Nuclear Blast
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Dark Wings Of Deception
02. Goliath
03. Die As A King
04. Bringer Of Vengeance
05. Combustion
06. From The Land Of The Living To The Land Of The Dead
07. The Redeemer
08. Heroes To Villains
09. Gravestones & Coffins
10. The Sacrifice For Truth

Decades pass, empires fall, and metal subgenres come and go, but KATAKLYSM remain resolute. Well over the 30-year mark now, Montreal's death metal kings have mixed it up on plenty of occasions, but sharp-edged brutality with plenty of groove has been a rewarding staple diet. Seemingly content to trundle inexorably forward without ever threatening a major breakthrough, KATAKLYSM have carved their own niche and been a model of quality and consistency, which explains why Nuclear Blast have stuck with them throughout their career. "Goliath" is their fifteenth studio album — an achievement in itself — and it's darker and nastier than 2020's streamlined and succinct "Unconquered".

Permanently averse to repeating themselves, the Canadians have delved back into their brutal past for fresh inspiration. "Dark Wings Of Desperation" may be the heaviest opener in KATAKLYSM history. From obsidian sludge to feral blasting, it's old school to the bone, but endlessly inventive too, with strange detours into drugged-out dissonance. Vocalist Maurizio Iacono is in particularly commanding form, too. When he screams "Let's go to war!" at the top of the title track, the notion that people should mellow as they approach middle age seems even more ridiculous than usual. "Goliath" is a straightforward death metal piledriver, but with tantalizing hints of melody and syncopated riffing with a polyrhythmic edge: ancient and modern in perfect harmony.

KATAKLYSM have always favored songwriting over showboating, and "Die As A King" is another great example of death metal as a meticulous craft, rather than as an athletic competition. Mid-paced and murderous, it has the twin-lead harmonies and pit-friendly breakdowns of more modern strains of metal, spat through the drooling maw of '90s death metal and dragged into the Lovecraftian deep. In contrast, "Bringer Of Vengeance" is a simple exercise in snapping necks with rugged, PRONG-like riffs and an eminently headbang-worthy chorus. Likewise, "Combustion" goes for the throat, with a super-heavy groove metal vibe and another untamed vocal from Iacono.

Elsewhere, "From The Land Of The Living To The Land Of The Dead" and "The Redeemer" are rancorous bursts of full-force melo-death; "Heroes To Villains" is utterly pulverizing but steeped in trad metal ethics, like an out-of-control AMON AMARTH on a runaway train to Hell; "Gravestones & Coffins" is a mid-paced midnight zombie attack, with ENTOMBED-like punk-doom riffs and a generous sprinkling of dark thrash. Best of all, "The Sacrifice For Truth" bangs the final nail into the lid with six minutes of imperious, darkly theatrical grimness.

KATAKLYSM's consistency would count for little if they had no imagination. As they show throughout album number 15, these death metal veterans are as committed to the cause as they were 30 years ago. These days, they just have far more weapons at their disposal, and they are using them with style.

Author: Dom Lawson
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