe is as palatable as that served up time and again by this veteran behemoth of extreme heavy metal, who can possibly complain?
Everything that you want to hear from a Kataklysm album is present on ‘Meditations’, and the band waste no time in delivering the goods.
Opener ‘Guillotine’ has all the restless enthusiasm and vitality that underlines the extreme metal credentials of this quartet. Breakneck drumming from Oli Beaudoin, sharp riffs courtesy of Jean-François Dagenais and a vital, swift chorus that gives the otherwise frenetic, snarling track an air of sophistication and melody.
‘Outsider’ is a completely different beast, albeit also immediately recognisable as Kataklysm. The pace is generally just a little slower, but the riffs are just as delicious as ever, bringing with them an inescapable groove, strong enough to break necks. Maurizio Iacono spits his gruff diatribes over the top with force and surprising clarity, as we’ve all come to expect from the imposing frontman over the years.
Then there’s ‘The Last Breath I’ll Take Is Yours’, a wonderfully commanding composition that blends complexity with ferocity with alarming ease. After a slow, ominous intro, it is let loose to gallop at pace before being reined in to deliver a fabulously melodic chorus, he kind that many a metalcore band would kill to pen. However, being Kataklysm, the transitions are smooth and not in the slightest bit contrived or clunky. It just feels ‘right’. And what’s more, this song is nothing short of a bona fide anthem.
Just when you think that the Canadians have exhausted all their tricks, up pops ‘Narcissist’, a track that’s built around an organic, tribal-infused stomp that steamrolls over everything in its path. Crushing riffs, an audible bass rumble from Stephane Barbe that is seriously bruising and a demonstrably dystopian vibe all combine to great effect, leaving me incredibly impressed.
Not done with injecting variety, ‘In Limbic Resonance’ toys around the edges of black metal, with hurtling riffs, rhythm section and lead guitar solos respectively. The vocals even veer into a higher-pitched, sneering delivery for a few moments. The waltz-like, early melodeath vibe within ‘And Then I Saw Blood’ is a lovely touch too, something I wasn’t necessarily expecting.
The album is rounded out by ‘Achilles Heel’ which benefits from a cracking melodic intro which then becomes the anthemic chorus, suitably rousing and grandiose to close out this record in the best manner possible. However, whatever style of song spews forth from the speakers, that spine-tingling guitar tone remains ever present, the razor-sharpness of all corners of the band is maintained and the quality of the song writing never dips below seriously great.
What it all means is that with ‘Meditations’, I am staring down the barrel of one of my favourite death metal records of 2018, perhaps longer. It just delivers everything I want from my extreme metal and more besides. You can’t call it one-dimensional, simple, boring or any of these things, because nothing could be further from the truth. This is interesting, multi-dimensional, heavy, memorable and slick death metal with real bite and enough melody to give it a pleasing memorability.
Picture the scene: I’m sitting on a packed train, being stared at from all corners as I nod my head with understated intent. But I don’t care, because Kataklysm’s music transports me to a place where I cannot just sit passively and listen; they force me to invest something more of myself into the music and that’s a great thing as far as I’m concerned. My love and admiration for Kataklysm just went up another notch.
The Score of Much Metal: 9.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Marduk – Viktoria
Midas Fall – Evaporate
The Sea Within – The Sea Within
Haken – L-1VE
Follow The Cipher – Follow The Cipher
Spock’s Beard – Noise Floor
Ihsahn – Amr
The Fierce And The Dead – The Euphoric
Millennial Reign – The Great Divide
Subsignal – La Muerta
At The Gates – To Drink From The Night Itself
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
Hekz – Invicta
Widow’s Peak – Graceless EP
Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
Frequency Drift – Letters to Maro
Æpoch – Awakening Inception
Crematory – Oblivion
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse