Released: 2006, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
IN THE ARMS OF DEVASTATION sees the “Northern Hyperblast” machine known as Kataklysm return with a new drummer and arguably their best album in years. Martin Maurais jumped ship last year and original drummer Max Duhamel is back (for the third time!) and the result of that change is immediately apparent. Maurais, like his contemporary Nicholas Barker, is an incredibly fast drummer but what plagued SERENITY IN FIRE was that it was just…too much. The endless blasting was distracting and really overshadowed the masterful guitar of J-F Dagenais. With Duhamel, Kataklysm maintains punishing drums but in a scaled back capacity. Also, guest appearances by members of Into Eternity and Kittie build upon a tradition after Peter Tagtgren’s drop-in on the last album. IN THE ARMS OF DEVASTATION is also one of the most varied Kataklysm albums to date combining mid-paced death metal groove with breakneck madness and even hints at the blackened desolation spewed forth by their earliest works.
The first four tracks of IN THE ARMS OF DEVASTATION may very well be the most consecutively punishing 15 minutes ever laid down on CD. “Like Angels Weeping (The Dark)” unleashes a thrash-tastic groove resting on the shoulders of Duhamel. Dagenias’ riffing alternates between fast and tight to a plodding mid-pace on the chorus. Maurizio Iacono’s double-edged vocals slip seamlessly from a brutal growl to a blackened shriek on “Let Them Burn,” a track which personifies the band’s trademark “Northern Hyperblast” sound. The slow, brooding intro to “Crippled and Broken” segues into a ripping death metal groove before settling back into an uncompromising chorus complete with thick, sludgy riffing. Dagenais’ moody intro to “To Reign Again” paves the way for a chunky, serpentine bassline from Stephane Barbe that wraps itself around Duhamel’s kick drum and Iacono’s blistering vocals. “It Turns To Rust” marks the appearance of Kittie’s Morgan Lander sharing vocal duties with Iacono and the “duet” is met with mixed results. Lander’s growled shriek is formidable but isn’t far removed from Iacono’s own upper register leaving her turn less than remarkable and smacks of a guest appearance utilized for the sake of a name-dropping. “Open Scars” is a track which could have been released around the time of Kataklysm’s “transitional” period on 2001’s EPIC: POETRY OF WAR album. Combining the early brutality of albums like TEMPLE OF KNOWLEDGE with the more groove-based sound found on SERENITY IN FIRE, “Open Scars” is a testament to how much this band has grown as musicians by enabling this crossing of styles and making it work. The epic groove of “In Words of Desperation” would not be out of place on an Amon Amarth release and album closer. Saving the best for last, “The Road To Devastation” utilizes Iacono’s vocal duality to incredible effectiveness with Into Eternity’s Rob Doherty and Tim Roth on hand. You can almost feel Doherty sucking your eardrums out of your skull as he wheezes through his vocal lines and then Iacono follows with an abrasive shriek that can peel paint. Roth ends the track with a technically soaring solo that is spot on.
Kataklysm has been trudging through the death metal waters since 1993 and IN THE ARMS OF DEVASTATION could very well be their greatest achievement to date. Combining brutality with precision, ferocity with serenity and speed with groove, Kataklysm has crafted a masterpiece in their already daunting catalogue. Being Canadian seems to be a strike against musicians but Kataklysm continue to strive forward on the path to global domination, razing everything in its path with IN THE ARMS OF DEVASTATION.
KILLER KUTS: “Like Angels Weeping (The Dark),” “Let Them Burn,” “Crippled and Broken,” “To Reign Again,” “Open Scars,” “The Road To Devastation”