Released: 2014, W.T.C.Productions
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
There is one thing that Norway always does well time and time again, and that is black metal. Heading straight out of Bergen are TORTORUM, painted up and ready to rip open the gates of hell. This really is an impressive release for a band that formed just 4 years earlier; the writing is mature with every note and every scream having been crafted to drip evil. Following on from their 2012 studio album Extinctionist, Katabasis takes us on an epic decent beyond the confines of the earth and down in the darkest forgotten corners of the underworld itself.
There are so many layers to this album it is hard to know where to start on the first listen. Many of the songs feel like they have the same vibe, the music seems to be surrounded by an impenetrable wall that keeps you from fully delving into the album. Don’t be fooled by this initial barrier, beneath its tumultuous front lies hidden gems that slowly reveal themselves with every new listen. This is particularly true for Specter and Skyggen’s interweaving guitar work which struggles to be heard above mires of dense distortion that entrap them, leaving each part difficult to truly separate but where this may be a disaster for many, this band thrives on dissonance. Their sound sits like a thick layer of fog, leaving the listener to pick though, but those who do put in the time are richly rewarded.
One of this band’s greatest strengths is also one of the bigger weaknesses in Katabasis. The Great Appetence, Beyond the Earth and Air and Sun and Into the Sixth Coil allows us a glimpse of harrowing screams from vocalist Barghest alongside backing cleans that add great depth to the sound, but we are only allowed the briefest glimpse of these before he switches back to standard screeching that is prevalent through the rest of the album. It is these vocal glimpses that really shows just how close Katabasis came to being one of those stand out albums, the one people truly remember. Even so, it is an exceptional record that would hold its own in any collection from the most avid black metal fan, to the eclectic genre dabbler. The black sun may be rising with Katabasis, but I have a feeling we have yet to see the true darkness of TORTORUM.