Older bands are trying to progress in their sound by using modern music techniques to get a new fan base while still maintaining their core ethos to keep the older fan base happy as well. It’s a phenomenon we have seen bands do, and it’s pretty hard to pull off. Montreal-based melodic death metal veterans Kataklysm released their thirteenth studio album, Meditations via Nuclear Blast Records on June 1st, 1018. This album is an attempt to appease the old and new fans (from the Maurizio Iacono era).
“This is a very personal album to me with old wounds being revisited — I felt a big urge to pour my soul into this release. The boys and I were isolated under the same roof during the writing process, just like we did in the early days… with no worries except having fun, being honest, and delivering a serious album that represents us today but respects our past. Our new story is coming and we are eager to share it with you!” stated Maurizio Iacono to Blabbermouth.
This is a Nuclear Blast record so I’ll just say it off the bat: the production is stellar. The mixing and mastering done by Jay Ruston and Paul Logus is amazing. Guitarist J-F Dagenais still has his signature Kataklysm guitar tone though (it’s seriously that unique), so no fears there. The bass could have been more prominent in tone, but is great nonetheless. Stéphane Barbe has a prominent bass-line in “Narcissist,” for example. The vocalist is as great as ever. It sounds like classic Maurizio!
As I mention before, this album feels like an attempt to appease both new and older fans. It feels like Kataklysm is running filters while maintaining their core. The album starts with “Guillotine” and a classic movie quote (a signature of theirs), then we are treated to fast-paced, thrash-like riffage, followed by the bread and butter of this album: hooky melodic interludes. I cannot stress this enough, it’s the interludes found on songs like “Outsider,” “The Last Breath I’ll Take Is Yours,” and “Bend The Arc, Cut The Cord” that glue the album together to create its ethos.
Older fans looking for the northern hyperblast will be disappointed because drummer, Oli Beaudoin, only executes it in “The Last Breath I’ll Take Is Yours,” a great song that is reminiscent of older Kataklysm. The drums are still great on the album and very groove-oriented. There are only three solos on the album as well, which made me feel underwhelmed. They’re very well fabricated though, like in Born To Kill And Destined To Die, however they are very short lived. The band makes up for it by using more intricate rhythmic riffing throughout the album.
Onto the filters I was talking about: there are some songs that seem to have been run through a filter, the most prominent being “Narcissist.” The whole song has this Sepultura-like tribal feel and sounds like Slayer when they were experimenting with nu-metal . If it wasn’t for the vocals, I would think I was listening to a good Soulfly song. It’s not bad though, and it showcases the drummer’s ability to use intricate yet tribal grooves.
“…And Then I Saw Blood” was a complete miss for me. It sounded like a death metal version of a ballad mixed with generic punk and hardcore riff progressions. The best “filtered” song they put on the album is “A Limbic Resonance” which features a black metal intro, melodic interludes, a great short emotional solo, and a clean interlude.
”What Doesn’t Break Doesn’t Heal” is a straight-up chuggathon – I was banging my head the entire song. I was happy with their signature closer “Achilles Heel” which starts slow, then becomes anthemic. This will be a live song for sure.
All in all, Kataklysm has succeed in evolving along with their new audience while keeping the older ones happy enough. I hope the next album has less experimentation and more hyperblasts, though!
Written by Peter Lountzis
*edited by Kate Erickson