One of the great wonders of the world is the technical prowess of Canadian musicians, in particular when they excel at Death Metal. While quite a few bands fit into this niche category in various strengths, including Beyond Creation, another band to look at are Kataklysm. Originating in 1991, Kataklysm has proven album after album that they have what it takes to rise to the top of the Death Metal chain. While perhaps remaining a touch under the radar, on September 25th, they will once again exceed expectations with their newest creation Unconquered, releasing via Nuclear Blast Records.
Taking a closer look at Kataklysm, while most bands change members, lose members, or change direction, they have managed to keep their lineup changes fairly minimal . Original powerhouse Guitarist Jean-François Dagenais still appropriately dominates the show with his special mix of Technical, Classic, and Melodic Death. Meanwhile, Maurizio Iacono wails his vocals as the professional he is, as Stephane Barbe clobbers the bass, and on this last album for Kataklysm, Oli Beaudoin smashes and bashes his hyper-blast beats all over the studio. (Alas, three weeks before the album release the band announced that James Payne would be taking over on the drums from here on out for reasons unknown.)
As far as Kataklysm’s musical style is concerned, they offer a special blend of Death Metal that covers most subgenres, creating that smooth mix of Hyperblast, Melodic, Technical, and a bit of brutal Classic. The drum style and technique is crucial to the band’s success, and with 2015’s masterpiece Of Ghosts And Gods, Oli Beaudoin set the bar incredibly high. Which leads us to Unconquered, an album which certainly has that same essence, but while being broken up a touch more to appease their more melodic tendencies. Their fourteenth overall album, it emerges as a powerful beam of light into the darkest year of the century. Offering nine perfectly timed songs about death and destruction, plus an album cover dominated by the heart beast character, you can feel confident to find plenty of interest in Unconquered.
Opening up the pit, “The Killshot” achieves its mission in a delightful way. Next the album speeds its way into “Cut Me Down,” filling up your ears with just over five minutes of heavy, dark, intensity. This is before they slam into “Underneath The Scars,” where a wall of death could be imagined taking place as a successful, chaotic enchantment to the tune.
Keeping Death Metal to an average length of around four minutes seems to be the key, and Kataklysm does this gracefully. They add a bit extra where deemed reasonable, as they do so on “The Way Back Home.” This track serves as their turning point in the storyline of the album, and sets you up for the next fast, hook-driven track, “Stitches.” Featuring vocals which are difficult to pull of, it works extraordinarily well. Overall it is one of the most memorable headbangers of the album, and one that features that signature style drumming fans know and love.
As they approach the climax, “Icarus Falling” chimes in with a very melodic underscore, and accelerates into a beautifully impeccable uproar. It holds its own as a very unique track that seems to work for the band on another level. But to end it all they choose “When It’s Over,” which rounds out all the rough edges with a direct, undeniable ‘in your face’ heaviness.
As mentioned previously, Kataklysm’s strength lies in the timing and mixing of subgenres in a unique way. With that, Unconquered manages to find the band reaching new boundaries, thus serving as a well thought out collection of songs. For all the above reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Kataklysm’s latest album 5 out of 5 stars.